Track your media: Know thyself


“Track all the media that you put into your head after you leave this classroom”, said Ethan. The exercise was demanding, I did it for five days and the interruptions felt unnatural as I was collecting the data of my Whatsapp’s messages, the news I read or my mom’s FaceTime calls. However, that neurotic gathering of information paid off: at the end it provided a revealing portrait of my media behavior.

Among other things, I discovered that I’m locked in a microscopic part of the Internet, that I’m consuming media one in every four minutes, and that E-mail takes most of my time in front of a screen.

Gathering the data

To collect the data I took screenshots of all the digital media that I consumed via my mobile or my laptop.

150 screenshots in five days

150 screenshots in five days

Then I organized all that information (time, device, language, format, etc.) in a Google Spreadsheet that turned out to be nine columns and 134 rows.

Interviewing the data

I used WTFcsv, a tool included in the set, to visualize my data and start asking it questions. In some cases I also used the Explore function embedded in Google Spreadsheets.

1. How much time did I spend in front of a screen?
Five days have 7200 minutes, and let’s say that I slept 1800 of them (6 hours per day), so I was awake for 5400 minutes. During the five days of the exercise I spent 1331 minutes consuming digital media: that means that I was 24.6% of my time in front of a screen.

One in every four minutes I’m consuming digital media. That’s just shocking.

2. How diverse is the media that I consume?
Using pivot tables in Excel I found out that I only visited 45 unique websites, that’s an average of 9 different websites per day. There are around 990,950,000 websites in the Internet right now. In proportion, the 45 websites that I visited are like the size of a particle of dust (0.5 µm) in the Big Ben.

dust in big ben

See that speck of dust? It’s what I know of the Internet.

I also discovered that I only used 17 of the 87 apps that I have installed on my mobile… No comments.

3. When in the day do I consume more digital media?
Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 9.36.44 PM

4. What media format do I consume more?
formats 5. In which activities did I invest more time?
Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 9.34.15 PM

6. En qué idioma consumo la información?

8. Time invested in each activity


Things that I would like to know but that I couldn’t visualize

  • Infrastructure of the Internet. The location of the farthest server that send me information, for example.
  • Gaps in the consumption. Besides my hours of sleep, how much time did I spend without consuming any kind of digital media?

FOLD adds new dimensions to your stories

What is FOLD?
FOLD is an open publishing platform where users can find and create modular stories, i.e., articles where text is supported by multimedia and interactive cards. The platform was developed in 2015 in the MIT Center for Civic Media and has been growing organically, with hundreds of users in many countries and languages.

Fold's homepage


  • Every story in FOLD can be built using two kind of cards:
  1. The narrative cards are the anchoring narrative, they help you to communicate the message in a traditional way: Just text and hyperlinks. Imagine them like paragraphs.
  2. The context cards are linked to words or sentences in the narrative cards, and display multimedia content (e.g. gifs, videos, audio, photographs) to have a better understanding of the central narrative without losing focus of it.
  • Users can take any contextual card of any story and use it to build their own articles; I hadn’t seen this interactivity with small multimedia pieces of information in other platforms. “We want to make it really easy to reuse pieces of a story, and also to trace back where they came from, so you can find related content easily,” said to me Alexis Hope, co-founder of FOLD.
  • As in other publishing sites, you can follow users, filter the stories, and create lists of favorites.
  • Right now the interactivity between users is pretty much limited. You can’t comment or annotate stories, nor send messages to the authors.
  • Storybench posted a detailed explainer of how easy is to create a new story on FOLD.

What makes Fold different?
I see FOLD as the Ikea of the publishing platforms: It gives you the small pieces of information that you need to build your own object of knowledge. Oh, and as in Ikea, FOLD’s design is beautiful.

FOLD is one of the closest approaches I’ve known to a non-linear narrative. Even though it uses words as a nucleus, the design of the platform and the interactivity with the contextual cards allow a new approach to the text. As Matt Carroll said in a recent article about FOLD: “It’s a really clever idea that lets you add context on the side without impacting the flow of the story.”

How is it being used?
In less than a year, FOLD has become a place of amazing explainers, from complex topics as Molecular Biotechnology or Reaction-Diffusion systems, to lessons that we can learn from Zombies or alternatives to solve Inequality.

The platform is used by students, scholars, journalists and scientists who are willing to share their knowledge with a general public. “Things that tell you how to do something, or how to understand something, that’s the type of content people is using the platform for”, says Alexis Hope, “We’re really trying to create a network of explainers.”

I asked Alexis Hope about the referents of FOLD, she mentioned some of them:
Rap Genius


  • As the content must be in the platform, it can be hard to grow the user base. Should there be a way to embed the modular stories in other websites?
  • How to monetize the idea? Native advertising? Membership?
  • The current mobile version works, but not as good as in a desktop browser. Does FOLD need an app?

FOLD and the Future of News


Actual navigation map in FOLD

In this moment FOLD is a great tool for journalists and storytellers who want to add a layer of multimedia context to their work: It makes things easier to understand, and is easy to use. But in this section I want to suggest another possibility of FOLD.

I like the metaphor behind the platform’s name. When you’re using a desktop browser to read a story on FOLD, you can see a content map in the lower right corner of the screen. That map looks just like an unfolded polyhedron, like an origami piece ready to assemble:  you just have to organize the cards, fold them, and then you will have a unique body of knowledge, a three-dimensional idea, something that you couldn’t imagine with the alphabet and the printing press.


Modular cards could build three dimensional ideas to explore in VR.

Continuing with the metaphor, you could adapt the unfolded ‘3D ideas’ (that is, the stories that we can publish in the current platform) to VR technologies. Every modular card would become a face of a three dimensional ‘body of information’ with which other users could interact.

VR News

We could inhabit an idea made of  pieces of information.

FOLD’s concept opens new ways of imagining news and stories, and the story of the platform is just beginning.

Jorge Caraballo


I’m a Colombian journalist interested in covering the transformations that digital media have triggered in our communities.

In 2015 I received a Fulbright scholarship after presenting a project that wants to answer one question: How can digital media contribute to the reconstruction of social cohesiveness in Colombia, a country that has suffered an armed conflict for more that sixty years? Thanks to Fulbright I came to the Media Innovation program at Northeastern University. After finishing my studies I want to go back to my country to create a media experiment that supports a reconciliation process among its people.

My skills are in storytelling, multimedia production and community engagement. I enjoy telling stories using different formats –writing, audio, photographs, video–, and building active communities around information.

“Knowledge is what makes us good”, said to me an elder from a native Colombian community where I lived for a week. I liked that relationship between information and goodness, and that’s why I’m excited to be part of this course: I want to learn and imagine new digital tools that help us to create a better understanding of what we are.