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Multimedia Critique: “How technology is revolutionizing democracy” by CNN

Posted: June 30th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: journalism, Multimedia| No Comments »

I haven’t picked apart one of these online packages in a while and I think it is a useful process because it constantly reminds me, as both a user and aspiring creator, what works and what doesn’t.

Today we look at what CNN calls an interactive peice that highlights certain average Joes who have made a name for themselves by using communication technology, social networking and blogging to have a voiced impact on politics. There are seven tabs with the names of people that were interviewed at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York on June 23 and 24, and clicking on one of the tabs brings up the person’s videotaped soundbyte on the right, with a pulled quote from that soundbyte in text on the left.

What Works

Let’s start on a positive note. It’s a nice idea that CNN’s i-reporters have the means and equipment to take video cameras to events like this and capture the spirit of the discussions there. It was nice to see what Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine.com looks like in person, and I thought the best responses came from both him and from Jay Rosen, a journalism professor from NYU and blogger at PressThink.org. I could be biased in that statement, for obvious journalism connections, but the two professors had the least repetitive and most thought-provoking responses.

What Needs Work

From a technical standpoint, the consistency in the video player was absent. Sometimes the “play” button wouldn’t turn into a “pause” button and I wouldn’t see a moving playhead along the progress bar. Personally, I like to know once I hit play how long the video will run, and this sometimes happened and sometimes didn’t. This was a minor problem, probably just a tiny glitch in the button script somewhere, but a tad frustrating nonetheless.

I had a small problem with this section of the peice being called “Interactive.” As we were taught in several online journalism courses by professor Mindy McAdams, interactivity requires input and output. A user can put in some sort of information or query in order to get information in return. Using a database to feed a map on crime in your neighborhood after you input your address is interactive. Seven video clips, while considered multimedia, falls very short of any interactivity. Perhaps their logic was that the i-reporter had to interact with the interviewees in order to record the video, but that would be a stretch. I’m not arguing that the content is bad or unnecessary, just that it’s mislabelled.

Thoughts?