Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth

January 28, 2008

Twitter: Nighthawks at the BPP Diner

Filed under: Public Media,Social Media — Andy Carvin @ 10:06 am

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Rob Paterson wrote a blog post about the new NPR show, The Bryant Park Project, and its use of the community messaging system Twitter. With the subtitle “My Diner in the Morning,” Rob’s post talked about how he’s experienced the show via Twitter – in particular, the slow progression of observing, and then interacting with BPP staff. And it really got me thinking about the role of Twitter in developing community around radio programs.

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January 27, 2008

The Living Goddess Retires

Filed under: Sundries and Such — Andy Carvin @ 5:42 pm

For those of you who followed the trials and tribulations of Sajani Shakya, the kumari of Bhaktapur last year, you might be interested to know she has just retired from her status as a living goddess. I got an email a few days ago from Marc Hawker, co-producer of Living Goddess, the documentary that featured Sajani, who wanted to pass along news of this milestone.
The Bhaktapur Kumari, Prior to Getting Fired and Getting Her Job Back“Sajani this week performed a ritual to become a ‘teenager’ and to retire from being a goddess,” Marc told me while on a shoot in Bhutan. “She is really happy and we are working with her family to get her into a good school in Nepal.”
I’m glad to hear Sajani has graduated to goddess emeritus, if you will, and can begin the process of returning to a normal teenage life. As you may recall, Sajani briefly lost her status as a living goddess after local religious leaders were furious about her visit to the United States, which they felt impurified her. Eventually she was restored as kumari following a re-purification ritual, and because of this, she gets to retire with a modest kumari pension that will help support her family and education.
There was no word, however, on whether she received a grandfather clock as a retirement gift, or whether the other local kumaris got together for a roast at the Kathmandu Kiwanis Club. Either way, congratulations, Sajani! -andy

January 26, 2008

A Charge to Keep, A Horse to Steal

Filed under: Media & Politics — Andy Carvin @ 12:13 pm

On this week’s broadcast of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me they opened the show with what I thought was a joke about a painting owned by President Bush. But it wasn’t a joke.
Here’s the story. For years, President Bush has owned a painting he’s referred to as “A Charge to Keep,” in reference to the Methodist hymn by Charles Wesley. Here’s a picture of the painting:

A Charge to Keep? A Horse to Steal!

According to Bush, the picture shows a man on horseback trailed by a group of followers – in other words, a Methodist evangelist spreading the Good News across the American West with his flock. The painting has been so influential on Bush he’s even used it as a name for one of his books.
White House commentator David Gergen wrote about the painting and its symbolism in a 2003 article:

As Bush recalls in his memoir of the same title, he then sent a memorandum to his staff: “When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves.”
Bush’s personal identification with the painting, which now hangs in the Oval Office, reveals a good deal about his sense of himself as a political leader–who he thinks he is, the role he plays, and the centrality of his religious faith. But the way we respond also reveals a good deal about us, his intended followers, and about the effectiveness of his leadership style.
His followers today tend to see in Bush what he sees in the painting: a brave, daring leader riding fearlessly into the unknown, striking out against unseen enemies, pulling his team behind him, seeking, in the words of Wesley’s hymn, “to do my Master’s will.” They see him as a straight shooter and a straight talker. They take comfort in his religious faith and think he is leading us toward a mountaintop.
His critics can look at the same painting and see something very different: a lone, arrogant cowboy plunging recklessly ahead, paying little heed to danger, looking neither left nor right, listening to no voice other than his own. They think he is careless, even deceptive, and often says one thing while doing another. That he believes he is doing the Lord’s work only increases their apprehension. He’s not taking us up a mountain, they fear, but over a cliff. Indeed, some believe he is the most dangerous president in a century or more.

It turns out, though, that the story behind the painting isn’t exactly correct. In his new book on the Bush White House, Jacob Weisberg conducted research on the painting’s provenance.

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January 17, 2008

Alan Alda on Science, Improv and Richard Feynman

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 10:01 pm

Alan Alda @ USCAfter wrapping up a trip to Los Angeles for an NPR retreat at the University of Southern California, I had the pleasure of catching an on-campus appearance by Alan Alda. Perhaps best known for his Emmy-winning role as Hawkeye Pierce on the TV series M*A*S*H, Alda has also dedicated a great deal of energy towards the sciences – in particular, making science more accessible to the general public. As the host of the long-running PBS Series Scientific American Frontiers, Alda has interviewed some of the greatest scientists of the modern age. He spent more than an hour covering everything from his admiration of Richard Feynman and the use of play in scientific discovery, to the role of government in funding the arts and sciences.
The conversation, moderated by science journalist K. C. Cole, began with Alda talking about the historical relationship between art and science, and how they’ve diverged in recent centuries.
“There was a transition period, even when people were just experimenting,” he explained. “They were just trying to figure things out, just like the other philosophers were. They were one thing at one time…. then science and art started to pull apart and become oppositional…. We’re faced with two different cultures now – the culture of science, the culture of arts and humanities, People would say proudly, “Oh, I don’t know any mathematics,’ like it was a badge of honor.”

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Feeding the Giraffes

Filed under: Video — Andy Carvin @ 1:26 am

Video of me hand-feeding the giraffes of the Brevard Zoo in Viera, Florida.
Formats available: mp4, iPod, mobile, Flash

January 16, 2008

Los Angeles Panorama

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 5:55 pm

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Watch the Video
View of Los Angeles from the Getty Museum on an unusually clear January day. To the center left of the picture is downtown LA, and if you look out over the Pacific Ocean towards the right, you can make out Catalina Island, more than 20 miles away.

January 15, 2008

Widget Fest: CPB Grant to Foster Public Broadcasting Collaboration & User Engagement for Election 2008

Filed under: Cool Tools,Media & Politics,Social Media — Andy Carvin @ 6:19 pm

Earlier today, NPR and its partners announced that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is awarding more than $1.3 million dollars to a consortium of public media organizations to expand our coverage of election 2008 across multiple platforms. The consortium, led by NPR and including American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio, Capitol News Connection, KQED, PBS, PRX, PRI/Public Interactive and The NewsHour, will work together to produce election-related content and interactive tools available to the entire public broadcasting system.
“By pooling content produced locally and nationally — for radio, television, and online — we will discover new ways of doing business to better serve the public,” said NPR CEO Ken Stern in a note that went out today to the public radio system. “We are pleased to have succeeded in coming together to deliver on the commitments made at the 2007 Annual Meeting.”
“This grant underscores CPB’s support of innovative projects that move public radio and television into the digital future so they can help individuals better connect with their communities wherever they are,” added Pat Harrison, CPB President and CEO. “This ambitious project will provide us with new ways of looking at how we serve the public on existing and emerging media platforms.”
The basic premise of the project was built around a simple reality – many public broadcasters were planning to create on air content and interactive modules for their websites, but we didn’t have a structure in place to work together during the election cycle. Around a year ago, NPR and PBS began conversations around editorial partnerships for the election, including the creation of an interactive map that would work on both of our websites, as well as on the TV show NewsHour. While that conversation was taking place, I co-organized a group discussion at the February 2007 Integrated Media Association conference for public broadcasters to talk about the Election 2008 social media plans and how those activities might be replicable across the system.
The conversation kicked into high gear at NPR’s annual meeting last April, where you may recall I blogged about some of the ideas that were brewing among those of us present at the event. We organized breakout conversation in which we laid out what was at stake and how we might collaborate. It didn’t take long to realize that we had an opportunity that might quickly slip through our fingers if we couldn’t get our act together. We needed to pull together a SWAT team and get to work.
At the encouragement of CPB, we organized a May meeting at NPR laying out all the possible ways we might collaborate, and get that SWAT team going to pull together a plan. By the end of July, we submitted our plan to CPB, which today has been christened with this $1.36 million grant.
So what exactly are we doing? For one thing, we’re going to take all of the cool online election activities we’ve got planned for 2008 and we’re going to make them available as widgets, including:


  • An interactive election map from NPR and The NewsHour;
  • Localizable news modules from Public Radio International’s Public Interactive;
  • A curated collection of election audio and social media content from PRX;
  • Election-related video from PBS;
  • An archive of broadcast materials covering New York-based presidential candidates from WNYC;
  • A collaborative content initiative entitled “Global Perspectives on Election 2008″ from PRI;
  • User-generated political commentaries curated by NPR;
  • Capitol News Connection’s interactive ‘Ask Your Lawmaker’ widget, enabling citizens to directly question their lawmakers and listen to answers obtained by CNC journalists;
  • Election simulations and thought-provoking interactive activities from American Public Media and KQED.

Some of these tools, like the NPR/NewsHour map and CNC’s Ask Your Lawmaker widget, are all ready up and running. Others, such as NPR’s user-generated political commentaries project, will be launching in the coming months. (You have no idea how excited I’m am about this one. We’re working like gangbusters to get this puppy launched – more soon.) In each case, the projects will exist wherever they originally resided, but they’ll have widgets, too, so stations can take these tools and localize them for their own uses. Some of the projects, like our user-generated commentaries, will be embeddable on blogs or wherever else you’d want to place them.
Meanwhile, underlying all of these projects will be an experimental social network – a “knowledge network” for public media entities to share election resources and data, find tutorials and best practices for utilizing these tools and other social media activities, and coordinate their election coverage. It’s basically an extranet for PBS and NPR stations, along with other public media partners. Last but not least, PBS will be creating curricular materials for some of these online modules so they can be used in classroom settings.
I am so glad to see this project announced publicly. I’ve been working on this for the better part of the last nine months, and it’s so gratifying to see so many entities across the public media system coming together to improve our election coverage, while providing the public with interactive tools to help them make a more informed decision when going into the ballot box. This year is going to be a total blast. -andy

January 10, 2008

The Potential Impact of Polls and Punditry on the New Hampshire Primary

Filed under: Election 2.0,Media & Politics — Andy Carvin @ 9:03 pm

sign, Exeter, NHLike pretty much everyone else, I totally blew it. Before the voting wrapped up in New Hampshire on Tuesday night, I posted a note on Twitter predicting that Barack Obama would beat Hillary Clinton by 10 points. Talk about missing the mark. (I nailed the GOP race, though, calling it for McCain over Romney by five points, but who’s counting.)
At least I was in good company, as pretty much every pundit, professional and otherwise, predicted an Obama blowout. And they based that assumption on the polls. These polls leading up to the primary were generally consistent, showing Obama leading Clinton by double digits. Yet in the end, Clinton beat Obama by three points. So for more than 48 hours now, the media has spent an inordinate of time analyzing what went wrong with the polls.

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How Frozen Peas Started An Online Cancer-Awareness Movement

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 11:10 am

The Washington Post has a great story today on how the Twitter community mobilized around Susan Reynolds’ breast cancer diagnosis last month. Please check it out when you get a chance.

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