Archive for January 2009

Inaugural iMedia

January 25, 2009

When we watch a TV newscast or read a story in The New York Times, we are consuming linear media. Someone organizes 22 minutes of content for the newscast that we watch in the order it has been prescribed, and someone has written a news story that we read starting with the lead sentence.

Interactive media is not linear. It allows a consumer to choose content more freely and to interact with that content in fresh ways.

For example, have you seen CNN’s interactive image from the presidential inauguration where you can move your cursor to see thousands of faces up close? Or the Times photo that gives you the name of an inaugural platform guest as you hover over a face?

These interactive tools give us the ability to interact with media in new ways, and a number of iMedia techniques are on display at the “10,000 WORDS” site.


I particularly enjoy “word clouds” that can be created using Wordle.

The New York Times has created word clouds for every inaugural address (available at the “10,000 WORDS” site). For example, the three most-used key words in George Washington’s first address in 1789 were “government, public, country.” Thomas Jefferson, in 1805, used the word “reason” far more than any President before or since.

Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address emphasized “constitution, law, union” whereas his second inaugural address emphasized “war, God, offense.” You could tell what was on William Howard Taft’s mind in 1909 when his address placed greater emphasis on words such as “business, tariff, railroads.”

In a time of crisis, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural language highlighted “help, discipline, recovery.” Ronald Reagan said “believe, hero, dream” significantly more in his first inaugural address than other presidents. For Bill Clinton, he spoke a lot about the “world, change, renewal.”

George W. Bush’s second inaugural address, in 2005, was unusual in that he never used the words “Iraq, Afghanistan, Sept. 11 or terrorism” and instead cast the crises and wars as a struggle in defense of his most-used word: “freedom.”

So we come to Barack Obama’s inaugural address. His three most-used key words were “nation, America, people” — not unlike many Presidents before him. But the words that he used in much larger proportions than his predecessors included “crisis, hard, endure.”

I spent more than an hour clicking on the faces of Presidents and seeing the language they used to address the American people at their inaugurations. It’s a case of taking something linear — a speech — and making it come alive through interactive media techniques.


Elon at the Inauguration

January 21, 2009

Eight students from our campus newspaper and student television newscast attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama. All of the students made it onto the Mall for the inauguration, and their fine work is reflected in The Pendulum Online and on Phoenix14News.

Meanwhile, back on campus, a snowfall resulted in cancellation of classes on Inauguration Day, so many of us were able to watch the oath of office and other festivities without guilt that we were shirking our duties.

The presidential oath of office is grand drama. As I watched Obama place his left hand on Lincoln’s Bible and raise his right hand, my mind raced back to the recent HBO series “John Adams” that portrayed the first presidential inauguration of George Washington. Here is an excerpt from that dramatization.


For the 2009 presidential inauguration, I found it thrilling to know that Elon students were there as reporters to witness history in the making. Of course, in the excerpt shown below, Chief Justice John Roberts erred in administering the oath and Obama repeated the words out of order, resulting in the Chief Justice returning to the White House the next evening to administer the oath again.

In the Beginning

January 16, 2009

Back when home computers were new and few, major newspapers began experimenting with electronic delivery of content. Such experiments were the forerunner of today’s Web sites.

Enjoy this two-minute 1981 report from KRON-TV in San Francisco, when only 2,000 to 3,000 home computers existed in all of the Bay Area. It’s a reminder of how fast technology has changed, and keeps changing, the ways we get information.