Thursday, March 11, 2010

Teleconference Johannesburg & Ushahidi

Being in my Digital Media Entrepreneurship class brings a lot of perks.

For one, we just got free Google G1 phones to help us explore (fool around with) the emerging possibilities of mobile devices.

Gotta turn this phone into a business.

But not all perks are gadgets. For instance, today Professor Dan Gillmor set up a Skype-powered teleconference with Ory Okolloh, a leading political activist and digital media innovator in Johannesburg, South Africa. Okolloh is responsible for Ushahidi, a web site that works with submitted text messages to display, aggregate, and map information. If you don't think that sounds cool, you haven't seen all the ways humanitarians and aid workers have utilized Ushahidi, especially in Haiti. (Also see this cool TED talk with Okolloh.)

As part of today's teleconference, I asked Okolloh to talk about Ushahidi and its future applications. I'm currently working on a digital media service that aims to do similar things with mobile phones, and it was nice to hear her talk about the same ideas my project group has also discussed.

Even better, Prof. Gillmor recorded the call so I can share it here. I sit down with my questions about 20 minutes into the video. (Who is that handsome man?!)

It pays to have professors plugged into the latest digital media.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Navajo reservation by proxy

Haven't updated in a while. Blame school and my "other woman" blog.

This semester has been a flat-out rat race of online design and multimedia. In particular, my online media class has been pounding the creative pulp out of me. We're currently working on a news-y website on the Navajo Reservation.

I find design incorrigibly challenging. Maybe it's just a lack of creativity on my part. Or maybe I'm just not a very "visual person." Trying to learn design basics and acclimate to unfamiliar design software sometimes feels like the intellectual equivalent of ramming a square peg through a round hole: with enough force, it will go though, but it may not be pretty in the end. Luckily my class is heavily feedback- and revision-oriented — a much-needed chance for redemption.

But while design is challenging — and often frustrating when the grades come back — stumbling on something that just "works" can be a real rush. I'm pretty proud of this Flash timeline we made for our Navajo projects, which I'm not able to post because I can't figure out how to post Flash objects in Blogger. Here's the teaser graphic anyway.

I'll link to the actual product when we're completed.