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‘HACKERS’ & JOURNALISTS COLLABORATE ON INFORMATION-GATHERING AT 9.9 SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATION

What possible synergy could one expect between ‘hackers’ and journalists?

If the events on 3rd of February 2013 at the 9.9 School of Communication in New Delhi are something to go by, the future of the media lies with the ‘hacker-journalist’.

“Journalists are increasingly required to make sense out of ‘Big Data’ – an IT terminology referring to collection of large and complex data sets which are difficult to process through traditional data processing methods,” explained Eric Saranovitz, Academic Dean, 9.9 School of Communication. “Enter the ‘coder’ or ‘hacker’ – the whiz kid who knows not just how to pull out data, but organise it comprehensively within a Sunday afternoon.”

Jargon aside, how much work was actually done on this Sunday afternoon?

At the end of 5 hours, nearly 70 people had organized into mixed teams of ‘hacks’ and ‘hackers.'   Using tools like Google Fusion Tables, these teams were able to create interactive maps and graphics on topics as diverse and mammoth as the availability of doctors versus international medical aid, the relationship between literacy and social problems like crime and infant mortality, and a ‘zoomable’ heat map of infant mortality rates across the country.

“As an techie, I am used to producing information from data, by running queries,” said Konark Modi, a star programmer at Makemytrip.com, shortly about to relocate to San Francisco. “I’ve always wanted to work with a journalist, because a journalist knows what story needs to be conveyed to the people and how to consume the information. From raw data I can actually help them build that story. This Hacks/Hackers meet made me realise that coders have their own ideas, while media-men have theirs. It was great learning!”

In fact, one group mapped the entire ‘Maha Kumbh Mela’ creating an interactive map that could display everything from the nearest fire stations, to toilets, to the locations of specific shops. This map will shortly be available on Android and Windows platforms.

 “With technology growing increasingly intuitive and interactive, the future breed of journalists will combine creative writing and analytical skills with technological expertise like Big Data Visualisation,” said Aaruni Kant Sinha, one of the prominent journalists who worked with two different teams during this collaboration.

The meet-up was organised by 9.9 SoC – a mass media and new media institute - in collaboration of the Delhi chapter of Hacks/ Hackers, an international grassroots group of coders and journalists. The event attracted media students from across the NCR, and also saw the active presence of students from Cheung Kong School of Journalism and Communication, Shantou University (China). Even the organisers were quite surprised by the immense response, having to quickly shift the arrangement to a bigger auditorium at 9.9 SoC.

"There is no precedent in India for a group that brings hackers and journalists together towards a common goal, under one roof,” said Anika Gupta, Founder of the New Delhi Chapter head of Hacks/Hackers, as well as a working journalist. “Out of nearly 70 attendees, only one journalist had worked with coders before; and none of the coders had worked with journalists. Yet there was this amazing energy and synergy.”

Seeing the success of this meet-up of techies and scribes, the organisers of the event have decided to make this a regular affair, with the ultimate aim being to build a community capable of creating the responsive, technology-driven news that people will be consuming five years from now.

The event was sponsored in part by the US-based Knight-Mozilla Foundation, which funds projects at the frontier of journalism and technology.

Click here to view event pictures

TESTIMONIALS

SoC had some of the best teachers and the most interesting classes. For the first time in my life, I truly enjoyed education. Mahima Gupta

During my stint at ESPN Star, I worked on the convergence of editorial content for website, mobile and WAP – true to the spirit of SoC! Ranbir Majumdar

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