Stringers reconnect with Media Lab
... beginning 9th year of publication of the Melrose Mirror
from the SilverStringers
Stringers Natalie Thomson, Kay McCarte and Shirley Raab get settled in at the Roth Room at the Media Lab.
"It was an exceptional day," commented Ella Letterie, as the group of ten SilverStringers joined the daily exodus out of Cambridge.
The event was a reconvening of the Stringers and their co-sponsors, the students and faculty at the Media Lab at MIT. It was also the Stringers' eighth anniversary as publishers of the unique internet home-town newspaper called the Melrose Mirror.
The Stringers have been holding an annual party at the Milano Senior Center for seven years, but this time Advisor Jack Driscoll, former Editor of the Boston Globe, thought we would gain from a renewal of our associations with the folks at the Media Lab. The local group has long since halted its regular visits into Cambridge as we matured both as journalists and computer operators.
At the left is Media Lab director Walter Bender, who was the consortium head when the SilverStringers were formed. In the middle is Ingeborg Endter, our second student advisor, after Marko Turpeinen from Finland. And at the right is Henry Holtzman of the Media Lab faculty -- now updating the new Stringer program.
The key to the visit was really to meet with Walter Bender, who is now Director of Media Lab; he had been the key faculty member, with Jack Driscoll, in the formation of the SilverStringer project back in 1996. The social meeting included discussions with several new project directors, including Henry Holtzman who is working on a new version of the MIT/Stringer software.
"I was amazed at what was being done in the Media Lab," said Shirley Rabb, who joined the Stringers two years ago and had not yet visited MIT. Besides several demonstrations of new projects, the group toured the entire lab, peering over grad-students' shoulders as they worked.
"The diversity of the projects, the innovation, the prospects for such major changes in our lives, is immense," Shirley said.
From the left, grad-student Carla Gomez-Monroy, Dr. Todd Machover and grad-student Erik Blankinship.
"While many of the projects were simply over our heads," commented Don Norris, "all of them are aimed at redesigning the future. Walter told us of two such projects -- one was the development of a new phone system that uses no phone company -- and a second that generates a mechanism for switcing proteins on and off on demand by attaching an 'antenna' made of 55 gold atoms". These two projects alone (there are hundreds such research projects under study) represent a major technical breakthrough which are far beyond the scope of this news story.
Bender, who was to leave momentarily to meet with the Mexican telephone company, was going to announce that new system publically. He said that he would advise MIT corporate sponsors of their need to 'get on board immediately'.
"Another example," Norris continued, "is the development of means of manufacturing plastic lenses for eyeglasses where prescriptions will be fed into a press. The resulting 'glasses' will cost about one dollar!"
The Stringers saw a movie clip of the premier concert in Lowell using music developed by handicapped folks -- using Professor Todd Machover's development called "Hyperscore." His software program, available free off the net, makes composing music almost intuitive, without having to physically write a score.
Grad student Erik Blankenship, who has been dealing with the Stingers for over a year in the development of a community mapping system, turned to a lighter project he and several friends had developed. By capturing snipets from television tapes, these "Starwars" fans had been able to create a new minute-long show that was, basically, hilarious. The group wrote the enabling software as a lark.
Stringer editor Ella Letterie.
Faculty member Kent Larson also spoke and demonstrated the latest developments in creating a home designed literally for easier living. He spoke of MIT's apartment-lab which is fitted with endless sensors within the walls, all aimed at facilitating a more livable space. He and grad student Jennifer Beaudin have been working with the Stringers -- as guinea pigs (my choice of words).
Carla Gomez Monroy, a grad student from Mexico, explained how her project is re-connecting social groups via a radio program -- using a small town in Mexico who lost a large percentage of their members when they migrated to New York City. Carla also works with the Stringers on the Melrose Mirror project.
A special guest that day was Inge Endter, now head of the Children's Computer Lab at the Boston Museum of Science -- a project that has gone world-wide. Ms. Endter was the Stringers' grad-student advisor for over two years, and was responsible for considerable innovation in this constantly-changing project.
Among the Stringer delegation were Natalie Thomson, Louise Fennell, Phyllis Fewtrell, Russ Priestley, Kay McCarte, Don Norris, Shirley Rabb, Ella Letterie and Elizabeth Sunkees.
At the right is Advisor Jack Driscoll, now editor in residence at the Media Lab, with long-time Stringer Don Norris.
Both copy and photographs for this article were contributed by Stringers Ella Letterie, Shirley Rabb, Louise Fennell and Don Norris.
July 2, 2004