Saturday, July 30, 2011

Like is the new love

One of the great benefits of our age is the ability to access data and swiftly turn it into an enlightening (or at least entertaining) infographic, and share it — quite literally — with the world. Who knew that college students had such a strong liking for Corona, Chipotle, and Macs? Facebook, of course.
This graphic makes it clear.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

30 miles from campus — and a world away

The November episode of "Wichita State & The World" focuses on prairie restoration and biological research at the Ninnescah Reserve in southwest Sedgwick County. The above video clip gives you a glimpse of the show:
Host Provost Gary L. Miller explores the land, the new research center, and the work of students and faculty in the 30-minute episode broadcast on Cox Cable Channel 13. It airs at 8 p.m. Sundays, 9 a.m. Mondays, 3 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays, and 1 a.m. Fridays this month.
In December, you can catch up to past episodes you may have missed — a variety will be rebroadcast in rotation at the above times.

"WSTW" is a production is of Wichita State's Media Resources Center, and I had a blast walking the prairie with awesome videographers Greg Matthias and Rik Dubiel for this project. Rik also edited, and did a terrific job, as you can see. I was producer, which included scripting out the storyline, creating a shot list, doing background research and lots of other behind-the-scenes tasks. The folks in the biology department were great to work with — and they did a great job explaining their research.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Day Without Media" not worth living?

A former newsroom coworker just spotted this gem of a public notice in New Mexico — and naturally captured the image with her cell phone camera and posted it on her FaceBook page.

It brings to mind a fascinating study my husband, Dan Close, recently conducted with his classes at Wichita State University's Elliott School of Communication. Asking digital natives to give up their cell phones, videogames, laptops, iPods, TVs, etc., etc., for just 12 hours was asking more of them than most initially realized.

Students wrote about their experiences, and he presented the findings at a Popular Culture Association conference (in Albuquerque by coincidence). He called it A Day Without Media: Freaking Out Students Who Take Technology for Granted.”

Most, as the title indicates, described themselves as disconnected, lost, afraid, alienated, on edge, lonely, stressed, frustrated, silenced, withdrawn, clueless, irritable, antsy. . . you get the idea. “It was a weird experience,” said AB, “and that’s saying the least.” A few made good use of their new-found free time and tackled chores, enjoyed time with family or friends, or just felt blessed by the relative silence.

For the course I teach for the Elliott School, Comm 502 Public Information Writing, I opened the first night of class with a request that students turn off their cells and put them away — but conceded that if it proved too uncomfortable, they should at least put these distracting little devices out of sight and out of immediate reach for the 90 minutes we meet. It's not surprising that young adults are programmed to reach constantly for their phones; a recent Pew study indicates they typically send and receive 50 text messages a day.     

Friday, July 23, 2010

Brunettes kick more butt?

My teenage daughter is caught up with the idea that although a highly acclaimed film version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" has been made in Sweden and released on DVD in the United States (just $19.99 in a flashy display at Borders!), there are already plans to remake it with an American cast.

She is anticipating casting "disaster."

"They can't just stick a nose ring on some blonde Kristen Stewart and call her a badass."

Well, they can, but it won't make it so, I assure her.

There are few bedrock truths in this life, and one of them is that badass girls are brunettes.

So who could be believable in the role as punked-out crime-solving computer hacker Lisbeth Salander? A young Angelina Jolie? A young Wynnona Ryder? Do we even have actresses like this in the wings these days?

"No," she says emphatically. "They are going to have to find someone unknown."

You know, like Sweden's Noomi Rapace, the original Lisbeth.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Freshman reading, give or take a few years

Thanks, Kansas State University, for assigning "The Hunger Games" to this year's freshman class as summer reading. I grabbed the paperback copy you gave my daughter at orientation and didn't return it until I'd finished it four days later with a hearty: "Wow, you're gonna love it!"

And of course, she did.

Suzanne Collins' deceptively simple tale of postapocalyptic America will give students the framework for discussing the ethics of self-defense, rebellion, government control, bio-engineering and even hunting. Along the way, she borrows elements from the Greeks' Minotaur myth, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and "American Idol" to create an altogether new story.

Chances are good, however, that before classes start Aug. 23, many students will have already blasted their way through the second book in the trilogy: "Catching Fire" — just in time for the concluding "Mockingjay," which is due out Aug. 24. This is, of course, exactly what 18-year-olds need: Books that light up their minds, that provoke discussion and discourse.

Can't wait to hear all about it at Family Weekend.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tweet tip of the day

from @bydanielvictor 

"If a press release about a survey fails to include methodology, I'll assume it's because you're hiding it. And I will not believe the #'s"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Adding social media to the medicine cabinet

People fighting chronic illnesses are less likely than others to have Internet access (62% vs. 81%), but once online they are more likely to blog or participate in online discussions about health problems, according to a report released March 24 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation.

"Once online, having a chronic disease increases the probability that someone will take advantage of social media to share what they know and learn from their peers," the study found.

Still, people living with chronic disease remain strongly connected to offline sources of medical assistance and advice:
  • 93% of adults living with chronic disease ask a health professional for information or assistance in dealing with health or medical issues.
  • 60% ask a friend or family member.
  • 56% use books or other printed reference material.
  • 44% use the internet.
  • 38% contact their insurance provider.
  • 6% use another source not mentioned in the list.
Looking at the population as a whole, 51% of American adults living with chronic disease have looked online for any of the health topics included in the survey, such as information about a specific disease, a certain medical procedure, prescription or over-the-counter drugs, or health insurance.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

History for modern times

Congratulations to The Wichita Eagle and writer Roy Wenzl for the latest acclaim for his series on Father Emil Kapaun, a Korean War hero from Kansas who could become just the third American-born Roman Catholic saint (left).

"The Miracle of Father Kapaun" has won a 2010 National Headliner Award for writing and reporting. The series, published in The Eagle in December 2009, has a considerable online presence — I found the historical photos and recording of Kapaun's voice especially moving. Add the first-rate video story produced by Eagle photojournalist Travis Heying — which was picked up and aired by the local PBS affiliate — and you have a great example of how newspapers are competing in today's tech-savvy media market.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Quote of the day

"There's a saying that we've now changed to read: 'Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can kill.' "
— Warren Blumenfeld, Iowa State
lead author of new study into cyberbullying

Stop, focus and read

Long before it was called "multitasking," researchers have been looking at just how well people can do two things at once. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education gives a fascinating — and for many folks, counterintuitive — update. More than 100 years ago, the Industrial Age saw young factory workers rolling cigars while listening to books, newspapers and political or religious tracts being read aloud; the Tech Age finds today's college student sending text-messages in class while listening to the lecture, watching a PowerPoint with imbedded videos, taking notes and googling facts in anticipation of the professor's questions.

The multimedia experience, conventional wisdom tells us, enhances learning as it "lights up" more parts of the brain, but now it appears that people may be merely buzzed by over stimulation.

"Heavy multitaskers are often extremely confident in their abilities," Clifford I. Nass, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, told The Chronicle. "But there's evidence that those people are actually worse at multitasking than most people."

Nass and colleagues published a study in 2009 revealing that people who described themselves as multitaskers performed much worse on tests of cognition and memory that involved distraction than their counterparts who said they preferred to focus on single tasks. And a newer, as-yet-unpublished study by Nass, et al., shows that people who give a lot of time over to media screens fare worse on analytic questions, too.

"One of the deepest questions in this field," Nass says, "is whether media multitasking is driven by a desire for new information or by an avoidance of existing information. Are people in these settings multitasking because the other media are alluring — that is, they're really dying to play Freecell or read Facebook or shop on eBay — or is it just an aversion to the task at hand?"

So glad you dropped by to read this post — hope it didn't distract you for too long from your other tasks!