New app to provide background information on current affairs

A new tablet application called “Reading Radar”, which is set to debut by the end of 2013, will provide news consumers with relevant background context when reading about complex or complicated issues in today’s world.

Jan Bierhoff, who has been working on the project in The Netherlands, told Journalism.co.uk that there is “an enormous amount of information about virtually any subject or theme,” on the internet and that he “hopes to come to the rescue of those who find themselves drowning in information.”

“Journalistic coverage of a number of themes is dwindling,” Bierhoff said, and hopes that his app will highlight and better explain “the complicated backgrounds of current affairs.”

The app is designed to look like a real radar. On the far left of the screen will be a few paragraphs about the issue at hand. On the right will be a radar with over 20 different sources (articles, graphics, multimedia, the works) a reader can click on for more information about the story.

On the horizontal axis of the radar is a range of hard news to more opinionated pieces, with the opinions on the left side of the line. The vertical axis gives the reader a variety of links to historical context and “future perspectives”.

This video demonstrates the app in action:

On why the app is designed specifically for tablets, Bierhoff noted that “tablets are a much better reading environment for complicated background stories . . . You can consume them in a lean-back mode, flip back and forwards and easily navigate in a quiet environment.”

I think this app is an extremely innovative idea and a huge step in news media. It seems to me that part of the reason why a vast majority of our society is uninformed about the world in which we live is that reading a news story without any context is very difficult. You can’t pick up today’s newspaper and read the first article about Syria and completely understand the problems that nation is facing if you have no insight as to why they have problems in the first place.

My only concern is that the app won’t be available in the United States or that there won’t be a smartphone equivalent for those who don’t use tablets. Or that I’ll have to pay for it.

There isn’t a lot of readily available information on this project (the above Youtube video has less than 10 views) but with some digging I found the project report that gives a good amount of insight about how the idea was conceived and how the app will work.

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