Saturday, January 30, 2016

Multi tasking makes you less efficient, but helps your memory

Why the modern world is bad for your brain’ published in the Guardian by neuroscientist Dr. Daniel J Levitan summarises how the world of tweeting/ emailing and watching tv at the same time is bad for your health. It causes stress and releases hormones that 'overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking'.

Perhaps not so much strict multi-tasking (could do with a definition), but the experiments conducted by the widely respected Bjork Human Learning and Forgetting Lab at UCLA explain how the process of learning that involves variation and difference aids long term memory retention.
In Veronica Yan’s presentation from the lab’s experiment from 1.52 mins in from this video the following comes as a surprise. Two sets of participants were tasked with recognising the styles of 12 different artists. One set studied one artist’s work, before they moved onto another. The other group studied the same artists but in a random fashion. Contrary to presumed belief, the second group ‘learned the styles a lot better’, says Yan.
Professor Bjork refers to the process of learning which involves deep engagement, like the random sampling of artists, as ‘desirable difficulties’. So while switching from a supposedly different task to task may have its problems according to Neuroscientist Dr Daniel J Levitan, switching foci on elements in a learning process helps your memory, says Professor Bjork’s lab.

Friday, January 15, 2016


Why as a tech-creative you need to get a grip with the 1920s

Wars loomed; politics was a mess and tech e.g. phones were blazing a trail such that entrepreneurs thought they’d never had it so good — almost anything was possible.
Audiences were being bombarded with new platforms. New styles of music with frenetic drum beats were wowing audiences. Literature too was metamorphising. Its fresh facade was non-linear personalised texts about its subjects represented from a multiple of angles ( the biog rather than the blog). Meanwhile, poetry e.g. Imagism was quite literally cutting-edge.
Film too was at it. New styles were emerging; some the audience understood, others seemed a little quirky that that they soon tired. An example of this is a man contemplating looks out of the frame. The director then cuts to an image representing what the man sees.
Does all this sound familiar? If obviously yes. Small wonder that in his bookFilm and Theory Academic Robert Stam says, in a paragraph towards the end that the new millennium is like the 1900s to the 1920s.
It’s the 1920s all over again — the jazz times when Rhapsody in Blues makes us feel we’re in the black, and the red.

The image at the top of the page is of the visionary Pathé brothers with their film device — the solo camera. Below is one of several new platforms from independent companies that gave the viewer a unique point of view — the YouTube of its era, the Kinetoscope

Pathé enveloped a series of companies working in the burgeoning film industry. Their dexterity and innovation meant they made fictional films such as the Horse that bolted (1907) - a film which was one of the first to play with parallel editing.

Pathé also created the newsreel. Strikingly, they called their newsreels as well as their fictional films ‘cinema’. Yes, the very same techniques used in fictional films were being adopted for news.
Today, a long line of scholars and perhaps you associate ‘cinema’ only with Hollywood’s 1910 ‘smash-and-grab’ definition. I was musing over all of this in a brief moment during a meeting at the Arts Council, when asked how I showed my voice.
You see, I think journalism in this new era has lost its way, or I should say a strand of journalism called videojournalism and we’d do well to look for ideas amongst cinema and Art. I have just submitted two draft chapters to a publisher about this. Mmmm I wonder what they’ll think?
And that’s the problem isn’t it? We’re tied down by rules, often good and necessary for their time that become conventions. But a convention’s shelf-life is tenuous. It can be propped up to continue to make money, but at some point the audience tires. It happened during the 1920s and continually repeats itself.
It’s happening now, and many of the symptoms for change today can be found in that creative behemoth of a period, when the telephone was coming on stream and the airwaves were beginning to be transformed.
It’s worth looking at the 1920s, and if you do, you’ll come across something else. Technology is assistive. It has fad qualities. It comes and goes. The message, of what you have to say and how you say it in different cultures is the primer. The mechanics as I’ve said before can be secondary.
And now can I have our factual cinema back please?
Click here for David’s work

My I-Docs session in March 2016. Diversity, creativity and creative fight clubs.

Just about the time the web was gingerly putting its first foot forward in the media, I joined a TV station. It was 199os (seems like yesterday). Pulp Fiction was f***ing with cinema-goers’ mind and Kurt Cobain joined, sadly, the 27 club. I’d just come back to the UK after two exhilirating, but equally mind-melding years in South Africa. Apartheid was dead, albeit officially in name.
At the station there were 30 of us who dared to believe we were the Avengers. We would and could shoot, produce, direct and edit films by ourselves. The media industry called us every crass they name they could summon. As 18–35 year-old we were derided back then as yoof TV. But those thirty, supported, sometimes led, by a team of creatives from management e.g. Nick Pollard to consultants like Michael Rosenblum, were amazing.
In that gene. In that group were the seeds of a bold $70m creative experiment, which is unlike anything you’ve possibly come across. Only when looking back critically and re-interviewing many of its talent e.g. Bafta winner Dimitri Doganis for part II of my PhD, did it become apparent.
I naively believed the group would mirror the new society; merging tech with a radical can-do ethic and a fearlessness towards re-aligning traditional burnt-out ways. This was the new society! But like an apollo craft re-entering earth in a steep trajectory, the groups hopes would be dashed, bouncing of the atmosphere and society into oblivion.
We were so close, even inched in a few changes. Historians may draw comparisons with the 195os when industrialists clawed back their capitalist initiatives from social engineering governments, or the late 60s when authorities literally muzzled anti-war movements.
Here’s what the Thirty had or reflected:
· Out of the thirty new journos, a quarter of the talent were from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Just under that number were women. Diversity, as a creative force was key.
· They decided what the stories, the agenda would be — for a while — thus broadening interests. How did they get it right and wrong?
· They transformed the idea that one person could do everything — empowering a nascent citizen journalism. But just because you could work on your own, didn’t mean you worked on their own. Cognitive dissonance was a positive trait.
· They were one of the first groups to do low cost reality TV. MTV was the first with this format.
· They upended part of the grammar of news making. More on this at my talk.
· They showed that to get great ideas, don’t muzzle them. In fact there were more than the fair share of creative fight clubs. Tension was an area that required managing.
· These are some of the things the Thirty achieved, which dovetails into recent exciting revelations in research. But you will not know of this story, or understand how relevant they are to today. You see they understood the tech revolution, but that this also required a new thinking discourse. I mean what would you have done with £50 million?
See you at i-Docs. Do come and say hello :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Future of Story form, television n’ all lies in the past.

Are we so gullible to think that every new phenomenon that has emerged in our digital existence has never seen the light of day before?

History, so eschewed by those who live in the now, provides many answers.
We need those answers if we are to not to repeat mistakes, or truly endeavour to push into new frontiers.
The premise for my talk back in 2005 — and before that — was that cinema offered a fresh model for journalism.
I thought that was radical. I look back on that noticing my own foolhardy swagger. But I was soon humbled when I discovered that there have been several attempts to make cinema journalism stick — but these failed for several reasons.
The many reasons however are receding. The implications are so wide that like the past, we could and would want to dismiss them. Not this time though.

In a series of videos — whose themes constituted the table of contents for my doctoral thesis, I show how the rise of cinema journalism is gaining momentum.
Here’s the second of six short videos — which I’m planning on releasing through a publisher or broadcaster.
Robert Drew, the father of Cinema Verite provides a platform to discuss cinema journalism in the 1960s.


I'm now blogging more frequently at

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What if Stephen Soberbergh did journalism? Apple talk by Knight Batten Winner David Dunkley Gyimah

What if Stephen Soberbergh did journalism?

If the evidence of his involvement in Citizen Four is anything to by, it would be memorable, perhaps entertaining, and above all cinematic.
With a 100 hours of video being uploaded to Youtube every minute, there’s good reason to do cinematic video — you stand out from the crowd.
Ask a focus group of young people, as I have done through academic research, about any piece of video/film they remember and invariably they’ll name a fictional film.
There’s something about cinema.
Journalists coil with opprobrium at the thought. At the least it’s naive — cinema is fiction and once we fictionalise journalism we’re in Alice in Wonderland territory.
At best, the two are immiscible. Good heavens is this a real journalist writing this gumf.
At Apple in a week and a bits time I’m looking to push this gumf out with a supertanker. The popular manifestation of cinematic journalism is, and there’s a health warning attached.
Vice will joined by many others — lining up in new academies and the corridors of Youtube readying themselves for online dominance. It’s a warning to traditional broadcasters. [read How Vice became the voice of a generation].
Existing, somewhat antiquated, theories around journalism are feeling the squeeze as a pragmatism in digital that’s shaping new provisional theories soars.
The issue of cinematic has been a perennial one, eschewed by the news establishment in the past in defence of their industry. The web changed all that. Journalism can still berate this pretentious cousin, cinematic journalism, but it’s the audience, er, steward!
That doesn’t necessarily mean the audience is right, even if they’re dragging the advertisers with them, but academic research shows they’re onto something — particularly from a creative movement within videojournalism.
If you can make it down to Apple, I hope you won’t be disappointed. Some of the definates so far include short films on what NBCs President of News makes of cinematic videojournalism.
How Robert Drew created Cinematic journalism in the 1960s. And an interview with one of the UK’s fiest videojournalists Steve Punter — who sadly passed away last year.
BTW When film journalism was first conceived it was cinematic, then something happened ☺

David Dunkley Gyimah was one of the UK’s first official videojournalists. His worked for the BBC and Channel 4 News. He’s a recipient of several awards. His doctorate, a six year global study covers the impact of cinematic journalism. You can find out more about his talk here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Selma's brief lesson

The air was laden. that rousing speech, and then a moment of silence until the room filled with spontaneous applause.

Some gift; some gift - that is to move people. To remind them of where humanity was, to capture memories - albeit cinematic ones - but enough to inspire.

Finally got around to seeing Selma. The controversy impairs the clarity of this piece of work. No flash backs, no convoluted script; this is cinema as documentary. It even borrows some of documentaries' tropes.

It reminded me of an obligation we have to ourselves; a conscientuous stand to share and remind and well, negotiate!

It brought back my own memories of South Africa, the last country on Earth to officially legalise racism and that was only two decades ago.

A little story came my way. It was the ability to document on the cusp of a new dawn; a new country - a new South Africa.  This through the eyes of four young South Africans.

Late last night I listened to the radio doc again. It brought years and joy to me. If you have a mo, do relive and cherish what we now have.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Keeping the news hyper real

We need more good stories, said Martyn Lewis.
Lewis happened to be one of the trusted voices of the BBC in the 1980s. but what happened next he could not have expected.
If the proposition, made in public speech wasn’t stupid, it was, well, dangerous! Worst that it came from a BBC anchor.
A public vilification and humiliation from the news industry followed and listening to Lewis speak on BBC Radio4, the trembles of indignation are still audible.
For Lewis, advocating more good stories on broadcast news wasn’t about PR, but as he puts it, applying journalistic judgement by, ‘holding a proper and sensible mirror to society and that means the positive as well as the negative’.
Twenty years on having been fascinated by this narrative, Martyn Lewis lifted the lid on Radio 4' Good News is No News (Sunday 8th February, 2014) about some of the most extraordinary events that followed after his suggestion.
I was handed a note that said can you call BBC management immediately, so I called them and they said your speech has been seen by, lets say, certain other people, we won’t say who, and they say you cannot make that speech under any circumstances and your job is on the line’.
Lewis reveals he saw ‘red’ and was baffled. The media religiously tell us they are the 4th estate; they police and debate the issues that matter on the public’s behalf, but they don’t want to look at themselves.
Public philosopher Alain de Botton weighed in broadside last year with his book The News — a User’s Manual. Why are we always fed negative news? Why is it your school will prod you to learn how to deconstruct Shakespeare or a Matisse painting, but not what’s coming out of the newspapers? Why does news still claim to be objective, when there’s nothing wrong with bias — when you use it to decode and you’re transparent about it.
For senior journalists, the news is THE NEWS. Like religion, it is written and waiting to be uncovered.
US Scholar Michael Schudson, reminds us, how journalism is made up. It’s a cultural product shaped by conventions and literary values.
It’s the people in charge, who shape how you and I are told what’s significant and what isn’t. Again, it’s people! At some point, just some moment, are we going to put the camera down as the neighbourhood burns and see an alternative mission for what news stories could be?
That’s beginning to happen now and its dragging traditionalists kicking and screaming into the digital polysemous world.
Straight outta Compton
In the 1980s, wanting to break into journalism was a heady effort. You had to be, as Lewis shows, the right sort of person. If you read politics and didn’t want to become a politician and kiss babies, you became a journalist to kiss your teeth at your politik colleagues.
Me, I did Chemistry and Maths. Fat chance of ever coming close to writing a press release, however a couple of friends and I managed persisted. One of our breakthroughs was getting onto the community programming at BBC London and ran ‘Black London’ for almost two years.
We were paid £30 a show. Peanuts really! But we wanted in badly. The three things that’ll get you sacked from the BBC: Insubordination (swearing). F**king in a studio, and not having a TV License. We did none of them, but there was a line we had to be mindful of because of racial politics.
We tried to make sense of what the audience wanted, who we could book, who would talk to us. We couldn’t pay them. Fortunately there was always someone for the show. Celebrities, such as: Eartha Kitt, George Clinton, Alice Walker and Fela Kuti. Politicians: Jesse Jackson, Apartheid activists and critics, and several Conservative MPs (in power at the time) and the various miscellaneous.
Ever so, we’d look to the US for reportage thinking about parallel ideas here. One of the biggest running stories, was the phenomenon of rap, which in hindsight spelt some of the first seeds of digital theory.
Music opened a seam for politics and an onslaught of cultural thesis. The message was polysemous. It could be interpreted different ways. For fans it was fresh and exciting, otherwise it was a menace and threat. President Bush senior denounced rap, Ice T’s metal bad Body Count‘s Cop Killer alongside NWA’s F**k the Police fuelled emotions.
MTV wouldn’t touch it first and then when they featured their first MTV Rap Show, the audience ratings went ballistic — so much so that executives were too embarrassed to crow about it.
Twenty years on, Ice Cube and Dr Dre are retelling their story. Explicitly, amongst others it’s about fostering a global movement from communities. And yes there beefs, and all sorts on the way between East and West. Implicitly, it shows how the audience became the receivers and practitioners.
There are similarities with traditional media today. They made their music, you’re making your media — and the audience is deciding. And that audience is diverse.
On Radio 4' Good News is No News, good news stories now sell on the web ( social media). But there’s something else, which I’m show and telling at Apple store in London. And it goes to the very heart of storytelling, and again it’s all influenced by how the audience is shaping it. 
It’s from our SEWN up series — cine-videojournalism and features a fascinating conversation with Robert Drew, and many more. See you there