all is not well on the borders …

by Henry on February 13, 2007

As “Brad”::http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2007/02/could_this_be_t.html mentioned a couple of days ago, “Ethan Zuckerman”:http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/?p=1224 has an interesting and worrying factlet on his blog.

Having tea with my friend Abe McLaughlin this afternoon, he mentioned that, of the two hundred fifty foreign correspondents, one hundred are employed by the Wall Street Journal. I wondered about the geographical distribution of that hundred and the other reporters – would we find a huge concentration of journalists in Iraq and Israel? Would we find any in Africa other than in Cairo and Jo’burg?

The problem, it seems to me, isn’t only about geographic distribution of interest; it’s about the kinds of issues that these correspondents are likely to write stories about. As conventional newspapers cut down on their overseas reporting, it’s ever more necessary to turn to specialized newspapers such as the _Wall Street Journal_ and the _Financial Times_ to get solid, detailed coverage of what’s happening outside the US. But even if these are both genuinely great newspapers (the WSJ’s news reportage, as opposed to its editorial pages, is excellent), they tend necessarily to focus on issues that US and UK businesspeople are interested in, and subtly to spin their stories accordingly. This means that plenty of stories that would be of interest to non-business people don’t get reported on at all well in the major English language press, and that when they do get reported, their coverage often subtly reflects the priorities of a pretty specific and limited set of social interests. Nor are the blogosphere and related forms of information gathering at all a perfect solution for this problem. Even if blogs like “Abu Aardvark”:http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/ provide insight into the Arab media that you don’t get from the mainstream press, Ethan’s research on ‘global attention profiles’ suggests that the blogosphere is actually worse in some respects than mainstream media in drawing attention to under-reported parts of the world (elite bloggers tend to do a little better, but not much). I suspect (but don’t have any smoking gun evidence to prove this) that the same kinds of distortion characterize issue coverage too.

Hands-On

by Kieran Healy on February 13, 2007

“Jeff Han”:http://cs.nyu.edu/~jhan/ftirtouch/ works on multi-touch interfaces: touch screens that can recognize more than one point of input, and thus combinations of gestures and so on. Here’s a “cool video”:http://www.macrumors.com/2007/02/12/more-multitouch-from-jeff-han/ showing some of the interface methods his company is developing. (Warning: cheesy music.)

You can see some cool possibilities for educational and presentational bells and whistles, such as the taxonomic tree one of the operators is shown navigating. The possibilities for high-dimensional dynamic data visualization are also obvious. We see a scatterplot being manipulated with some scaled data points on it, for instance. Something like “Ggobi”:http://www.ggobi.org/ would be fun to use on a system like this. In the near future, the phrase “touchy-feely” may well apply to the quantitative rather than the qualitative crowd.