Portfolio CV Let's work together

An Annotated Digital Portfolio

Octavia E. Butler, notes on writing, No entertainment on earth… ca. 1970-1995. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Octavia Butler

Over a varied career, I've had the privilege to work as a digital curator, writer, editor, multimedia producer, editor-in-chief, and product manager. I've done this for museums, television stations, and radio programs; for print and digital publications; for national and international publications; for organizations that still exist, and for orgs that no longer exist. That last category is a unique hazard of working in the digital economy. I've had gigs I think of fondly of which no trace remains, like the three (shoot, four?) years I spent writing capsule film reviews for an early digital information play that put physical kiosks with touchscreens in video stores. I wrote some lovely blurbs for those folks; that work paid my rent for a good stretch of my 20s. And yet, all I can really testify to about it at this point is my gratitude.

The items below are either things I'm of which particularly proud or that I believe provide unique insights into how I approach my work. They're also (ha!) things that I can link to. Be forewarned that some of the sites linked below periodically change their designs, so pages may not look as they looked when I launched. I've linked to Internet Archive pages where possible to share as many items as I can as they once were. I'll also be going through some old hard drives and updating this page with screenshots accurately reflecting the work as I can. If you have any questions about any of it, feel free to drop me a line.

  1. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
  2. Augmented Reality: Academy Museum
  3. Multimedia and Interactives: Academy Museum
  4. Editorial: Academy Museum
  5. caamuseum.org
  6. caamuseum.org Editorial
  7. Feature Writing for Bidoun
  8. Multimedia and Interactives: NPR West
  9. Redesigns: KCET
  10. Multimedia and Interactives: KCET Resource Guides
  11. Multimedia and Interactives: KCET Departures
  12. Multimedia and Interactives: KCET Show Support
  13. Multimedia and Interactives: LinkTV World News App
  14. Other Criticism and Essays
  15. Fiction and Memoir

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Just as the world shut down in 2020, a new opportunity opened up for me: I became Associate Curator for Digital Presentation at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. It's been an amazing, action-packed ride! My role bridges digital, curatorial, and interpretation, and I'm charged with thinking through how the Academy Museum's digital platforms—our app and website—might be used as fully-fledged curatorial spaces in their own right. Projects I've led to date include the creation of our audio tours, building our web and app exhibition pages, the creation of the award-winning Academy Awards History Timeline, the development and launch of the Hollywood Past & Present web and app experience (which allows users to parse Los Angeles from the standpoint of film history), and the creation of traditional web editorial in support of the museum's exhibitions and collections, with more to come. (We only just opened!) I also do a fair amount of long-form writing for the museum to help set the tone for our site and app.

Although I'm not named in this release--"Academy Museum Partners With Bloomberg Philanthropies to Launch Mobile App"-- almost all the items it name-checks are things I conceived of or led the development of for the museum:

"[D]etails of exhibitions... a historical timeline of the Academy Awards... in-depth highlights from the Academy Museum's permanent collection, including the Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur input device used for "Jurassic Park" (1993)...narrated audio tours from Whoopi Goldberg and casting director Kim Coleman... Jacqueline Stewart, chief artistic and programming officer for the museum, has voiced the core curatorial tour, which will be available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean... [a]ugmented reality (AR) technology will also be supported by the museum's digital platforms... [v]isitors will be able to use the Academy Museum app to bring objects they see in the exhibitions to life and, in the future, analyze film scenes to gain a clearer understanding of essential tools like an animator's desk or multi-plane camera..."

Augmented Reality: Academy Museum

One of the most exciting aspects of my role at the Academy Museum has been working with our team and development partners to create in-gallery augmented reality experiences.

Our galleries are a treasure-trove of stories, moments, technical marvels, and so forth, but in some cases the in-gallery object and accompanying didactics do not fully convey exactly how an object was used or what it when like when it was new. A good example of this is the BRUCE LEE AR in-gallery AR experience I created with our head of Platforms Mike Schiro, our amazing AR developer Tim Coleman, and our equally amazing partners at Impossible Bureau.

Accessible through our museum app, the experience takes an object now on view in the galleries - a lovely hand-drawn shooting plan created by Bruce Lee for ENTER THE DRAGON - and overlays a short video showing the difference between Lee's plans and camera placement on the day of the shoot. (It's meant to be viewed in landscape mode, hence the slight jitter in the video below.) While the object is beautiful in its own right (I would put a poster-size version up on my wall!) seeing it under glass or reading the didactics don't fully convey how it relates to the filmed sequence or its status as a work/production document. The AR layer (just a short video) aims to bridge that gap, and this is the first of many such experiences planned for the museum. The app is location-aware (with your permission, of course), so it alerts you via a notification (also with your permission!) when you get close to this or other experiences.

Interactives: Academy Museum

The award-winning Academy Awards® History Timeline - I was lead product/project manager and editor on the Academy Awards History Digital Timeline, which uses video, audio, photography, and narrative storytelling techniques to investigate how the history and organization of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as larger social and historical questions, have shaped a select group of individual Academy Awards. The initial set of cards reflects the contents of the museum's physical Academy Awards History gallery.

I think I mentioned it above, but: the Academy Awards History Timeline (built by our incredible development partners at Impossible Bureau) earned the Avademy Museum its first awards ever at the 2021 w3 Awards:

  • Website Features - Best Technical Achievement, Gold
  • General Websites - Cultural Institutions, Gold
  • Website Features - Best Use of Emerging Technology, Gold
  • General Websites - Innovative / Experimental, Silver

w3 Awards Golds screenshot

Hollywood Past & Present - Take the in-gallery Academy Museum experience out of 6067 Wilshire and onto the streets of Los Angeles and beyond. Part film history and part walking tour, Hollywood Past & Present takes already-compiled stories, histories, and multimedia tied to current AMMP exhibitions and collections and projects them beyond the confines of the physical building, giving our audience the ability to craft self-directed explorations of film and local history alike. The first installment of HPP looks at the history of Academy Award ceremony venues. I am lead product/project manager and editor on the project.

The overall experience includes web and app components. The web version features a compare-and-contrast module that compares images of the location from different time periods. The app version is location-aware and allows you to navigate to different places out in the real world. There is also a badge system unlocked by visits.

Editorial: Academy Museum

I write quite a bit for the site. Black Silent Film: Then and Now was written by me, as was Making Digital Dinosaurs, which was quite the treat!

On top of all of that, I top edit all the long-form content that appears on the site and craft for things like our web and app exhibition pages using show didactics.

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In 2017, I lead the effort to relaunch caamuseum.org, website of the California African American Museum (CAAM).

At the time, the ,useum was about to debut a completely reimagined visual identity, but it had not updated its web infrastructure since 2007. A project team was put together with me as project/product manager, Southern California–based design studio Julia Luke Design, which created the new site design as part of its comprehensive rebranding for the museum, and Los Angeles-based developer Wilm Thoben who code the front and back ends.

This is what the old site looked like:

screenshot of the old caamuseum.org

Built on the Kirby CMS, CAAM’s new site seamlessly extended its quarterly magazine Here & Now online, with clean, clear text and a focus on photography. A significantly expanded publishing toolset let the museum deploy new storytelling methods to introduce its exhibitions and events such as new exhibition pages to support a fuller deployment of multimedia assets (photos and video) and a new listings area with an integrated site’s calendarl. Staff could also now meaningfully capture press coverage on exhibition pages, meaning that each exhibition page acts like a minisite for each show. The toolset also includes new applications for digital publishing, enabling CAAM to create blogs and other editorial content according to the beat of the exhibition cycle.

You can see the new site here.

caamuseum.org Editorial

After leading the effort to relaunch caamuseum.org in 2017, I started managing the site's product and editorial operations. The work on the edit side varied, but most of it involved researching and writing #blackhistory content for CAAM's blog 600 State. I also executed web editorial initiatives like #5WomenArtists, and posted listings to the site's program section.

The black history facts I researched and wrote were usually tied to CAAM exhibitions or events with particular California/Southern California resonance. Every month, I selected 4 or so items using a list of dated prompts like, "January 17, 1929: Aunt Jemima, a minstrel-type variety radio program, was broadcasted, at times on CBS and at other times on the Blue Network." While the history curators compiled the list of possible items, I did the research needed to write the selected events up and also decided how to approach them in terms of tone and emphasis. I also found and edited images from open access sources.

600 State screenshot

Although voiced, the black history posts are extensions of the museum's curatorial and educational activities and are un-bylined. The site also features traditional, bylined articles either written or edited by me.

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Feature Writing for Bidoun

Bidoun in the New York Times

I'm incredibly proud to have been one of Bidoun's regular feature writers. I wrote feature-length essays and reviews for every issue Bidoun published in 2009, the year it was a finalist for a National Magazine Award and winner of the Utne Independent Press Award for Social/Cultural Coverage. My work with the magazine was also cited in a 2015 appraisal of Bidoun in The New York Times:

*Bidoun* has also sought to broaden the conventions of travel writing by giving space to writers who are often hard to categorize. It published the Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina reflecting on the viral success of his Granta essay "How to Write About Africa," and personal essays by the Los Angeles-based writer Gary Dauphin, a former editor in chief of Africana.com and BlackPlanet.com; the Indian writer Achal Prabhala; and the cultural critic Sukhdev Sandhu.

Below are some of my favorite pieces:

Bidoun also republished "A Portrait of the Jihadist as White Negro" as a limited edition book.

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Other Multimedia and Interactive Work

Different sites, organizations, and audiences have different needs, which, in turn, call for different product and editorial solutions. Below are some answers I've come up with on how multimedia and interactives might be used to serve the information needs of a given venue or audience.

Multimedia and Interactives: NPR West

Screenshot, NPR Daydreaming blog

After moving to Los Angeles, I was fortunate to spend some time at NPR West in Culver City as digital consultant to two shows then recorded there, News & Notes and Day to Day. At the time, NPR ran a very tight(-ly controlled!) digital ship. Almost every aspect of a show's web experience was centrally managed from the NPR mothership in Washington, DC, this via templatized npr.org pages built to support little beyond broadcast audio.

There was a tiny crack in that wall, though, in the form of free-floating "web-extra blogs." These allowed the embedding--provided you had the staff and the time--of things forbidden on a show's main page, such as maps, videos, and other multimedia. (If I remember correctly, they were using Movable Type at the time to manage the blogs.) At the time, supplementing radio audio with web content that went beyond transcripts was a radical experiment. The blogs were deliberately buried on npr.org (less exposure amounted to less risk). Their templates were also super locked down, reducing the chance that a local producer could go rogue and accidently break the entire site. These strictures struck me as particularly debilitating for News & Notes, then one of NPR's few black shows. The audience the team served called for unique digital responses in my view. However, I was still able to launch blogs for it and Day to Day that I think took excellent advantage of the available format: News & Views and Daydreaming. (You can probably figure out what belonged to who!) As the "web guy" on the shows, I was charged with editorial calendaring, wrangling posts (a.k.a. "more work") from busy radio professionals, bespoke multimedia production, and direct daily updating of the blogs and, as well as managing the comments. (While looking up links for this portfolio, I was tickled to find the discussion guidelines I wrote for Daydreaming in 2008. They are truly a time capsule of a lost and kinder moment.)

News & Views was the earlier (and therefore more rigidly policed) experiment. Still, it yielded a ton of very lovely web extras that extended the broadcast segments. Most notable among these was 2007's "'Photo by Sammy Davis,' Scenes in Black and White." The on-air segment was an interview with Burt Boyar, who'd found and published a trove of previously unseen black & white photos taken by Sammy Davis Jr. For the blog, we took some of those images and paired them with audio of Davis recorded by Boyar decades earlier. (In addition to the book, Boyar would direct a documentary about Davis, Sammy Speaks.) We also wove in older NPR content about Davis and resources from the wider web.

Unfortunately, the extant page on npr.org doesn't preserve "Photo by Sammy Davis'" original build, and the Wayback Machine seems not to have archived it. That said, the piece did win Best Multimedia Package at the 2008 Los Angeles Press Club Awards. The judges commented: "We didn't want this package to end. The components complemented each other and provided a deeper understanding of an icon."

Daydreaming came later and was decidedly more freewheeling. It feels ilike a preview of what NPR's podcasts feel like now - personal, unafraid of voice, concerned with engaging the audience as collaborators rather than listener-consumers. We asked that audience for a ton of input that ended up on-air or on the blog--comments, links, suggestions, even songs. That last item was one of the more fun projects I worked on at Day to Day. Part of summer-long series looking at the state of the "California Dream,", it marshaled a broad range of user inputs using polling and audio upload tools that weren't quite 2020-grade, not to mention generating some internal agita (read: legal concerns) over whether or not the item constituted a contest. Because it was a music segment, we could also leverage an existing NPR Music template that was quite nice and featured tools we didn't have access to on the main Day to Day show pages.

You can hear the selected song below.

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I started at Los Angeles public broadcaster KCET as a part-time consultant leading a blog build, took a full-time role as KCET.org's site editor managing that blog, and left a few years later as the Vice President of Digital of what was then an entirely new organization--KCETLink. In between, there were a few site relaunches and strategic refactorings, a break from PBS (now unbroken), and that merger with San Francisco-based satellite broadcaster LinkTV. It was a great introduction to the television business and a daily education in the history, culture, and politics of Los Angeles for this native New Yorker. The team did a ton of great work, and I've highlighted some of the projects I created and led for the organization below.

KCET.org Redesigns

I led multiple redesigns of the station's site.

KCET Resource Guides

Screenshot, KCET Resource Guide

A straightforward response to the question of how to best serve an audience. The initial plan was to create (and then park) evergreen resource materials around earthquake safety and "green space" access, but we then found ourselves providing round-the-clock updates on two concurrent crises: the 2009 California wildfires and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. The formula for navigating the latter pair was new to the station and its news team: collect, vet, and then amplify information found on social media; embed official digital assets like Los Angeles Fire Department maps and live streams; use photo- and video-sharing platforms to solicit audience contributions; feed those assets back into the broadcast experience via short, prerecorded studio updates. We also mined the station's existing in-house assets for possible use, reinforcing the various guides' messaging, for example, using a Sid the Science Kid episode around vaccination to enhance the flu area, or baking KCET news programming on earthquake preparedness and fire safety in the appropriate areas.

Screenshot, KCET Flickr Pool

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KCET Departures

Departures was an award-winning KCET digital initiative that looked at neighborhoods in Los Angeles through a wide range of programmatic and digital lenses. Its central conceit was that one could travel/sightsee in one's own city using well-crafted rich media content--articles, videos, interactive murals--as a "point of departure."

In addition to overseeing the build of all Departures mini-sites during my tenure(s), I edited Departures' neighborhood installments and columnists, wrote articles for the section and created new content types for the brand.

illustrated map

DJ Waldie Map

One of the new content types I conceived of and managed for the area was the Map Your LA contest. "A visual conversation about Los Angeles County as home," Map Your LA looked to tease out "social issues important to the participating cartographers" by asking them to share hand-crafted maps of "Los Angeles with a diverse, compelling, and intimate character." The contest reinforced Departure's underlying spatial conceit through the use of maps and supplemental educational/editorial content that expanded on the events, themes, and places that surfaced in the user contributions. On the logistics side, all of this was supported using readily available polling, form-making, and filesharing tools that I integrated into our site and social media channels.

Paul Williams card

I also conceived and edited "Iconic Angelenos in LA History," which used a baseball card-style format to tell the stories of local heroes. The goal was to create inherently shareable digital assets tried to yearly heritage months that could aslo be converted into physical collectibles. I also wrote the initial set of entries to set the tone for the series:

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KCET Show Support

In addition to managing all web-related aspects of KCET's broadcast operations, such as listings and the online schedule grid, I crafted, edited, and launched many new editorial features designed to extend the conversation about the station's on-air offerings. These included weekly show recaps, mini-sites, and novel on-air/online integrations such as the package I crafted to support KCET's left-field hit Borgen

I also created--technical build and also editorial--mini-sites for shows like StandUp Planet, which asked whether comedy could be used to change perceptions about global public health concerns. (Please note: some of this material is sensitive in nature.)

You can find the StandUp Planet site here. Overall, the project represented a dual bet. The first bet was that young, disinterested American audiences could have their consciousness raised about problems like access to working toilets in India or HIV prevention in South Africa using what the producers described as "edgy comedy." (A subjective description, but still!) The second bet was that any raised consciousness/awareness could be measured via polling or post-show digital actions like increased list sign-ups or donations for related charities. To test both propositions, we needed not just the jokes, but the explanatory materials providing context around said jokes and digital tools to easily connect viewers with those partner charities. You can get a sense of this interlocking dynamic from some of the materials we created around the role of male circumcision in HIV prevention. I wrote the copy in this specific case, selected from the available jokes, and oversaw video, infographic, and page development.

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LinkTV World News App

I was the primary product manager and editorial lead on the 2.0 relaunch of the LinkTV World News iPad App. The app was an early attempt to curate partner-provided (and freely available) international news videos using two filters--geography and topic. At its height, the app was a Top 100 news and video download on the Apple Store but was foundation-funded and was not viable past the end of its original grant term. The wireframes shared below were created by its designers, Method.

Screenshot, Link TV World News App

Screenshot, Link TV World News App

Screenshot, Link TV World News App

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Other Criticism and Essays

Village Voice Cover 1994

Of all the things I've had a chance to do, getting paid to think and write about culture - film, television, art, comics - ranks highest. I was a weekly film critic for the Village Voice and the lead critic at Vibe Magazine for over ten years, and my work as a critic continues to this day.

Some of my film writing has been anthologized in The Vibe History of Hip Hop, edited by Alan Light; in Charles Burnett - Interviews, edited by Robert E. Kapsis; and in John Singleton- Interviews, edited by Craigh Barboza.

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Fiction and Memoir

A bottle of Barbancourt rum

I got to share the complications around a 50-plus-year-old bottle of Haitian rum I inherited from my dead parents in HiLoBrow's "Political Objects, [...] a 25-part series of nonfiction stories about objects of political significance." The main complication? Under what conditions might I dare drink it?

I contributed "Feast of the Epiphany," the tale of my AWESOME-YET-TERRIBLE Catholic high school senior prom to Rob Spillman's The Time of My Life - Writers on the Heartbreak, Hormones, and Debauchery of the Prom.

I also recently published "Suicide Jacq," the first piece of my fiction to get off my computer and onto a piece of paper not from my printer. It appears in a lovely anthology called Graffiti, edited by Pallavi Dhawan, Devi S Laskar, and Tamika Thompson. You can read a bit more about how it came to be here.