Articles by Kalev H. Leetaru

  • Article

    Reimagining libraries as conveners of information and innovation

    September 30, 2014 by Kalev H. Leetaru

    Reimagining libraries as conveners of information and innovation

    Figure 1: Mapping the Geography of American Television News   Knight News Challenge: Libraries closes today, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. The challenge offers applicants a chance to share in $2.5 million by focusing on the question “How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?” Below, Kalev H. Leetaru, a data scientist and the Yahoo Fellow at Georgetown University, writes about libraries as centers of information innovation.

    Imagine a world in which libraries and archives had never existed. No institutions had ever systematically collected or preserved our cultural past: Every book, letter and document was created, read and immediately thrown away. Alternatively, what if everything had been kept and the Library of Alexandria had survived to present day, archiving all societal knowledge through the millennia? How would life be different in these two worlds, one of no history and one of all our history, and what can this suggest to us of the future role of libraries in society?

    Today both of these worlds have become reality: Libraries ship the physical book world of our history off to storage, eliminating the serendipitous discovery of browsing, while the Web simultaneously creates a virtual Library of Alexandria that unifies societal knowledge. No longer do libraries serve as gatekeepers to the world’s information: The Web has democratized access to information and with a single mouse click provides far more than any single library could ever offer.  Have libraries truly been rendered obsolete in the digital world?

  • Article

    Looking across languages: Seeing the world through mass translation of local news

    March 27, 2015 by Kalev H. Leetaru

    Looking across languages: Seeing the world through mass translation of local news

    Imagine a world without language barriers, where journalists and citizens can access real-time information from anywhere in the world in any language, seamlessly translated into their native tongue and where the articles they write are equally accessible to speakers of all the world’s languages. Authors from Douglas Adams to Ethan Zuckerman have long articulated such visions of a post-lingual society in which mass translation eliminates barriers to information access and communication. Yet, even as technologies like the Web break down geographic barriers and make it possible to hear from anywhere in the world, linguistic barriers mean most of those voices remain steadfastly inaccessible

  • Article

    Our global dreams and fears: News as emotion

    October 22, 2014 by Kalev H. Leetaru

    Our global dreams and fears: News as emotion

    Below, Kalev H. Leetaru, a data scientist and the past 2013-2014 Yahoo Fellow at Georgetown University, writes about reimagining news as emotion using the Internet Archives, which Knight Foundation supports

    Description: C:\Users\leetaru\Desktop\GLOBALNET\PUBLICATIONS\GP-GDELT-KnightBlogPost-NewsEmotions\figure1-anxiety.png

    Figure 1 - Intensity of the emotion “anxiety” in American television news over the last four years

    The world’s news media isn’t merely a clinical chronology of global events: It is a lens onto the dreams and fears of our global world.  As journalists report on events from the mundane to the extraordinary, they do so through the lens of their own experiences, beliefs and views. Each unfolding detail is contextualized through the stories of those participating and affected. Coverage of a labor protest goes beyond the impersonal who, when and where, to the what and why, capturing the rich tapestry of emotional undercurrents that define human life.

    What if we could quantitatively measure and visualize the emotion of the world’s news? Identifying areas where reporting on a disease outbreak devolves from concern to panic or where a previously downtrodden region suddenly finds a euphoric new vision for the future?  Creating a global “happiness” ranking of the world’s cities and identifying the topics that appear in the most positive and most negative light in every corner of the globe?  In short, what if we could reimagine the news not as a simple conveyer of facts, but as a coarse reflection onto the emotions, the dreams and fears, of global society? Last week we released a dataset that does just that. Here’s how we got there.