Two iMedia Students Behind First Interactive Book Published by Smithsonian

by Katie Williamsen, Elon iMedia Class of 2012

One of my favorite parts about working with iMedia students is seeing all of the amazing work they do post-graduation. Recently I received an email from 2013 alumna, Ashley Deese sharing some exciting news. Since graduation she has been busy working as a media producer at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Recently, her and 2014 iMedia alumna, Nikki Schell, worked on a team to publish the Smithsonian’s first interactive book for Apple. Ashley was the creative director and Nikki was the interactive producer working to produce Expedition: Insects for the Smithsonian. Ashley was kind enough to answer a few questions about this project.

unnamed

1. What do you do for the Smithsonian day-to-day?
My day-to-day at the Smithsonian always changes. I’m involved in everything digital media at the Smithsonian Science Education Center. During my time here I have produced videos, taken photos for textbooks, prepared print books to be published, developed an online game, managed projects from outside studios, maintained our blog, taught classes on digital media, given presentations, utilized my graphic design skills and the list goes on. I am currently working on a lot of new digital projects and strategizing on how to increase our reach worldwide with all of the exciting things we are doing.

Smithsonian eBook with the Team // Twin Stripe

The entire eBook team, Ashley is in the middle wearing pink and Nikki is directly to the right.

2. Wow! You have been busy. How did you convince the Smithsonian to let you and Nikki take on a brand new project?
The mission of the Smithsonian is “the increase and diffusion of knowledge” with a focus on broadening access worldwide. With that being said, an eBook was a very easy choice. Nikki’s role at the Smithsonian was to provide her expertise in producing a project for a global audience to broaden access. She was a natural fit for the project. I have been lucky to work with a supportive senior leadership and a talented team of interns that helped make this project possible.

3. What was your role in the project?
I was the creative director for the project. I made sure that everything we did stayed within the Smithsonian brand regarding art, scientific accuracy, tone of the story line, and the overall messaging. I also provided support to the team and made sure everything was done by our deadlines.

Expedition: Insect // Eye on iMedia Blog

4. What was the biggest challenge you faced working on the project?
This project was very easy since it was a culmination of all of the skills that I obtained from the iMedia program. Since I had a deep understanding of all parts of the production process, it made it very easy to set realistic goals and communicate ideas to everyone involved.

5. What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of how hard my team worked to bring this idea to life. The book has been very successful within the Smithsonian and worldwide.

6. Do you have more interactive books planned in the future?
Yes! This is only the beginning of interactive books at the Smithsonian!

Congratulations to Ashley and Nikki on producing the Smithsonian’s first eBook! If you are interested in finding out more about the prjoect, feel free to connect with Ashley via Twitter @AshleyDeese.

Wondering what else you can do with an M.A. in Interactive Media? Checkout other jobs here.

Costa Rica State of Mind

BY MEGHAN GARGAN, ELON IMEDIA CLASS 2011

Let me be the first to say Happy Holidays from all of us here at Eye on iMedia! With the end of first semester only a few short weeks away, the students in the program are hardly taking a break! While we’re continuing to wrap up projects and prepare for finals, we’ve also started to plan and prepare for the upcoming Winter Term Fly-In, which focuses on creating an interactive project for the public good.

Every Winter Term (which lasts the month of January), the students of iMedia have the fantastic opportunity to give back to international non-profit organizations who want to expand their digital presence through the use of interactive media. For 10 days, four groups of students – two journeying to Panama and the remainder heading to opposite coasts of beautiful Costa Rica – will travel abroad to meet each client and gather content, which will be used once we return to help build an interactive website aimed at spreading awareness of each organization. Check out one of last year’s awesome sites!

However, the fly-in’s aren’t all work! While abroad, each group of students have once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to explore the jungles and cultures of each respective country (for example, my Costa Rica group is scheduled to frolic on the Caribbean coast in addition to exploring a local volcano…what’s life without a little danger, I ask?)

I have to admit that in addition to my excitement at the prospect of warmer temperatures (and volcano climbing) during the dead of winter, I’m also looking forward to working with a group of highly talented people – my classmates. Within each group, students have been able to pinpoint their strengths and take on roles accordingly. For example, on my trip I’ll focus on project management and content generation. Others are responsible for interactive design, informational design, artistic direction and layout design. However, the best part? While each of us is able to hone in on areas of the interactive process that interest us, the fly-ins are treated as a learning experience, which translates to everyone will have an opportunity to do everything from gathering content to developing Flash components to building the structural HTML/CSS foundation that will host the site.  It’s a time for individual and group growth and to learn from each other to build the best interactive project possible (and for such well-deserving organizations).

I see that I’ve begun to ramble, but really this is only a chunk of the information I could share about our upcoming trips.  It’s an exciting time and groups have already begun to bond over group dinners, create t-shirts/group logos and have made it a point and a priority to learn as much as possible (and share that knowledge with each other) before take-off in January.  There may even be a bit of friendly competition and a definite eagerness to see what all the groups produce.

So, while we’re still racing towards that first semester finish line, we’re also keeping our iMedia eye on the prize and planning to take our new skills and use them to better one little corner of the world…which I have to say, is a pretty satisfying feeling already.

Tech Awards 2009 – Science meets smartphone technology

Janna Anderson, communications and interactive media professor at Elon University, sent faculty an email regarding one of our alumni (Audrey Seagraves) being named a 2009 Tech Awards Laureate. I felt her organization’s project the Fair Trade Guide was a wonderful example of how interactive technology is helping workers all over the world. Another interactive project I was excited about was the digital field guide – a “hand-held electronic field guide that identifies tree species based on the shape of their leaves”. Cool media and cool science!

NY Times and ProPublica – DocumentCloud

PoynterOnline has a great story about a joint project between The New York Times and ProPublica called DocumentCloud. “DocumentCloud will provide an online database of documents contributed by a consortium of news organizations, watchdog groups and bloggers, and shared with the public at large. The service will make important investigative documents more transparent and easier to find. Contributors will be able to annotate documents and create relationships that aren’t evident through simple text searches.”

This is a great example of how interactive media is used in journalism.

Opportunities in Interactive Media

I wanted to share two articles that were forwarded to me from Elon faculty (thanks Randy and Janna!) illustrating how interactive media is being used to educate, advocate and connect in educational and business environments.

The first is an article highlighting the winners of this year’s Digital Media & Learning Competition, “which is a part of MacArthur’s $50 million digital media and learning initiative designed to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people play, learn, socialize and participate in civic life”. Winners include:  Digital Ocean: Sampling the Sea, engaging 200 middle and high school classes around the world in analyzing and sharing information about the world’s declining fish population and its implications on humans; Talkers and Doers, a platform in which at-risk teens learn about entrepreneurship through games that incorporate real world learning, service, opportunities, and mentors; and Networked Newsroom,  an online participatory news platform where high school and college students can post story ideas, leads, photos, videos and other information directly from their computers or mobile phones.

The second article, Who’s getting hired in Tech? Q1 Numbers from ReadWriteWeb, reflects the leading sectors (hiring-wise) so far this year. First place goes to software/IT at 25%, followed by social media/social networking at 15%.

Profile: Beaker (Business & Science)

Beaker is a leading provider of online communities for professionals and executives managing a career within the life sciences industry. Beaker’s website serves as an online destination for professionals and executives seeking to enhance and better manage the advancement of their career within the life sciences industry.

Jeffrey Clark was kind enough to answer a few questions for me regarding his professional background and how Beaker uses interactive media:

What are some of your past positions and experience in this field?

Most of our team comes from a background in recruiting in the life sciences industry, specifically executive search. While we leverage a technology platform at Beaker, we are a recruiting company first.

What was your major in college/educational background?

Political Science with a focus on International Relations

How did you get your start in this industry?

Most of us began as researchers & recruiters in the executive search industry, identifying & recruiting candidates to top level positions across the life sciences industry. At some point, we decided we could serve the industry better through a  scalable technology platform that catered to the leading employers and the strongest candidates withing the life sciences industry.

What is your definition of “interactive media”?

Good question. For us, it’s about engaged users at some level beyond simple “spectators”. Whether they vote in a poll, comment on a blog, or create their own discussion topic, they are encouraged to participate with Beaker beyond simply viewing our content and media. And, as our platform evolves, we will continually seek out creative ways to spur that interaction amongst our users, not as a content media provider but as a vertically oriented community of professionals.

What technology (e.g. Flash, blogs, Final Cut) is utilized most to facilitate the interactive needs of your clients?

All of the above. We leverage Flash & Flash-type presentation technology called Flypaper to “tell our client’s story” to potential candidates. We use Final Cut Pro to piece together our weekly video webcast for the industry. We publish a multimedia, WordPress-based daily blog to keep our audience connected to what’s ongoing across the industry.

What are some of the job roles within your company (e.g. project manager, designer)?

Project Manager, Customer Support, Sales, Marketing, Web Content Developer

What types of skills and experiences do you look for in new hires?

Raw technical ability and the ability to self-manage. As a growing company, we need responsible, creative, entrepreneurial folks who can take ownership of a deliverable and bring it to reality.

Why is it important for companies/organizations to utilize interactive media?

It’s not about publishing. It’s about stirring a conversation, engaging an audience, and using compelling (and available) technologies in a more effective way than ever before.

What are some interactive media trends you see on the horizon within your industry?

An explosion of the new platforms that until now have been reserved for early adopters: Facebook, Twitter, blog platforms and online video.

What resources do you use to stay up on interactive media trends?

Not magazines! If you want to find the best thinking about online strategy, you’ll find it (surprise) online.

What advice would you give someone planning to pursue a career in interactive media?

Get involved. You need not and try to master every new communication platform. In fact, to do so would be overkill. Yet, be familiar with each, how they work, and start to dream about how they can be applied to drive a more efficient and productive outcome in everyday life or in the business world.

Interactive Media and Life Sciences

Have a passion for life sciences AND media – PERFECT!

The job ad below was forwarded to me by a colleague (thanks Teresa!). It is a good representation of two passions combined. A wonderful candidate for this job would be someone with an undergrad degree in science and experience or grad degree in interactive media.

Here is the ad…

Seeking Web Content Producer – Raleigh, NC

Launched in 2008, Beaker is a fast growing on-line community for life sciences industry. Much of our content is multimedia, as you can see from our home page.

We are looking for a candidate to serve as the face and driving energy behind our flagship content, BeakerBeat. BeakerBeat is a weekly 4-6 minute video webcast serving as a synopsis for the professionals who manage a career in the life sciences industry (pharma, biotech, diagnostics, medical services, etc.).

Position responsibilities center on the production of a weekly video webcast, serving as a synopsis of the newsworthy events within the life sciences industry. Specific responsibilities include pre-production (story selection, scripting, etc.), video production (on camera reporting), and assistance in post-production (content gathering, final editing, etc.). The position interacts with a variety of team members at Beaker contributing to the production process, providing direct assistance and guidance.

Like I have said – interactive media is EVERYWHERE.