2 Events of Note: Presenting Data Today & Jake Shapiro of PRX Thursday

MIT’s Center for Civic Media has two events (at least) of note this week:

Data Therapy Webinar: Techniques for Creative Data Presentation sounds like a great way to get some ideas on how to enthrall audiences with data-filled presentations. (We’re all warming up for the annual conferences, showing off at work, preparing for the board meeting …). The webinar is today (2/29) at noon Eastern. Registration via the website is required.

Tomorrow (3/1), Jake Shapiro of the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) (which may be distributing programs to your local public radio station) is the center’s lunch guest. RSVP before noon today to be included in their count for food for lunch. Long time scratchpad readers might recall me running across Jake and PRX at the Berkman Center ages ago. (Bias note: I still love radio. Hrm. Maybe I should wear that I <3 radio shirt I have …)

Addenda 3/1: Three more talks of note this afternoon at MIT: A fellow from Yahoo! Labs will talk about mining search results at the civic media center at 3 pm. At 4 pm, a student at the center is giving a talk about the perception of hackers in the media, which she will also give at SXSW. (I attended this talk, but can’t blog it per the speaker’s request. Her preference is for people to take notes via Twitter.) Sasha Costanza-Chock from Comparative Media Studies is talking about media and the Occupy movement. (I didn’t find listings on the web for the Yahoo! Labs talk or the student’s presentation.)

Notes from Jake’s talk via WordPress’ auto more link (I should figure out if I can customize the text on that):

(&, yes, I’m wearing my I <3 NPR shirt. {Yay! SLA News Division auction!} Forgive me for not getting the ascii text right.)

Some of PRX’ distributed content includes The Moth (aka The Moth Radio Hour), Snap Judgment (their road trip show the other week: ++), SOTRU: State of the Re:Union, and 99% Invisible. Some of their leading shows came out of talent contests. At least one of my local public radio stations carries some PRX content, so I’ve head The Moth and Snap Judgment.

Jake explained how people can create radio shows out of mixing up audio content and creating playlists. People take various Internet-available radio content, mix it up, and rebroadcast it over radio stations.

Jake reminisces about when podcasts were new, which seems like ages ago now. Remember when common audio software didn’t handle podcasts? Remember back that far? It seems like it was so long ago, but that was back in the days when I first started playing at Berkman, about ten years ago. And now, I might use iTunes more for grabbing podcasts (many public radio and tv podcasts) more than I use it to listen to music.

Jake covers a little bit about their talent competition. Now PRX has side projects of building special public radio apps for stations in shows, like WBUR, KCRW, Radio Lab, This American Life … They’re straddling the native app and open app worlds. Since they’re a nonprofit, having side projects that net them a little bit of money helps a lot.

Public media challenges: there’s a hang up that’s a mix of inferiority and superiority complexes. We’re like gods, changing things, people loving us, etc., but we feel like the media underdogs, always playing catch up with bigger news organizations. And, of course, there are always money issues.

A diagram shows arrows outlining increasing demanding uses, high quality uses, and disruptive technology. Jake likens radio changes and the Internet to a Jenga game.

Not many groups are dealing with radio and technology changes and the Internet. Jake names three: Public Interactive, PRX, and gather.com. David Weinberger supposedly was on the radio show On the Media last week and said “This is an awesome time to be a knowledge-seeker … But it’s also the best time in history to be a complete idiot.”

Navigating the content of public media is bad. It’s not always clear to listeners who’s responsible for, carrying, distributing the shows; how to find them; what content is available; whether someone has to be tuned into the radio to catch the broadcast or if content is available later … (Gosh, Jake, we librarians can help with this problem.)

A fellow from the Knight Foundation (whose name I’ve forgotten) is taking over the lecture. Defining arts and culture is becoming tricky. Our media culture has grown quite a bit over the last 40 years, expanding in many communities. Many media organizations have not yet figured out how to effectively use the gadgets in everyone’s pockets. The Knight Foundation is looking for people to explore these challenges. What’s the rationale for public media, which was built during a pre-Internet society? Andy Carvin was definitely one of the groundbreakers for adopting social media as early as he did and applying the technology to the news. (Y’all might remember Andy passing through Berkman and the blog group years ago. Good to hear his name in this context.)

Back to Jake, who is talking about accelerators -> The Public Media Accelerator. An accelerator is an investment program for early-stage startups, both nonprofit and for-profit. The Public Media Accelerator should build products, services, and apps for public media; harness technology, entrepreneurship, and investment; with a $2.5 million Knight Foundation grant; and act like a lean startup and build, change, learn as we go. They want to change public media for good, transforming it to expand its impact and create generations of services. They also need to attract, inspire, and train new talent. Jake prevents himself from going on ad infinitum about accelerators in order to start the question and answer portion of the presentation.

Q: You talk a lot about public radio, of course. What can you tell us about public television and these issues?
A: Well, we’re more familiar with radio, of course, but public TV is definitely facing a lot of the same issues. And, of course, some organizations that are joint licensees, like WGBH here in Boston, need to deal with these issues for both sides of their business. Public radio has a bit of a different slope, like national competing networks.

An audience member talks about how public TV can take more risks sometimes than public radio because they don’t have some of the same brand issues. Jake continues with Downton Abbey, the public television Masterpiece series that became a somewhat unexpected major hit, as an example. Such a high quality show with such beautiful production does not encourage public television stations to try to do more with informal media, someone’s garage project, etc. Ethan says part of the challenge is starting from these media. If you start from the Internet (like “Hey, what’s new on YouTube?”) instead of public television or radio, issues about quality and such are different. If you start at Downton Abbey on the telly and look for something similar on YouTube that’s a homegrown production, you’ve got a challenge. People need to be aware of the challenges of media and their capabilities and limitations.

A few questions were about accelerators, funding, and such.

Final Q from Ethan: What’s your dream for PRX and public radio?
A: Pushing the public interest piece, working on quality

If stations don’t figure out how to adopt/reach out to the devices in our pockets, what they’re doing is going to mean a lot less when the broadcast towers don’t mean as much as they do today.

Some people would rather support the shows they care about rather than support their local public broadcast stations for various reasons (maybe the station isn’t run in an agreeable way …). Decentralizing public media via the Internet is one way to subvert the stations.

The movement to get Christopher Lydon back on the air came up. He used to host a talk show called The Connection and has what many people would describe as a “radio voice.”

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