Could UX Design and Algorithms Replace Journalism?

24Oct11

from newsmap.jp

Newsmap.jp is a news aggregator based on Google News. The size of each box is proportional with the number of related articles having to do with a topic. The color of each box indicates the country in the world that each story belongs to.

“Newsmap’s objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media…” (http://marumushi.com/projects/newsmap)

Newsmap.jp also works algorithmically, automatically giving the user a sense of what is important.

“Google News automatically groups news stories with similar content and places them based on algorithmic results into clusters. In Newsmap, the size of each cell is determined by the amount of related articles that exist inside each news cluster that the Google News Aggregator presents. In that way users can quickly identify which news stories have been given the most coverage, viewing the map by region, topic or time. Through that process it still accentuates the importance of a given article.”

(http://marumushi.com/projects/newsmap)

I happened to stumble onto Newsmap.jp and after reading a little about it, I discovered that it is actually a small start-up based out of San Francisco and is not necessarily tied directly to Google News or is an initiative that has been set out by Google News. However, I think this site is indicative of the way that web journalism could go.

In fact, it presents an interesting model especially when compared to the model of isomorphism (Deuze, Media Work, 152), where news organizations converge to form coherence. Instead of there being many news sources to choose from that are coherent, the consumer can simply log into Newsmap to find the most important news story, then be directed to an abundance of different news organizations. All of this is of course determined by what Google News deems as newsworthy: another algorithmic process determined by a number of variables.

Taken from the “about” link from Google News: (http://news.google.com/intl/en_us/about_google_news.html)

“Our articles are selected and ranked by computers that evaluate, among other things, how often and on what sites a story appears online. We also rank based on certain characteristics of news content such as freshness, location, relevance and diversity. As a result, stories are sorted without regard to political viewpoint or ideology and you can choose from a wide variety of perspectives on any given story. “(http://news.google.com/intl/en_us/about_google_news.html)

Another point of interest is the ease of accessibility when it comes to using API’s from online services such as Google News. This opens up an entirely different set of issues when thinking about who can create websites that sift, filter, and tunnel news stories.  It also highlights the “top-down strategy” (Deuze, Media Work, 146) that integrates the different sectors of the industry into “cross-media enterprises” (Deuze, Media Work, 146).

This issue also begets this question: would you rather read news generated by an algorithm or generated by a news organization?

http://newsmap.jp/

http://webbeat.tv/website-of-the-day-newsmap-jp/

http://marumushi.com/projects/newsmap

–Dan Schiffman

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