Etgar 36

Day 22-Chicago-by Ben Suttin

On our first day after leaving San Francisco, our somewhat diminished group hopped on the bus to meet with Dean John Lavine at Northwestern University. Dean Lavine spoke with us about the function and the future of media in conjunction with the technology that we use to consume media.
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Throughout Dean Lavine’s presentation, he placed a huge emphasis on the user’s place in the direction of the media. He particularly referenced the fact that the user ultimately decides what they interact with. Regardless of how hard a company tries to reach a user, if the user is uninterested, they will not interact with the content.Dean Lavine told us about a project that his students developed called StatsMonkey. StatsMonkey was an automatic baseball game summarizer. ┬áIt could convert box scores into in-depth, interesting articles which could compare the game to any previous game in the history of the sport. It did all of this in just a minute and a half. The articles generated by StatsMonkey would allow journalists to interview coaches and players and not have to worry about churning out what Dean Lavine refers to as “commodity journalism” (facts that each journalist covering a topic needs to mention but are the same in each instance).
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Two of the student developers of StatsMonkey turned it into a company called NarrativeScience. They created a new program from scratch, called Quill, to evaluate all data, not just baseball scores. Dean Lavine believes that by using programs such as Quill, Journalists could ‘outsource’ commodity journalism to machines that will be able to generate more in-depth technical writing at a rate far faster than that of a human journalist. This would allow journalists to spend more time in the field interviewing individuals connected to the event. As someone who is incredibly excited to be entering media (albeit a different branch than Dean Lavine), Dean Lavine’s presentation greatly resonated with me. Following our meeting with Dean Lavine, we went for some classic Chicago deep dish pizza. The lunch selection disappointed some of the New Yorkers in the group but the overall consensus was positive.
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After our pizza, we visited the Art Institue of Chicago where I enjoyed their special exhibit on Magritte.
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We then headed to Lake Michigan to spend some time hanging out by the water.
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We ate dinner at a burger bar and then attended a performance by Barrel of Monkeys, a group that visits underprivileged schools to help teach creative writing classes. BoM then takes a select number of stories that the students have written and adapts them into short skits.
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I greatly enjoyed today’s balance of themes from media and the way we interact with it to art and social activism.