This past spring, Studio 20 students in their second term partnered with a diverse group of companies for a project focusing on networked reporting.
What is “networked reporting,” you ask? We like to define it as “when the many contribute to reporting that is completed by a few.”
Tech site PandoDaily.com was among the companies students worked with. Studio 20 students Nuha Abujar, Jesse Kipp, and Simran Khosla collaborated with PandoDaily’s Head of Social Media and Experimental Journalism, David Holmes (a Studio 20 graduate himself), to develop a system that would visualize the history of startups through the Silicon Valley mafias, using the precepts of networked reporting as a guide for research, design, and implementation.
The final product is a useful (and visually beautiful) work that offers striking, user-friendly clarity and a fun interactive element. Along with getting some popular notice, the group’s work was hailed by several future-of-journalism figures.
I had the chance to quiz Simran Khlosa before she (and her class partners) graduate from Studio 20 this December; she muses on the impact of the work, where the inspiration for this idea originated, and its potential for use in other areas of reportage.
What inspired you to choose Pando Daily? Why did they suit your project best?
We appreciated Pando Daily’s start-up nature and it’s unique niche in the media website world. In Pando Daily’s mission statement, they talk about tracking the start-up ecosystem, mapping the various branches of that world. This fit in perfectly with our idea of mapping the start-up root system.
Why did you choose to visualize this the Silicon Valley mafia?
Pando Daily founder Sarah Lacy was working on an e-book on tracing the lineage of all the mafias and their histories. We realized it would be the perfect thing to try out the “mapping an ecosystem” idea. It was also interesting because these “mafias” (a.k.a. Silicon Valley families) have been notoriously talked about as interconnected and all-powerful, and it was cool to see all the connections laid out visually.
How does doing this map help to understand the role of the Silicon Valley in a wider sense?
I think it shows the interconnectedness between a lot of companies and makes you realize it’s not just a series of start-ups going through similar cycles; there’s actually many key players and investors who really shape the ecosystem.
What was the toughest part of this project? What was the easiest
Toughest: getting all the info together; making sure we didn’t miss anything.
Easiest: I don’t know if it was “easy,” but I think the most fun was planning it all and watching our creation come to life with (Jonathan) Soma’s coding.
(Ed. note: NYU instructor Jonathan Soma will be featured in an upcoming Q&A on this blog soon - stay tuned.)
How did doing this project influence your approach to subsequent projects?
I think it taught me how to divide and conquer. We all chipped in equally to make this happen.
What other companies / movements could you see applying this sort of work to?
I think large-scale data visualizations like this are beneficial for any journalistic organizations. We could’ve mapped out Syrian conflict leaders; we could have mapped out celebrities or potential Peace Prize winners. Experimenting with new styles of storytelling like this can be applied to anyone.
How does this project encapsulate the themes and main thrust of Studio 20.
It’s all about trying something new: displaying information in a unique way; using data; creating something completely new to live online. I think that’s what we strive for here at Studio 20, pushing journalism to the potential the medium of the internet has.