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Inside Web Lab
January 3, 2002
This is Web Lab's first newsletter in a long time, so I wanted to begin with
a personal note. Although the months since September 11 have been hard for
all of us at Web Lab, we've been fortunate to be working on two projects
that we think can make a real difference in people's lives and in the
potential of the Internet.
The groundwork for both of these projects was laid in 2000 and 2001, but
both have taken on a new intensity since September. First, we've developed
a brand new version of our Small Group Dialogue (SGD) software that will
make it possible for other organizations to put it to use on their own
sites. Second, we've completed months of preparation for Crossover, a
first-of-its-kind cross-media retreat designed to create a new generation of
interactive projects, hopefully for commercial development and distribution.
In the agonizing days following September 11, we looked for ways we could
harness the power of the Web to allow people to explore both the emotions
and the political implications surrounding those horrific events. We
realized that our greatest contribution would be to invite people into the
kind of in-depth, transformative dialogues that SGD has enabled in the past.
And fortunately, the new SGD software was close enough to ready that we
could propose a partnership with a major media company to host the
dialogues. The result is our new dialogue on MSNBC.com -- see details below.
I hope you'll take a look at the rich discussions that are unfolding, and
sign up to participate!
My best to you for a healthy, safe and peaceful New Year.
SGD on MSNBC.com
Crossover Is Taking Off
H.S. Civic Engagement Initiative
New DIGs, New Faces
Small Group Dialogue on MSNBC.com
We're very excited to announce our latest Small Group Dialogue project, in
partnership with MSNBC.com. Entitled "A World Transformed," the dialogues
are a place to discuss the rush of questions about security, religion,
national identity and global policy confronting Americans and people
everywhere in the weeks since September 11.
The Internet has been a vital outlet for grief and a key source of
information during this crisis, but we want to go beyond that and offer a
way for people to explore, deeply and safely, their emotions and opinions,
and to think together about who we are, as individuals and as a nation.
Read the dialogues and sign up for a discussion group:
MSNBC - A World Transformed
This event also marks the premiere of our newly-rebuilt SGD software, which
includes new email digest and member bio features, new levels of scalability
and customization, and a sophisticated toolkit for automated admin and
reporting. The new build was funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation
and developed in collaboration with Web Crossing a leader in online forum
technology and the provider of discussion tools for sites including Salon,
CNN.com and NYTimes.com
Crossover Is Taking Off
With Studio A just under two months away, the Crossover team is busily
getting ready for the big event!
When we put out a call for entries many months ago, we were happily
overwhelmed with applications for Web Lab's new program, designed to bring
together an amazing group of minds with the time and resources to imagine
new possibilities in new media.
With over 400 applications from installation artists, interaction designers,
Web designers, physicists, hackers, cognitive scientists, gamers--alongside
award-winning filmmakers, video producers, and screenwriters--we had an
incredibly tough time narrowing it down to just 30 people. After an
intensive series of reviews and interviews, we are thrilled to announce our
fascinating and eclectic group of selected participants for Studio A, which
will take place at the famed White Oak Plantation. Watch for the names and
bios of all participants on our Web site in the coming week.
We've been working with the Banff New Media Institute, our colleagues at the
Directors Guild of America and the Sundance Institute, and independent
consultants to create a structure for the retreat that not only exposes all
of us to a wealth of new ideas and perspectives, but inspires us to
collaborate in imagining projects that "cross-fertilize" our respective
media. The Crossover advisory board includes Allison Anders, John Cameron
Mitchell, David Lynch, Rob Nilsson, Penelope Spheeris, Barbara Kopple and
We're happy to report that we've received a grant from the AOL Time Warner
Foundation to conduct what we're calling an "Environmental Scan," a survey
of Web sites and other digital projects that have attempted to extend the
possibilities for creativity and interaction online. And just before the
holidays we also received word that the MacArthur Foundation has joined the
Rockefeller Foundation as a funder of Studio A. However, we're not all the
way there, and the Crossover fund-raising process is ongoing.
Find out more about Crossover:
Web Lab Begins High School Civic Engagement Initiative
Web Lab is delighted to be the online partner in the High School Civic
Engagement Initiative (HSCE) a Providence College project funded by the Pew
The goal of the two-year initiative is to enlist 100,000 young people in
discussions of the issues they care about, and the opportunities and
barriers to civic engagement in their lives, schools and communities. These
discussions will take place in 200-250 schools in ten different locations
across the U.S.
We are developing the Web-based hub for the HSCE project, which will host
small group dialogues for at least 10,000 students, along with collaborative
tools enabling project participants to read, search, discuss and add to a
survey of civic engagement programs nationwide. The site will also offer
training resources for project leaders and key information for the press and
Learn more about HSCE:
New DIGs, New Faces
It was a busy autumn at Web Lab. In addition to new dialogues and new
progress preparing Crossover, we've got a new parent company, a new
location, and several new faces on the scene.
We're pleased to announce the incorporation of Digital Innovations Group,
Inc. (DIG), our own 501c3 organization, which replaces the New York
Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) as Web Lab's "parent." We've also got another
kind of new "digs": We've moved offices! After a year at 1350 Broadway,
we've found a new home at 126 Fifth Avenue, one block from Union Square.
Our new office comes just in time to house an expanded Web Lab team. For
details, you can check our site's growing staff bios section, but new faces
on the largest Web Lab team ever include "digeratess" Vanessa Wruble and Web
Lab veteran and a new mom Suzanne Seggerman. Vanessa and Suzanne are
knee-deep in Crossover production, so "don't call them, they'll call you."
Jed Miller is directing the SGD projects, and Renee Lertzman, who recently
arrived from the Bay Area, is helping to manage the dialogues. Addison Smith
is juggling the expanding operational challenges (with occasional balloon
sculpting on the side). And we're delighted and lucky have Rich Zahradnik
and Elizabeth Thompson focusing on business development and fund-raising,
respectively, for the exciting array of projects we have in the works.
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