Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Virtual Revolution - how the world turned on its axis

Guardian Technologist Dr Aleks Krotoski debut TV series The Virtual Revolution is a show well worth watching.

Its rich in information, well produced in that Griersonian direct cinema way - lots of heavily directed frames - and allows a professional to tell the story her way, without the male machismo that usually accompanies web ecologies.

No doubt it'll have a heavy rotation. Dr Aleks has been talking about the web since 1999 and it shows in her solid performance and confidence.

That said the BBC should have had her more conversational and asking questions on screen. Arianna Huffington's sound bite from a link jars into the next segue, but that's more a point for the BBC production approach to doc making. (Hope she found it a pleasant experience)

Anyways it's a traditionally polished product and will sell worldwide.


In many cases when you watch a landmark series like this, it's often what's left out than what's in that catches your eye. There's an extra poignancy if you've lived through the era casting a rigorous eye on matters.

I remember the phases all too well.

  • 1987 when I had to devise a gas flow model for the Net and failed miserably and in 1994 recruited by Channel One to, with my science background - which I long disavowed working the likes of Newsnight- talk about the web.
  • This is Mark, my colleague investigating the British Press attitude as I intro his piece in 1995. The Cybercafe next door had just undertaken its first live cable broadcast stream, while I was at Channel One.
  • The Dotcom boom in Soho in which the world went bananas and salaries bonkers. I too worked in Soho, London
But enough of me though preening. Virtual Revolution features the big names: the father of the Internet, Tim Berners Lee and the unofficial father Al Gore sharing screen time with Gates, Wales, Zucker et al; it is a who's who of the web and frankly long over due.

And Good Gosh, a big budget to boot, flying out to Africa, San Fransisco, New Mexico, UK and in the future probably no continent will not go untouched. Wasn't the net supposed to make skyping shirk the air miles?

What the web did

What emerges from this first prog is a Tele visual version of A Brief History Of The Future - by John Naughton. A superb book by the way and a must read.

The message in the film is one of radicalisation which is being tamed. The corporates have caught on and instilled a new pyramid.

The non hierarchy meant to subvert has been brought to or veering to that big heel.

And it struck me with a touch of irony how news and video is being squeezed through a transitional pipe. Videojournalism which we practiced is now common place; the networks understand its value, though I would say have amortised it to fall in place with their semiotic.

We've had a technological revolution, but not a semiotic one and whilst technology is often the enabler, it still requires thinkers to try and plant new goal posts.

Because while we all talk new web standards and videojournalism it's still the traditional outfits e.g. BBC who can pull the assets together to make something as grand as Virtual Revolution.

It needn't be so. We're not being too naive. While there are a kerzillion video blogs we're still undergoing a small imperceptible shift to overseeing the new constructs.

Constructs that bring the same dynamism that the web wrought and still yields. Constructs that work on a form in line with a new aesthetic. That give to the trajectory of film making as blogs have done for the written word.

The emotional styled decade - someone called it. Ah, but the constraints of linear time. The Virtual Revolution continues.

P.S BBC please try not starting off a series with the Griersonian "Africa...." . There's a touch of the slight about it. You wouldn't start of saying "Europe... where the UK is". If you wanted to say Ghana, you could simply turn the script around. But like I said, it has international sales all over it.

Dr Aleks

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'm not a journalist with a video camera -Videojournalism

Picture: Copyright Dominic Brewster.

Videojournalism - It's not a journalist just with a video camera, though it could be.

Thank you to everyone who made Collision a fascinating and deeply rewarding experience in refining thoughts and remixing old ones.

These last two weeks of this creative think pad have been mind expanding.

And thanks also to the tireless work of a videojournalist, whose humility prevents him from talking up his contributing towards filming Collision, and whose contributory shots in this piece are integral. Well done Adam Westbrook, true trooper who worked his sicks off.

The new videojournalist, old really!
More and more people are coming around to the definition of videojournalism in the manner in which I use it.

  1. I'm not a doc maker per se and certainly not a camera operator to document the next event
  2. I do not have to be quarantined by the pretense of objectivity
  3. It's not the camera. It is the perception for which allows game theory in the camera

Its simple really. Think of it as a creative director, doc maker, feature reportager, visual designer and writer rolled together. (That's the principle of the Z Principle, I explain in a book to be published this year).

In my case that would range from working at the BBC as both a reporter and producer, Channel 4 News, ABC News, WTN and then as creative director for John Staton production ( ex head of TV at Saatchi).

Then give me a camera and train me how to use it - that was 16 years ago - and let me make really bad films, really bad, without you saying film can't be made that way.

For that thanks to Nick Pollard my boss as Channel One TV, and later head of news at Sky, who enthusiastically let us experiment.

A videojournalist thinking beyond the reel reporter easily qualifies as an artist, but as the last post illustrates there's something else going on. :)

P.S I have just recently been requested to join the advisory board for the American University's new backpack journalism course run by the indefatigable Bill Gentile. Hopefully this will afford an opportunity to speak more in US to generation now videojournalists.

Here's a promo for a training session I did at the Chicago Sun Times with journalists from all over the US and Canada

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Art of My Praxis - Video journalism film making

Jude Kelly asked the question: "what does this mean for you then?"

I explained, citing the intervention of Mark Cousin, one of the UK's leading film historians and an acclaimed film and documentary maker. Mark's recent piece, The First Film he describes as magical-realist is a road videojournalism can tread.

He and I had exchanged ideas; actually I had sought more from him, than him me in the days we had together under the banner of "Collision".

Collision devised by Jude, the artistic director of the SouthBank Centre, with Jeremy Deller, an artist in residence and turner prize winner, has been a space for artists and their invited guests to collaborate.

Back to the question. I explained some more.

Art Videojournalism

Then the pieces begun to reconfigure. That's not to say I hadn't thought about this. Indeed I have made no secret about the fact that a practice like videojournalism is unequivocally and unapologetically subjective.

I have also been looking to study its form unwittingly through the arts and artistic field of expression including Phd research.

Here Jude laid out the "self". In essence, as I reflected the art mode or fresh cinematic paradigm may constitute a new form, but it cannot and should not be divorced from the self.

This isn't the same as default subjectivity; the pretense of trying to be objective when frankly you can't. It's more a celebration of, for want of a better example, Jacques Ranciere's Politics of Aesthetic - on my reading list.

My thanks here are due to Eyal Weizman.Thank you.

Politics of aesthetic videojournalism

Explained to me over supper - an expanding space that constitutes the audible and the seen. Here in lies the aesthetic. This is Ranciere, politics is not the physical warring conflicting faction we see in the papers, but something else tangible.

It is the line between the haves and havenots, that which affects you and that which does not.
It applies across the boundaries in my case of artistic videojournalism.

What can I bring from the outside into what I might call Ranciere's space? This really isn't mumbo jumbo. It's about tapping into one's own experience in a performative and interpretive manner.

We've been here before through the work of Chris Marker. Poets do it all the while. Writers wrap themselves around their own words. Musicians are their own song. Remove the artist and the song is an imitated cover version.

Videojournalism's authorship is thus both me unashamedly, and you as a practitioner. It's richer by our own experiences within a linked context to the stories we tell.

Does that mean in the absence of having never committed a crime you're a poorer narrator in talking about crime? Does the mean if you've never been to Haiti, you can't talk knowledgeably about a tragedy without the construct of parachute journalism?

These are questions [not specifically these ones] to be debated, which I invited further talk at City University in this video recorded by the BBC Journalism College.

The artistry in videojournalism would suggest metaphorically or physically finding windows into issues from within ourselves. Then the semiotic structure mined from any one of the reworked visual languages e.g. direct cinema, cinema verite, plays its hand.

Emotional reportage - does not mean showing emotion.

A couple of days back Camila Batmanghelidjh from Kids Company said what we, a nation needs now is a shift towards an emotional economy. The context was within the neglect of care of our young.

It's big news again within two boys assaulting others. We blame the damaged children she said unawares or blithely ignoring the sources of their troubles. All sorts of other questions now emerge.

It must be time to shed the "removed body" from which we hide behind in solo video reportage. Naturally not all may agree for its conceived as potentially sullying the actual subject matter.

The artistic practice is understanding the dynamics of personalisation and what's perceived as inteference. In many ways that comes from experience, but traversed creatively allows for a narrative akin to a painter, a digital one, at work.

And the painter should know all about narrative, emotion and the self.

In the weeks to come I hope to talk some more about this.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Video: Videojournalism – past, present and future

Videojournalism – has it lived up to expectation?

Yesterday was a rather frenetic day.

Following a judging session in the morning assessing for the RTS (the UK equivalent of the EMMYS) on what would be the UK's most innovative news item from broadcasters, I went to NewsRewired.

This is the talk I gave.

I'm exteremly grateful to those who twittered nice things such as:
@Sarah_Booker, @twofourseven, @richardkendall, @JoshHalliday, @citizenside, @sashers, @moomoobull, @timesjoanna, @MarkJones, @ilicco, @aaroscape, @egrommet,@JTownend @Sarah_Booker, @david_elks, @AdamWestbrook

There's so much we can talk about regarding Videojournalism.

Here's something that m ay interest you. How to conduct an interview with one camera and a swift turn around.

Here's the finished product and then how I made it. The editing, when I did the same thing in Norway (This one your watching was in Podgorica) too 9 minutes to get online.

Results - How to create a multiple angle interview in 3 mins from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

How I made this

Untitled from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rebirthing journalism, storytelling and videojournalism

Judging the RTS Innovation news awards

On Thursday January 14th, I had a moment, mini disruptive epiphanies - a rebirthing of storytelling and journalism. I hope that's not too strong a word.

It started at 10.15.

In central London at RTS' headquarters we sat.

Iain Dale; Toby Castle from ITN; Martin Turner, BBC; Deborah Gorbutt APTN; Phil Wardman and Nart Bouran, under the stewardship of chair Nigel Baker - Vice President of AP's Business Operations in Europe, Middle East and Asia.

The task, to find the UK's most innovative news. And there I must leave this, for the deliberations must remain unspoken until such time as the winner is announced at the awards ceremony in February.

RTS Awards
But what I can say is these awards serve to illustrate a changing face in journalism aided by an assortments of technology and the web.

Last year's winner was Newsnight's 10 Days to War and the year before The Guardian newspaper became the first newspaper to win an RTS with photographer Sean Smith's solo videojournalism work in in Iraq.

Midday as we wrapped I headed off to the South Bank. There we're a week into one of the most extraordinary plays in interdependent interaction. Artists - poets, film makers, musicians - from around the world have gathered to share ideas.

For the past three days I have had the deepest privilege to learn and listen to Mark Cousins, one of the UK's leading film historians, critics and film makers and they've been explosive, yielding new thoughts - a rebirthing.

By 3 O'clock I had dragged Mark ( sorry mark!) across town to the NewsRewired event.

In the 15 minutes allotted me, I hoped to sow ideas that we could follow up later that looked at the historical, technological and pedagogical sense of videojournalism.

The brief is this. Videojournalism born many years back is badly in need of a debate which explores the pluralism of story telling and how new organisations work within the gaps.

It requires a forum that discusses form and function and how we mine a deeper context for exploring data that matters to you.

I'm grateful for the wonderful feedback on Twitter.

Back at the Southbank and one of the most extraordinary films I have seen in a while, a UK version of boys in the hood meets the Wire, which makes adulthood look very tame.

Quite simply a remarkable film casting non professional actors in a backdrop of grime.

So why do I allude to a rebirthing?

The debates here, on my PhD programme, and at the university open up an incontrovertible fact in knowledge creation.

That the ideas lay within us but they take on an extraordinary lustre when we dare to step out of our comfort and entertain others to speak.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Poetry please with a dash of videojournalism

Last Thursday Literary producer at the Southbank Centre Lucy Mcnab asked if I could put something together, via videojournalism, for the Southbank's Imagination season.

So I vjed three well known poets.

Thanks to Ben Stern for his help in making it a pleasant turn around, to Lucy for her adept skills at standing up the shoot in adverse weather conditions and to the wonderful poets.

They, of course, are the reason we do what do- film.

Please enjoi

Poet Laura Dockrill
Poet Laura Dockrill performs Roald Dahl's Pig as one of her influential poems. Performed to showcase IMAGINE - the UKs brightest childrens festival, at the Southbank Centre.

Poet and writer Francesca Beard
Poet and writer Francesca Beard recites Cargoes by John Masefield as one of her influential poems. Performed to showcase IMAGINE - the UKs brightest childrens festival, at the Southbank Centre

Poet and writer John Hegley
Poet and writer John Hegley recites Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc as one of his influential poems. Performed to showcase IMAGINE - the UKs brightest childrens festival, at the Southbank Centre.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Oscars for News - that would be the RTS

The season of awards is nigh.

In no time it'll be the that 34cm statue that will enthral a global TV audience. HurtLocker appears a shoe in for those awards.

Elsewhere away from the glare of cameras one award that will be widely anticipated by UK newsmakers will be the Royal Television Society's Broadcast News Innovation.

To those in the industry, simply the RTS. For other non committals it's easy to describe it as the Oscars, or more relevant to my US friends the Emmys of UK broadcast news.

Last year's horrid economy should bring an extra cheer to 2010. In times of recession, cut backs ensure real creativity, operating on recessionary resources, has its work cut out.

Last year's winner
This year, as lasts, I'll be in a room with 10 or so other industry figures making pronouncements about innovation and who should be deserving of the gong: Broadcast News Innovations Awards 2010.

Last year's victor was indeed a worthy winner: Newsnight's 10 days to freedom. Journalism meets documentary dramatised with some heavy hitting talent such as Kenneth Branagh.

There were a few videojournalism offerings that didn't quite make it; be interesting to see how far videojournalism's come this time around.

This year I don't know yet who's in the runnings and wouldn't tell. Primarily because a sort of Chatham house rule means little is discussed of the procedure. But it's an interesting exercise we travel courtesy of the Chair, in reaching our decisions.

This year though with some luck, I'm hoping to blog something a bit more insightful about the awards, which culminates in the dinner event in the coming months.

I can't say what I'll talk about - something a bit academic - but after speaking with the awards team, I'll know. See you here again.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A brief visual history of video journalism -from BBC to newspapers

A brief visual history of videojournalism from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Recently, I've been spending my spare time researching further into news film making and a video journalism praxis, with the view for a book later this year.

My US publisher is like the best editors: "carrot and a big stick approach".

It's going to be fun, but in the meantime I thought of posting this vid above in expectation of NewRewired, a much talked about London media event I have been scheduled at speak at.

Next week too is the start of South Bank's Collision - an amazing gathering of artists and experts who will share each other's company and exchange ideas.

I have always believed some of the best ideas come from inviting others to share an reconstruct new threads and thoughts. So I'm thrilled at what Southbank has achieved here.

I'm also delighted that an expert who is hugely and widely respected in film and docs has accepted Southbank Centre's invitation for the week, in which I'll play the discreet host to him.

The story of film

His name is Mark Cousins. When speakers inviting a guest on stage say things like... the following guest needs no invitation, they would be talking about the likes of Mark.

This is his Mark's background. And be sure to get hold of his book, the story of film.

Back to the video.

In television terms you could call it a showreel, but I do believe it's more than that. In essence through the fringes of my career it gives some idea of the changes in video productions from the early 90s to my curent Phd practice.

Here's a precis of the video inserts

  • Channel One TV- Channel One launched the year the web grew up circa 1994 with the launch of the first web browser Mosaic. The clip shown is part of a larger film looking at newspapers taking to the web in 1995
  • Videojournalism is as much a western model as printing is believed to have been soley down to Guttenberg. Scholars have determined Guttenberg wasn't the only one on the trail of mass printing. And as for videojournalism, the Africans started experimenting with it in 1997. More recently in the Middle East a number of countries e.g. Beirut, Jordan, Egypt have taken to videojournalism
  • Channel One proved something else - using the vj concept it could make any genre of programme. Last year Ferrari gave my good friend the 599GTB. We made a 15 minute vid taking the car back to Ferrari HQ which has got some good hits on youtube.

Through out the videos I'm sing a verite approach - something I call accelerated verite.

The vid ends with one of my favourite young film makers Rob Chiu whom I accompanied on the making of his first full short about teenage angst in London.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

My memorable blog posts of 2009

Succumbed to the theme of marketing, or purely a desire to share, here are some of the moments from 2009, that good heavens, I look back on and think...

They range from presenting at Wemedia Miami; talking at SXSW, Texas; teaching in Beirut and Podgorica; to seeing friends hit the big time and then there's Britain's worse snow, and finally those thoughts about videojournalism.

1)5 tips for job hunting. Did you know? New jobs for grads to exploit
Digital Awards winner David Dunkley Gyimah reports on creating your own job, which ultimately will have employers tapping you, as well as working with new companies, not in the traditional sense of paper-handling intern, but in influencing their digital media strategy. More on Job Hunting

2)Why if you're a student, you MUST blogOh what like I don't know? It's been raked over ad nausea:"why should students blog", but here's my bent as a senior lecturer, former broadcaster, and blogger. More on students must blog

3) End of the world !! - worst snow storm in 18 years
It's the end of the world in London; school's closed, buses canceled, trains left in their depot, commuters standing idly around pondering their next move. More on UK Snow storm

4)Rachel Armstrong: Architecture that repairs itself?
It pleases me no end that Rachel, a fabulous person I have come to know over the last couple of years has had the breakthrough she so deserves for her tireless work. This presentation as a TED fellow is just a whiff of a mind that would leave you breathless. More on Rachel Armstrong

6)Solo VJ mini effort, max gain - the graft
It's easy to assume videojournalism is an easily acquired skill; it is, but if you've very little visual spatial skills, you're a shrinking violet and the last time you wrote something was for the school nativity play, you're on a steep learning curve. More on the graft

7)Get Rewired -Transform your journalist brain
Rewiring the brain and changing habits and attititudes to fit the postmodern journalist: the uber journalist, the multimedia journalists. More on Rewired

8)SXSW rocks. Next on SXSW - Viewmagazine
SXSW rocks. Next on SXSW.
Apologies if at all for the effusive language. This morning, Sunday, I got up tired, groggy. It was 7.30. Urgh overslept.
I looked outside my window and I was on Danny Boyle's 28 Days film set. The streets were deserted.
What the h*** is going on. It's 7.30. More on SXSW rocks

9)The Wire - good for videojournalism
Detective: The reporter comes with us?
Producer: He's a VJ..
Detective: A what?
Producer: You know they film and edit their own stuff
Detective: Unions let you do that shit?More on The Wire Journalism

10)Beirut, I should try harder - A Videojournalist's tale
A personal poem
Returning from Beirut, I'm reminded why I wanted to tell factual stories.
But I should try harder.
I recall in 92 how driven by idealism I made my way to South Africa, looking for the next generation.

More on I must try harder

11)The Videojournalism Timeline & What next?
The Videojournalism Timeline: in 1994 it was a revolution. I can't tell you how excited I was. A Beta camera, Vinten tripod, Senheiser mikes etc. More on Videojournalism what next?

12)Yeoville, South Africa -
This is Yeoville. It deserves a film in itself for there was no other place like it in the South Africa I knew. At one point a good friend who was putting me up introduced me to his next door neighbour. Four years later Cheryl Carolus was the South Africa High Commissioner based in the UK. More on Yeoville South Africa

Friday, January 01, 2010

Media Show Revival - a media story about itself

We made it!

The clock struck, and this place we inhabit rotated through just another cycle, monumentally to many, called 2010.

Somehow, though you couldn't help wondering looking back thinking that person on the ward with a drip hanging, a monitor bleeping, called Meeja, was still in bad shape.

What a difference a day makes? Nada.

We've realised now that we prosumers are part of the game changing, so if Meeja is going to discharge from A&E anytime soon, it's going to be because of you, either as conscious media maker or consumer.

In retropsect, we'll probably look back and say the decade gone wasn't that bad. Historians tend to be a little kinder than media analysts.

The Media Show 17th Century

"You should have seen the calamity in the 17th Century", is the riposte, "Now that was wretched".

OK there was no film or traditional cinema, but that's relative. What was there was going through cataclysmic births and rebirths e.g. Literature - a cycle that hit a rich vein in the 1900s only to be blighted by two murderous wars.

We can thank fortune, so far, it's not come to that, though the sniff of Westphalia lingers.

I'm excited though.

Not because of the marketing ploy that a new decade should yield new paradigms.

This, though that will happen through a collective wisdom of crowds, but that this year above the last couple should mark a period of consolidation.

That's my key word for now "consolidate".

The Chinese are Coming, Er No, they've been here just unnoticed. Google reports in 5 years time the Chinese will dominate the web.

Media Consolidation

In essence, there's nothing much we don't know that could creep up from behind and do a "tango" - that's the multiple award winning slap [ yes really!] by the way, and not the dance.

There are many knows that we know and few unknowns that we're yet to know, though we also know that the unknowns are not known till we get to know them, then we're back in known territory.

Donald Rumsfeld, you are a bloody genius.

So we could trawl any number of the "follow" sites * e.g. Adam Westbrook, Mindy McAdams, Mike Jones Digital Basin, Koci's Multimedia Shooter, Grant's Videographer, Andy Dickinson,, MediaStorm... and gain invaluable intel.

All the above and more* are givers - selflessly providing knowledge and inspiration, notwithstanding the emerging native talents edging into these Circles of Trust.

The end to the beginning of the Polymath

The issue at hand, momentarily then, isn't the lack of understanding - that was an issue pre 2005. The issue now is curating this vast knowledge on the one hand, and targeted selectivity on the other.

Being a polymath is still to be encouraged, but as I tip toed across 2009 units of length to 2010, the jack of all things is oscillating again back to greater specialisms.

Specialism is perhaps also the wrong word; more a greater comparative understanding of one field than the other, though the understanding of the weaker field may still come with high knowledge value.

2010 will be a period when the experiment leaves the lab, when the 1000s of blogs/tweets/meeja all doing the same or not perhaps seek greater interdependency.

We've already seen this defacto in blog rolls, but as the gathering of the likes of Wemedia indicates, and's Rewired event will illustrate there's intel gathering of a kind whose impact exceeds the mundaneness of "just another event".

Forming Expert Tanks

Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the Rand Corporation, TED - all started with a few then amortized their intellectual capital to what they are today.

Incidentally, whilst I'm talking about Britain's answer to Poynter (sorry Poynter) you've really got to tip your hat off to them. I say them, but it's barely a handful of people that drive that amazing site.

No small wonder, The Guardian keeps on poaching its staff.

So onwards and upwards, we're not cleanly out this recession, and Meeja's still feeling a bit poorly, but if we can court greater understandings, affiliations, cohabitations, unions, then 2010 onwards will be for the right reasons a turning point.

From my end, it kicks off in less than two weeks with "Collisions" - a brain storming collective of Artists gathering from around the world with Southbank Centre's Artists in Residence - which I'll write about in my next post.

Belated New Year tidings

* apologies to the many sites that are equally brilliant