Monday, May 30, 2016

I’ve just read Jeff Jarvis (pictured) Mass Media’s Death… and felt inspired to write this.

I have just finished reading “Death to the Mass. Media must rebuild its business around relevance and value, not volume”, by the indefatigable Jeff Jarvis — a modern eclectic media philosopher.
Jarvis straddles the analogue and digital world of journalism with a firm prognosis of its woes. I first came across him at Dale Peskin @dalepeskin and Andrew Nachison @anachison WeMedia conference at the BBC and Reuters in London, in 2006.
Those were effervescent days, as trad. media experts tried to hold onto their halcyon memories. The bruising between journalists and bloggers was gargantuan. ‘You’re not a real journalist’ were the experts’ riposte. Jarvis in his trademark wit was carving up naysayers.
I had been invited by Wemedia to share a podium on the future of news. I was rubbish! I behaved too meekly; the usual hyper me had deserted, stuck in the bathroom. Afterwards I made a line for Jarvis for a swift interview.
Here’s the exchange below. Years later, in fact 2014, Jarvis invited me to CUNY as part of a group of people talking about the future of news. I continued to talk ‘rubbish’ with the following.
If video was going to be the next big thing on the web before YouTube struck, I said, which got me my Knight Batten award in 2006, cinema journalism — self expression and some — will in the future separate the wheat from the chaff.
Jarvis might not remember this, but his words afterwards were something to the effect I liked your idea cuz it’s mad.
I was reminded in his article about an interview I did with my MA students in 2006 called ‘If’. If you could change one thing, I asked, what would that be? Fears of Islamophobia crop up and listen to what Daniel Kofi (pictured) says at 1.13".
Daniel chides the media for reporting events with no recourse to wanting to getting involved in the issues for social public good. It’s an absurd idea by any standards. Journalists report, and like wildlife photographers don’t get involved in nature’s fights.
Jarvis writes in his article.
Rather than continuing to try to maintain our content factory, whose real business is selling eyeballs by the ton, imagine instead if news were a service whose aim is to help people improve their lives and communities by connecting them not only to information, but also to each other, with a commercial model built on value over volume
Daniel’s feeling this. I’m a Brit-Ghanaian. I get this too. I went to school in the former British colony and remember its television output. But at some point, the relentless mass export of the Western TV model hit Ghana too. That style of news’ attrition, ‘ he said, she said’ popularised by Jay Rosen, and ‘if it bleeds it leads’ carpeted any semblance of what TV as a social glue could achieve. In this post looking back on the BBC I explain why.
The history of innovation has often been the transmogrification of ideas, or a tool, modified, sometimes lifted wholesale from one culture or discipline to another.
Kofi’s idea of media that existed in Ghana not so long ago could have currency in today’s journalism, but the experts no doubt would mock its approach. Further back, take the impressionism movement in France in the mid 1800s. They owe a debt of gratitude to Commodore Matthew Perry who would bring back from Japan wood block prints that the French would covet.
Facebook’s notion of connecting people as content, amplified from Locke, Searls, Weinberger and Levine’s The Cluetrain Manifesto is predicated on the ideas of what communities were once, neighbourly, homely places where every one shared, spoke over the garden wall, mimicking civic journalism (circa 1990).

Outside journalism’s big tent, technology has become its defibrillator. InWhen Old Technologies Where New, author Carolyn Marvin brings some cautious thinking to this perennial tech-fest in news. One by the way which has been created in no small measure by businesses and marketeers seeking to create new revenue streams, but it’s also served a purpose breaking up TV and traditional journalism’s monopoly.
Take mobile journalism, a word coined in the 1960s by the late Robert Drew, but found new marketing fame as a paradigm shift in the swift flow of information in this millennium . So far so good. But in its dominant incarnate its architects seek to homogenise its form and style towards traditional broadcasting’s achilles. And the idea that it’s the cure all also repeats analogue journalism’s mistake. Source and pick the best tool for the job and let no one tell you differently.
Marvin’s book shows that the frenzy surrounding present tech isn’t new. We’re wowed by technology. It can often break leaving editorial thinking in its wake. We’re left to suss it out through what Professor Brian Winston calls a supervening necessity. That is, once we find a social purpose for the tech it kicks into action. But who prescribes that social framing? The victors write history. Have you ever thought why, say, given all the art-painting movements in the world, you’d struggle to come up with a handful from Africa. Meanwhile, more tech doesn’t necessarily alter the way the tone and message travels within reportage.
We gather around technology and create deterministic and causal meaning based on a hegemonic modes of thinking, but societies aren’t static. Their tastes and needs change, notwithstanding their irrational concerns too.
Once again, these instincts are more redolent in different cultures, or eras, than the ones we might recognise in our own. Today, journalism often resembles what a senior BBC exec calls ‘air conditioned’ journalism as brilliantly illustrated in this piece by a BBC journalist.

Professor Michael Schudson, author several books, such as The Power of News describes journalism as a cultural product shaped by literary and social conventions. It’s something we’ve tended to forget, because of this dominant thesis that surrounds the form, which jettisons cultural and social references.
Which brings me neatly to my conclusion. If you could tell stories, aided by technology to be nuanced with story form’s language, providing insights into primary and sub conscious meaning ( heaven’s knows we need it), where you could break the rules because PR and marketeers have you over a barrel (churnalism), what form of journalism would that be?
Working with Jarvis is another person, I’m a fan of. Travis Fox, now a lecturer at CUNY has a way of storytelling that plays on cultural nuances. There’s no cacophony of tech, but someone behind the lens who is a humanist wanting to tell stories that, as the video below illustrates, resembles, cinema.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Cinema is a future of journalism, but in 2025 of course you knew that already.

Journalism using video is in a crisis. Cinema — that’s the future. You see an alternative: Snapchat, Vine, Instagram etc.

I’m not disagreeing with you for now, but they are smaller elements towards a human need for deeper expressive narratives. I did say future.

 You’re dismissive, I know. You wanted to read about the next iteration of tech enveloping 3D, even 4D virtual environments, or even presence reality — holo deck images created in your home. You can find these in several of my previous posts.
No, at this very moment, perhaps you’ve decided you need not read any further because you’ve never heard anything so absurd. Bear with me, as it’s possible you’re exhibiting what psychologists refer to as an illusion of explanatory depth.
It is so obvious to you that cinema has nothing to do with journalism, because you implicitly know this, because aside from everything else, you know cinema is the stuff of fiction and Captain America Civil War.
Here’s a conundrum. Is it so obvious that everything you know is down to experience or constructed from experience? Course it is! Yet this wasn’t the case before the 1700s, when philosopher John Locke proposed this.
Perhaps that’s too far back. Is it really obvious that you could be made to electrocute someone to death on the say so of a man in a white coat? That was the Milligram experiment in the 1960s.
And how about this for only just over a decade ago, was it really obvious that video embedded in web sites, surrounded by audio and text was the future. N00o it wasn’t. But your hindsight bias is working overdrive now to, perhaps, suggest it was.
On a personal note, I wouldn’t consider it obvious that if you create work that attracts the attention of your peers, alongside a group of people you’re invited to meet the future King of Britain, Prince Charles.
I digress. Yes that’s a surreal one. Where was I?

Here’s a citation from one of the US most coveted innovation labs,
the Knight Batten Awards and what they said about a prototype video site I built before the days of YouTube.
Entrants to the awards included: Newsweek, Time, MSNBC, and BBC.Viewmagazine.TV was a site I built from scratch. Ninety percent of the articles, the videos, the podcasts, the interactive media, the photography was created by me.
Then I set about designing and creating the pages - some of which are below. They included a range of story forms, such as these from the future of mobile, new photos of Bob Marley, a tie-up between Brixton and the Bronx, Jay-Z at my university. 
The judges pooled from some of the US’ finest media organisations said:
This interactive magazine foreshadows the future with its use of hip new story forms and hight video-centric web tools.
So how do I justify Cinema? And how do you use tech to support this, and what do I mean by cinema, and what kind? It’s based on worldwide research and a doctorate programme, please Click here for part 2

Saturday, May 07, 2016

How using new tech e.g. VR can recreate memories that correct a flawed past.

 It’s an idea so powerful, like a virus it keeps growing. Its currency is its ability to recreate our mental landscape, impregnate us with concepts that affect our senses in ways that it becomes knowledge.
Furthermore, this industry at work builds our internal world into a fortress of new ideologies — a place within us where personalities are shaped and our reality is framed. Our memories.
This sounds like a sequence from Nolan’s blockbuster movie Inception. The farther we burrow into the subconscious, we bypass ideas, complex ideas and then the basement level where memories reside ready to be retrieved.
But instead of a movie, albeit created from a philosophical theme, could the reality of building fresh repurposed memories reside in our growing penchant for the come-back media phenomenon, Virtual Reality.
In our present state of collective reality promulgated by traditional Real-flawed Reality media, ideas like the following  have transcending into a cultural norm: wealth is necessary towards happiness; unlimited capitalism a sign of virtuousness and virility; love thy neighbour, so long as they look and sound like you; and fear mongering is the much needed condition to sow a better future. It’s dystopia, yet it’s become acceptable.
John Locke saw the importance of memories. An English philosopher whose vision was how to break from the abstraction and dogma of religion and defy following authorities for the sake of it, he cast his thoughts to what our senses and experience could deliver. Memories shape us. They are our link to perceptions.
Ask any ten year old in the US whether an African American can become President of the USA, and you’ll be ridiculed. A decade ago and other ten year olds without any concomitant memories and narrative from their parents would be equally forthright, with a different message. Today, a London politician who is a Moslem just laid down a new tarmac for deep-core perceptions. Yes, any faith can become a London mayor.
Three hundred years on, Locke, also a founding father of democracy might be taken aback to find how our collective memories in the Western world have been harvested and water-boarded by a virulent elite media. If you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep on getting what you got. Austerity is good, or is it?
Virtual reality, as a newish mass media, could facilitate new realities, yield hyper realities even, to address what’s before us. The New York Times, reports the Niemann Lab, sees VR films as regular content for the future. Several mass media organisations are due to follow as VR finally cashes in on its contemporary fame. But that’s the problem. There’s little evidence, the content required to mediate current memories, to build new knowledge will be any different from the status quo.
Today, our recalibrated memories of wars leaves us ignorant to its legacies. Former US President Ronald Reagan in Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the US, asks the nation to forget about Vietnam.
In the late 1950s, following a combination of mass movements of African Americans into urban spaces and the ‘Kennedy Administration [had given] giving voice to the poor, among which blacks were disproportionately represented’, poor African American’s became the media symbol of poverty. Unknowingly or otherwise, new memories were laid down to cohere food stamp recipients as overwhelmingly black, when US stats have shown otherwise.
DC Marvel promulgated a persuasive virtual reality back in the days when tens of thousands of boys and girls growing up were drawn into its make-believe enterprise of super heroes.
In this virtual escapist world, bullying was answered with a thwack and a Spiderman one-liner, racial injustices were dealt a triumphant blow from the Black Panther a revered figure who by coincidence reflected the name of a real-life political movement. Storm caused a hurricane to restore humanity, and a disabled man using echo sound location cleared the streets of maladroit citizens.
It took me to my late early teens to know it was impossible to scale buildings, yet the narratives and their allegories, those memories, are still with me. If the mass media, guilty of performing its own collective inception is to be corrected by new millennial media how might VR help? First to take advantage of its newness, then as Michael Bodekaer points out in his TED talk on VR to educate the future. To recreate worlds.
Ironically, in choosing a slide to highlight the scientists of the future, Bodekaer’s fumbles presenting a smiling cluster of graduates, where diversity does not figure in the photo.  But then that's his reality. A later slide on teachers corrects this.
Then it requires films and personal with subject matter that goes beyond the boundaries of naturalised memes we see drudgingly across screens.
If the memories of your past appear contentious, or even distorted, throwing more personnel at the problem, won’t necessarily tip the scales back. The BBC is hurriedly trying to address a diversity imbalance. It could do well to review its content as well.
Does Africa deserve generally to be presented as a unitary mass and mooching on the West for integrity, as seen in international news? Africa IS a country someone wrote tongue-in-cheek. Several years ago, a magazine inverted the relationship between the developing world and developed to dramatic effects.
Then VRs distinctive quality requires consideration to an essence of a new cinema. How so? The art of the moving image uncontroversially resides in cinema — an eclectic assortment of styles and forms designed for audiences to be informed, affected, and often moved to react.
In his groundbreaking book The Language of New Media, author Lev Manovich presciently references an emergent new form as a return to spatial cinema. Similarly in a tome being considered by publishers I detail how millennial factual image makers and journalists are re-learning the lost art of non-fictional cinema. In effect we’re coming full circle, the birth of a new media and realignment of a populist one. This time, the hope should be of creating  truer memories.
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If you liked this article, please share so as others may participate, feedback or critique its premise. This is part of a wider paper I'm developing to present at a symposium with a film. Dr David Dunkley Gyimah writes about digital and media. The image in the headline is of his actual DNA. Gyimah holds a distinct feature in science. He and his family were the first in the world to have DNA genetic sequencing performed on their DNA in 1985.