AIR, Zeega Plug In

On Sunday a clutch of radio visionaries, developers, and storytellers gathered at WFMU's Radiovision Festival for a a "hack day." Aimed at "reinventing radio," the day's session was led by MQ2 producers Kara Oehler, Jesse Shapins and James Burns, and marked both the debut of their new production environment, Zeega, and a freshly minted collaboration with AIR that will provide techical expertise and creative inspiration for Localore producers.

Zeega, an open-source HTML5 platform for creating interactive documentaries and winner of the 2011 Knight News Challenge, grew out of MQ2, AIR's 2008 Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funded initiative that laid groundwork for Localore and established a new role for producers to accelerate public media’s transition in a new trans-platform age. The MQ2 project, Mapping Main Street, laid the groundwork for the Zeega team to build a participatory framework to allow average citizens to contribute a range of media -- photos, audio, and digital video – through public APIs.

While Zeega's work with Localore is expected to focus mostly on journalism and storytelling, Sunday's Hack Day was all about music, offering the first chance for makers to get their hands on this new tool chest, as well as work with public APIs from the Free Music Archive and The Echo Nest, collections that allow developers to curate tailored musical streams, or pull pieces by particular artists into their own productions. The Zeega team created a few structured challenges for the day—like making a personal music history—but the ability to mash up streams from different social media sites is what really captured the attention of Hack Day attendees, who were tickled by the potential, and spent a fun few hours hunting down content and trying to combine it online.

The buzz in the room underscored what  Shapins told Nieman Lab's Andrew Phelps: Zeega is more than a new production tool—it's a platform for supporting and growing a rising culture of transmedia makers.  

“We’ve been inspired by the communities that have formed around independent audio and film — really remarkable groups of people that are passionate about telling stories in really powerful ways, but also communities of design and programming...you have an incredible group of people that are testing and inventing experimental visualizations and hacking on physical objects," Shapins explained. "The community that we’re trying to build with Zeega is one where those come together, where you have that design and creative technology community sharing a common space with the documentary/storytelling/journalism community.”

Thanks to the new partnership, Localore participants will now have a chance be a part of that community from the inception of their projects. Zeega’s innovation team will work with Localore producers, stations, and collaborators to design their projects, and then continue on for up to 12 months to execute selected local initiatives. Together, Zeega and the Localore teams will further advance new forms of journalism and community engagement for the benefit of all throughout the country and industry.

 Photo credit: John Dalton (notladj)