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The Gradient: Perspectives on AI

Joss Fong: Videomaking, AI, and Science Communication

Thu Mar 28 2024
science journalismvideo productionAIbeauty culturetechnologyjournalism ethics

Description

The episode explores the challenges and evolution of science journalism in the digital age. It discusses the importance of effective communication of scientific concepts through videos, the transition from writing to video production, and the impact of storytelling in explainer journalism. The episode also delves into the role of AI in beauty culture, ethical considerations in technology, and the need for responsible journalism in understanding new technologies. It concludes with insights on maintaining authenticity in journalism and adding clarity and creativity to digital platforms.

Insights

Communicating scientific concepts

Videos are a unique medium for exploring science and technology. Joss Fong, known for her work at Vox, is now starting a new initiative focused on science communication.

Evolution of a video journalist

The host's style and presence as a narrator have evolved over time in creating videos for Scientific American. The host consumes excessive amounts of content daily to create more accurate and nuanced pieces for their job in explainer journalism.

Transition into science journalism

The speaker values collaboration with individuals like artist Kyle McDonald, who have been helpful in understanding AI concepts. There has been a shift in the standards for producing explainer videos, with an emphasis on high-quality production but also room for imperfect work to stand out.

Vox's approach to video production

Ezra Klein's support allowed Vox to experiment and find success on YouTube, despite it being considered a challenging platform for news organizations. The importance of balancing audio and visual elements in video production is highlighted as a crucial writing puzzle that Vox prioritizes.

Challenges of creating content for YouTube

Creating content for YouTube comes with unique challenges such as competing for viewers' attention against other videos and distractions on the platform. While attempts were made to show the process of learning in the 'Glad You Asked' series, practical constraints often led to artificial interactions between hosts instead.

Balancing storytelling and accuracy in journalism

There is a discussion on the impact of storytelling in journalism, where narratives are seen as compelling but may not always convey the full complexity of reality. The host shares personal struggles with being on camera and the importance of being authentic in storytelling, especially when addressing topics like beauty culture.

Impact of AI on beauty culture

Personal experiences and reflections on societal issues, particularly related to women's experiences, are highlighted in the conversation. The use of AI technology in altering facial features and promoting unrealistic beauty standards is critiqued.

AI bias and societal implications

AI plays a significant role in perpetuating societal biases and cultural values. The tech industry, including AI development, often lacks diversity and consideration for the implications on marginalized groups.

Ethical considerations in technology

Tech platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook were initially created with a focus on superficial aspects and lacked consideration for potential negative impacts on society. There is a belief in the inevitability of progress in technology, but there are concerns about who defines progress and who bears the unintended consequences.

Role of journalism in understanding new technologies

Journalists play a crucial role in helping people understand and engage with new technologies by explaining complex concepts and implications. The importance of audience engagement in shaping media coverage is emphasized, with a call for responsible consumption to support balanced and fair reporting.

Chapters

  1. Communicating scientific concepts
  2. Evolution of a video journalist
  3. Transition into science journalism
  4. Vox's approach to video production
  5. Challenges of creating content for YouTube
  6. Balancing storytelling and accuracy in journalism
  7. Impact of AI on beauty culture
  8. AI bias and societal implications
  9. Ethical considerations in technology
  10. Role of journalism in understanding new technologies
  11. Maintaining authenticity in journalism
  12. Clarity and creativity in digital platforms
Summary
Transcript

Communicating scientific concepts

00:00 - 07:49

  • Communicating scientific concepts requires effort from creators and consumers.
  • Videos are a unique medium for exploring science and technology.
  • Joss Fong, known for her work at Vox, is now starting a new initiative focused on science communication.
  • Joss Fong transitioned from writing about politics to focusing on science and eventually shifted to video production.
  • Attending NYU's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program was crucial for Joss Fong's career in science journalism.
  • Joss Fong switched to video production during grad school due to the increasing demand in the digital news industry.

Evolution of a video journalist

07:25 - 14:57

  • The host started as an intern working on various tasks like after effects, premiere work, and running the camera at a company with limited video operations.
  • The host's style and presence as a narrator have evolved over time in creating videos for Scientific American.
  • Consumption of a lot of material and engaging with arguments helped the host become detail-oriented and focused on fact-checking in their work.
  • The host consumes excessive amounts of content daily to create more accurate and nuanced pieces for their job in explainer journalism.
  • Despite feeling overwhelmed by technical fields, the host perseveres through research to understand complex topics for explaining to their audience.
  • The host believes that academic papers can be unnecessarily complex due to publishing conventions, hindering understanding even for professionals like journalists and researchers.

Transition into science journalism

14:33 - 21:44

  • The speaker enjoys learning from experts in technical fields and appreciates when they take the time to explain things in a simple way.
  • The speaker values collaboration with individuals like artist Kyle McDonald, who have been helpful in understanding AI concepts.
  • The speaker initially focused on video journalism and experimentation with different video formats before transitioning into more consistent science journalism.
  • There has been a shift in the standards for producing explainer videos, with an emphasis on high-quality production but also room for imperfect work to stand out.
  • Early videos produced by the speaker went through a phase of experimentation and improvement before reaching a higher quality.

Vox's approach to video production

21:23 - 29:16

  • Vox initially focused on infographics before transitioning to video content, with a unique approach to writing and producing videos.
  • Ezra Klein's support allowed Vox to experiment and find success on YouTube, despite it being considered a challenging platform for news organizations.
  • The key to Vox's successful videos lies in their focus on explanatory writing that complements visuals, aiming for maximum comprehension and engagement.
  • The challenge of ensuring viewers retain information from videos is acknowledged, prompting consideration of research studies to assess effectiveness.
  • The importance of balancing audio and visual elements in video production is highlighted as a crucial writing puzzle that Vox prioritizes.

Challenges of creating content for YouTube

28:53 - 36:25

  • The podcaster aims to cater to motivated individuals who are willing to put in effort to understand complex topics like machine learning.
  • Creating content for YouTube comes with unique challenges such as competing for viewers' attention against other videos and distractions on the platform.
  • The podcaster emphasizes the importance of holding the audience's attention and making content approachable and accessible.
  • Despite challenges, efforts are made to make content engaging and relatable, aiming for a conversational style that feels like interacting with a knowledgeable friend.
  • While attempts were made to show the process of learning in the 'Glad You Asked' series, practical constraints often led to artificial interactions between hosts instead.

Balancing storytelling and accuracy in journalism

35:57 - 43:59

  • The podcast host reflects on the challenges of creating a show with genuine interactions and balancing scripted content with natural conversation.
  • There is a discussion on the impact of storytelling in journalism, where narratives are seen as compelling but may not always convey the full complexity of reality.
  • The host grapples with the tension between providing engaging stories and maintaining accuracy and clarity in explainer journalism.
  • The host shares personal struggles with being on camera and the importance of being authentic in storytelling, especially when addressing topics like beauty culture.
  • Efforts are made to reach a more diverse audience, particularly women, by incorporating personal experiences into storytelling.

Impact of AI on beauty culture

43:40 - 51:26

  • The podcast discusses the importance of reaching out to a diverse audience through innovative presentation of information.
  • Personal experiences and reflections on societal issues, particularly related to women's experiences, are highlighted in the conversation.
  • The negative impact of image-based social media on women's self-image and societal expectations is explored.
  • The use of AI technology in altering facial features and promoting unrealistic beauty standards is critiqued.
  • There is a discussion on how algorithms perpetuate beauty standards and influence online behavior among girls and women.

AI bias and societal implications

51:02 - 58:40

  • Skincare is popular among different generations, impacting mental health, especially for young individuals.
  • AI plays a significant role in perpetuating societal biases and cultural values.
  • There are concerns about the alignment of AI systems with human values and the potential impact on society.
  • Bias in AI systems can be influenced by user prompts and training data choices, leading to problematic outcomes like sexually objectifying content.
  • The tech industry, including AI development, often lacks diversity and consideration for the implications on marginalized groups.

Ethical considerations in technology

58:11 - 1:05:50

  • Tech platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook were initially created with a focus on superficial aspects and lacked consideration for potential negative impacts on society.
  • There is a lack of accountability in releasing untested technologies to the public, leading to unforeseen consequences and a shift from traditional quality control norms.
  • The tech world and humanities could benefit from more integration and understanding of each other's perspectives to address issues arising from rapid technological advancements.
  • There is a belief in the inevitability of progress in technology, but there are concerns about who defines progress and who bears the unintended consequences.

Role of journalism in understanding new technologies

1:05:22 - 1:13:09

  • OpenAI focuses on successively rolling out versions of their technology to the public for testing and understanding.
  • Journalists play a crucial role in helping people understand and engage with new technologies by explaining complex concepts and implications.
  • There is a tension between tech people and journalism, with differing views on the purpose of journalism and biases in reporting.
  • Incentives in both journalism and technology can impact the quality and focus of news coverage.
  • The speaker discusses their experience with editorial decisions at a platform without traditional growth incentives, highlighting the impact of different motivations on content creation.
  • The importance of audience engagement in shaping media coverage is emphasized, with a call for responsible consumption to support balanced and fair reporting.
  • Consumers, including engineers in the tech industry, are urged to incentivize the kind of investigative journalism that promotes progress and democracy.

Maintaining authenticity in journalism

1:12:49 - 1:20:24

  • The speaker reflects on the impact of AI-generated tools on creativity and journalism.
  • Generated imagery poses challenges in maintaining trust in journalistic products due to potential loss of authenticity.
  • There is a shift towards valuing rare and unique content in media consumption.
  • The importance of providing grounded, evidence-based journalism in a world where information is hard to navigate is emphasized.
  • Leo Tolstoy's perspective on art and skill is discussed, highlighting the focus on making people feel or understand something rather than just improving technical skills.

Clarity and creativity in digital platforms

1:20:07 - 1:23:59

  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of adding clarity and creativity to digital platforms amidst a battle against noise and AI-generated content.
  • There is a concern about the overwhelming amount of noise on platforms like YouTube and the need to connect directly with viewers outside of algorithm-driven viewership.
  • Encouragement for individuals without traditional production skills to use tools for creating content, tapping into untapped creative potential in the public.
  • A new YouTube channel called How Town is being launched later this year, focusing on answering questions about how certain facts are known and making evidence more accessible to people.
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