Friday, February 28, 2014

Oh we remember the 80s -- Warehouse parties n' all

My Uni buddy Tony Minvielle from the 1980s is one of the most respected Jazz DJs and reminded me that  we hosted the 1st Warehouse Party in Leicester in the 1980s.

Here's some of my fav tracks from the playlist. They don't make music like this anymore


Here's's DJ playlist. 

1. Across the Tracks - Maceo Parker

2.Message to the Soul Sisters

3. Bobby Byrd You know you got Soul

4. Action Speak Louder Than Words-Chocolate Milk

5. The Blackbyrds - Rock Creek Park 1975

6 Larry Young's Fuel - Turn Off The Lights

7. Tom Browne - Funkin' For Jamaica

8. The Fatback Band - gotta get my hands on some

9. Leo's Sunshipp - Give Me The Sunshine

10. Lakeside - Fantastic Voyage

Thursday, February 27, 2014

10,000 hours, 5 minutes and 1 sec - getting perfection right - nearly

The Long Game Part 2: the missing chapter from Delve on Vimeo.

It's cold again. The bolognese that is. Thank goodness for bin liners in bins. That's the third time this week and regularly over the last five years I've forgotten to eat. Fruit, that'll do.  When I touch the key board mouse, my nerve endings scream at me.

One thing though is constant: books, read, watch film, read, critique, read, write, rewrite, write again, get critiqued, write again, and again.

[ Pause - I have just burnt the chicken in the oven --really]

[resume - and then write, critique, make film.

It's been relentless. A sink hole where there is no end in sight, and the hole consumes you, fills up. Live burial !!

Except that in the last three months, more than any time I can see the torch light. Nearly there! Adam Westbrook's film captures that journey of knowledge many of use aspire to formally and informally.

Geniuses are rare in the world, unless they're like Dynamo, the magician, where the inexplicable stares you in the face.  In Westwood's film, Tiger Woods must have possessed that magical qualities, but it was worked upon. The Williams sisters too had it in them, but their father provided the currency of realising hard work pays.

You'll often hear football pundits talk about protecting young football stars from the glare of the media, so that they can develop, and not be seduced by the dross journalists write to sell newspapers and inevitably destroy fragile minds in the process.

Westbrook's Missing Chapter
Westbrook's film details the honorary Doctorate at work. These are the individuals whose craft exemplifies extraordinary feats they have obtained outside the strict formalities of education.
Every year 100s of talented people are bestowed this title.

Yet the film  also implicitly marks the formal doctorate -- that relentless search for deep knowledge, in which sacrifices are made that many of us would not entertain.

Da Vinci's grafting that eventually leads to his fame, Coltrane's years of practising , Westbrook provides an easily accessible guide to what Gladwell calls the 10,000 rule. And whether it's exactly 10,000 hours or not, the obvious statement is, doing things well takes a long time.

Since the point of the essay is to yield debate, that is the video essay does not need to be an Aristotelian structure with completion, I thought I'd add to Westbook's essay using myself as an example.

My PhD has taken me six years, and in common with the theme Westbrook focuses upon, there is an autoethnography about my research. Auto ethnography is the combination of autobiography and ethnograpy. Ethnography is in its simplest terms, is the science of gaining evidence and the experience of people from a community.

Those six years involve consuming vast amounts of knowledge, in which in the early years, but only on reflection do I realise I was like a bull in a China shop. I crashed into everything and wanted to know everything. The word I use for this is digital flaneurism. Flaneurs are those dainty Frenchmen who would dress up and simply go for walks to explore their city.  Digital flaneurism is strolling in and out of libraries and bookmarks.

Westbrook's remit did not allow him to deviate into this next area, but every grafter needs a figure head or heads to push them. Most geniuses, humble enough, will have someone or many in mind who they measure themselves against, or study.  Tiger Woods was chasing Jack Nicklaus, Caravaggio, one of the greatest painters of all time was in battle with Michelangelo.  Me, I fixed on everyone.

My interview with Robert Drew, the founder of American Cinema Verite kept me up for weeks afterwards dissecting what he meant. Then there is your critic. In PhD terms it's your supervisor. If you're to succeed then a huge debt of gratitude must go to the supervisor.

It can often not be an easy relationship; a good supervisor is someone who acts as a pastor and a cattle rancher. When things go wrong, there are no niceties about it. You need your harsh critics around you -- something the human soul fights.

The small light in the Tunnel
As I draw towards the end of the research, I only now realise what I've done. I used myself as the knowledge bank, and I justify this with some of the ambitions things that I did e.g. 1997 taking Ghana's state TV to South Africa to create a series of programmes using videojournalism.

But I did something else, I studied a movement in 1990s who claimed they were innovative. Their legacy is hidden, but if I put on my TV almost every week I see one or two of them still punching above their weight. They're older now, but what was it about that period that shaped them. Proving or disproving this meant tracking many of them down and counteracting this with their critics.

It sucked the life out of me, because I needed to find films about what they did and systematically break that down to show the reader, whether their claim was correct.

I could and should have stopped there, but I then extended the research to look at contemporary talent. What was it that they were doing that was working with audiences? These three themes connect with each other and then threaded 
back to significant parts in history, asking the question, why we do what we do and what does it mean?

Meaning, the art of meaning is culturally defined. That is what I am talking about here will mean something to you in the US or UK, but may not have any currency if you're in China.

The other open sore then was justifying in that rhetorical way critics write why I used specific philosophies and methodologies. Phenomenology, Heurestics, artistic methods etc. Why? Why ? Why!

It's been a long road, but the one thing it has taught me, beyond the obvious: discipline, determination, wealth of knowledge, a greater understanding of myself, is humility.

Humility because I doff my hat to those who are in Westbrook's film and the scores of you who are not who sit down every so often behind a PC to write and share, to acquire knowledge and dispense it. 
At the point that you may even dispute what others say, the respect is that they've sacrificied long years to get where they are.

It is indeed a lost chapter and an unfinished book.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I see cinema in people - cine-videojournalism

Vertov, Wikipedia creative commons
Almost 100 years ago, a young Russian poet and futurist had a vision. A newish image form had been taking the world by storm.

In its short existence, over in France, it went through a radical change before it was exported it to Russia, much to the chagrin of this artist.

The young poet's vision was to return the image form to its origins.

This story seems archival, from a world so far removed from our own. However it is as relevant today, if not more so, than 100 years ago

The poets name was Dziga Vertov, known for his incredible films, notably, Man With a Movie Camera. - voted the best 8th movie by movie mag Sight and Sound in 2012

This is where we part company with this story, but the thing to bear in mind is that Vertov and some key figures that followed before TV was popularised believed in a powerful concept.

You may think to rubbish the idea,  however it's been proven to be so powerful that scores of experts and scholars believe in this too.

Cinema is out there. It exists as a vision, a subject, a scene, it's a thing, an idealistic phenomenon.

Take this shot here.

and this shot here

They look identical and could have come from the same film. Derelict buildings,  rubble and human turmoil on an unimaginable scale. 

However, the first image comes from the BBC report from the BBC's Lyse Doucet in Yamouk. This second one from Limbo City in Inception.

Both have the scale and expressive qualities to be cinema, but one is treated televisually. 

Another shot from Doucet's film

This woman is stricken with grief. She has been under siege. She wants out. The audience feels for her, but it's too fleeting. We would like to empathise with her, but the production, doesn't allow this. The image and sound are treated in the news way, detached, professional, restrained.

There are several more examples I could draw you attention to.

Now, please don't  misunderstand me. Lyse Doucet is an exemplary reporter and so is the BBC camera operator. This is not a criticism of Doucet's film, but an alternative way of treating a scene. 

That treatment is a professional one in understanding the ethos of a subject or character and allowing the viewer to interact with the scene more emotionally.

Note, I stated the treatment of the scene is a professional one. It is not adhoc, but based on seeing and comprehending cinema and reinterpreting it accordingly for the viewer, based on a number of interacting parameters.

And those parameters are as complex as they are diffusive. In my theory and practice of cine-videojournalism, this is what its USP is. Most television news practitioners and videojournalists teach, obviously, television news making. As this diagram illustrates, it has constraints.

In my various talks, I make the strong case where videojournalism was. It's a revisionist history, based on the pioneers. Often it's difficult to understand how to make cinema if you've spent you entire working life working news. 

It's a bit like Johari's window, or as it's been redubed Rumsfeld's: you don't know what you don't know.

The logic for this approach is simple. It predates television, and in a world awash with video, makes your video stand out. 

However, it is one of the most difficult areas to master. At my talk in Peugia I will deconstruct how in my 25 years I have reworked Vertov's theory, distilled for contemporary film.

Below, are examples e.g. trailers of work in China, Cairo and Chicago in which I treat the production cinematically, rather than televisually. 

EAT from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Video journalism's anti-aesthetic short from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

David Dunkley Gyimah journalist, videojournalist, senior lecturer and artist in residence at the Southbank. His research studies language and image production and how it influences audiences. This year he was the chair of jurors at the RTS Awards for Innovative News.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

British TV journalism Industry at its cutting edge - revelations from inside

... And news is the most dramatic drama, because it's real.

It doesn't quite resonate on the page,  but in a venue filled with the cream of British television journalism,  400 of them there's a a certain bite. 

A statement of intent about why TV's heroine keeps its practitioners going like Duracell batteries, and its audiences, the firm wish is, wanting more.

They applauded. Then again, preaching to the converted hardly shakes the china. But the speaker might be onto something. Fade to black and pull out Dziga Vertov, Russia's uber bad boy circa 1930 and yes journalism was drama par excellence.

In fact, journalism was the height of Cinema.

Somehow we've lost that search for drama on the way. Today things need shaking up -- a bit.  

I made this some years ago, which kind of works towards creating new ideas within news

Tales from the Awards

But shaking up things a bit on a grander scale is something the US stalwart network, NBC, dared to do, yet was so damn refreshing.

Months back now, it hired a British female dynamo in the shape of Deborah Turness. Turness, the architect of the news is drama speech, IS cutting edge.

Yesterday, she was given The Judges' Award,  by her peers for outstanding achievement in journalism.

Not bad at all she could say for the once 21 year old, rejected by the BBC, who then wrangled herself into ITN via its Paris Bureau many years ago.

If you haven't heard it said yet, but oh yes the Brits have come.

There in America, Turness is making her mark. Among her evaluations about news, Turness let on what pressure meant, that is to be hit by a hose - supposedly from managing the US network.

She said she  presses, among other things for the correspondents to find the "Queen on the loo" stories. *^%?? ... the unreachable.

Awards, and it is the season for them, have a habit of being like Christmas staff parties; everyone who is there is in the know; they're aware of each other, and nothing really emerges that might be a tad controversial.

Michael Crick, a reporter whom it's said strikes fear into politicians when the secretary announces: "Michael Crick is in reception", defied the general patter that award ceremonies were for glad handing each other, or increasing a reporter's brand worth.

"Thank you Channel 4" he said, for hiring me from the BBC and proving "there is life after death", Ouch! Crick 1, the BBC 0.

And there's more, but way informative. So imagine for the minute you were an outsider and  had the opportunity to attend the BAFTAs, OSCARS or in this case the RTS. The Royal Television Society Awards whose patrons is HRH the Prince of Wales.

Imagine that! The dusted black tie, the rethinking how do I get this infernal thing into a knot?  And then the journey, where the night could go either way. Particularly, if the smattering of people you think you might know are't there.

I did, you see, I used to work in television, but I have been out of front line reporting on television, though still doing net stuff. So I'm an outsider of sorts looking in. And the distance gives me a different perspective.

Firstly, a bit of mischief, so as you see I took the time to create a compendium of selfies.

Selfy 1. Jon Snow.  Getting down with the programme. Is he being ironic? I used to produce him.

Sian Williams was my cheekiest catch, but I'd bumped into her convening an event at the BBC five months ago, so I sort of mouthed "Westminster". Oh go on then! Selfy 2.

Selfie 3. I caught the BBC's wunder man Ian Pannel whose reports from Syria are seat-of-the-pants stuff.

Pannel and I share a sliding door moment. We both started our careers at Leicester twenty five years ago. I went though the door too early. He stayed. A different future unfolded.

We spoke about Syria and how the presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militia is preventing foreign reporters from going into Syria to report.

Marwan, I thought would have something to say on this.

The event was   a chance to to find out who had won the category that I chaired, Innovation in Journalism. Followers of this blog and my work might know I am bit bonkers about tech and news.

The three course meal
p.s taking photos of meals is now an infringement of a chef's IP in some restaurants in the UK. 

Wild Mushroom and Leek Tart

Main course: Square Cut Seabass with Parsley and Lemon. Baby New Potatoes and Baby Leeks

Cherry and Almond Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream

After Dinner thoughts

So, I have found out if I look closely enough at the winners in this category over the years, it's possible to read trends. After all, it's the best of the best who gather and then get judged, so it's more thank likely, the popular choice might have some bearing on the sociology of journalism.

One of the notable winners some years back was Al Jazeera's The Stream. A show made by young people with all the tools that put mainstream media to shame, but are now are commonplace. The year after, with more money, they changed the programme beyond recognition.

This year's finalists were Channel 4's data baby. The Channel invented a fictional character, gave her a phone and then let her mine data to show how easy it was to gain access to your phone.

YouTube's Truth Loader is a way for the video engine to offer validation for its stories.

And then the third nominee. Well, look at this below 

 Hans Rosling, a charismatic statistician, seems to have raised the bar with his interactive graphics presentations. Watch out for a presentation by your beloved broadcaster near you soon.

But something else also struck me. When Bowen was giving his acceptance speech for Specialist Journalist of the Year, for a piece of reportage in particular.

Bowen had been injured by gun pellets, but kept on reporting. That was professional enough. But Bowen did some thing that only Bowen knows.

That in the heat of the story unfolding, Bowen could offer first hand eye witness reportage, with contextual assessment and an analysis.

Think about it!

According to Bowen, when he first landed this gig some twenty years ago he says he had to plead with his bosses to allow him to do this.

Why this is significant is the feature of my PhD thesis, which questions how we can change roles in journalism and be discursive, but still operate in the parameters of news.

And I seem to have hit journalism gold. Deborah Turness, who I interviewed for an hour before she left for NBC hints at many innovative ideas worth sharing soon.

David Dunkley Gyimah was a chair of  the jury panel for the RTS Awards for Innovative News. He is a senior lecturer and videojournalist/ filmmaker. He is completing his PhD which examines a future of news. It involved speaking to more than a hundred pros from around the world, including Deborah Turness. David will be speaking at the IJF in Perugia 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

10 things you should know about current media changes - actually a lot more

This is the Chinese vision of the Internet. A boy stands with his mum conversing with his grand parents. Except they're not there in person. They've been piped down the web standing in the hyperrealism of 3D.

Like me, you might be fascinated by this. Wow I thought.  I was in China on academic duties, but this was nothing short of a technological, cultural revolution.

If you're on twitter today, you'll likely come across several wows. They can be boxed as rules. We like "10 rules to do this".. and "10 things to do that".

We make films and pontificate to the audience. "Ok guys, when you do this, next you should do that".

Online, a major shift in design aesthetic from last year, which has taken root in the psychology of progressive designers is Flat design.

This site here is an example of this. Superbly put together and well worth watching because of the magic realism. A man gets rained upon for 7 days. Not natural rain but the mad idea of an artificial rain cloud and rain. Utterly bonkers but brilliant.

But in all these things we do, we often miss a vital and crucial point.


Why do the Chinese want to create the illusion of people down the net?  Why do we access lists as if our lives depended upon them? and why do we think being taught how to make television will make us good television makers?

The fundamental question is a philosophical one, and before you turn off I'm on your side.  At best philosophy can be presented as pointy heads getting arsey! Complicated words and logic float across our corneas and ear drums.

At best, however philosophy, or to be more apt philosophising is about simplifying and asking the basic question "why", and how you get to the root of the problem.

The problem is we're framed by a pop culture and knowledge. We do things now believing they've never been done before. One of the UK's best footballers, Sir Tom Finney passed away yesterday.

He's been comparable to Pele, but how many of us know anything about him and his style, and how he did what he did. It doesn't appear to matter cuz it was years ago.  Instead we marvel over Ronaldo, quite rightly. But knowledge of Sir Tom would give us a context to understand how brilliant Ronaldo is and whether any of his tricks has an antecedent.

In the media, take the television interview. It came late to television, but what was its purpose? The same can be said of anything you might do in TV production. 

The likely response is that because it's always been done like that. No! as a construct, even the way we get to the truth involves the architect of someone's thought.

They might have thought telling the truth wasn't necessary in the 17th century before journalism looked to truth telling as its metier. But what's to say anything we're doing now, won't be looked back on in 200 years and be thought of as antiquated.

What? Emails? Why send emails when you can send people to talk, like the Chinese are trying.

There is a comfort we all wring from habits and rules of our times and in the communities and societies we inhabit. They are not fixed but they help us function.

I once sat down with a group of villagers in Ghana, who fed me bush rat. I was told it was rat, and then I had a choice. Not eating would have been a grave insult and would have denied me the access I needed to look into this community. 

In this community, the rules were different. 

As regards TV, one of the most fascinating philosophical themes is structuralism and post - structuralism. They're pretty much old terms, but their powerful legacies demonstrates this comfort zone we inhabit, even when there is a logical argument to do things differently.

TV is drawn by convention. It is rule -governed like governments. Things 'need' to be done in a certain way, even when frankly, as post structuralists have shown, the audience and creators now want different things.

In my talk in Perugia, I aim to provide a convincing argument about a future of media making which we deny, when it lurks on our broadside. Hopefully in critiquing this, it should help you reflect more critically on various media forms.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Are websites like Buzzfeed the future of journalism?

David will be presenting at the International journalism festival on producing 21st century news story forms from his 6 year PhD research.



Are websites like Buzzfeed the future of journalism asks ABC's Mark Colvin?

It's a question many professional journalists are asking. 

Yesterday I had a meeting at the innovator of newspaper journalism, the Guardian and the question came up again.

What about Snowfall from the New York Times revelling in the art of the long form and html5. Is that the future of journalism?

The simple answer to any of these questions is no! That's not to belittle the efforts of the NYT and Buzzfeed, because they represent A future of journalism.

Unfortunately, being dismissive of anything innovative is a favourite sport for bloggers and critics. 

I don't want to do either. But if Buzzfeed isn't, what is? I'll come back to this at the end of the piece.

In 2005, one of the America's august institutions, the Knight Batten Award, handed me 1st place prize. I built a site and created an experience that used video in a manner that was not being deployed by major publications.

I addressed some of the America's leading newsmakers at the National Press Club in Washington DC. It was frightening, as well as great fun. I croaked several times :)

The US' news innovation standard

The Knight Batten juror called my work:

But wasn't the future of journalism, though it has given me an insight into determining innovation. 

More recently, my PhD I am completing addresses the future of journalism. But that's another story. 

Here's the story that makes present sense of Buzzfeed and Snowfall.

Firstly, there is no definitive future of journalism. To ask that question is the equivalent of asking whether impressionism is the future of art.

The reason why it still gets asked is the illusion that the western model of journalism is still sacrosanct and stolid. 

Ah! a Guardian journalist said, there is no Western model of journalism, there's simply journalism. Er ! wrong. 

In the same way there are different forms of governance, there are different forms of journalism. 

I spent my teenage years growing up in Ghana and then in the 90s was asked by Ghana's director general of its state television to help relaunch their  morning shows and news. 

I learned then that they had a different understanding of journalism. And then I came across this on TED. The under cover journalists says at 09:54 "My kind of journalism may not fit in other continents".

Truth is, for the historians journalism was always contested. Pulitzer, whose name adorns the coveted Pulitzer award was reviled for what he was doing to journalism. 

The future of journalism before the 1994 revolution of the Internet and before The Clue Train Manifesto and the Dotcom boom could not have fathomed that anything filtered through the net would decompose classic journalism.

Who would have thought, as this video of me presenting the news in 1995 captures a nascent Internet and newspapers scrabbling to get on board.

Clue Train Manifesto showed us the web was social, before Social Media became a social norm. You need to read it.

Before the web, you could read as many text books and ask as many professionals and they all returned core values about journalism. 

Of course they would. Journalism was then an exclusively professional practice.

Art and Journalism
However the parallels with Art and painting are striking.

Before the turn of the 19th century, the Art establishment at the Academy de Baux in France ruled what was art and what wasn't and who could show their material in galleries sanctioned by the academy.

Then a new movement spawned. It took its cues from realism. To artists who would previously only paint kings, queens and the gentry, realism dared artists to paint peasants and ordinary folks tilling the land ( the Internet, you and me).

Impressionism went one step further. It was the buzzfeed of the 19th century. Interpretation was now down to the artist. The sky that was always pained blue in classical art was now painted green and the green pastures of classic painting became blue.

The Academy de Baux ridiculed and ostracised the impressionists. If anything, sadly, they  Hitler who saw impressionism as degenerate, according to this BBC report two days ago, agreed with the Academy.

Impressionism really took off, according to David Hockney in a BBC programme on his exhibition, when the easels and paints became mobile (small cameras).

Art could no longer be contained. It was set free and many other movements were spawned e.g. cubism, surrealism and pop art.

Today, amongst the the most valuable pieces of art happen to be impressionist paintings. See here for the list

This is where journalism is now. Buzzfeed (pop art) is no more the future of journalism than Snow fall (magic realism).

In an era of plenty, made possible by you and what you want, there can never be a singularity of journalism. We passed that point. Interpretation, appealing to our sense of fairness, joi de vivre, and immersivity. 

These are becoming key factors. The purists and generalists may not see these as integral to journalism. Frankly, it doesn't matter what the academy says anymore, it's whether you can appeal and sell stories retaining the difference between fictional and fact.

The future of journalism lies in the past. What we'll see is a cacophony of media forms -- which does not bode well for the academy if you're looking to turn a buck.

In speaking to the executive at the Guardian, my parting comment was that there are any number of technologies are vying for journalism's future e.g. data, videohyperlinking, glass, presence reality, iphone, and my favourite the outernet.

What makes any of these relevant to the future is their mass adoption for social needs. And while it's difficult to spot this, the approach is always cognitive.

Technology that simplifies the process of story telling, which itself is changing.

David Dunkley Gyimah is an International award winning videojournalist and news innovator. He is the chair of the jury for innovative news at the RTS Awards in the UK, The UK's highest TV News awards. He is an academic and artist in residence at the Southbank centre.