Making history valuable

Oct 14 2015

Working toward developing our new idea has been both challenging and rewarding this past week at the Reese News Lab. Most importantly, however, our progress finally provided me and my teammates with a more definitive direction. For weeks, my teammates, Lauren Merlini and Morgan Trachtman, and I chased ideas without finding enlightening solutions to further our projects, and this week has allowed my team to excitedly build on an idea drawing from resources we’ve discovered. We’ve focused our vision for this project based on what people want and what we can do. Our goal for the next couple of weeks has become clear: create an ideal connection between desirability and feasibility by gauging consumer reactions and efficiently utilizing our available resources.

Lauren Merlini delves into newspaper archives and current newspapers this week to develop her prototype.

Lauren Merlini delves into newspaper archives and current newspapers this week to develop her prototype. Photo taken by Jonathan Ponciano.

At the beginning of the week, my team created the framework for what the Lab’s executive director John Clark called a personalized feature article. Our idea aims to contextualize local history and data by combining it with gathered information, individual interests and engaging visuals to create a unique personal keepsake. My team expounded on our product idea by hoping to incorporate ancestry, historical data, vintage advertisements, interviews, original articles and more into this scrapbook of sorts.

These additions kept generating themselves as we mulled over our idea, but questions kept growing, and it became almost overwhelmingly frustrating to find a way to focus this keepsake. After all, the concept of personalized history almost insists that we draw on a variety of sources, but we had to identify and agree on a focus in order to become experts on how to create these special products without striving for something impossible to create.

Luckily, these creative additions come about so quickly because we’re excited about this idea. We each see unique potential in what we’re building, and by beginning to create separate prototypes this week, Lauren and I have found ways to incorporate all the resources we’ve uncovered in ways that are both unique and feasible. To focus our research, Lauren and I are basing our prototypes on individuals from Chapel Hill. Lauren is working on a marriage, and I’m centering mine on a birth. In researching these separate events for our elected individuals, we’ve been able to create visual representations of what we hope to provide for anyone who may wish to buy this product. Morgan’s continued to speak with archival companies and news outlets, and she’s been an invaluable help in pointing me and Lauren to available resources while informing us about the legal and financial stipulations that come from using these resources.

What I’ve enjoyed most about working on this project is discussing it as a team and hearing all of our ideas and critiques culminate and build toward progress. We challenge each other because we know it’s difficult to align three separate creative minds, but this week we’ve all taken a huge step in the same direction while encouraging and enlightening each other. We’ve uncovered resources and gauged their costs, and there have undoubtedly been avenues we’ve had to drop or reconsider, but we’ve also found so many resources we know we’ll be able to use and incorporate. By aiming to create an individualized book for consumers, our possibilities seem truly endless.

At the moment, we’ve identified three main cost challenges we need to better understand and overcome. While we’ve easily gauged the cost range of physically producing these books, we’re also considering the costs to market and transport them. However, the most difficult costs to gauge right now come from obtaining the rights to utilize the information and resources we find. History can be inconceivably expensive to preserve, and we hope to find the most cost efficient way to include this history in our products without compromising the valuable aspect of personalization.

This week demonstrated how incredibly intertwined the concepts of desirability and feasibility can be. However, the amazing thing about history and data is that there’s so much out there, and we know we can make this valuable to consumers. Our next step is doing just that. Our prototypes will show consumers just how we want to personalize their unique history. After hearing feedback, we’ll go back to our resources and draw on responses to most efficiently utilize what we’ve discovered. Once we can create an easily manipulated layout for our books, we’ll be able to incorporate our wealth of resources to create a truly personalized keepsake that captures everyone’s unique moment in time. The learning process, as always, continues. A word for next week? Excitement.


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