Hit the Slopes

Everything from the bunny hill to the double black diamond

Where science, math and art collide (Twitter assignment)

On Thursday, Jan. 26, New York Times data artist in residence Jer Thorp gave a lecture in Shillman Hall. He talked about his area of expertise, making data visualizations. For example, Thorp created an interactive tool for the Times to chart how Times content had been shared over a time lapse. I covered this lecture live with Twitter.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the lecture. It was my first time ever really using Twitter. I had a camera and a laptop and high hopes. I had hoped to get a lot of pictures, as the focus of the lecture was Thorp’s data visualizations, and provide thorough coverage of everything he talked about. I was not able to get a great amount detail, but in the 20 or so Tweets I posted in an hour and a half, I managed to cover the major ideas and provide external links to relevant information so someone outside of the lecture could somewhat follow along.

Twitter is a good journalistic tool for highly time-sensitive reporting, such as on an election night or at a sports event. I’m not so sure that it’s really useful outside of those limited situations. It was an eye-opening experience, however, and I think I’d like to try it again.

One thing that really drew back from my experience was my lack of a smartphone. I took pictures with a simple point and shoot digital camera and then uploaded the pictures to my computer in real time. It was somewhat of a cumbersome process; with a smartphone, I could’ve taken pictures and uploaded them immediately to Twitter. I didn’t want to use my cell phone’s texting to Twitter capabilities because I think it would have detracted from my coverage of the event. One of the pluses of having a laptop was easy access to relevant external links that provided good background for my Twitter followers.

Another minus of using Twitter to cover the lecture is that I wasn’t able to take notes, between Tweeting and taking pictures. I wasn’t able to really dig into the material, and I didn’t get any full quotes from Thorp. If I had to write up an actual news story about the lecture, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been able to given the information I had.

You can read my coverage of the Jer Thorp on my Twitter (all the Tweets from Jan. 26).

Photo is a picture I took while covering Thorp’s lecture; originally posted to my Twitter.

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