Journalism In The Age Of Data

As data is becoming a medium itself, journalists need to figure out how to tell a story with overwhelming data. This 50 minute documentary explores data visualization as a storytelling medium.

The full version with annotations and links is available at datajournalism.stanford.edu.

3 SilverDocs Films In One Day

Line outside of AFI theater for SilverDocs Documentary Film Festival

This past Saturday Kristina and I saw 3 movies that were part of the SilverDocs Documentary Film Festival . My reviews of the films we saw (plus embedded clips from YouTube) are below. But first a bulleted list of one-line summaries for the impatient blog skimmers:

  • Partly Private: Funny movie about circumcision and weird traditions.
  • No Impact Man: Crazy experiment involving no electricty, paper products, other human niceities for one year to reduce impact on the environment.
  • We Live In Public: Josh Harris experiments with the Internet/technology and its wild effect on human behavior.

Partly Private

Partly Private is about the age old question that arises with the birth of every boy: to circumcise him or not? Filmmaker Danae Elon dedicated many years to the question which led her to several countries to discover how circumcision is handled in different cultures. The eye-opening moment for me was seeing how the tradition is handled in Turkey where the operation is performed on boys between the ages of 6 and 9. Families hold celebrations in a place like Chuck-e-cheese’s where the boy wears festive garments resembling a Sultan’s or a King’s dress and ride amusement park rides until it’s time to go under the knife.

The audience was also introduced to such protest groups as Stop Infant Circumcision Society which hold a protest on Capital Hill every spring. I feel like people who are so adamantly against circumcision weren’t hugged enough as a child and have grown up with a chip on their shoulder. In the film we saw a member describe a device used to stretch and pull their on their penis in order to recreate foreskin. Weird.

Overall it was a good film with interesting characters. If you were ever curious about all the kookiness that is circumsion, Partly Private is for you.

No Impact Man

No Impact Man takes living green to the extreme. Colin Beavan wanted to see if it was even possible to live with no impact on the environment for a year. The catch is he lives in a Manhattan apartment. Starting in stages he convinced his family to give up electricity, paper products, any form of transportation that isn’t man powered (including elevators), and even buying anything new. He blogged during the entire experiment which he still keeps up with today (Go figure, he’s a writer.).

For food, Colin resorted to farmers markets and any vegetables he could grow at his urban garden. Laundry was washed in the bathtub by stomping on them (see the clip above) with a mixture of natural cleaners. The TV was discarded, clothes given up, and they even replaced their refrigerator with a cooler. I was surprised his wife even went along with it considering how much of a fashion connoisseur she is.

At the end of the year the husband and wife added a few niceties, like electricity, back into their life. But they were surprised about how many things they actually liked and wanted to keep doing. Colin states that it is totally impractical to expect many to go to the extremes that he did, but if everyone took one or two steps to reduce their impact, the world would be a much better place.

This was Kristina’s favorite film of the festival.

We Live In Public

We Live In Public documents the antics of web entrepreneur Josh Harris. Josh was in early on the Internet boom of the 90’s. He founded high-tech market-research firm Jupiter Communications which is where his money for his other projects came from. Pseudo.com was created to be an online television network targeting big media companies like CBS and NBC. In the midst of the dot-com boom, Harris lost interest in Pseduo.com. He cashed out his share of the company and began work on his next experiment, Quiet.

Quiet was a multimillion dollar month long millennium party in a Manhattan bunker. 100 others were invited to live in a pod hotel while their every move was recorded 24/7. Things didn’t quite turn out as happy as Josh had hoped as people started going crazy from the lack of social structure in the “real world.” That’s OK. Quiet was a pre-cursor for his next project We Live In Public where he broadcast to the net every waking moment with his girlfriend in their apartment. Think of it like an all-access and uncensored version of Big Brother.

The movie shows the effects of technology on human behavior and there were some scary scenes. This was my favorite film of the festival because technology plays such an important role in my life. Plus it was a blast to see some of the big ideas from the dot-com bubble of the late 1990’s. Jason Calacanis had a great quote (I wish it was on YouTube) urging college kids to drop out of school create a dotcom start-up. I would highly recommend checking out We Live In Public if you have the chance.

SilverDocs made for one busy Saturday but it was a lot of fun watching movies that deal with subject matter off the beaten path of mainstream flicks. Kristina and I can’t wait for next years festival.