The Guardian are having their SxSW hack event this weekend (follow it on Twitter) which seeks to explore uses of technology in reporting events, all framed by their forthcoming coverage of SxSW. As part of the Digital Champions project last year we had a go at that very thing, so here’s an overview of what we did, why we did it, and what we learned.
Events as digital narrative
My BCU colleague Andrew Dubber has already written a great deal about his process for “Aftershock”. Aftershock focuses on music creation, with the Internet material being understood as its own text, and just as important as the finished record. The final record presents us with a writerly text: authored, mediated, packaged and complete, but the Internet part of the project is much less defined, much more open to interpretation, and is also open to comment and direct interaction.
This process can work for news just as well as it does for music, and indeed already does if you think about the way in which stories evolve over a series of days through a cycle of “breaking news” to considered and in depth analytical features. That’s something that news organisations are already doing quite well, especially when they live blog some sort of news event (Over by Over cricket live blogs which might inform a final piece, or political live blogs are good examples here). The difference perhaps between Dubber’s approach to Aftershock and the media approach to live-blogging of stories is that Aftershock seems much looser, and to encourage ephemeral production and vignettes in a way that a “live blog” situation does not. Aftershock is very much a “capture everything” approach, whereas a news liveblog is a more deliberate professional discourse.
So my submission to the gSxSW hack would be to move to a publish then filter (Shirky, 2008) approach:
- let the journalists capture what they see in a very raw style;
- let the audience interact with that if they wish;
- see what the audience reacts to the most;
- finally, repackage the raw material for a different audience that prefers the writerly, polished text (this is the equivalent of the “record” as an artefact at the end of Aftershock).
Megaphone image CC larimdame
A lot of the conversations I’ve had during the Digital Champions project have started with a blank piece of paper and the question: “how can we promote ourselves using social media?”. In a lot of cases it’s a tricky one to answer not because it’s a hard question but because it’s the wrong question.
Now this is where you might think I’m going to go off on one about discourse, and start talking about “conversation” and how brands “don’t get social media because they want to broadcast not engage”. Not today, though those points are often valid. There are two problems with asking “how can we promote ourselves using social media?”: the question is too limited in its scope and is also leapfrogging over a number of other more fundamental questions. Continue reading
On Wednesday I presented my paper from IAMCR 2010 to the Centre’s weekly research seminar. The paper explores crowd sourced investigation tool Help Me Investigate, and in doing so touches on some wider issues around changes in journalistic practices.
I was fortunate enough to be asked many probing questions about the work, which I hope will help me improve the paper. However a wider set of concerns and questions arose which are outside the scope of this piece of work. Nonetheless, they are valid lines of enquiry and so they seemed worth capturing here on the blog. Who knows, I might come back to them later.
The questions concerned the way in which emerging journalistic practices seem to be more about the process of creating stories through new means, rather than about the stories themselves. In particular, data journalism was described as being a fetish. That is not to say it is fashionable, rather that it is understood to have inherent powers which have been subjectively applied to it, and which may not stand up to critique.
So, what do you think: is data journalism a fetish?
Last week was a busy week, event-wise, what with the digital publishing seminar, the Pecha Kucha night, and the zine festival. In the middle of all that, several colleagues from the centre attended and presented at the CEMP Media Education Summit.
Students, scholarship, and our KT work
Oliver Carter gave a presentation, on behalf of himself and Faye Davies, entitled Student to scholar: developing vital academic skills on the journey from FE through HE. This paper discusses how, in the School of Media, we start instilling academic research skills from day one of year one. As part of our approach students are now engaged in producing and publishing support materials for our course textbook. The support website is part of a further project managed by Dr. Simon Barber and hosted at Interactive Cultures where we’re trying to rethink what a text book support website should actually do. It’s a nice case study in what we do here, as you can see the clear link between research, knowledge transfer, and teaching and learning, and it all links thematically back to our growing interest in digital publishing.
Web 2.0 in media education
Dave Kane and I gave a paper titled Student led design of Web 2.0 learning and teaching practices in media education. This paper builds upon our previous research into the uses of web 2.0 technologies within teaching and learning. As with our previous work, our hypothesis is that there is often a rush to adopt new technologies, primarily because of their ‘newness’, rather than as a result of a considered analysis of how they assist in the learning and teaching process or with little consideration as to what a learning culture wants to achieve through the use of technology. We looked at a small case study (interviews with students on the MA Social Media at BCU) to understand some of the issues at play in designing e-learning support materials. The work has prompted a number of new directions which we are actively exploring and we look forward to sharing more of this work in the future.
As part of the Digital Champions assist with PCPT Architects, we’ve played a small role in bringing Pecha Kucha to Birmingham. Pecha Kucha is something of a glocal event (something we touched on when discussing likemind and other global / local networks at the MAC in the summer). It’s a networking event, which focuses on a series of presentations, all delivered to a snappy 20 slides x 20 seconds format.
The event is this coming Wednesday, 8th September, (8pm, Old Joint Stock theatre) and features our own Jez Collins, no doubt talking about Birmingham’s popular music heritage or music as culture. It’s a ticketed event, so do book if you would like to come along.
This project was part of the “Working Neighbourhood Fund – Stimulating Demand Programme 2009/11 – Web 2.0 Presence” package of support being delivered on behalf of Digital Birmingham and Birmingham City Council.
Social capital, and associated terms such as “whuffie” (Doctorow, 2003) or “guanxi” come up often in the comments and thoughts of social media users. It is often used in the sense of a currency, or stock, held by an individual where “I have a lot of social capital” is an online equivalent of “I have a lot of money” in the physical world. Continue reading
Tonight I delivered a brief talk at the Midland’s arts centre. Below is a transcript of my talk (minus my live rambles and tangents and including some typos – sorry). Also speaking were Jon Bounds & Pete Ashton.
Firstly an apology: as an academic I can’t take a title at face value. I find I need to hand wring and worry about the terms of a debate before I can do anything at all. And then once I have problematised the issue, I find that the title is wrong and I start using different words.
As a media and cultural studies academic who has been criticised by the Daily Mail for wasting tax payers money running courses on social media, this condition is particularly acute. I need to be seen to have thought too much about things to justify myself. So that being the case, I struggled to get into this topic and felt I had to change it. I hope you don’t all rush to get your money back, but stay with me for a moment. The new title is:
Social Media & Glocalisation
Under the Labour government digital inclusion became something of a hot topic, and was moving towards the mainstream of policy. Digital inclusion – increasing access to and literacy of IT, broadband and digital media platforms – cut broadly across several areas of policy and brought together ministers from several departments including Communities & Local Government, Business, Innovation & Skills, and Department for Education. In their final year in office the agenda was brought into the mainstream through the appointment of Martha Lane Fox as a “digital inclusion champion” tasked with, amongst other things, raising awareness of digital inclusion amongst the general public.
A change of government brings changes in policy direction, so what now for digital inclusion under the Lib-Con coalition government? Will digital inclusion projects survive their cut backs? To answer that question, it’s helpful to consider some of the positions that inform digital inclusion policy arguments, and map these, broadly, onto right and centre right positions.
Digital Innovation Lab (job opportunity)
We don’t know what the future of digital marketing looks like, nobody does, really. You might say it’s all about touch or augmented reality but that’s already happening. What happens next? One of our latest projects will aim to find out by shaping the next big thing.
Over the next two years we will be working with leading marketing agency Clusta, to develop a digital innovation lab within their business. Breaking media firsts is a key part of what Clusta do; this project gives us and the agency a chance to build on these foundations and explore how we can make innovation processes the heart of a creative business.
Can you help shape the future of digital marketing?
The project is being realised through the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships scheme. We are currently recruiting an associate to work with Interactive Cultures and Clusta in developing the lab. The associate will be a recent graduate (or will be about to graduate) who will work day to day within Clusta establishing the lab, and eventually leading a small team of digital innovators, matching new uses of technology to client briefs. The associate will be supported by staff in the Interactive Cultures unit and User Lab at Birmingham Institute of Art & Design.
We are developing a number of KTP projects. If you would like to talk to us about how we could work with your business, through KTP or other approaches, please contact Annette Copper on 0121 331 7280 or email [email protected].