The Digitalista

The last time I actually saw Melissa Bell in person, was on a rooftop in Delhi in 2008, where we were both living at the time. But, thanks to the Lords of Social Media, I feel like I see her almost every day, as she anchors The Washington Post’s BlogPost. Hallelujah. A digital forensics wizard, last year she and her colleague Elizabeth Flock famously outed the gay girl in Damascus blogger as a 40-year-old American man from Georgia. She also does a good line in Star Wars nerdiness and snowboarding videos…

THE LESSON:That I am the adult in the room sometimes. That’s terrifying. And thrilling. 

THE QUESTION: How do we use all of this constant flow of information on the Internet to our advantage? How do we use it to better understand people, better entertain them, enlighten them, and inform them? I’ve become fascinated by crowdsourced projects: be it in getting aid to people like with Ushahidi; creating art like the Johnny Cash project; raising money for total strangers on social networks like Reddit, or – most close to home – watching news break on social media. So, how do we take of advantage of this amazing beast that is the Internet?

THE INSPIRATION: It goes back to my burning question. In general, the culture of the Internet and its focus on creativity has been the most inspiring thing I’ve seen. I really feel as if we’re in an age where creativity is rewarded and admired more than anything else. Offline, I am obsessed with Pieter Hugo’s photographs and films. All of Adam Ferguson‘s work (though I admit to a personal bias, as I adore him just as much as his work). All the war photography in general — making us look at the stories we want to ignore — as well as the work of war correspondents. I’ve been proud of strong female role models in journalism, women such as Lynsey Addario and Mona Eltahawy

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