Saturday, July 11, 2015

Tweeting for NASA

I decided to try Dylan Gott's mashup assignment Twittr at ds106. Instead of two websites, though, I chose two Twitter accounts.

Did you know that in a few days a satellite will zoom past Pluto and take a jillion photos and measurements? NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft over 9 years ago, and in that time it has traveled about 3 billion miles. On Tuesday the 14th of July it will make its closest pass to Pluto and zoom right past at more than 30,000 mph. NASA created a Twitter account that makes it seem as if the spacecraft is itself doing the tweeting. It's cute, but not nearly as well done as the European Space Agency (ESA) with their satellite Rosetta orbiting comet 67P. Rosetta's Twitter stream has been cute in the same way yet engaging and almost endearing. It has provided information, tons of pictures, and a lot of drama. The Rosetta Twitter account and blog are very hip and sophisticated.

NASA on the other hand just can't seem to help being a little stodgy. They haven't endowed the New Horizons spacecraft with the same warmth and personality that ESA did with Rosetta. And NASA has a tendency to overuse scientific gee-whiz that comes across as almost corny. The worst part is that the mission is hard to express in human terms. Think of the gee-whiz numbers I used in the paragraph above: 3 billion! 30,000! Impressive but not exactly warm and fuzzy. And the nature of the mission is that there were going to be very few photos of Pluto until the last moment, and then whoosh! it would be all over. I've been following the Twitter account, and it has been, frankly, kinda boring. In the last few days, though, the photos have been coming in more frequently, blurry at first but getting more detailed each day. It's going to be an exciting weekend. The fly-by on Tuesday will result in so much information in so little time that we probably won't see or understand many of the photos until later, though. This was a tough social-media assignment for NASA.

So I thought I'd help out. Who could be more gee-whiz exciting than Bill Nye? I checked out his Twitter account, and knew right away what I had to do. I mashed up his account with the New Horizons account so that it seemed like he was actually narrating the space flight. Or maybe not narrating, but commenting. Or something. I thought his kookiness and NASA's gooniness would either work well together or bring the worst out of both - you decide.

I basically Photoshopped this image of a Twitter stream. Microsoft Office has a nice screen-shot capability, so I opened Excel and took screen shots of portions of both Twitter accounts. Then I imported the shots into Photoshop. I started with assembling a page of the New Horizons account as a base image and then added and blended bits from the Bill Nye account. I also added extra text where needed. I tried to understand the grammar, as it were, of Bill Nye's tweets, and his voice, and apply that to the NASA account in a funny but pointed way.

1 comment:

  1. Looks great, are you showing this to your students? I'm sure they would enjoy creating a project like this as well, maybe covering recent news and events :)