David Kirkpatrick

March 30, 2009

Social networking and news distribution

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:57 pm

Interesting idea, but it completely sounds like college a thought-experiment that won’t really port over to the real world.

I could be totally wrong if social networking continues to grow as a hub  featuring a confluence of online and real-world interaction  along with information seeking and gathering. Right now social networking is cool, it’s fun and it is useful, but it isn’t a total clearinghouse for users.

The release:

U of Minnesota researchers test new ways to involve people in news through social media

Facebook app could be future business model for newspapers

University of Minnesota researcher Christine Greenhow, Seattle-based news aggregator NewsCloud and student newspaper The Minnesota Daily today announced the launch of the Minnesota Daily Facebook application. The Minnesota Daily application aims to become the hub of news and sharing for U of M students and community, combining both professional student and citizen journalism. Researchers will use it to test new ways to engage youth in news and information through social media.

The Daily, the U of M’s 109 year-old independent, student-run newspaper, has teamed up with researchers to provide the application with its Web content. The application, funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, includes an incentive-based feature for users that allows them to receive points for completed challenges and to comment and share stories with Facebook friends. After a user gains a certain number of points, they are eligible for prizes offered by The Minnesota Daily.

“It could revolutionize the way young people engage and interact with news through their social network,” said Vadim Lavrusik, editor in chief and co-publisher of The Minnesota Daily.

Moreover, Lavrusik said, the application could provide a future business model for media organizations that are struggling to find viable revenue on the Web. Media groups with such applications could work with business to post challenges to the users that they would gain points for, such as visiting a business’ Website or attending a restaurant’s happy hour, resulting in direct business to the advertisers. “It changes the way we think about Web advertising, but business could see direct results,” Lavrusik said.

U of M researchers, led by Greenhow, will use the data provided by application users to investigate how online social network sites such as Facebook can engage youth in world events, build community and generate real world impact. The study, with an anticipated publication date of fall 2009, seeks to discover which strategies work best to engage 16 to 25 year-olds in current events and how the Internet can be used to educate, inform and connect students in new and powerful ways.

“Understanding how youth not only consume online information but manipulate, produce and talk through it for social and educational purposes will move us closer to understanding how to develop students’ digital age competencies, such as their online communication, collaboration, and citizenship, thus informing the design and development of successful media-rich environments,” Greenhow said.

The Minnesota Daily application is the second media publication on Facebook launched by Greenhow’s team of researchers. The first, called “Hot Dish: Serving up the hottest climate news” launched in March 2009 and focuses on building community and sharing news around climate change.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the proportion of young people getting no news on a typical day has increased from 25 to 34 percent since 1998.

“It’s important that we find new ways to reverse these trends by engaging young people where they increasingly spend time — online in social networks,” said Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation journalism program director.

“We’re excited to apply our technology to support Dr. Greenhow’s research,” said NewsCloud founder Jeff Reifman, the Seattle organization behind the application’s development. “We hope these publications serve as a model for using Facebook to engage younger readers in important current events.”

 

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To view The Minnesota Daily Facebook application, visit: http://apps.facebook.com/mndaily/

December 17, 2008

Frodo lived?

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:29 pm

Hmmm.

The release:

‘Hobbit’ fossils represent a new species, concludes University of Minnesota anthropologist

Researchers compare cranial features using 3-D modeling

University of Minnesota anthropology professor Kieran McNulty (along with colleague Karen Baab of Stony Brook University in New York) has made an important contribution toward solving one of the greatest paleoanthropological mysteries in recent history — that fossilized skeletons resembling a mythical “hobbit” creature represent an entirely new species in humanity’s evolutionary chain.

Discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, controversy has surrounded the fossilized hominid skeletons of the so-called “hobbit people,” or Homo floresiensis ever since. Experts are still debating whether the 18,000-year-old remains merely belong to a diminutive population of modern-day humans (with one individual exhibiting “microcephaly,” an abnormally small head) or represent a previously unrecognized branch in humanity’s family tree.

Using 3D modeling methods, McNulty and his fellow researchers compared the cranial features of this real-life “hobbit” to those of a simulated fossil human (of similar stature) to determine whether or not such a species was distinct from modern humans.

“[Homo floresiensis] is the most exciting discovery in probably the last 50 years,” said McNulty. “The specimens have skulls that resemble something that died a million years earlier, and other body parts reminiscent of our three-million-year-old human ancestors, yet they lived until very recently — contemporaries with modern humans.”

Comparing the simulation to the original Flores skull discovered in 2003, McNulty and Baab were able to demonstrate conclusively that the original “hobbit” skull fits the expectations for a small fossil hominin species and not a modern human. Their study was published online this month in the Journal of Human Evolution.

The cranial structure of the fossilized skull, says the study, clearly places it in humanity’s genus Homo, even though it would be smaller in both body and brain size than any other member. The results of the study suggest that the theorized “hobbit” species may have undergone a process of size reduction after branching off from Homo erectus (one of modern day humanity’s distant ancestors) or even something more primitive.

“We have shown with this study that the process of size reduction applied to fossil hominins accounts for many features seen in the fossil skull from Flores,” McNulty said. “It becomes much more difficult, therefore, to defend the hypothesis that the preserved skull is a modern human who simply suffered from an extremely rare disorder.

Public interest in the discovery, analysis and implications of Flores “hobbits” has been high ever since 2003, inspiring several television specials (including a recent episode of “NOVA” entitled “Alien From Earth”) and other media attention.

While the debate over Homo floresiensis will continue, McNulty believes this comprehensive analysis of the relationship between size and shape in human evolution is a critical step toward eventually understanding the place of the Flores “hobbits” in human evolutionary history.

“I think the majority of researchers favor recognizing this as a new species,” McNulty said about the categorization of Homo floresiensis. “The evidence is becoming overwhelming, and this study helps confirm that view.”

 

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