Untangling the web

More than 2.4 billion people use the internet every day. There’s some data journalism for you and it must be true, I read it on a website. I think that was what James Ball, Guardian data editor and City University tutor on all things data, was trying to tell us in our first class on Friday. Or was it the other way round? Hmm, I better check my notes again, it was a long week.

Visualising the internet

Many attempts have been made to provide a visual insight into the sheer number of interactions happening online, some good, others em.. not so good. Perhaps the best visualisation I have come across so far is this, which manages to convey the enormity of it all rather well, while leaving you nursing a sore scrolling finger (is that a thing? It could well be a thing).

The reality is that the internet is awash with information, the scale of which cannot be truly comprehended through any raw data, article, or visualisation. While its role in transforming human interaction cannot be overstated, the impact the internet has had on journalism and the media has been profound, despite some the industry’s reluctance to shift its attitudes over the years.

Now how does this mass of information available online alter the day-to-day lives of journalists? In essence, journalists actually have to organise themselves and their workflow much better, or risk losing getting tangled in the web, so to speak. Journalists working online – so everyone really – must be better and more astute at gathering information, simply because there is a hell of a lot more of it out there, but not necessarily in an ordered and immediately user-friendly way. A journalist who is more organised in monitoring online resources and social media platforms will be able to find more and better stories than others who are not, simple as that.

A generational issue?

However, assuming that technological ability is purely a generational issue and that this is something that just exists innately within younger, ‘digital native’ journalists is a mistaken assumption. Having grown up with the internet, smartphones and social media does of course make digital natives much better equipped to work digitally, but it does not necessarily mean they are able to use existing and future technologies effectively and getting the most out of them for journalistic purposes.

New York Times Interactive news developer Derek Willis identified this problem among journalism students.

A blogpost for Wannabehacks entitled ‘Help I’m a technology dummy’ by a fellow City Journalism MA student Natasha Clark highlights the fact that the struggle to grapple with digital technologies is certainly not restricted to “digital immigrants”, those who in theory would struggle more to incorporate technological developments into their work.

Just a week into the Interactive Journalism MA and possibly the one thing that stands out from the information overload that has come our way is the realisation that learning how to understand, organise and manage technology effectively will be crucial to how well we work as journalists.

Twitter lists, RSS feeds, IFTTT, APIs and Keyhole Markup Language?

Bring it on.

For now though, I shall start with the basics. Learn how to use google.

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