Friday, May 13, 2016

Cinema is a future of journalism, but in 2025 of course you knew that already.

Journalism using video is in a crisis. Cinema — that’s the future. You see an alternative: Snapchat, Vine, Instagram etc.

I’m not disagreeing with you for now, but they are smaller elements towards a human need for deeper expressive narratives. I did say future.

 You’re dismissive, I know. You wanted to read about the next iteration of tech enveloping 3D, even 4D virtual environments, or even presence reality — holo deck images created in your home. You can find these in several of my previous posts.
No, at this very moment, perhaps you’ve decided you need not read any further because you’ve never heard anything so absurd. Bear with me, as it’s possible you’re exhibiting what psychologists refer to as an illusion of explanatory depth.
It is so obvious to you that cinema has nothing to do with journalism, because you implicitly know this, because aside from everything else, you know cinema is the stuff of fiction and Captain America Civil War.
Here’s a conundrum. Is it so obvious that everything you know is down to experience or constructed from experience? Course it is! Yet this wasn’t the case before the 1700s, when philosopher John Locke proposed this.
Perhaps that’s too far back. Is it really obvious that you could be made to electrocute someone to death on the say so of a man in a white coat? That was the Milligram experiment in the 1960s.
And how about this for only just over a decade ago, was it really obvious that video embedded in web sites, surrounded by audio and text was the future. N00o it wasn’t. But your hindsight bias is working overdrive now to, perhaps, suggest it was.
On a personal note, I wouldn’t consider it obvious that if you create work that attracts the attention of your peers, alongside a group of people you’re invited to meet the future King of Britain, Prince Charles.
I digress. Yes that’s a surreal one. Where was I?

Here’s a citation from one of the US most coveted innovation labs,
the Knight Batten Awards and what they said about a prototype video site I built before the days of YouTube.
Entrants to the awards included: Newsweek, Time, MSNBC, and BBC.Viewmagazine.TV was a site I built from scratch. Ninety percent of the articles, the videos, the podcasts, the interactive media, the photography was created by me.
Then I set about designing and creating the pages - some of which are below. They included a range of story forms, such as these from the future of mobile, new photos of Bob Marley, a tie-up between Brixton and the Bronx, Jay-Z at my university. 
The judges pooled from some of the US’ finest media organisations said:
This interactive magazine foreshadows the future with its use of hip new story forms and hight video-centric web tools.
So how do I justify Cinema? And how do you use tech to support this, and what do I mean by cinema, and what kind? It’s based on worldwide research and a doctorate programme, please Click here for part 2
 

Saturday, May 07, 2016

How using new tech e.g. VR can recreate memories that correct a flawed past.

 It’s an idea so powerful, like a virus it keeps growing. Its currency is its ability to recreate our mental landscape, impregnate us with concepts that affect our senses in ways that it becomes knowledge.
Furthermore, this industry at work builds our internal world into a fortress of new ideologies — a place within us where personalities are shaped and our reality is framed. Our memories.
This sounds like a sequence from Nolan’s blockbuster movie Inception. The farther we burrow into the subconscious, we bypass ideas, complex ideas and then the basement level where memories reside ready to be retrieved.
But instead of a movie, albeit created from a philosophical theme, could the reality of building fresh repurposed memories reside in our growing penchant for the come-back media phenomenon, Virtual Reality.
In our present state of collective reality promulgated by traditional Real-flawed Reality media, ideas like the following  have transcending into a cultural norm: wealth is necessary towards happiness; unlimited capitalism a sign of virtuousness and virility; love thy neighbour, so long as they look and sound like you; and fear mongering is the much needed condition to sow a better future. It’s dystopia, yet it’s become acceptable.
John Locke saw the importance of memories. An English philosopher whose vision was how to break from the abstraction and dogma of religion and defy following authorities for the sake of it, he cast his thoughts to what our senses and experience could deliver. Memories shape us. They are our link to perceptions.
Ask any ten year old in the US whether an African American can become President of the USA, and you’ll be ridiculed. A decade ago and other ten year olds without any concomitant memories and narrative from their parents would be equally forthright, with a different message. Today, a London politician who is a Moslem just laid down a new tarmac for deep-core perceptions. Yes, any faith can become a London mayor.
Three hundred years on, Locke, also a founding father of democracy might be taken aback to find how our collective memories in the Western world have been harvested and water-boarded by a virulent elite media. If you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep on getting what you got. Austerity is good, or is it?
Virtual reality, as a newish mass media, could facilitate new realities, yield hyper realities even, to address what’s before us. The New York Times, reports the Niemann Lab, sees VR films as regular content for the future. Several mass media organisations are due to follow as VR finally cashes in on its contemporary fame. But that’s the problem. There’s little evidence, the content required to mediate current memories, to build new knowledge will be any different from the status quo.
Today, our recalibrated memories of wars leaves us ignorant to its legacies. Former US President Ronald Reagan in Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the US, asks the nation to forget about Vietnam.
In the late 1950s, following a combination of mass movements of African Americans into urban spaces and the ‘Kennedy Administration [had given] giving voice to the poor, among which blacks were disproportionately represented’, poor African American’s became the media symbol of poverty. Unknowingly or otherwise, new memories were laid down to cohere food stamp recipients as overwhelmingly black, when US stats have shown otherwise.
DC Marvel promulgated a persuasive virtual reality back in the days when tens of thousands of boys and girls growing up were drawn into its make-believe enterprise of super heroes.
In this virtual escapist world, bullying was answered with a thwack and a Spiderman one-liner, racial injustices were dealt a triumphant blow from the Black Panther a revered figure who by coincidence reflected the name of a real-life political movement. Storm caused a hurricane to restore humanity, and a disabled man using echo sound location cleared the streets of maladroit citizens.
It took me to my late early teens to know it was impossible to scale buildings, yet the narratives and their allegories, those memories, are still with me. If the mass media, guilty of performing its own collective inception is to be corrected by new millennial media how might VR help? First to take advantage of its newness, then as Michael Bodekaer points out in his TED talk on VR to educate the future. To recreate worlds.
Ironically, in choosing a slide to highlight the scientists of the future, Bodekaer’s fumbles presenting a smiling cluster of graduates, where diversity does not figure in the photo.  But then that's his reality. A later slide on teachers corrects this.
Then it requires films and personal with subject matter that goes beyond the boundaries of naturalised memes we see drudgingly across screens.
If the memories of your past appear contentious, or even distorted, throwing more personnel at the problem, won’t necessarily tip the scales back. The BBC is hurriedly trying to address a diversity imbalance. It could do well to review its content as well.
Does Africa deserve generally to be presented as a unitary mass and mooching on the West for integrity, as seen in international news? Africa IS a country someone wrote tongue-in-cheek. Several years ago, a magazine inverted the relationship between the developing world and developed to dramatic effects.
Then VRs distinctive quality requires consideration to an essence of a new cinema. How so? The art of the moving image uncontroversially resides in cinema — an eclectic assortment of styles and forms designed for audiences to be informed, affected, and often moved to react.
In his groundbreaking book The Language of New Media, author Lev Manovich presciently references an emergent new form as a return to spatial cinema. Similarly in a tome being considered by publishers I detail how millennial factual image makers and journalists are re-learning the lost art of non-fictional cinema. In effect we’re coming full circle, the birth of a new media and realignment of a populist one. This time, the hope should be of creating  truer memories.
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If you liked this article, please share so as others may participate, feedback or critique its premise. This is part of a wider paper I'm developing to present at a symposium with a film. Dr David Dunkley Gyimah writes about digital and media. The image in the headline is of his actual DNA. Gyimah holds a distinct feature in science. He and his family were the first in the world to have DNA genetic sequencing performed on their DNA in 1985.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Death Marches and Rabbit holes - inside the multi planar world leading new media design


It’s that tingling, numbing sensation in the fingers, closely followed by the perennial fight to keep your eyes open. Focus, focus! There’s a flaw in the code. What’s more there’s another three days ahead of this. The room, intermittently, visited by others, displays cans of strewn cola and pizzas — the diet of start-upers.
Memories like this don't leave you; all part of the lifestyle - death marches and rabbit holes. That  scene in the matrix where Seraph has to fight Neo and declares you don't know what someone  is like unti you fight them. Well, in the dotcom boom you didn't know what a person was really like until they're really tired and find that little extra mile of problem-solving neurons.

Soho 2001 seems a long time ago, but in 2016 a new generation is at it. In 10 contact days spread over 10 weeks in between a raft of other modules a group of students with no prior knowledge of the web and comms will have the opportunity to go from zero to heros pitching their sites at a google exec at google headquarters in London, but first there is the little matter of understanding what it takes to create a site.

There was a time when when there was a clear division of labour: Front end folks e.g. designers and project managers were the presentables, a mix of casual and denims. Back enders, usually coders and system engineers looked like they worked the vice squad undercover, and then there are the intermediaries such as SEO marketeers and data analysts.

In the visceral multiskilled world of millennia with zero hour contracts,  'bait and switch' policies and heightened risk taking, you'd be a fool if you didn't try and understand the mechanics of the whole work flow. This is the era of the jack of all trades and master of all. Paradoxically, that doesn't mean becoming a loner on the basis you can do it all.

In 1998 I learned to code, but was so hung up on the narcism of showing my stuff that I struggled at what to show and how. Agency do it with aplomb attributing success to the team. On your own, beating your chest can come across as self-aggrandisement syndrome.

I took the plunge anyway with this I found on wayback, the Internet archive being one of the first scrawled (2003) designs, using HTML and Flash. It looks awful by today’s standards, but back in the days, it held its own. You can see also my influences from this comparative screen grab of Channel 4 about the same time.

I took the plung anyway with this I found on wayback, the Internet archive being one of the first scrawled (2003) designs, using HTML and Flash. It looks awful by today's standards, but back in the days, it held its own. You can see also my influences from this comparative screen grab of Channel 4 about the same time.




But guess what, whilst Channel 4 had a team of web coders and designers, I was just me.

Amongst some of my top stories at the time, my film work with heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis fighting Tyson, an interview with a former head of the CIA about their new recruiting policy, a diving expedition to the cold waters of Gallipoli and my international work in South Africa and its townships freelancing for the BBC World Service.

In 2003, the traditional route, still employed by broadcasters to get noticed was a showreel on VHS. The VHS has since been dropped, but broadcasters are still fixated on the opening 15 seconds of what you look like and how you sound. I would later find out it was one of the biggest barriers to hiring minorities, on the basis you just didn't look and sound right.

Now, today our media has a place to breath, but what's the skinny on tooling up yourself?

Our students in ten weeks do the following

  1. Coding HTML 5 and CSS3 and Java
  2. Coding for mobile first and responsive designs
  3. Creating the brief that underpins research into the name, and purpose of the site. This tends to be a rigorous exercise employing both working in a team, turn taking, and understanding one's limits.  Members gather data on the exemplars that may influence them, performing their own internal analysis. Referred to as white paper syndrome, more often than not students will struggle on how to get started and will require a series of nudges.
  4. Their efforts are evaluated through a systematic approach to critiquing.  Students then must present their work. Self-organise into a division of labour with an overview of collective responsibility. We encourage students to take on roles they would not mormally assume, so they're outside their comfort zone.
  5. More often than not here too, by critiquing students come to learn of their own flaws. The knowledge exchange approach is not to indicate what anyone might percieve as wrong, for there are rarely straight cut flaws in this process. After all it's their design. My role is to question why they're doing something and the reasons they got to where they are
  6. Back to design, coding to build on their briefs. This becomes a collective process, something akin to a thesis. Their proposition must lead to questions about their aim of their thesis and they'll be picking any number of methodologies towards that process. It is however an artistic approach, so there is flexibility and creativity in building the process.
  7. Design principles are re-emphasised, with hierachies and different cognitve design and compositional process. Often I'll use my knowledge of the Romantics, impressionists and classical painters. How did the great masters teach us how to see the world and what conventions do we possess to decode websites. A good point here is that different countries have  different conventions at looking at style. This too is dependent on the audience and the era. Note how my 2003 Mrdot design ( above) wasgood for its time, but is deflating now.
  8. Videojournalism and photoshop compositional workflows are introduced, alongside other rich media, but the prompt is partially the student. By now they're taking on so much knowledge that any new knowledge will only be of use, if they have a direct need, so we set up scenarios for that need.
  9. Further critiques and presentations. The web presentation must complement a booklet handout they must put together for VCs to read. This critique often yields more testing, particularly with the audience and different operating systems.
  10. By the fifth week we hold surgeries to find out from students their concerns. These often yield a range of issues from wanting more coding time, to the use of rich media.
  11. The week after is soft launch. This is death march teritory. It's often one of the biggest snags. Design, code and content flaws arise. Here too the content, style and tone can be assessed with their market and students are encouraged to poll, test, conduct qualitative analysis with their target audience.
  12. Hard lauch follows with tweets to industry, friends etc about the launch. Another death march ensues. SEO strategies on the page and strategies of writing for SEOs are debated at length.
  13. The site is up. Back to the brief. Does the site match the brief, if not it needs to. Students present a pecha kucha - ten minutes or less to sell their site to a VC or expert. Here business plans for expansion and social media methodologies are finessed.
  14. Presentation to Industry. In the following years we've presented to Channel 4 News, ITV, senior exec at the BBC WS. This year we're at google.
  15.  The next three weeks involves building their own sites, based on the workflow above. This involves identifying who the students would like to work for and how we approach the employer.

 Presenting at the BBC World Service and Channel 4 News



This year's Onliners presenting at Google.

A couple of take aways here. Whilst the emphasis appears to be laid on skills, which is necessary, the main investigations involve cognitive skills at understanding the psychology of websites. For instance, why would anyone come to your site? What's their motive? What do you want from them? How do they navigate your site? How do colours affect them? How is your writing style tempered to the audience?

The issues coupled with the whole concept of web design become the rabbit hole. It becomes addictive. On several occasions students will express at the end of the course that they never want to go near a site again. Many email me to say they are now working in online.

There is one abiding memory that I have which keeps me focused and spurs me on. That if you have the potential, if you believe in what you can achieve, if your dreams keep you excited, then online is not a job, it’s a window into your world that showcases whet you want and others may take some joy from too.

In 2005, I won ( a dream) one of the US' most coveted international digital awards, the Knight Batten for a website that has changed since but was built on these principles. Since then many of the students I have been fortunate to interact with have come close to their dreams.

And all because of Death Marches and Rabbit Holes.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Poetic Logic : Creativity beyond the rational


Scary story! You’ve been working for an outfit for some 15 years — even as a regular freelancer, you had some inkling of the next pay cheque.
I did stints at the BBC, WTN, Channel One and the rest and then one day at Channel 4 News the dreaded knife struck. A dozen of us were let go.
If it has happened to you yet it’ll come in some guise. For new grads coming onto the market, it’s equally scary as they send off cv after cv — been there too.
For mid-careerists, at some point you’re either elect to go alone having built up a cadre of contacts or take that leap into the unknown.
Army personnel speak about their life inside the forces, compared to outside, civvy street where a simple trip of going to the grocery is alien. Even Presidents talk about the loss of trappings and attention. I’ve been neither, but I can’t think the feeling is any different.
So what do you do?
I read endless self-help books — course you do. Anything that works and audited my own experiences and then fundamentally made the web and new associates my friend; networks became my partners, and my transferable skills an unlikely hidden gem.
Today, as a university lecturer, who still practices his craft, my passion has been to pass it on. Invariably this pathway can be traditional, but there exists a poetic logic — an unwritten manner at creativity beyond the rational in pursuing a goal, which can make your work stand out.
The term derives from the work of the great Russian filmmaker Andrey Tarkovsky. Poetic logic from a poetic conscious attempts to create a unique and aesthetic course to complement your identity. You are the artist — and the job can be anything.
I have learned over the years there is no one size-fits all, because cultures, societies, different races create different meanings. My job, I have come to learn is to inspire; to open up new learning practices; to pass on cognitive skills e.g.reading human behaviour consuming media; to acknowledge fears and concerns as necessary, and understand why and what’s happening.
My deepest desires is to channel what I have learned, to utilise my experience as a professional, an artist in residence at the South Bank Centre, a researcher imbuing my complex identity like most of us ( I’m a Black Briton, with a German grandmother) to forge a path that rewards emotionally (emotional intelligence) and financially.

If that sounds reasonable, I’d love to be involved in what you’re doing, to cross paths, to as, Jude Kelly the Artistic Director of the South Bank says: “to collide”.
What’s the point, after all of acquiring all of this if you don’t intend to engage.
Please contact me here David@viewmagazine.tv and here @viewmagazine


Dr. David Dunkley Gyimah
University of Westminster
www.daviddunkleygyimah.com
www.viewmagazine.tv

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

PR is journalism with a conscious to not strive towards objectivity

Perhaps, an illustration of PR from the early 1900s illustrate its strategic approach and difference to journalism.

Up until 1929, smoking for women was considered immoral. Psychoanalysts equated the cigarette to the penis and male dominance. Cigarette barons though were desperate to have women as a new market. They hired press agent turned father of PR Edward Bernays who recognised if he could find an irrational/subconscious emotion that played to women’s desires, he could reach them en masse.
Bernays hired debutantes to conceal cigarettes on the Easter Sunday Parade in New York (1929) and on his cue, they would light up. He informed the press and ensued the photos which had that studium (taken well to provide his impact) gained maximum coverage. His message to the press was women were smoking torches of freedom. Freedom and liberty were a general, as well as women’s movement post-war.Cigarette sales soared.
Press-Pr-Marketing often operate as a single entity in commercial enterprises. They’re in the business of selling the explicit and subconscious e.g fears, desires. A headline and photo that works unconsciously (at first) on our irrational fears/desires is what’s needed to drive this human construct we call ‘news’. In the instagram age, paradoxically and often to us innocuously, our images and words are continuously being scrubbed for how they might provide secondary-to-primary meaning. Commerce eh! 
Read what Bernays did to Bacon and the standard breakfast here

The juggernaut of presentations: the SXSW experience in Austin Texas

I’m doing SXSW.
To the couple of media people around me in London, when I heard the news, I might as well have spoken Klingon.
That’s #SXSW people — the super bowl of pressies and social gatherings. I’m still getting flashbacks today watching live on TV Marcus Allen’s 74-yard touch down at Super Bowl XVIII.
Seriously! SXSW’s gravitas is so A-game, they can call on a @Potus to drop in.
My talk, having passed the public vote would coincide with the start of an academic itch. A big itch. A PhD. I’d been a self-camera shooting journalist for some 15 years, a journo for 20 and it was now so patently obvious as a practitioner that news as a construct and journalism as practised by TV Networks was the equivalent of Nipper the dog earwigging an antique gramophone.
You know, His Masters Voice, abbreviated as HMV, in which the Masters were TV suits inured and sated by spin and corporate agendas.
It wasn’t always the case. At the time of SXSW, I was reading Michael Thomas Conway’s, Ph.D. which by coincidence Conway is a prof at The University of Texas at Austin — yep home of SXSW.
His account of the history of CBS is truly fascinating. Those pioneers, in there 20s and 30s, such as 33-year-old Henry Cassirer really tried to do something revolutionary. Conway cites a Cassier report in Journalism Quarterly in 1949 “A Challenge to Imaginative Journalists.” That section reads.
It will not be true television unless it uses most of the facilities available at the television station, adapting each one to the best way of reporting the individual story. (Film, for instance, is best to report a parade, graphic work is more adequate to visualize a tax debate in Congress, and remote cameras are most 420 effective to convey the colorful scene of a convention. Maps can tell battle movements better than words, but late reports from an overseas conference are most suitably and speedily summarized by the commentator himself, speaking to his audience “on camera.) — Henry Cassirer Journalism Quarterly 392
They got McLuhan’s the medium and the message, so much so, that today whilst digiratis beat their chest about discovering data journalism, visual journalism and the likes, the CBS young turks had it covered way back.
Conway then says something that grabs me. One day at an editorial meeting, an executive showed up and the journos sensed something was up. The suit was dictating editorial coverage. American broadcasting business folk had twigged that News was a money maker, a big one. The ethos of a journalism holding the powerful to account within the political economy and framework of journalism was about to be laid to rest in favour of, you guessed, business interests. Raise a glass to Edward Bernays, the father of PR.
Cut to almost seventy years later and the the lack of diverse stories on television, or the networks’ refusal to show a plus size commercial on the spurious grounds of nudity, when executives believe they’ll lose contracts from clients who promote size zero beauty above an alternative, shows the power of the greenback in story telling. Alternatively, what about this, the head of CBS Les Moonves defending Donald Trump’s excessive news coverage.
It may not be good for America, but it is damn good for CBS … The money’s rolling in and this is fun. I’ve never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.



10 O’clock on a Saturday morning, I know where I’d like to be I tell attendant’s — in bed, so I’m grateful for those who’ve showed up. Over 45 minutes I map out a different form of newsgathering construct, which incorporates multimedia and an integrated form of videojournalism.


The talk revolves around the use of embed video and sharing, using SEO to reframe millennial journalism; alternative outlets e.g. micro sites to publicise work (four years earlier I’d won one of the US most coveted prizes for innovation in journalism,the Knight Batten); the Outernet which is not too dissimilar to the Internet of Things; and how videojournalism spawns new forms of reportage. These strategies and more were developed with the videojournalist, lone worker, in mind and those wanting their voice heard above the chemtrails.
By some accounts, the talk goes reasonably well. Here’s a sample of that:
Freelance writer Amanda Hirsch, former editorial director of PBS Interactive wrote she was concerned the style I was promoting left little room for finding the story and that…
when I posed this question to him, he got a tad defensive, assuring me that he always listened first, and that he emphasized to his students how listening is key.
Tony, a delegate blogged: ( I’m clearly gushing now !)
Excellent presentation A+. Great presenter. David shared tips and was humorous. This is what SXSW is about. Great job David!
And I even managed to interview a few people after the talk.

 The rest of SXSW was as an exhilarating experience of social banter, an exploration of ideas and ambition. I made new contacts. The comedy/ agent of wit trouble-making Baratunde Thurston (left) whom I met up with in London on his tour of his New York Times bestseller How To Be Black. He’s now at the Daily Show. Have to say thanks too to CC Chapman who supplied me with the majority of these photos.

So, yes that was seven years ago. SEVEN YEARS… a life time… but SXSW represents a kind of ground zero for sharing and since then, a number of things have happened that give rise to reflection.
  1. Yes I could now put Dr at the front of my name, but I live in trepidation of that moment on board a plane when the pilot asks if there’s a doctor on board. Yes you in seat 21.
  2. Video has experienced a boon.
  3. Television, in spite of the social media onslaught is still the most popular medium through continual reinvention and still retains what UK TV expert Simon Albury calls ‘Groupthink’ — ideas being made by insiders.
  4. We’re largely chasing the same tools and skills, with more or less the same narrative structures, making us less diverse and distinct. This calls for a revolution at a more fundamental point in our quest for media literacy — a philosophical one.
Such seeds for creativity lay in the stories of the CBS and what I found in my research, a similar more contemporary story on Innovation called The Thirty.

Also consider this statement from Marshall McLuhan
If men were able to be convinced that art is precise advanced knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology, would they become artists? Or would they begin a careful translation of new art forms into social navigational charts? I am curious to know what would happen if art were suddenly seen for what it is, namely, exact information of how to arrange one’s psyche in order to anticipate the next blow from our own extended faculties.
 Marshall McLuhan (Understanding Media)
What do you think?
We rarely talk about artists in media, referring instead to the age of the Tech, blogger, social media etc. but Artists and exemplary ones at that are the weather vanes of a vision of the future.
They defy listicles and simplistic framing. They find ways to connect the inner self with the external world and rarely are taken seriously within the present.
The level of experimenting, of looking for individualism, of innovating within innovation is set to repeat a cycle in history — the 1900s. What I spoke about at SXSW in Integrated Multimedia Videojournalism represented the iceberg of a more potent form, which can simply be understood as Cinema, journalism — a myriad of cinema and it’s one I look forward to multiple sharing


Thanks for dropping by