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Sites | VAGUEpolitix

George, October, 1999
Web site of the Month

      ...VaguePolitix delivers a satirical presentation of today's major political issues. Although the approach is often light --quirky quizzes and video games--the subject matter is not.

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Yahoo!, December 27, 1999
Picks of the Year

      VAGUEpolitix - raw, exciting political material explored through a variety of voices. (Featured June 21)

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PenHi Library Media Center
(Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School, Palos Verdes, CA)
Outstanding Resources

      Vaguepolitix: Anyone who thinks that the internet will end reading hasn't looked at the first issues of this on-line quarterly from the PBS Online Web Lab that examines the topic of crime. Great writing. Provocative ideas. Resources to support your own learning. And a terrific example of how web graphics and good design can enhance your reading experience. http://www.pbs.org/weblab/vaguepolitix/

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Chicago Tribune, June 30, 1999
"Woman News: Smart Talk: This news outlet's special interest is more fun, less fluff", by Amanda Temple

      Barbara Walters yuks it up with three sweater-clad pseudo-personalities on "The View" and gets all giggly with Monica over her choice of undies. "60 Minutes" shows its softer side with a midweek installment. And your local news does a report on calories in coffee drinks and calls it investigative reporting.
      Nobody else takes the news seriously these days, so why should you?
      You don't have to, say the creators of VAGUEpolitix (www.pbs.org/vaguepolitix), an on-line guide to politics and news. Hoping you'll ha-ha your way back to being a well-informed citizen of a democracy, the sassy site promises to filter out the bickering and hype of conventional news coverage. "This site has been cleansed of celebrity worship, scandalmongering and holy wars," reads a warning at the site's entry point.
      "Boredom really is the enemy," editor-in-chief Lynn Phillips says about the disengagement from the political process. "With so many entertainment options, we are constantly being distracted from the things that are important."
      As smart as they are spunky, the four women producers pulled together a motley mix of contributors to make sure the content is as raw as the nightly news is rehearsed. And instead of screaming at the television screen, you can interact through a variety of opinion polls, quirky quizzes and feedback sections.
      Although the approach is light, the subject matter won't be. For example, the first edition includes a focus on crime. Visitors can find out the basics or link to related sites for information about everything from self-defense classes to televised executions. For those whose mouse moves more to the right or left, there's also a mix of perspectives from all over the political spectrum. But unlike watching a bunch of commentators slug it out during some shrill chatter-fest, you can choose whose soapbox you'd like to click onto. The crime edition will be up for a year, although discussion topics will change to keep it fresh. Depending on funding, Phillips hopes to eventually add topics quarterly. Hosted by PBS Online, the site is a project of Web Lab, a non- profit organization that was founded to develop and sponsor projects that explore how technology can bring fresh perspectives and voices to the discussion of public issues.

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Britannica, June 1999
Internet Guide Site of the Week

      Odd but intriguing look at major social issues, built on the premise that boredom is the greatest threat to democracy today. Current feature focuses on crime, offering a splattered approach of intellectual inquiry on the subject. Truly unique.

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Britannica, June 21, 1999
Internet Guide Site of the Day, by Brian Walters

      Excerpt: Rather than tell you what Vague Politix is, perhaps I should tell you what it isnít (that seems a rather vague thing to do.) Well, for starters, itís not a political think tank filled with policy wonks -- or maybe it is. No, itís definitely not a think tank. It covers just one vague issue at a time, like crime. But what coverage! Stats and opinions on everything: crime and the arts, crime and you, prisons and crime, police and justice, crime prevention. Itís all the politics of crime. Too much information, you say? Then try "Nutshells" -- that's crime in a nutshell -- or their 10-minute overview of crime. Thereís probably more than you want to know here, but hey, nobodyís forcing you to spend 12 hours in front of your computer. Has this been sufficiently vague? If youíre concerned that Vague Politix is trying to spout some (bleeding heart liberal, libertarian, right-wing, etc.) political agenda, donít worry, they present 'em all -- and then some.   (full article available upon request)

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The Scout Report, June 25, 1999
General Interest, by Michael de Nie

      Launched on June 14 and hosted by PBS Online, this new Web Lab project aims to offer an irreverent but balanced guide to important political and public issues. A review of the first issue, a "prototype" which focuses on crime, reveals quite a bit of engaging content (although most of the more useful and authoritative material is not original to the site), links, and other resources presented in a somewhat flashy and pretentious, but very clean, format. For instance, pieces on crime range from a humorous but fairly thorough overview ("all you need to know in 10 minutes or twelve hours") to crime policy "nutshells" to an article on crime and the arts to an excellent piece on the misuse of statistics. This issue also includes a section on Body Politix, navigated via clickable human figures, that contains mini-essays and related links.

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Atlantic Unbound, June 23, 1999
Politics Made Simple

      What is the greatest threat to democracy today? There are many possible answers to such a question. But according to VAGUEpolitix -- a new political site brought to us by Web Lab and PBS Online, assorted funders, and a gaggle of would-be opinion leaders -- the answer is actually quite simple: "It's Boredom -- Ours"...   (full article available upon request)

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MIN's New Media Report, June 14, 1999
"Like a Religion, but Without Conviction"

      Another excellent Web content experiment underwritten by Web Lab. This attempt to be at once informative and oh-so-clever, newsy and wry has outstanding topical material from the likes of John Leonard, Emily Prager and Paul Krassner. The launch issue's crime-focus wisely pokes at Americans silly and uneven attitudes toward the issue rather than the usual flood of statistics and posturing. Some wonderful graphical gags and issue-themed games are refreshing breaks from the relatively humorless Salon or Slate. Clearly, there is a space for such a high-spirited issues site and a break from predictable punditry.
      After a year of impeachment talk, and at least a decade of overheated ideological polarization, the political scene may be overdue for a touch of fuzzy uncertainty. With the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, Washington's talking heads finally postured themselves into humorless, prudish self-parodies, rants Elizabeth Santeix, executive producer, VaguePolitix, a new humor and politics e-zine from Web Lab. "People have fallen for their own poses," she says. "They've done it so long they have become it."
      If partisanship and pomposity are the new diseases of issues-discourse then VaguePolitix aims to be a cure, vaccinating the body politic with good-humored and offbeat analysis. The roll-out issue on crime, for instance, pokes at hypocrisies in the left wing/right wing positions and cultivates a self-mocking middle ground of passionate, though witty vagueness. KillerApp is a Shockwave games that lets you shoot an enemy of your choice and then see if you can beat a murder rap in your own state. In this culture, muses Lynn Phillips, editor-in-chief, "humor is what it takes to get people in a room to discuss the issues."
      PBS will host and promote the site, which VP plans to refresh frequently with user-generated essays "mixed with the occasional celebrity," says Phillips. In fact, "accommodating both visitor and invitational writing" is one of her goals for the unique site. The theme-focused productions will emerge quarterly.
      Will vagueness catch on? Sure, says Santeix. "We see Vague as a way of being, almost a religion, except without conviction." We'll buy that. Well, maybe. Kinda.

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Times Union (Albany), June 14, 1999
"Forum seeks politics unusual" by Lara Jakes

      In the murky world of online politics, not all choices boil down to black and white, RudyYes.com and Hillary4Senate.com. Sometimes, the truth is a little more vague.
      Blending political satire with hard-hitting policy discussion, producers at PBS and its Web Lab today will unveil VAGUEpolitix, a sassy online destination that reads like a feminist Slate magazine. The site is at www.pbs.org/weblab/vaguepolitix
      VAGUEpolitix is the brainchild of four media-savvy women in New York City who believe the public is disenchanted with the political process simply because it's boring. "Boredom is the enemy," said Executive Producer Elizabeth Santeix, who said the goal is to appear "multipartisan" as opposed to blandly unbiased.
      The site will focus on a policy topic in each of its quarterly issues, beginning today with a spotlight on crime and criminal justice matters.

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Time Out New York, June 1999
"Ones & Zeros"

      Enjoy the irreverent weekly news of The Onion? Then check out VAGUEpolitix, launching Mon 14. Funded by the New York-based nonprofit group Web Lab (which supports online projects that embrace contemporary issues), VAGUEpolitix aims to spice up the mundane world of partisan bickering and attract categorically nonpolitical people to its collection of graphics-rich political discussion groups.

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