Friday, November 06, 2009

Draft work

Marshall McLuhan who needs referencing far more times than he is credited never tried to predict the future. At the time, he thought it irked people. No, unlike those trying to predict the future, or examine the past, he was engaged in the most difficult task of all, the present.

Big hint to the news industry new cash cow trying to predict the future of journalism.

That's not to discredit futurologists. Where would we be without Star Trek (circa 1960s) and its Holodeck?  I saw its near equivalent at the Shanghai's expo in 2010.

And Vannevar Bush is one of the US' greatest engineering minds, and his seminal 1945 piece, As We May Think, stands as a monument for future thinking. He envisioned a giant collective interconnecting mind calling it Memex. Today we know it as the Internet.

It took the Net two more decades, if you use consider ARPANET its starting point, or even four if Berners-Lee's works as year Zero.

But either way, a technology existed, just like millions others now, but something had to catalyse it. Professor Brian Winston refers to this phenomenon as a supervening necessity. Put simply, society requires a need for the technology for it to come alive.

What made Twitter work?  Google and Facebook?  In the Social Network (2010) and allowing for some creative license, Zuckerberg's character Jesse Eisenberg has a Newtonian moment.

It is a supervening necessity - people want to share. That they want to share pics about those who are 'hot' is what the film industry has traded on with scopophilia since Florence Lawrence.

Which is as good enough a segue into the core of this piece. We love to watch.

 A couple of months ago Charley, from the US reached out to me. I'm a Geek-Art-Journo-Borg (GAJB). Chemistry Maths grad who went in journalism and believes the arts is the key to unlocking human potential. So I get the odd  "hello release". Not PR, but an email that says whadyathinkathis?

Things like the gyrating 360 degree cameras or Danfung Dennis' amazing Condition One which transforms the experience of watching linear cinema.  If you know anything about Abel Gance's 1922 Napolean which used Triptych, this builds on that.

Charley sent me something and with a touch of dramaturgy, which I too relay on for effect, said, please don't show anyone, but have a look and tell us what you think?

Oh my good lord, I uttered. OK you've got my attention, so what next?

It's an App and its called Touchcast.  Video embeds in video. Tweet feeds sit on your video, but the tweet feed is still active. You move around your blog feed, pull up a picture from Pinterest.

Your limitations are your imagination.  The label game changer does not do it justice. In the way social scientists are taught your opinion doesn't count, neither does mine. But in the background of Touchcast are some media industry behemoths and they very much like what they see.

Then the group said they were on the way to the UK. Charley and I had one of those, "we've-never met-before-but-we-share-the-same-interest" longish conversations.

How's Tuesday looking? Duhh! I'm in Denmark working with some of the coolest photographers on planet earth.  I use "cool" a lot, not as a result of vocabulary deficiency, but because cool is a cool word.

I might have had my fair share of thrills, but I still get excited sharing the stage with Bombay Flying Club @BombayFC or US Videojournalist Darren Durlach @DarrenDurlach and the good folk that is Videoplayground, Soren, Martin et al.

Ok I can't make the meeting, but I'm going to put you in touch with the Global head of... here's where we go Chatham House Rules.... because it would't be fair ton my contact.

Peter, not his real name, got back in 5 mins and set up a meeting. From the feedback,  it sounds like Touchcast have found another big friend, because sometime in that meeting, that thing we sometimes do apparently happened. Execs look on half interested, either checking emails or cricket scores, and then someone mutters that "wow". Then others look up, cock their head to one side and also go wow.

And the rest, though it has not come to past, following on from McLuhan, is in the present. Touchcast, and no I'm not their PR, will work because twitter, blogs, video already exist. There is a supervening necessity.

In a couple of weeks, I'm going to train some young journalists in a region that annexes a trouble spot. . I have for a good wanted to know what it would be like, if I could make a 5 minute video that hides hours of content behind it, which with the touch of the button puts you in control.

Speaking at the national press club in Washington DC some years back, I called it hypervideo in deference to Ted Nelson who coined hypertext in the 1960s.

The Economist, picked up on it and since self-flagellating myself with PhD research about video and news media forms, hypervideo has continued to weigh on my mind as I erect makeshift half-functioning things such as  the cube - game theory journalism.

So that's Touchcast. I reckon you'll hear more about it in the coming weeks.

 TouchCasters from edo segal on Vimeo.

So as if unashamedly now pluggin my next move. I received this from the kind people at the BBC some time back, I'm rather hoping, someone else is going to invite me back.

Dear David, 
We are currently organising BBC Worldwide’s annual Leadership Conference in October which is aimed at the top 150 senior leaders across the company.
We would like to invite you to speak at a session focusing on ‘Creativity and Innovation:  Creating the Winning Idea’ which currently has speakers including Innocent; Ten Alps and Bebo.  
With your fantastic experience in both old and new media and your insights into next generation TV both in the UK and US, you would be a valuable addition to the panel. 
About the Leadership GroupOur Leadership Group consists of around 150 of our senior staff from across our seven business areas: Global TV Sales, Global Channels, Content  & Production, Magazines, Digital Media, Home Entertainment and Children’s. They are a lively and talented group of people who would greatly enjoy the opportunity to hear you speak and we very much hope that you will find the event interesting too. 
Kind regards,xxxxxxxx| 

Head of Internal and Change Communications

David Dunkley Gyimah is a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster completing his PhD in video and journalism. He's a previous recipient of the Knight Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism and International Videojournalism Awards. He is an artist in residence at the Southbank Centre and has worked in the media for 25 years for the likes of Channel 4News, ABC News (South Africa) and Newsnight. You can find out more from his site  and Apple Profile.

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The debates can get insular at times. You know them well.

" Hey Jane how, was TRO? I couldn't attempt the other future TV gathering, but the one before that, New News united was ok".

At some point you begin to get the impression we're all chasing the same rush. Yes we are and attending the same conferences.

"Not you again, I'd thought I'd see you here".

Some conferences have been fantastic. Others a lazy way of racking in cash. Yes so long as "Social Network" is in the title, we're all flock to find Jason's golden fleece.

Conference fatigue
The ones I have really liked, amusing more like it, were those in which a manager five months earlier was seated in the audience writing profusely, only to see them on the stand now as the expert.

Isn't commerce and capitalism great? That shouldn't denigrate the process and acquisition of knowledge from the genuine brain stormers, who bring many things to the table, even if it isn't the core idea.

Paxman may not be a tweeter and positively eschews all this hubadub, but you'd want him at your party. Nice brain, nice brain!

And less we forget we were all young once - I mean in mind - not to know the answers.

And I confessedly would be guilty of pulling the odd "I know what I was last summer"; I think we all have, walking into a conference.

But I have often maintained that the debates around journalism can get quite insular.

So to my point.

Collide or shrivel
Jude Kelly the artistic director the South Bank hosts an event next year called Collisions. It's a brilliant idea, but one which if you could replicate would set on fire the ideas about the ideas.

Poets, journalists, campaigners, artists, philosophers, musicians, dancers, travellers - all of whom have demonstrated over the years an understanding of their own environments and collided with wonderful effects on other disciplines.

There's no hierarchy, just a landscape fuelled by ideas about public bodies, their betterment, ideas around film - each collision yielding another idea, which might be done there on the spot.

And I'm looking forward as one of the attendees of documenting it through an online site and various assets. I'll share more about this and even how you might be able to contribute.