Leading American media researcher, Nick Diakopoulos, gave a talk about the impact of computing on the changing landscape of news and talked about how computer technology, social media analytics and even video games can be used for innovation in journalism at the University of Hong Kong on Thursday, March 17, 2011.
The talk was a part of a series of events organised jointly by the Journalism and Media Studies Centre and the Department of Computer Science to highlight the HKU’s commitment to be at the forefront of computational and computer assisted journalism.
Nick Diakopoulos is a computer scientist, who is currently a Computing Innovation Fellow at School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Drew University.
“As information comes at us faster and faster, we have more and more data to deal with,” Diakopoulos said. “Social media is pumping out terabytes of this every day. We need computers to help us deal with that scale.”
Diakopoulos defined computational journalism as “using computing to facilitate, enable and reinvigorate the practices and processes of journalism, including collecting, organising, making sense of, communicating and disseminating news information, while upholding the values of journalism such as fairness and accuracy.”
He presented his latest projects and research. “Videolyzer” is a fact checking application designed for online videos. Users can discuss the video word by word. This application evaluates how reliable the video is by analysing the related discussion that is generated.
“Vox Event Analytics”, another of Diakopoulos’ projects, looks at how social media content can contribute to journalism. “We asked ourselves, what would a journalist ask from social media, what could be interesting?” Diakopoulos said.
Vox Event Analytics has helped journalists and other people analyse major broadcast news events, such as the Obama vs. McCain presidential debate in 2008. It synchronizes the simultaneous stream of twitter messages that occur during such events with the broadcast coverage of the same event. So, for example, it showed what the audience thought and tweeted as Obama talked, for example, about the war in Afghanistan.
By analysing the corresponding stream of social media messages, the tool can help identify topics with which the audience resonates, decisive moments, unexpected performances and even people with a specific knowledge. Here is a list of events they used Vox Event Analytics with.
Diakopoulos showed how news journalism can be combined with computer games.
“What you get is a game which enhances sense making, hopefully with the intent of helping people have insights or ideas of the data that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” he said.
He mentioned his “Salubrious Nation” project, which is an interactive website in which people can play a guessing game about public health information in America.
JMSC’s Research Assistant Professor King-Wa Fu, who runs the university’s research on social media analytics, said that he was glad to see more people getting involved in this field.
“The part I liked most personally is the exchange of knowledge between people from multiple disciplines, including computer scientists, frontline journalists, editors, media researchers, students, teachers, as well as MJ alumni from the JMSC and current MJ students,” he said.