All posts by Nicholas Bratton

Story Idea: Bicycle Safety in Manhattan

Before I forget, here is a recent article with photographs regarding the long-lasting effects of Sandy on Staten Island which I’ve read some of us are interested in covering.

Anyway, I’m interested in bicycle safety in Manhattan, which is a hot topic right now — this summer two pedestrians were killed after being hit by bicyclists in Central Park. I think this is a particularly appropriate story to cover in this class as an aerial view could possibly show the drastic speed differences between bicyclists and pedestrians in close proximity in a more striking way than a ground-level shot could. In my opinion, Central Park would be a particularly relevant place to film since so many tourists mosey around the area, as well as New Yorkers out for a leisurely escape. However, I see bicyclists maneuvering unsafely all over Manhattan: running red lights, going the wrong way down streets, riding through people-filled crosswalks and sidewalks etc. Again I think an aerial view could be extremely effective in showing just how dangerous some bicyclists can be.

I’m looking forward to hashing out this idea in class today if anyone else thinks it’s a topic worth covering.

Is drone journalism for real?

Drone journalism is most certainly for real — just look at the amount of press it’s getting. Note that, at least in the U.S., the discourse is not peripheral — Mr. Obama, the FAA, and other federal groups have recently been releasing statements and iterating legislation. Like many (mostly nongovernmental) participants in the debate, I find the current dichotomous legality between commercial and personal drone usage unacceptable. According to this article, the FAA claims to primarily base their decisions on safety. An eloquent response: “commercial users will be at least as careful as a hobbyist.”

Anyway, as a skeptic of financially motivated institutions (e.g. media corporations, governments, etc.), I am very excited about the increasing ease of access to journalistic equipment. So too am I excited about the individual citizen’s growing ability to self-publish and promote (read: most of us have the ability to post anything we care about to the internet). At risk of becoming tangential, I want to point out that I see drone journalism as a way that local communities can be brought closer together. I am hopeful that this will mitigate the rift that (I argue) many U.S. citizens feel exists between the government and the people. I am hopeful that this will mitigate the information filtering engrained in our team X vs. team Y media-dominated republic.

Whether or not the FAA and other government entities truly base their drone legislation primarily on safety concerns is up in the air and useless to argue about. An arguably more common topic of debate in drone discourse is privacy. Personally I think this is the more interesting conversation and the conversation many, many more people are invested in. I am of the belief that privacy is a cultural construct and that this debate will fade away as my generation comes into power in the near-future. I actually feel comfortable making the blanket statement that those of us who have had access to the internet for the large majority of our lives will agree that the advantages to homebrew journalism and information publication far outweigh the disadvantages. A question: should we sit around waiting for policy-makers born in the 90s and later to change legislation around drone journalism or should we be make demands, petitions, and calls-to-action our priority?

Anyway, here are a couple ideas for projects that we could do over the next few weeks:

1. Hang out with kids in low-income areas and teach them how to use the drones. See what their first reactions are — what would they film? At first I imagine they will do silly things, like all of us. But after a bit I’m sure more interesting ideas will start taking shape in their heads. One of the beautiful aspects of drone journalism that members of the public can document what is important to them. Often the things important to lower-income people are overlooked in mainstream media.

2. A simple quirky idea for a data study: frame by frame, what colors do people wear most? Maybe do it on a day by day basis, making sure to collect metadata. Do we see trends in

-color vs. day of the week

-color vs. temperature

-color vs. weather

-color vs. location in nyc

Really I’m thinking about the kinds of data we can gather about humans from above. I much prefer the first idea since I see it as socially beneficial.