Saturday, October 29, 2011

Videojournalism Egypt 2011- Videojournalism South Africa 1994 - a study

Egypt's generation now 2011, South Africa's generation 1994

Two different eras 2011 and 1994. 

What links them is the desire by each group to take control of their futures, defined by greater political participation in their country's rooted political process.

South Africa 1994 is a world away from Egypt 2011, but there are overlapping themes: racial equality, class equality and ways for all to better themselves rather than just the ruling elites.

What links these two stories also is me. I was there in 1994 in South Africa - contract BBC documentary maker and in 2011 in Egypt could claim to have some knowledge to produce the story: Tahrir Memento.

Phenomenology is about the self and experiencing and interpreting different ontologies (knowledge that has become our paradigm).

Cairo: Coaching journalists in from of Nile TV. 
The story of filming generation now, has great research implications, because it allows one to see growth, how individuals are making an impact on their societies, when they previously were, perhaps not so active.

For me it didn't start with 1994. BBC Reportage - the Networks ground breaking youth programme played its role.

However the difference with Successor Generation ( South Africa)  a videojournalism film for Channel 4  News and Tahrir Memento previewed at the Sheffield Documentary Festival is its a timeline for videojournalism and self expressionism.

At Sheffield I met briefly with the group 18 Days in Egypt who are using documentary film as a social tool to register and acknowledge the huge changes Egypt enveloped in the 18 days of its metamorphosis.

This is one of the hidden powers of video - or for that matter any visual tool that facilitates research methodologies.

Film shows the period and what people think. It also allows for its authors to reflect on the making of the film and their heuristic studies. The combination of these paint a vivid picture which allows generations beyond to understand moments and places.

In part that's what my PhD posits - a rich compositional narrative of different periods and how they can be contextualised. I'll post more on this soon.

More films can be found on

Read: how television was a dominant medium for change in Egypt's revolution

Friday, October 28, 2011

Redux Enigma of Newer Video Making

My colleague does a lot of in-world stuff. It's the basis of his doctoral study. And me? Anything that mixes disciplines. So when he started talking about avatars, I could see how I could pull various elements of my archive and new footage together to produce this piece.

What's fascinating me is how the illusion of film can be taken various steps into other illusions e.g. meta verse to explain a reality. It's been a long standing device of one form or another for film makers e.g. flashbacks.

Sometimes the illusion of events says more about our perception of the world even when we're film watching: Citizen Kane, Jacobs Ladder and Inception to name a few. A pending artist in residence projects for the Southbank Centre focuses on this - a series of shorts about thoughts and anxiety,  rather than reality of anxiety itself.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where are you going?

Road to somewhere
Last year and a bit, I'm on my way to Grahamstown, South Africa.

We stopped to take this picture to admire the landscape- a vastness and rich fauna quite resplendent. But it was the sign that caught my attention. Clear, sizable and unambiguous.

When we're driving we take this for granted, but the idea of signs is a human graphical invention designed to communicate quickly to drivers.

In life, or even studentdom (the life of students) where things can be fuzzy signing is almost paramount. But here I'm not talking literal signs, as important as they are, but structural mental ones that help in the learning process.

The task you're about to undertake requires a plan, but you can't implement the plan if you don't have an idea. And where does the idea come from - a concept, many concepts.

In the absence of such deductive or inductive thinking the task ahead seems amorphous, shapeless, with no beginning or an end.

Structure sits at the loci of the idea and planning ahead. Without a structure there is no meaning, rational way forward. If you're in the learning business this either sounds tautological or a bit strange. Yet these methods lead to the path of success.  There are very few geniuses in the world e.g.  Jobs, Turin, Einstein etc aside.  You get my point.

So processes becoming hugely important, and as boring as they are, we need to adhere to their forms to start with, at the point where we're fledgling, trying to find our feet, learning new ways.

Only after, unless that is you consider yourself an artist freed from the matrix of convention, can we begin to play with form, to undo the rules, to forgo convention.

Thus learning or the business of learning is not so much about which literature you're reading or what mathematical equation in trigonometry works, how Marxism is not about Karl Marx, or how to produce good television.

It's not about the subject in front of you per se, but how you understand the process of learning.

Here's a few tips:

1. Organise your work to sit in compartments and  approach work in a modular fashion i.e.  a piecemeal mode.  For instance in writing an essay, the concept-idea-planning-writing phase - all have different challenges and should be treated as such in their level of complication.

2. Following the idea, plan how you'll go about the task which will provide structure.  The structure then needs examining as part too as a "wisdom of crowd" approach.

3.  Talk about what you're doing. The process of talking, even to yourself,  provides a powerful link between the conscious and subconscious.  You'll find flaws you never thought existed.

4. When you've finished each task, give yourself room to reflect further. Reflection requires a time lag, between finishing the job and returning. I may complete this post in a couple of minutes, but I'll need to come back to it again at some point to iron out stray thoughts and the rest.

5. Look for sign posts from other people. How do the successful ones get by their work. Yesterday my Dean of Phd programme mentioned a Read-Write methodology, she had seen me undertake. It sounds strange, because I have always done that, but she was highlighting the idea that when you're told new things, given a lecture, reading up on it and then writing creates a strong link with the idea.

The ideas of others is built upon by your binge reading and then accentuated by your writing it.

6. Then see if you can engage with someone knowledgable of the subject you have just picked up.

7. And then construct your own structural approach how you would re-approach the task ahead. In effect this is systems and their analysis at a granular level.

8. Pass it on! :)

9. Yep I came back to this post to change a few things- reflection!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cracking an enigma of newer video media

Enigma Machine - pic credit Wikipedia
It looks like an antiquated type writer.

It is anything but. For the Royal Navy it was the machine that would play a pivotal role in deciphering  Hitler's war machine in WWII.

In the 90s a reporting assignment brought me in close contact with the iconic device. Today the BBC and producer Julian Carey broadcast  a programme celebrating the wider achievements of Britain's code breakers.

Code Breakers: Bletchley Park's Heroes was a well put together doc - a history narrative with stylised visuals and contemporary footage. One of the programme's contributors commented that these extraordinary code breakers were misfits, dysfunctionals, academics who were the unlikeliest heroes and even now the full facts of what they did cannot be told.

However I took to the programme for other reasons. This morning I had to present to my colleagues at the SMARTlab University College Dublin about methodologies for deciphering a research conundrum.

I mapped it out, but all day the data analysis has been weighing on my mind. Just as well then, because half way through watching Code Breakers: Bletchley Park's Heroes, their own work sparked an idea which could be used in pattern recognition.

I'm no Bletchley boffin. Oh no, but if their techniques are transferable, then with my own distant Applied Chemistry background it's worth a decent shot. Weirder things could happen.

Data visualisation from IBM
Broadening this thought, one of the areas I believe will be a huge growth point for video makers and videojournalists will be interpreting data into story narratives, just as you might have come across in data visualisation.

This opens the prospect to construct rich meaningful films to reflect studies and research from companies and non-broadcasters in ways that allows any viewer access without, the feeling of reading a research document or watching a typical corporate videos
such as this one from IBM.

Tahrir Memento from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

8 days, and more recently Tahrir Memento on are examples of films which have ulterior motives. They are videojournalism films in themselves, but have secondary messages. In the coming weeks I'll post links to other stories on on the page below which double as stories and research projects. menu I and II of selected stories

Know what you want, don't be afraid of rejection and be nice to people

Yixiang talking to MAJI students
"Know what you want, don't be afraid of rejection and be nice to people".

It's an aphorism that sounds like a humanist religion. For Yixiang its come to define how she's made her journey from determined MA student to a confident professional in the space of two years.

The former Westminster University student cuts a diminutive and slightly nervous figure delivering an impromptu testimonial of her life to this year's cohorts.

And the journalists-in-waiting kept her on point fielding a number of questions: what modules did you do? When did you learn financial journalism? Why did you do an NCJT course again?

If she could, she would have preferred to be seated listening to some other speaker than being the centre of attention herself - a touch of the imposter syndrome. Humility is one of her other endearing qualities remembered by the journalism lecturing team.

But such is her story, how a shy Chinese student fought to find work from one British media establishment to another: the BBC, The Financial Mail, Euro Money, that her story begs to be told. "I got a lot of rejections, a lot of rejections, but I believe if you really want to do it, you will", she says.

Yixiang's beginnings
Deborah Vogel, the course leader for the University's MA Journalism programme recalls the early signs of her now characteristic focus. On the first day of contact, says Deborah, Yixiang had prepared a shopping list of questions, she had clearly given much thought.

As one of her lecturers, Yixiang surfed under the radar for the best part of the first semester. In the second semester she opted to the online module. The running joke for online from Masters students is   "you will die and be reborn".  Apparently it's something I said in jest which took off.

However, because of the volume and nature of work the joke wears out very quickly. Students have to believe they can take the pressure of design, coding, writing, multimedia, whilst committing themselves to understanding technical and creative aspects of various softwares.

The close contact working with colleagues, sometimes enacting Soho Dotcom's Death March, means its not for the shrinking violet or those wanting an easy ride. You can't be shy working online in a team. So, Yixiang might have crossed my mind.

However two months in Yixiang wanted to meet for a problem. She had already consulted the "wisdom of crowds";  she was applying for a BBC online internship and wanted help writing the application, and only had a couple of days before the deadline. I asked her permission to use this email below.

from yixiang, many thanks

10 March 2008 13:34

Dear David,
I want to ask you that tomorrow could you kindly share some time with me discussing my application. I will have interview on Thursday.
I will bring my web critique and some other question answers, hope you could have a quick look, and comment on it.
Here is the link for the programme I applied:
You might be very busy, but I really need some help, and your suggestions and comments will be useful for me. 
I thank you in advance

I passed the ball back to her to write it up first, so by the time we met and bar the odd change and how you sell yourself online, Yixiang had prepared a meticulous document pulling everything she had learnt together.

Yixiang at the BBC
After three filtering processes and a day's long interview, she got the position. Look up the link and see how you might fare.  By now as I documented in this blog post back then, Yixiang was becoming a women possesed - something we've had good laughs about.

What followed within her internship was an extraordinary balancing act of working with the BBC whilst meeting the course requirements for the MA programme. In her final project Yixiang decided on creating a site to showcase the talents of concert pianists at the world famous Royal School of Music. has since come down from the web.

Perhaps it's the less spoken about fact that she is an accomplished pianist herself or that she wanted to shine a light on those she admired. Either way after three months she emerged with a website which would earn her a distinction.

It wasn't without its difficulties. Some of the pianists in emails were plaintively rude, but Yixiang shrugged of any rejections and got on with the task.

After graduating as any student will know came the hard slog for work. Yixiang got into selection panels for the likes of CNN and along the way accrued her fair share of rejections.

However she had made a decision, a plan she was keeping too. Going back to China was not an option, so she was intent on carving out a career in the UK.The thought led her to enrol on an NCTJ  print course where she buried her head in law, public affairs, shorthand, and local politics.

The University of Westminster's modules are based on the NCJT, as well as the BJTC - which it still looks to for accreditation, but Yixiang's quest was to specifically understand the Brit market with a desire at the time to work at a local level.

And then as she puts it she was finally brainwashed. Working in local newspapers and contributing to the university's much vaunted online newspaper,  HA1, a competitor to local newspapers,  gave her the sense of how community news worked.

Anyone who has worked in local news knows the benefits of getting your hands dirty. I recall my first radio piece for BBC Radio Leicester in 1987 when I mispronounced Groby as Grow-bee, when it should be Groo-be. I spent 6 hours trying to figure out overnight at the station how to change and record that one word, before it got broadcast. I survived and spent three years on and off working the local beat.

For Yixiang the sum total of her past was about to come to a head. Along her journey other jobs would open up: the Financial Mail and The Independent where she did a stint as an award. And as she puts it, anytime she visited Harrow she had a mission. "I'd be thinking of a local news story and how I could pitch it to the local newspaper editor, with a different angle", she says.

Pitching is an exercise at the University we place a premium on. If you can't pitch, you can't sell.

Today the story of Yixiang is about to take a more interesting and highly fruitful turn - Hong Kong.

It doesn't get any better than that. Yet the principles that underpin her rise are as unpretentious as she is.  There is no magic bullet to making it work. As one of my mentors put it, every rejection letter is one step closer to the job you're after.

Or as someone who inspires me, and hopefully inspires you too does it go? "Know what you want, don't be afraid of rejection and be nice to people".

Never a truer statement.

Postscript: As I was finishing this article, an email from Yixiang's prospective employer marked "confidential" landed asking a range of private work-related questions. You can't imagine what I might have said, can you? :)

Yixiang takes the applause

Friday, October 21, 2011

Aftter Libya's Media Flow, What Next? 10 points to keep the flow going

Gaddafi's capture shot on a mobile camera
Libya ! Job done.

Not the death per se of its former leader Gaddafi which seals a profound chapter in itself, but that news would say we stayed the course. They got the money shots.

Just as the 1993 felling of a Sadam Hussein statue in Baghdad was caught, or some could argue, staged for television, followed much later by the gruesome phone hanging footage, television got its prize in Libya.

The similarities in iconography are quite startling and if that's anything to go by, Libya is about to join the forlorn hopeful looking to the world to further document their plight.

That doesn't bode well at all. Already a schism is opening in terms of accountability. Jon Snow on Channel 4 posed the question whether Gaddafi's death was an extrajudicial killing.

Foreign news editor Lindsey Hilsum in Libya weighed up public sentiment saying Libyan's aren't thinking that; they're just happy he is no more. Today, Libya's interim rulers the National Transitional Council were quick to dispel he was executed. He died in cross-fire, from his injuries before he reached a hospital.

The phone footage shown on television leaves many journalists and agencies with an unresolved story. Conflicting versions of the truth can't be helpful in a burgeoning democracy - where Press conferences often yield to the protocol: "we're looking into it".

But the pertinent question remains: how long till broadcasters abandon Libya for the next conflict?  This issue raised its head in a debate around war reporting at the Frontline Club, prompting videojournalist Inigo Gilmore to talk about the pornography of war pictures that drive broadcasters.

What happens he said when the Viagra, as it now will do, wears off?

News' Achilles
On the eve of South Africa's historic elections, Right wing factions detonate a bomb in downtown Johannesburg. It was two miles from where I lived. Within minutes I'm on the scene and follow up with a live report with the BBC World Service
This isn't a new topic. I witnessed it most starkly in South Africa in 1994. I was working as a freelancer and contractor for the BBC World Service and ABC News respectively. I'd been in the country for 18 months building up my experience on the ground.

The word in journalist banter and amongst publishing authors was that South Africa would implode. Afrikaaner right wing factions had promised a bloody end; uncompromising black factions declared "one settler, one bullet".  This was an impending war, but it never happened.

Just after Mandela was appointed president , the media upped sticks and headed north: Rwanda. South Africa, despite its huge problems was no longer paramount on the agenda. The same could be said about many news items which fall into the "grand narrative".

Television, many practitioners have claimed in the past, echoed by Frontline panelist Jon Williams, a BBC World News Editor, is a poor medium for telling complex stories. It's also a visual medium, so struggles at times in the absence of what Gilmore called "viagra" pictures to ameliorate the understanding of the viewer.

Its poor mediumness however may have held strong in the old order of media, but what about now?

The ROI (return of investment) of television news makers has set up an interesting dynamic in news production. The viewers are, its believed by editors, locked into a Vulcan mind meld. "We", editors will argue unapologetically, "give the view what they want", which amounts to a popular recipe of news. To evoke that old news maxim, its what punters will be talking about in the pub.

But that's complicated now by the fragmentation of the viewer exposed in our globalised suburbs and widely different taste and views. The popularism plaque also does nothing to eradicate a belief and the newsmakers' responsibility by default that, if it's not in the news it's not important anymore.

Step forward: Japan, Haiti, Burma, Congo and other stricken areas. And therein lies the fault line for news. Too many areas of interest and so little time to cover them. Each is lucky if it gets its fill once a month. "Ok your turn now!" 

In the old order pre-net, wars and calamity could be tenuously treated soon after intense coverage as diminishing areas of interest. Firstly there were fewer media outlets, and the arbiters of opinion were unequivocally the media  - who were deigned to know better.

Even where academics took umbrage, notwithstanding academic publications, they were reliant on the media to get their point across.

Secondly, what could the viewer humanely do post news? Nothing much in comparison to now. Today, we respond in various ways we can, aided by sophisticated aid agencies, social networks and blogs.

Information in an Internet age, doesn't just become about representation of events and its ephemerality, but the lasting effects, the indexicality of news, googled into our bookmarks, seared into our sub conscious enabling multiple forms of responses, beyond the old order of letter writing to the editor.

So traditional news, damned if it does and damned if it doesn't has inadvertently hollywoodised itself. The accountants started it off in the 70s.  If it's not a blockbuster, ( if its doesn't bleed....)  what's the point and any chance of presenting something cerebral misses the point. Here now, you're almost begging for different tiers, where you can make choices to continue building your knowledge.

I think as newsmakers, academics and viewers we could do better to overcome the pre-net sociology of news making, because the opportunities and infra structure are there.

In 2007 writing for Broadband's capacity offers scintillating innovation, it would be a shame to waste it,- my word - recylcing of old news and a constrained news bill.

There are answers:

1. Television news, and presentations on the web, could begin to feature media trails (on air signets) informing viewers where they can continue to find responsible coverage - even outside their own wall gardens.  This logistic of branded news by proxy i.e. ensuring efficacy when re-routing viewers can be worked out.

2. Using the Net to present tiered structures of news. Former BBC Editor Vin Ray said at the Frontline club a public service the BBC could have offered during the Bosnian conflict was to show viewers a five minute film of how and why the war started.

3. Re-investing in videojournalism. The saddest aspect for me as a videojournalist has been the misappropriation of the form's greatest strength. Videojournalism is not just an artifact of technological determinism. That is if you have a small camera and a laptop that's it, but also importantly a discipline to pragmatically delineate a fresh sociology of news.
Reflections on Egypt's Revolution - a short firm by David Dunkley Gyimah

For instance I use an aspect of videojournalism as a form of psychoanalyses, though hopefully its not detectable. Tahrir Momento is an example of where the subjects in the film will tell you, they told their stories yet I kept gently haranguing them for something else.

Instead of offering the narrative often given to the camera; the public face, they retreated into personal matters. Egypt's uprising became more than a nation's outpouring. It was happening to them at home. When Sarah says, she snuck away from home and her mum rang her mobile to express despair that she knew where her daughter was going,  it's micro rebellion manifesting itself on a wider scale.

When Sarah ends her story taking in a deep breath saying her parents now solicit her advice on family matters, it's a moment to savour. On Radio 4 when the The veteran Egyptian feminist  and novelist Dr Nawal El-Saadawi said let the young people run Egypt, the point is alluded to in Tahrir Memento.

Michael Rosenblum's own story of shooting in Gaza in the 80s is informative. Something that wasn't on the news agenda made it on, because he could shoot and was a former CBS staffer so knew what was required by the broadcaster.

4. Support the new wave of storytellers, who are looking to redefine news making,  providing fresh context and an aesthetic to reify your interest. There are so many, but I mention these now seasoned independents of foreign and war coverage as great examples: Brian Storm's MediaStorm,  Inigo Gilmore; Bill Gentile, Travis Fox.. 

5. Create technologies that enable viewers to drill into related news. The obvious is video hyper linking which I have spoken about on my PhD programme and was picked up by The Economist and Film Council. This helps the viewer to access material at their will

6. Create new schools of journalism in Libya et al; journalism which comprehends the past and correlates with the future and is set up to understand how to feed into traditional and newer media. For the last four years I have been working with young people in Egypt's state broadcaster, as well as a prominent newspaper in Beirut and the results have been astounding.
You can read more about this here.

Wider support for internet infrastructure and online schooling. See Rosenblum TV, BBC Journalism, MediaStorm
Training young videojournalists at Egypt's state broadcaster from 2007-2010

7. Create Outernets. This was one of my biggest challenges. On Apple's site here's how I envisage news breaking free from its appointment viewing into a town/village walk-by-access affair.
Outernet sites - created as part of my doctoral thesis in addressing news' prevalance

8. Greater access points for media and public to engage. We know about blogs, public forums and over-priced conferences, but what else? Here I devised a vlog butterfly which could now be produced dynamically. 

A Vlog butterfly in which a senior BBC News exec put himself forward to answer vlog questions from around the world. I produced, coded the project and curated the answers.

9. Stop using the Net as only a repository for Television news. Enormous work has been done here with newspapers and broadcasters, but I believe there's more to be done. On line Story telling devices should be made available

10. Greater interaction between academia and the media. Again some excellent work here, but its no surprise a new generation of journalists veer towards mimicing their predecessors. What should be encouraged is new ways of the two groups working together and looking at solutions. Here I'm harking back to project between the University of Westminster and the BBC in 2004 co-organised by Asha Oberoi, now a senior ITN executive and myself.

More of David Dunkley Gyimah's work on

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Horizon For Cinema Journalism

Berlin 2006, Video journalism Awards

Berlin, 2006 in a cinema house, I'm showing a clip to a group who have kindly stayed over from watching a film I made called 8 Days.

It featured the UK's first regional newspaper journalists being converted to videojournalists.  It was a story in a story. For in the first case, it was a film about how they performed and secondly a film building on cinema Journalism.

I'd been invited to Berlin as a finalist for its International Videojournalism Awards. The outcome, me taking the top prize for an independent can still generate high pitch wheezes.

At the ensuing lecture - an ecosystem I often get too excited with -  I would talk about cinema journalism and the photojournalism praxis. Way back in 2006 I didn't coin the word but it was a regular theme in lectures. In 2007 in this article written by journalist Zoe Smith she partly reflected on a number of films I showed to express a contemporary visual language on the up.

Image from Second Genertion, 1999
It still is, talking in 2002 for  Flash on the Beach,  and in 1999 using a digi-beta to film and direct Second Generation - South African's young urbanites voting in their second election.

In 1994 I made first time voters for the BBC - a documentary whose greatest honour was that the South African Broadcasting Corporation aired it a day before their historic election.  No other foreign made documentary was aired on their domestic stations on the eve to end apartheid.

In 2005 as a videojournalist labouring with the Sony A1, one of the facets of cinema which is shallow depth was achieveble only via pushing the zoom to maximum. That is squeezing the aperture, but thus also limiting the field of vision.  The added complications was a loss in steadiness whilst going hand held,which would lead to a technique I would develop  built on NYPD's russian footstep - a name coined in Soho.

That changed in 2009 with the 5D.  Now the 5D is synonymous with cinema, when oxymoronically cinema is much more complex than that. You might even phenomenologically see it as a state-of-mind. We could have a five hour chat abut that.

a fifth of tape collection
Film is not just my profession, which was crystallised around 1994 as one of the UK's first officially recognised videojournalists, but also a hobby. It's also become a new mission in an intense five year study in which a number of figures have generously given their time for me to explore a canvas I so look forward to sharing with you.

This all came to the fore today looking at the thousands of tapes Beta, DVcam, DV sitting in my garage which I'm about to digitise. It's a sort of living experience shedding light and context on factual film making and the concept of cinema journalism.

There is an interesting junction we're approaching which taps into Documentary scholar and Emmy Winner Brian Winston's notion debunking technological determinism.

By that I mean as we pay heed to less and less what the equipment can do, important though it may be, we're begin to relive the 70s-80s - a period when ideas meant more than anything else.

The film makers amongst you will recognise it was a period when Cinema was losing its currency, ideas were on the wane and it would take a new breed of thinkers to turn that around.

Condition ONE now on the Front line of Wars

Series of articles on the Future of Online content 

Released October 21st, Condition ONE, a game changer in visual story telling for the IPad
The student's question was a valid one. What does front line reporting do to enhance the story being told?

Inigo Gilmore, an award winning videojournalist, and one of four panelists at London's Journalism hub, , discussing war reporting, got it.

Where reporting follows the frontline at the expense of backstory or context, it diminishes knowledge of reporting conflicts: context, human sufferings, the spirit of citizens trying to live within the chaos, that sort of thing.

My response was a little more allegorical. Following the question I tweeted the ff:
14 hours on had I been in possession of a press release that dropped in my email today I would have been reminded to expand on the author of - Danfung Dennis.

Six months ago I posted on Danfung's breakthrough application Condition ONE which was set to bring  a fresh hacceity of reality to war reporting et al. Today that app is imminent as a download.

What does it do to war reporting? Here's the experience- a transfixingly enhanced aesthetic.  War, as never seen before - as close to its brutality and ugliness as those on the ground see it.

New levels of information denied you in previous television, cinematic of web-based films - a combination of panoramic scope and seeing in HD  fields of vision we take for granted in our normal periphery vision.

So to the announcement. Ordinarily, like many journalists I'm reluctant to publish full press releases, but in this rare case. This is what it says below:

My Freedom Or Death - Condition ONE Beta from Danfung Dennis on Vimeo.

Mountain View, CA / New York, NY (October 20, 2011) - Condition ONE, LLC today announced that it will unveil Condition ONE, an immersive video application for tablets, on October 21, 2011 at the LAUNCH 'PAD Tablet conference in Mountain View, CA.

Condition ONE offers a full spectrum enterprise solution for media companies needing to innovate and capture an audience in the rapidly emerging tablet market,” said Condition ONE Founder and CEO Danfung Dennis. “Condition ONE has created a new type of video technology to lead media companies into the tablet market. We merge technology and creativity and push the limits of visual content to create immersive experiences on tablet devices.”
Danfung Dennis conceived the Condition ONE technology while covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The traditional image was not enough to convey the realities on the ground.

The Condition ONE app gives users the ability to look in any direction, giving a visceral sense of ‘being there’. By pivoting and tilting the iPad®, one literally manipulates the corresponding field of view. The highly sensitive motion controls produce the illusion of looking through a window into another reality. Condition ONE will offer highly engaging storytelling with a focus on visual content conducive to being experienced firsthand.

“We were thrilled to be selected to present at the LAUNCH ‘PAD Tablet Conference and while Condition ONE is creating a new medium through technology, powerful content is at the core of the Condition ONE application,” said Co-founder Karol Martesko-Fenster. “Condition ONE is focused on rapidly expanding the companies next generation product offerings: a proprietary tablet app, an immersive camera system, a streamlined workflow, advanced post-production technologies, and an immersive video player with a highly engaging interface.”
Media companies can license the technology and embed the immersive platform into their existing apps or create a branded channel within the Condition ONE app.
Condition ONE is currently compatible with the iPad 2 and becomes available for download from the App Store later this month. 

Early Notices for Condition ONE Beta Release
"provocative, mind blowing, awesome..." Filmmaker Magazine
"sure to change the way many see an event.." TUAW
"urgent and audacious.." Switched
"AR-style "window" into the battlefield.." Gizmodo
"a powerful experience..." Tribeca Film Institute
"a revolutionary phase shift.." View Magazine
"an unnervingly realistic 'magic window'..." Fast Company

About Condition ONE LLC
Condition ONE LLC is a technology company developing next generation immersive video applications enabling media companies to move into the tablet space. Condition ONE combines the power of the still image, the narrative of films and the emotional engagement of tactile experiences to create a new immersive language that shakes viewers out of their numbness to traditional media and provides them with a powerful emotional experience. Instead of opening a window to glimpse another world, Condition ONE brings the viewer into that world as an active participant. Condition ONE's co-founders are CEO Danfung Dennis, COO/CFO Peter Sung, Creative Director Takaaki Okada and Karol Martesko-Fenster. Contributors and advisory board members include, Ross Kauffman, Vaughn Smith, Patrick Chauvel, and Ryan Uzilevsky.
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This one-day event at Microsoft's Conference Center in Silicon Valley brings together 25 of the most important companies and app-makers in the tablet space to demo their products, share lessons learned and discuss issues like product design, UX, business models and marketing. Over 200 developers/product managers receive free tickets, with just 50 tickets available to the public and select press. LAUNCH 'PAD is the first in a series of one-day events leading up to the signature LAUNCH Conference on March 7 & 8 in San Francisco, where 40 companies will launch or launch new products on stage.

LAUNCH Media covers and celebrates new products, services and technology in two ways: a blog/email newsletter and in-person conferences. LAUNCH was founded by Jason Calacanis, a serial entrepreneur, former journalist and angel investor.

This is a story that has only just begun. I tested the product at the Sheffield Doc Fest where I shared a platform with Danfung, so I hope to bring you more on this. Not least that it will have implications in several fields of media.

Former BBC and Channel 4 News  journalist David Dunkley Gyimah is the recipient of a number of awards in innovative journalism. He's worked in the journalism since 1987 and is presently a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster, PhD Candidate at SMARTlab on Future News, University College Dublin and Artist in Residence at London's cultural hub, The Southbank Centre.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The New University of Digital Empathy II

David interviewing VC Geoffrey Copland, University of Westminster. 
Knowledge is a gift.

It's difficult to think that way when the transactions today are real and challenging. Nine thousand pounds per head in the UK next year will put a strain on this.

But knowledge, while all around us, takes shape through a complex, yet looked-on-as-simplified exchange between educators and those being educated.

The gift is in the invisible act that those being educated may feel while they're being challenged, acquiring something beyond what they may have thought - though that may not seem the case at first.

I put together this video in which the VC shared his insight of the future of education.

It also requires from educators a fresh digital empathy. Take this example. I have come across some educators whose feedback mechanism on students work is to write: "this is nonsense", "rubbish" and Caps with "I HAVE TOLD YOU THIS BEFORE".

I have been horrified. A common sense approach and also mandatory amongst educators is to refrain from emotive language in the first place.  It may, just about may, be dismissed on the odd occasion through frustration, but to occur consistently?

That level of frustration requires a round in a boxing gym with a punch bag.

But where's the digital empathy in this?  It lies in the acronym before digital (BD) and after digital (AD)  The action lies in genuine attempt to understand how someone wanting to do journalism today may carry little of the notions that reinforced beliefs a decade ago.

Investigative journalism of a kind that meant pouring over newspaper cuttings and sustained methodological approaches seem byzantine in today's digital, so in fairness the student is not at fault.

That the use of "rubbish" etc should be banished, the frustration that might generate this, must be tempered with what educators now know.

If there ever was a time when the Jarari window plays a deeper role in education (remember Rumsfeld's known unknown) it's now, within this schism between the digital student and the analogue-digital educator.

Of course the role of educator including experience, social skills and a whole range of others layers the educator's role as simply a seller of knowledge.

Again this might have been the 60s analogy, but the role of educating today assumes a vast curatorial one. Educators engaging in dialogue over work they're not familiar with or its not in the module, but believe it has value.

We do this all the time now with links to other people's work.

Digital Empathy is testing all of us in ways we couldn't imagine because the rate of turnover of new artefact's exceeds normalised behaviour; people now walk on the streets head burrowed into their blackberry's texting, and seem to have no concept they may bump into someone.

Artistic practice would have me design corridors on the pavement for text hungry commuters, in the way we have signs saying "No Smoking" or "No phones".

In my next post, I'll explain digital empathy from a student point of view and how sharing, and journalism's fixated prerogative can lead to unusual situations.

The New University of Digital Empathy

The logic is clear enough.

As unitary disciplines have evolved and diffused into one another, systems that once worked to manage these disciplines are becoming redundant - and themselves should change.

Often these rules and regulations - which set boundaries - and have been developed incrementally over the years can find themselves under strain.

Take the example of the lecture theatre - designed to hold many - in a structure that has the professor of the 60s onwards delivering tablets of knowledge in a "them and us" scenario. Its default in behavioural positioning is an acknowledge deference.

Were a stranger to walk into the lecture theatre he or she might immediately know who the lecturer is.

Then digital happened. Laptops became accessible. Then one day educators the world over - where these devices were available witnessed the emergence of a new phenomenon.

As the educator was lecturing, the student was tapping away at their keys. A new digital doodling - one that sometimes had purpose in Facebooking and emailing had  arrived. What is one to do?

The logic is clear, as systems change they require new approaches. If the phenomena is embedded enough this has the potential of a new philosophy that I might call a "Digital Empathy".

Whilst Empathy is about the ability recognise and share in the feelings of others, the digital is not merely a bolt on, but a constructed approach to understand new paradigmatic advances in these recent years.  Its complex but the nuts and bolts to build new systems exists. 

Some of the aforementioned resides in engagements within artistic theory. I'll explain.

For the digital student, the use of a laptop in lectures is seen as a natural state of affairs. They've always been there. And while I'm not entirely certain we've fully developed bicameral absorption ( reading and watching use different brain functions) we need to find ways to mediate the use of technology.

For the educator that requires a Digital Empathy.

Do you a) say no computers during lectures
b) allow but say no FBing or emailing
c) Allow - with no conditions.

Our predilection to want to tweet, FB, is established, so the accommodation becomes a conversation around new compromises. Artistic practice provides a level of responsibility in engaging with works and estates. It's not a classroom or lecture bound manifestation, but a public space where we can transmute behaviours and etiquette.

The rewards for participation and penalties for transgression should be made known, not as dogma of a past generational - good ol days- but a feature of how matters are evolving now.

In the next two posts on the University of Digital Empathy, I'll look at what I believe is an educator's increasingly new role and some things that ill-suit the digital era and an example of students navigating this new space.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

In Memory of Steve Jobs and Apple

Pic Apple front page

Steve jobs has died, aged, 56.

The news weighs heavily on the mind. Actors, famous people, VIP and loved ones exit the stage and invariably we know little about them, other than through their films etc. With relatives the mourning is an  intimacy developed over many years.

In reflecting on Steve Jobs, you could be forgiven for suggesting you've lost someone you knew beyond the reality of film or a computer screen, some how he was a bit closer.

That's partly because his legacy is profound. The device I am typing this post on is an Apple. The phone I hold is an Apple. My first ever computer I would type on, marvel over, was a baby Mac.

It was in 1993. I was living in Yeoville, South Africa and a good friend of mine, Barry Sandland, had an idea to publish an entertainment review newspaper. It involved a lot of work. He put together 8 to 12 tabloid-sized pages weekly and I would often contribute the odd item.

One day I'd been sent a floppy disk and unaware of what, now, we could refer to as "incompatibility issues" reached out to stick the disk in the Apple's drive, just as Barry was screaming, "Stooooooop.

Too late.

The disc jammed. The publication didn't make it that week, and from the small sums of money Barry earned, a local technician fleeced him to the tune of $80 - which meant opening the Mac with a screw driver and pulling out the disc.

We were not to know that at the time.

I purchased my first Mac many years later in 1999. It was a Powerbook, which I bought in New York because it was cheaper to buy one in the US inclusive of the air ticket London-New York return. Fancy that, hopping on a plane from London to New York, just to buy a Mac.

There will be many tributes to Steve Jobs who has touched the lives of millions of people in the way he influenced mine. On the Guardian Newspaper Tech Editor Charles Arthur delivers a poignant one about  who he was, what he stood for.

It's rare as Arthur recounts how a person can accomplish one major feat in their life. Jobs did several: the music industry in iTunes; computing and lifestyle in hardware; extending lifestyle choices through software; the film industry through animation;  for A list presenters, a relentlessness in making professional presentations look easy; and for marketeers how to build product expectation.

Those late night stay-ups gathering at a London Apple store won't be the same. And all the aforementioned wrapped up in "how to look cool".

My reflection is also selfish - if that is the word - because without Apple I couldn't do the things I'd like to do and therefore am grateful to Apple in that manner of "not-being-worthy" for my looped "15 mins" on their Apple Pro website, as well as presenting twice and hopefully more at the Apple Store, London.

RIP Steve Jobs and Apple. Long live the memories of Steve Jobs and Apple. Our thoughts are with his family and close friends.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Rise of the Machine. Let the Machines make the News - how humans keep failing

Terminator 3 Rise of the Machine - Columbia Tri Star 2003

At the point that everyone understands the narrative, how to get their point across re; Newsnight, how to even manipulate the events and plots as observed through programmes such as Big Brother, there cease to be, what could be described as "truthful events", just self-mediated narratives, David Dunkley Gyimah asks is it time to hand over the media to the Machines.

By lending John Smith $250,000, Drew, an analyst, knew Smith at some point would default. 

Drew in turn through a labyrinthine  transaction would bet against a particular bank writing off that debt, and also posting a downturn in their balance sheet. $250,000 was small enough to go unnoticed but big enough for him with 8 such clients to make his small fortune.

That was the story?  This is my fictional account of an event that would become cataclysmic and spiral into truism, so stay with me.

Writing in Business Week Peter Coy investigates how subprime lenders hid an impending crash from vigilant overseers. It goes back to 2004 he adds, with this from Michael Youngblood an Asset Manager who's talking about how subprime went unnoticed for so long:
'The change was little-noticed, because the lenders actively denied it. "To my disappointment as a long-time analyst," says Youngblood, the major lenders insisted that they had not lowered their credit standards long after they had begun to do so".
Just over a week ago a London city trader Alessio Rastani caused widespread shock in the industry when he told the BBC this story that:
"Traders 'don't really care that much' about the prospect of an economic collapse... He said: 'Personally I've been dreaming of this moment for three years. I have a confession, which is I go to bed every night, I dream of another recession'".
Lots of narratives, stories, but at no time in the intervening years  of subprime and even before then have we heard such a story, which we deem to be truthful.

We all tell stories, some believed to be more important than others. The feature story sates our craving for the "enjoyable" story. Its value may be distant, so it impacts in a different way. The documentary for the untold, now to-be-told and the news story plays to a more immediate impact. Its value has a greater currency.

But there's a problem - one in which social scientists have girdled their portfolios with standards and practice to combat: yellow journalism, ethical dilemmas, the hypodermic needle theory and the rest, so the question is:
  1. How inadequate is the media at large, at this time, in capturing and retelling truthful stories?
  2. Should we hand over the retelling of stories to seek truth to the machines?

The first point must be explained a bit further. This doesn't mean not professional or poor at telling the truth, but it is increasingly finding it difficult to find a mechanism to extract, relay truth for the narrative, within its existing methodology.

And as such the story telling and narrative have become a currency debased. Just tell any story, the story that we expect, our narative - who cares?  Publish.

Psychologist Julian Jaynes using one of the earliest artefacts in storytelling Iliad posited the idea that
humans circa 500BC were different mentally to today's lot. They lacked consciousness, so obeyed without questioning their gods.

Consciousness, and the period of enlightenment altered this. Deity and religion were challenged.

Two questions arise now. Has our consciousness in this day and age evolved sufficiently from the aforementioned period to make the right decisions. Yes! Secondly, have we consciously become enslaved to new gods within the media? We hold that what we hear in the news is unquestioningly true.

And if the media doesn't say it, we can be certain it's either not important or its not happened, or did and has been resolved. So the famines in East Africa, there are none any more.

There are two issues here; getting to a story, and its truth, and how that story is relayed truthfully.

Poisoned Media Tree
The story at the top shows how fruit from the poisoned tree perpetuates, with each media organ largely retelling or not a flawed narrative, so the not telling of the truth in subprime, the media not telling that story,  becomes a tsunami later with unimaginable consequences.

You could apply this to everything that emerges from the media. After all the media is human and thus responds to existentialist qualities of being human e.g fear, emotions, consciousness.

It attempts to address qualities of truth and getting to the story by the use of a plethora of  standards refined over the years.  But that still hasn't prevented it from getting it woefully wrong.

And if you thought subprime an exception,  consider The Guardian's Paul Lewis on how he believes the reporting of the recent London Riots was woefully inadequate, despite its back to back coverage.  He might be a lone voice, but I believe we should pay attention.

The end question I consider then is do we need machines to make our news? Could the machines do a better job?

Of course this begs the question of what I mean by machines? Something non-sentinel that is not prone to emotions and can get to the truth and eschew congnitive dissonance.

To an extent we already do that in cameras recording, television's relaying pictures and the rest. Before the camera we had no way of retrieving for analysis what someone said. We took our notes as gospel at the time, but even with the camera as Roland Barthes notes the image does not project a truth.

Through the lens of a camera the story is still mediated by human agents. But as I write this and blogged months ago, manufactures are looking to address this.

The rise of the machine here is a  camera with secondary sensors. One that records data e.g. pupil dilation, skin temperature, voice register etc. that when added to the narrative can bring more valuable information to the veracity of the subject's narrative - though again that data is likely to be interpreted by humans.

The telling and interpreting of stories is seemingly the stuff of Sci-fi. In Kubrick's 2001 HAL the space ship's computer shows a fallability, if not seemingly displaying emotion to getting to the truth.

In a film shown by former Edingburgh Film Festival Director Mark Cousins, a South East Asian reporter investigating a highly secretive story buried from WWII is seen on camera beating the truth out of his interviewee. When the secret is revealed he backs off; Canabilism amongst the troops.  In A Few Good Men (1992), the point is dramatised: You can't handle the truth!

I'm not suggesting violence to extract the story, the truth - for torture and the ethical question of getting the the truth of the story by justifying the means is contestable, and clearly wrong according to the former head of Britian' Intelligence Service Eliza Manningham-Buller 

Let the Machines make news may seem far fetched, until you consider Robert Harris' research for his new book Fear Index about how Super Computers are preying on our human fear to make money. He writes in the Mail:
"In the 20 minutes I was watching, the machine made a profit of $1.5 million. This hedge fund has made a return for its investors of more than 80 per cent in the past three years, at a time when most of us have seen the value of our pensions and tracker-funds go down in a falling market".
Harris' point is the machines are the one's running the economy, with humans merely in attendant similar to fly-by-wire piloting. And if the narrative resides in the few who entrust machines to make money, surely to meet their match it's as a good reason also to have machines decipher and tell the news.

It's like the equivalent of Kasparov playing Deep Blue - even then when it was a crusty computer.

How we use Machines might be the lesser connudrum than the economic and technological debate of its consequences. But it's worth consideration, unless that is....

David Dunkley Gyimah is a PhD Candidate at SMARTlab, University College Dublin. A former BBC and Channel 4 News freelance producer and winner of a number of international journalism awards and would be interested in expanding on this at talks, seminars and conferences.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tips for becoming your own star - Dream Big, Go Do!

Bray, Dublin. Stepping out for a walk.
The tips are below :)

Head cranked back, eyes trained to the distance, and a flickering light signals what it is I have been missing out on all these years.

There it is says Allison pointing upwards Cassiopeia and if you look between the two stars there is the North Star, and there to your left, the Big Dipper... and just over there, her finger gently wavering is Jupiter.

At that point I swear I could hear Gustav Holtz the Planets.

And just as well. The morning had been the stuff of combat, textual combat: trying to make an argument, constructing a methodology - this simple, but not simplistic pursuit.

The diffusion of our aims and ambitious, brought on in part from displacement of traditional methods, means there is no one way of doing something now.

Studying to be what ever it is you want, well the rule book has been torn up. Working in an institution for sustainability and profit? Well in our economic uncertain times, the rules have been shredded.

About the only constant is Cassiopeia. She was there from the crust becoming an earth, and she's still bang right there now, though some smart alec astrologer is likely to tell us she since moved a bit. Them stars, eh always moving.

Such disunity is perhaps one reason why we seek structure. It's another reason why we crave solutions: good points- bullets in blogs to cut past all this gunk. The gunk preceeding this.  If we can keep it simple, but not simplistic - job done.

But the simple things are often the hardest, distilled from years, hours of work to generally assist in what it is we're after. Point. You try writing a story captured in 25 words, when 40 will do. All of a sudden you're admiration for tabloid journalism becomes, well, stellar.

So after all that star gazing I headed back in and reflected on the things said to me to get me over those gordian knots and in the spirit of simple, but not simplicity. Here they are:

1. Get angry - if you must, get frustrated. You will. Step out for a walk and then ask yourself what are your options. Realise there is only one. Risk winning or failing? Step in and go for it again.

2. Be practical about what you aim to achieve and the time you can put to it. There are two variables in your equation for accomplishing a task: Time and You. One of them refuses to be moved about.

3. It's said you get to know yourself when you push past your limits. Mental strength untapped exists for the taking. It's what will get you back onto the task.

4. Imagine where you want to be, rather than where you are. Skiers and F1 racing drivers do this as a matter of course. They know something we don't?

5. Then work backwards how you make that journey work. What is it you need, where is it that needs looking..? e.g. what do you need to do to make films like Kendy

Release (Director's Cut) from Kendy on Vimeo.

6. Stay close to those who know what they're talking about. The wisdom of crowds is only as good as who is in your crowd. Smart people (stars) aren't generally born, takes a lot of work, and often working within the crowd.

7. The Bell Curve is prescriptive at how you might be, where you are placed. Prove the Bell Curve wrong...

8. Think through your methods, and construct for yourself your own methodology - how others go about doing what they do, will undoubtedly help you. Methodologies can be thought of a series of methods strung together that yield a unique strategy to accomplishing a task

9. See if you can make up tips approaching a nice round number such as 10.

10. There!

Now where's that star gone?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Why we tell stories

Little Lukas is gorgeous. I took this this  morning.

His first reaction entering the house is to dart after George, the cat,  making those exemplary scary attack sounds, which all cats the world over fear from human beings around a foot in height and not quite ready to say "C'mon here cat, who loves youuuuu. Cueeey".

I'm in Bray, a coastal town in Dublin on a one week retreat with PhD colleagues - all nearing their write up stage. That culmination of five, six years work now to be delineated into a comprehensible and comprehensive argument.

PhD colleagues at the SMARTlab, UCD
The environment is one any writer craves. No television, radio, few worldly distractions. Instead space, the sea on your doorstep, and the kindness of colleagues and PhD staff who can help you reify your thoughts, build up that all important knowledge tablet.

1. Through the window - shot taken working on desk
2. Then 15 paces outside the house - the sea
Remarkably I seem to have got more done in the last three days; the thought of just coming here, being an added spur, than I have in a long while. From a morass of words I believe I have constructed something in the spirit of dialectics that builds on a pervasive and acceptable model within film and aesthetics.

Of course that it what I believe, yet it may well not be the case for you, when it's published. Doctorates, our Dean tells us are meant to break eggs, and in the process you may well upset a few people.

Why we tell stories
Over breakfast, I find myself talking with friends about transitions and space, and the essence of factual films, and fiction for that matter.

Why are we drawn to stories, why do we like telling them? The Epic of Gilgamesh is a starting point. Yet there exist a host of reasons. Some film makers like seeing themselves, others showing their friends what they do. Some film makers pursue more personal quests other than to entertain.

My reasons involve change. Stories that involve the interstices of one's life where uncertainty momentarily rules. But where the conviction of the subject, their mental strength within this change signals - what ever it is they want, will be fought for.

Subjects from Tahrir Memento - film trailer screened at the Sheffield Doc festival

These stories exist all around us, but the state I'm interested in exploring is more Deleuzian than physical. Though yes, the physicality of the subjects must be shown as well. That's what Tahrir Memento tried to capture: young people witnessing personal change. That change became allegorical for the country as a whole. Hence many people might identify with it.

And therein is the cause-effect of my idyll for stories. That by way of pleasing myself - for I am the maker and audience's barometer [ dangerous and full of pitfalls if you're an inexperienced video journalist] I make something that I hope inspires others.

It's not an altruistic pursuit, for what attracts me, may not necessarily attract others. However I'm quietly confident that through out the years of working in various broadcast and public institutions you become attuned to what may have universal attributes.

A story was recounted this morning. A football player whose career is coming to an end. Injuries have got the better of him. This individual has now put his mind to coaching others at a local level. Therein is change. How might the footballer do?

We can't tell, but I do know that fighting spirit that made him a formidable player at a high level will be evident for others.

There will be doubts, there always is, but there will likely be a magical ingredient that we all will be mesmerized by. It is one we wish we could bottle to help our own lives - that's what my camera wishes to capture.

And that,  if anything is factual film making - one of a couple of reasons why we tell stories. The writing continues...