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All About Instagram: The Final Project

Within the last year or so, the photo-centered social media application Instagram has blown up. It was recently reported that there are approximately 100 million active Instagram users and the application has been available since fall of 2010.

Instagram is especially popular among the younger demographic who take a wide array of photos. What tends to attract this age group are the fun filters you can use to edit photos you take. Recent Northeastern University graduate Donielle Gitlin (username:  @domigi), 22, has been an Instagram user since April 2011 and has over 500 photos. “I really enjoy taking Instagrams of landscapes. Particularly of NYC and specifically, the Empire State Building because I like how you can blur out everything minus your focal point [using the round blur feature],” says Gitlin. “I also like how you can manipulate the photo by using the effects.  I also Instagram random photos that I have funny or witty captions for.”

Among users, there is also a decision to make about which photos you upload on Instagram versus Facebook. There are certainly different “rules” depending on who you ask, but Gitlin believes that there are some specific Instagram-only photos that don’t belong on Facebook. “If it’s a pretty or artistic photo I’ll Instagram it because I also know that I can put a cool effect on it,” she says. “I also Instagram photos of me and my friends because your Instagram feed is like a timeline, so it allows you to look back and see what you were doing when. My Instagram is connected with my Facebook but I rarely share the photo on Facebook unless it’s a picture of me and a friend.”

Instagram is a social media platform that centers on only photos. IPhone and Android users download the free application from their respective app stores and begin uploading photos (it has also recently become accessible via computer). Each user makes a personal username for their profile and can link their account to their Facebook and/or Twitter pages to find their friends who also use the app. You can “follow” your friends and others to receive their photos on your personal feed and you can have others follow you. Users also have the option to make their profiles public or private to control who sees their photos. You are also encouraged to “like” and comment on photos of those you follow.

In addition to being an artsy and fun tool, Instagram has recently been the center of journalism discussion.  Recently, The New York Times featured an Instagram photo of Yankee player Alex Rodriguez on its front page. This started debate about whether or not Instagram could be considered a legitimate journalism tool considering it alters the way photos look, something that is generally frowned upon in the industry.

Going against this belief, Chris Marstall and his team at the Boston Globe Lab are working ways to use social media, and Instagram in particular, to form a new kind of multimedia journalism. They have recently done a project entitled “68 Blocks” which focuses on the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood of Boston. The Globe Lab takes Instagrams from residents and asks them to record voiceovers to explain the story behind the photo. “Instagram has a way of making you look like a professional photographer” says Marstall, “it’s a way to see people’s lives in an immediate way that is also personal and intimate, sometimes too intimate.”

Marstall and his team at the lab also did demos of some of their other Instagram-related projects involving users’ photos. They included restaurant reviews and weather forecasting.

Instagram, as well as social media in general, is also blowing up in the world of public relations. Lindsay Simon works in the Social Media Department of bi-coastal PR firm Sunshine Sachs and helps manage clients’ social media presence and usage. “We represent a wide array of clients, we use social media in a lot of different ways,” Simon explains. “For one of [our celebrity] clients, Naomi Campbell, we teamed up with Elle Magazine and did a Twitter live chat where she took over their account and answered fans’ questions. For non-profits, we help them develop their Facebook pages so that they can appeal to their audiences.  We’ll link to articles that were recently posted on major media outlets so that the fans can easily access them.  In terms of Instagram, we help set up clients’ accounts.  We’ll instruct them on how to use it, but we usually won’t do more than just advise them about what to post.”

The art of “hashtagging” is a popular aspect of Instagram. Hashtags originated on Twitter and are used to gain viewers to your posts. To hashtag, you use the pound sign and a certain word, expression or sentence. For example, an Instagram user may post a photo at the beach and use #beach, #sunny, or #ocean to attract views. There is a search bar on the “popular” page (a set of photos with the most likes that updates throughout the day) where you can look for specific hashtags and users.

Things are only beginning for Instagram.  As it continually becomes more popular, we are only going to see it more and more among our friends and family, and of course in the media.

My Dog, Tory, Basking in the Sunlight






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MTV Movie Awards Wrap Up

Last night, the annual MTV Movie Awards took place in Los Angeles with host Rebel Wilson. The show honors movies from the past year and winners are chosen by fan votes on Lots of celebs were in attendance to present and accept awards including Bradley Cooper (who won for Best Male Performance in Silver Linings Playbook and Best Kiss with Jennifer Lawrence), Brad Pitt, Kerry Washington, Kim Kardashian, Adam Sandler, and Amanda Seyfried to name a few. There were also two performances from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, as well as Selena Gomez.  Gomez has been receiving less than stellar reviews for her vocals during “Come and Get It.”

The cast of the hit 2012 film Pitch Perfect opened the show with an a cappella performance of Lose Yourself by Eminem, Girl is on Fire by Alicia Keys and Thrift Shop by Macklemore. There was also a spoof of MTV’s hit docu-series Catfish starring creator Nev Schulman with Mark Wahlberg, Anna Kendrick and Joe Manganiello that aired during the pre-show.

Although Marvels: The Avengers was the biggest winner of the night for Movie of the Year, everyone is talking about how comedienne Aubrey Plaza stormed the stage while Will Ferrell was accepting his Comedic Genius Award. This has the media buzzing about how she modeled her act after Kanye West’s now famous MTV stage-stealer in 2009 when Taylor Swift won Video of the Year. Plaza left her seat in the audience and tried to take Ferrell’s award from him while he was making his acceptance speech. She had the name of her new film “The To-Do List” written on her chest, making some believe this was just a promotional tactic, but she was immediately removed from the theater after the occurrence.

Click here for a full list of winners and acceptance speeches.

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Maria Balinska and Latitude News

On Friday, founder of Latitude News Maria Balinska led a discussion about how she started her career and came to launch the news site. Balinska started her career working for BBC. At BBC, she learned about all realms of journalism and especially user-related content. She decided to move her family back to America and focus on making a news outlet focusing on international affairs for foreigners in America. Once she had her niche audience, she knew she had a good idea. The importance of appealing to a specific audience is the most important aspect of reporting the news, Balinska says, as well as the volume of content.

Balinska had the desire to make the United States like other countries in terms of how they report on international affairs. She knew of the desire that news aggregators (those who intensely read/share online news) to have more American based, international news media and that is what she did. She simply describes Latitude News as a “local, global mash-up,” a way of making the local news meet the national and international news circuit. There are lots of different kinds of people to appeal to, and she believes her site is able to do that successfully and uses several different methods to do so.

Latitude News uses Twitter to post about 8-10 stories per day about how Americans are being written about in news media around the world. Also, thanks to a Kickstarter grant, they raised $45,000 to start a series of podcasts which are currently being produced by Balinska and her team.

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Jay-Z and Beyonce Receive Backlash After Cuba Trip

Superstar couple Jay-Z and Beyonce were photographed celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary in Havana, Cuba earlier this week, which attracted much attention from fans and the media. The relationship between the United States and Cuba generally denies Americans vacation access to the country, which led Republican congressmen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart to ask what kind of special permission the two were granted to take this trip.

Though no official statement has been made by the couple’s representation as of now, sources are saying that there was in fact the proper documentation needed for the vacation.  The Treasury Department is confirming this, claiming that the stars were on a “cultural exchange” trip and were not solely there as tourists.

Photos have spread throughout the Internet showing the couple at several different restaurants as well as posing with local children and police even needed to intervene after a mob of fans swarmed the couple on the streets.


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Film Critic Roger Ebert Passes Away

It was announced this afternoon that legendary Pulitzer Prize winning film critic Roger Ebert had died. Ebert, 70, had been suffering from cancer since 2002 when he was diagnosed with thyroid and salivary cancer. He is considered a Hollywood legend for his “thumbs up, thumbs down” system of rating movies.

He wrote film reviews for the Chicago Sun Times for 46 years and hosted “At the Movies” from the 80s through 2006. Earlier this week, Ebert wrote his final blog post for the Sun Times in which he announced his exit from the business.

“It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness.”

“So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”

Many actors and public figures, including President Obama, tweeted their remorse and respects for the critic. The Hollywood film industry won’t be the same without him.

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Telling a Story a New Way with Data Viz

This week in class we discussed how data visualization (viz) is an interesting and helpful tool in internet storytelling. Data viz is used by many different news and online sources to illustrate statistics in an easy way to readers. One example I found of data viz is about teen pregnancy rates in the United States, published in September 2011. Instead of just giving out the information in article form, used a bar graph to illustrate how many American teens got pregnant per year. Though it is a reliable source and a well put together graph, it would have been a good idea for the site to show a bigger image of the graph to read it better.

Another example of data viz is on The New York Times’ website today accompanying the story “Rates of A.D.H.D Diagnosis in Children.” The article discusses the number of both male and female children who have been diagnosed with A.D.H.D according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. They show both a map and a graph to illustrate gender, age, and location of the diagnoses.

One of the biggest and most well known data visualizations is google trends. Users can type anything into the search box and see how it has been searched for on google over the last few years in graph form, maps, and a list of related searches. The graphs are large and very easy to understand. This could be especially helpful for journalists or students working on research projects to track popularity and prevalence of specific topics per year.

I specifically chose these three because they are different ways that data viz is used on the internet. I’m sure that once this technology becomes even easier to work with, it will become more commonly used throughout a variety of online media.