What’s New Media Good For Anyway?

How can media producers and funders get on the same page about the social impact of projects developed for emerging platforms?

That’s the question that has animated my research as a senior fellow at the Media Impact project, and in April I travelled to LA to report in on my ongoing explorations.

In my talk, What’s New Media Good for Anyway, I introduced an experimental new symbol font that I’ve created in collaboration with designer Carrie McLaren to help make impact conversations and analysis quicker, more creative and more playful.

Here’s a quick rundown on how it works and why I’ve taken this approach:

In the full presentation, embedded below, I also lay out a series of questions to ask when encountering a social impact media project created using an unfamiliar platform. You can find my presentation here: What’s New Media Good For Anyway? from Dot Connector Studio.

These questions include:

  • How new is this?
  • Is this even media?
  • Where is this in the hype cycle?
  • What are the points of connection? (i.e., the various platforms across which the project engages users)
  • What’s the point of the connection

It’s this last question that I’m hoping this font can help makers and funders to answer. Why is a social impact project being produced, and what’s the goal for audience engagement? The font offers several engagement models that I’ve developed in recent years in dialogue with  researchers and producers of documentary and news — ranging from creating a private “safe space” for reporting on and discussing sensitive social issues, to “you are here” projects based in a local community, all the way up to the “big bang,” which assumes that the goal is to spread the message far and wide. Also on tap: symbols for a range of emotions that users might experience when interacting with the production, which can be used to help inform impact strategy.

In addition, the font offers users the chance to think about the impact of various new forms of media. On the number keys, you’ll find familiar platforms such as radio, TV and print. However, hit the shift button, and these keys transform — to virtual reality, wearables, bots and more. The goal is to help you think through how these platforms change consumers’ experiences of media, in turn spawning new models of social impact media yet to be defined.

During the talk and in other workshops and presentations that MIP kindly organized for my visit, we discussed many other icons that could fill in the “TBD” gaps currently in the font. We’re currently working on a second version of the font to incorporate these suggestions. In the meantime, though, you can download and install the beta version of the font yourself to play around with. It’s in True Type format (.ttf) and was designed primarily for use on the Mac.

You’ll find it here in Dropbox, along with a key that explains the meaning of the various symbols. Please note that this font is for noncommercial and educational use only — please don’t sell it or repackage it. Stay tuned for an updated version with more icons, and more instructions about how to put the font to use in your own work.

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