The Digital Journalist
January 2007

by Beverly Spicer

2007 seems to have arrived all-too-soon after the warp-speed past year. From December 23rd to January 1st, I stayed at home and gloriously did nothing with the exception of reading and thinking about people and places far away. YouTube continues to be an astonishing resource, and since I was projecting my thoughts far and wide, I found some corresponding video that captured my imagination as metaphor for how thoughts fly between people and places. The following "Flight Patterns" visualizations are the result of experiments leading to a 2005 project called "Celestial Mechanics" by Scott Hessels and Gabriel Dunne. According to the description, FAA data was parsed and plotted and composited with Adobe After Effects and/or Maya. Watch the 3-minute video below and if you want more, visit Aaron Koblin at

It's hard to believe how much movement is going on every day in every way on our planet, and how interconnected we are. Another gem found on YouTube is an animation of 25 hours of FedEx, which you can clearly see from the pattern of movement is based in Memphis. Nice music too.

We all know that air traffic controllers have an awesome responsibility, but to most of us the details of what they do to organize air traffic remains a mystery. It will still be mysterious, but here's a video of weather diversion tactics in "FedEx Thunderstorm Ops" in tribute to the great skill of air traffic controllers.

This time of year has me thinking not only of people and places, but also of the Earth in relation to the cosmos. Looking at astronomical photographs puts things in perspective and helps me remember how magnificent and awe-inspiring the universe is and how miniscule we really are in the cosmic scheme of things. NASA has for years published an Astronomy Picture of the Day, and offers an amazing, constantly updated archive. Below is the photo from December 27 of The Pelican Nebula, also known as the IC 5067, some 2,000 light years away from Earth in constellation Cygnus, The Swan. The photo will take you to the page on NASA's APOD site. When you get there, move your curser over the photo to see a color enhancement made by narrowband filters mapping gaseous emissions from sulfur and oxygen atoms. Click on "Discover the Cosmos" to visit the archive, where you can find endless fascination. If you are scientifically-minded, you may spend a significant amount of time traveling through time and space in these astronomical realms.

While surfing NASA's archives, I simultaneously found a musical complement from The Beatles' psychedelic phase in "Inner Light," thanks again to YouTube. It speaks well for the imagination, especially the kind engaged by fellow nomads in cyberspace. We can learn a lot just sitting at home, alone, doing nothing, thinking big, and traveling in our minds.

Without going out of your door
You can know all things on earth
Without looking out of your window
You can know the ways of Heaven
The farther one travels
The less one knows

The less one really knows

Let's hope that 2007 brings resolution to some of the many problems we face at home, abroad, and as a global community. I like the dictum seen on bumper stickers, "Think Globally, Act Locally." Echoing the perspective of a Jungian psychologist friend who always closes correspondence, "With constant wishes for compassionate love and the peace and enlightenment it brings," I wish you a Happy New Year.

© Beverly Spicer

Beverly Spicer is a writer, photojournalist, and cartoonist, who faithfully chronicled The International Photo Congresses in Rockport, Maine, from 1987 to 1991. Her book, THE KA'BAH: RHYTHMS OF CULTURE, FAITH AND PHYSIOLOGY, was published in 2003 by University Press of America. She lives in Austin.