Beyond Beach Reads: 10 Websites Worth Exploring This Summer

I don’t know about you, but for me, summer is all about extra reading time. From classic beach reads like Robinson Crusoe to modern favorites like the Hunger Games trilogy, books are a great way to lounge away the hours on a sunny afternoon outdoors.

Beach Reads

But this, my friends, is also the 21st century. Reading today isn’t just about books, any more than journalism is “just about print.” And — let’s face it — there are going to be at least some afternoons when staying indoors to play on the Internet will look a fair sight better than a sweaty walk to the Metro or bus stop. You know what I’m talking about, DC’ers.

Add these facts together with the typical interests of communication majors — news, media, society, technology — and you’re left with a simple question: why limit summer reading to books and print, when the whole world of information is at your fingertips?

Laptops Outdoors

Today’s post is all about going “beyond beach reads” — something I encourage all of you to do this month, in addition to your existing reading plans and ambitions.

There are lots of ways to do this, from browsing Google to signing up for StumbleUpon. But to get you started in the short term, here’s a sample list I put together of 10 websites worth exploring this summer. Like most reading lists, its items range from the classic to the recent … but all are worth a look. Possibly two or three.

Enjoy, and good reading to you all!

***

10 websites worth exploring this summer

For news & idea geeks:

  • Big Think (http://bigthink.com/) – an impressively comprehensive site, with (you guessed it!) big ideas from all over the web. Note the the included “Age of Engagement” blog is run by SOC professor Matthew Nisbet. Other AU profs also frequently contribute.
  • Poynter Institute (http://www.poynter.org/) – if you’re a journalism major, there’s no excuse for not following the Poynter Institute online. A leading non-profit j-school located in Florida, Poynter is all about journalistic inspiration and integrity. Great source for professional news, too.

For social network & crowdsourcing fans:

  • Storify (http://storify.com/)– if you’re a SXSW follower, chances are you’ve been hearing a lot about Storify lately. The company was recently awarded the conference’s top prize for social media. Storify allows users to become curators of social media — collecting and re-presenting pictures, tweets, and posts as coherent narratives. Join the trend, or at least start browsing.
  • Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/)– OK, who hasn’t heard of Pinterest by now? If the answer is “me,” you should start Google-ing stat, because this social media tool is one of the hottest trends of 2012. With a simple concept (you pin and share images you like to online boards), companies and individuals alike are turning to Pinterest to express themselves in new and creative ways.
  • Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/) — Kickstarter describes itself as “focused on creative projects” — and really, it’s hard to argue otherwise. Still the most popular of the crowd-funding sites on the web today, Kickstarter is used by artists, inventors, and innovators big and small — including the Woolly Mammoth Theater here in DC. Filmmakers are another popular demographic.

For film and media buffs:

  • Know Your Meme (http://knowyourmeme.com/) — Ever have the urge to walk back down your own personal memory lane of Internet memes? If so, this is the site for you. This meme database, founded in 2008, is a fun and educational tool for researching memes both major and somewhat obscure. Now part of the so-called “Cheezburger Network.”
  • My Damn Channel (http://www.mydamnchannel.com/) — This video site recently made Time’s “Top 50 Websites” list for 2011. A platform for the distribution of short, original video content, MDC is entertaining and professional-looking. Choose a channel and see what (or who) pops up!
  • PhotoSeed (http://photoseed.com/) – A 2012 “Webby Award” winner, PhotoSeed is gorgeous online gateway into the history of 19th and 20th century photography. Even non-photographers will love searching or browsing its collection of 1700+ images. Get your bearings via the “Highlights” link.

For educators and students at heart:

  • Adobe Museum of Digital Media (http://www.adobemuseum.com) — “Virtual museum” may sound a bit dry at first, but ten seconds in the Adobe Museum of Digital Media will convince you otherwise. This is one sleek online learning experience: a space “designed to showcase and preserve groundbreaking digital work and to present expert commentary on how digital media influences culture and society.” Enough said. Visit today.
  • Google Art Project (http://www.googleartproject.com/)– Like the idea of an online museum, but still a bit nostalgic for the physical museum experience? Then this is the site for you. Google’s Art Project is the perfect balance of the real and the virtual, with beautiful image collections from over 150 museums, representing well over 30,000 physical items. Want to play art collector? You can even create your own virtual gallery of masterpieces. Too much fun.

Have your own “beyond beach reads” suggestions? Post a comment and tell us more.

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