EPIC Facebook - First Look, Project X and FiveThirtyEight

It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. In the year 2014, people have access to a breadth and depth of information unimaginable in an earlier age.

Thus starts a video made ten years ago challenging journalists to think about the future of journalism. EPIC 2014 gets many things right but misses certain key disruptions. In particular, they don’t mention Facebook, which started about the same time as the video was made and is currently celebrating its ten years by generating videos for Facebook users of their time on Facebook.

Towards the end of EPIC 2014, there is a section that sums up the whole video, and perhaps could have applied to Facebook and their videos.

EPIC 2014 produces a custom content package for each reader using his choices — his consumption habits, his interests, his demographics, his social network to shape the product. A new generation of freelance editors has sprung up — people who sell their ability to connect, filter, and prioritize the contents of EPIC. We all subscribe to many editors. EPIC allows us to mix and match their choices however we like. At it’s best, edited for the most savvy readers, EPIC is a summary of the world, deeper, broader, and more nuanced than anything ever available before. But at it’s worst, and for too many, EPIC is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow, and sensational. But EPIC is what we wanted. It is what we chose. And it’s commercial success pre-empted any discussions of media and democracy or journalistic ethics.

Read that again, and replace EPIC 2014 with Facebook.

Yet it is on Facebook that I learned that Ezra Klein is leaving the Washington Post. He has taken a bunch of his old friends from the Post and other sites to create Project X backed by Vox media. Nate Silver is also building up his team for his relaunched FiveThirtyEight site.

Yet what has really caught my attention is First Look Media.

Founded by Pierre Omidyar, the organization will pursue original, independent journalism that is deeply reported and researched, thoroughly fact checked, and beautifully told.

I heard about First Look from friends I met on the Omidyar Network years ago; some of the best and brightest thinkers about the future of journalism in the digital era that I’ve met. Then, I heard that Andy Carvin is joining First Look as well. This provides an interesting contrast to EPIC 2014/Facebook. Will Project X, FiveThirtyEight and First Look be “deeper, broader, and more nuanced than anything ever available before”?

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Remission and Recovery

A few weeks ago,Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin dedicated his State of the State address to addiction.

In every corner of our state, heroin and opiate drug addiction threatens us. It threatens the safety that has always blessed our state. It is a crisis bubbling just beneath the surface that may be invisible to many, but is already highly visible to law enforcement, medical personnel, social service and addiction treatment providers, and too many Vermont families. It requires all of us to take action before the quality of life that we cherish so much is compromised.

At work we talk about treating people struggling with addiction. We have some great programs to help and part of my job is to spread the word about these programs.

The nature of the addiction problem came to light recently in a communications meeting. We were tracking various news stories and saw one about Philip Seymour Hoffman. One of the guests cited some report which claimed that two out of three Americans are affected by addictions amongst their friends or family. I looked around the room. Everyone is the room had someone close to them that was struggling with addiction. That two in three number may be a bit low.

Today, a friend shared the article, Russell Brand: my life without drugs. Please, go out and read it.

At CHC, we provide telemedicine services to help providers around the country provide better services for those struggling with addiction. Project ECHO - Buprenorphine helps primary care providers treat patients struggling with opioid addiction. It brings together experts in several fields to provide both experiential and didactic education in treating addiction.

Our outreach teams work on a related issue, health stigmas. How do we reduce the stigmas around various health conditions, like suffering from addiction or being HIV positive? How do we make it easier for people to get the treatment they need?

We celebrate when our friends are in remission from cancer, knowing in the back of our minds that it could come back at any moment. Why don’t we have similar celebrations for friends in recovery from addiction? Yes, there may be some celebrations at a narcotics anonymous meeting or something like that, but we are a long way from standing with people fighting health problems the way we should.

The Public Creative Empathetic Sphere

This morning, my Chromebook was acting weird, sluggish. It wouldn’t save what I was writing. In the end, I lost a draft of a blog post which I had put a lot of work in. It’s just one more thing in what is been a frustrating few days. Yesterday, one of the dishes from my mother’s house, from my childhood, broke. Things have been very stressful at work. Blah.

Anyway, I had started my blog post reflecting on Groundhog’s Day. It may be that Punxsutawney will see six more weeks of winter, or perhaps those in the media spotlight will continue to experience cold slippery conditions, but any woodchuck here in Woodbridge would have difficulty seeing much beyond the end of his burrow, let alone his shadow.

The top news story of the day that Google News select for me was about Gov. Christie’s letter to his supporters. The whole thing reads like he is helping write the libretto for Christie and the GWB, an opera on the scale of Einstein on the Beach,Nixon in China, or perhaps Brokeback Mountain.

The next story was about the Super Bowl. I wonder how many people will be talking about Gov. Christie as they drive across the George Washington Bridge on their way to the big game. I expect traffic will be pretty bad.

Buried much deeper in the news was reports that the death toll has now risen to 16 in the volcano in Indonesia.

Yesterday, Dan Kennedy posted a status on Facebook, talking about the State Department report on the XL Pipeline. It has now received fifty six comments, most of them very insightful well thought out about climate change, transportation, cost benefit analysis, stakeholder analysis and so on.

It provided an interesting data point with which to think about Howard Rheingold’s video, Why the history of the public sphere matters in the Internet age. This is a video that was posted back in 2009 and recent reappeared in my social media feed. It has lots of interesting ideas to explore, and I’d love to hear thoughts about it five years later.

Was the discussion around Dan’s post a good example of the public sphere online? Was it an anomaly? What can we learn from it? I was planning to write more on this after I took a break to go to the dump. On the way, I listened to David Sedaris on NPR reading his New Yorker article, Now We Are Five.

It was a moving recounting of issues in his family and it made me stop and think. Is it the public sphere that we need to be thinking about, or is there something bigger, something more important? What about an empathetic sphere? What about a creative sphere? How do these spheres relate to one another? Do the overlap? Does one encompass another? They they part of some giant three dimensional Venn Diagram?

What does this public creative empathetic sphere look like and how does it behave? It’s still foggy outside, and I’m not really sure. So, I’ll get ready and head off to church for Candlemas.

Promoting Empowered Wellness Through Spreading the Contagion of Creativity.

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. I”m glad January is over. Let’s hope February will be better. I’ve been incredibly busy with issues at work and have had little time for writing or exploring new ideas. I did get a chance to visit my daughter Miranda up in Boston last week, and as we talked about my work in health care and hers in arts education, a phrase came to my mind, The Creativity Contagion.

One of the really important movements in health care right now is the empowered patient, or ePatient. Often this empowerment is tied to being online; finding information about diseases and connecting with others to address the disease. It seems to work well for privileged patients, who have gone to college, had good careers and made enough money to be comfortable, but what about other patients, those struggling to get by day to day, those who are not empowered in their daily lives. How do we empower these patients?

My ideas started crystallizing around a 3D printer we got at work. There is something empowering about having an idea, learning how to take the idea and make something of it, and, in the case of a 3D printer, see the idea actually take shape as an object in front of you.

Creativity may be the key to empowerment that I’ve been looking for. Too much health care is defensive. We get our shots and change our diets to avoid getting sick. When we do get sick, we go to the doctor’s office to get better. Wellness gets bandied about but not pursued as much as it should be, especially when we are dealing with chronically ill patients.

We try to avoid getting sick. What we should really be doing is trying to become creative, with all the hope and empowerment that comes with it.

Perhaps that captures what I hope to do with a 3D printer at a health center, Promote Empowered Wellness Through Spreading the Contagion of Creativity.

Monday's March

It is dark when I awake. The bed is warm, but the furnace is running and it must be cold outside. The cat is on the end of the bed. Running through my mind is a song from church yesterday, “Oh, Lord hear my prayer, Oh Lord hear my prayer. Answer me, when I call.”

I was in the middle of a dream about a trip up to Boston. I was on the train with some friends heading off to a meeting. Yet the details of my trip were not yet fully resolved. I do need to nail down plans for my upcoming trip to Boston. I hope it won’t get messed up by weather or technology issues at work.

My thoughts shift to these technology issues. I need to get up and get going. Monday’s are always busy for me at work, and today will most likely be even worse with some unresolved issues from last week.

I make my oatmeal, sit down to see what my friends have been up to online, write a little, and then hop in the shower and get on the road.

I don’t know how long a day it will be today, but the forecast is calling for light snow on top of it.

Yet through all of this, a different song from church yesterday comes to mind, “We are marching in the light of God. We are marching in the light of God.” It is a song of struggle, but also a song of victory. Perhaps it will carry me through the day.

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