Old and New Technologies

The text below the fold is an excerpt from “Teaching Data and Computational Journalism”. I wrote this part hoping to broaden the scope of ‘emerging’ technologies to include not just today’s newest inventions, but also the broad range of creative practices that promote ‘emergence’ itself.

Old and New Technologies

The history of technology often appears to move in regular cycles of emergence and obsolescence, but in fact old technologies are rarely eclipsed entirely. We must be cautious with the concept of ‘emerging’ technologies because we risk missing the continued utility of old ones.

For example, microcontrollers like the Arduino have minimal computing power by contemporary standards, but they are powerful enough to process a set of programmed instructions for projects like gathering sensor data. These devices have proved especially useful because of their simplicity, not in spite of it. Similarly, as we promote spaces for journalism schools to explore technologies so new that their uses are not yet apparent, it will be worthwhile to maintain a perspective broad enough to consider the utility of seemingly obsolete technologies.

We should also bear in mind the long histories of platforms like virtual reality and holograms as part of our cultural imagination, if not yet as successful mass products. In past conceptions of the future, we may rediscover promising avenues for innovation.

Released: “Teaching Data and Computational Journalism”

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Cheryl Phillips and I just published a report called “Teaching Data and Computational Journalism.” It covers a lot of ground. We surveyed the course offerings of accredited journalism schools in the U.S. to see where and how data and computational skills were being taught. The results were pretty grim: roughly half teach no data skills at all, and half of the schools that do teach data are only teaching at the most basic level. We hope that this snapshot establishes the importance of taking data and computational instruction and research more seriously. To that end, we also offer a set of model curricula and institutional recommendations to help schools move forward.

The report is available online through GitBooks: