Monthly Archives: June 2013

Roundup: Crowdfunding Projects to Watch


I spend much too much time watching videos and scrolling through projects on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I find it can be inspirational. Here are entrepreneurs, activists, and philanthropic people, really sticking out their necks for the things they are passionate about. I couldn’t possibly afford to back them all, though I wish I could.

Whatever your opinion about crowdfunding sites and some of the pressures of successful projects, you can’t debate their rapid growth. Kickstarter has been a fundraising platform for over 40,000 funded projects which have in total attracted over $215 million from donors. Here are two that are hoping to add to those stats and one book project that already has a lot of buzz.

1. Library For All is a digital library aimed at delivering libraries to developing countries. The library materials reside on web servers and are accessed with affordable tablets and mobile phones. Many of their library books are open source, building on an already ingenious way to bring free e-books to the masses. Their idea makes the portable library global.

2. The United Palace Theatre is an architectural gem in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. The last film to have a run at the theater was 2001: A Space Odyssey, in 1969. This Indiegogo project is getting a lot of attention and hopes to raise funds to buy a digital projection system. Full disclosure: I live in Washington Heights and I think the success of this project could take the uptown arts scene to another level.

3. Boss Fight Books already had their Kickstarter success, but their idea is too good not to share. They will be publishing books about classic video games. Smartly designed editions will take an in depth look at the cultural impact, innovative design, or subcultures born as a result of its creation. My favorite game growing up was NBA Jam and I would love to read about the cultural impact (if any) that had on burgeoning youth.

4., 5., & 6.

Three more worthy projects that are looking to bring libraries to communities: This Free Library in Tennessee is the size of a bird house, but the community’s excitement can hardly be contained. There are also incredible community library projects in Thailand and Tanzania too.



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In case you missed it…Big Data

NY Magazine "The $250,000 Physical"

The controversy surrounding the NSA and government surveillance made me pay special attention to the accompanying wave of news coverage about Big Data and data mining.

New York Magazine’s Best Doctors Issue featured a story about MetaMed, a company introducing new information systems to our health care. MetaMed representatives Skype with patients about their medical history, do blood tests, and genetic profiles eventually generating a full report that may recommend tweaks in medication or specialists to see. It’s cofounder, Michael Vassar says “Almost all of the health care that people get is going to be done – hopefully- by algorithms within a decade or two.”

NY Times "Big Data"

The New York Times published a Special Section on Big Data last week which laid out some interesting trends in how people are using Big Data. CVS Caremark collected data about customers habits and found that their best shoppers were ones with chronic conditions. By targeting those customers who are prescribed medication for 1-2 years but stopped refilling after just a few months, CVS filled a revenue gap they had previously overlooked.

Political camps use microtargeting to isolate voter groups and send tailored messages based on family status, age, education, etc.. Such methods helped Obama’s team earn the title of “most technologically advanced campaign in American history.” Sunday’s New York Times Magazine takes a more in depth look at how Obama’s data crunchers are now taking their skills corporate.

The cover image from the NY Times  is from Jonathan Harris’ We Feel Fine project. Blogs were screened for the words “I feel..” or “I am feeling…” and the artist created beautiful infographics according to positive and negative sentiments. This is a reminder that data may be impersonal but comes from people (with feelings) who can benefit or be taken advantage of depending on which direction Big Data heads.

I’m reminded by these articles that MLS holders are just a few of the many people using large datasets. I hope that there can be a good exchange of experience and skills between these different data disciplines. As big data expands, remember this tidbit from Jeffrey Hammerbacher, one of the field’s pioneers, “Just because you can’t measure it easily doesn’t mean it’s not important.”



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keeping things.

Stephanie Diamond ImagesSomewhere in the pile of stuff in my new apartment (just moved), I have a bright pink box, the word “archive” handwritten in blue on a piece of paper slid into the box’s plastic placeholder. The box’s contents are a mishmash of various stages of my life; notes passed in anthropology class, postcards from traveling friends, high school concert tickets, party invitations, photos of people I don’t know, love letters, and an assortment of scraps from past friendships. On occasion, I’m going to share on this blog some items I’ve saved in this archive box. I bet there are a lot of similar boxes out there, so I’ll also point out individuals doing more interesting things with their personal archives. Have you come across any ingenious uses of personal artifacts?

Stephanie Diamond ImagesKeeping archives not only gives people a sense of personal satisfaction, but can also be a creative inspiration. When my friend Erik introduced me to artist Stephanie Diamond’s Listings Project, I was struck by how her personal and family archive of over 200,000 photographs crept into her artistic work. The photo archive launched a number of creative projects including her It Would Look Like series. In one, Diamond asks young mothers living in the non-profit Project Row Houses in Houston questions about the types of photos they’d like to display in their homes and selected photographs from her archive base on the mother’s answers. The mothers in turn were given photos which closely matched their requests, giving new life to the photographs and gifting visual art to new families.

In Captive Audience she challenged participants to ask themselves, “If I were to go to prison, and I could only bring one photograph with me, it would look like…” She got over 100 responses and spent weeks rummaging in the archive to find photos that matched. When Diamond started incorporating the archive into projects it helped her see the photos in a new light. Diamond’s work encourages me to stop letting my personal archive sit around my apartment for periodic peaking and start experimenting!

Any ideas? How can our archives be the medium for something greater?

For more about Stephanie Diamond read this stellar profile by Jessica Breiman

Photos are borrowed from Stephanie’s website.

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