Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Get busy making a difference, or be part of change? Driving deeper diversity.


Friends with organiser Prof Wlilson, a change maker

They appear to be similar, and are interchangeably used. Make a difference proposes a disequilibrium to the status quo. Change is ensuring that difference remains.

The phone call from a wonderful man from the British Library was welcomed, but I was anxious. I had previously been given a brief to write about journalism and its challenging space in 4000 words, but was now being asked whether I could drop that idea to write about Black Lives Matter.

Yes, is it because I am Black surfaced; I might have even articulated it with a half smile. I needed time to think about it. I am versatile; I’ve been a journalist/ producer and artist/creative for thirty years. As a writer I seek to explore new challenges. After some thinking, and a framework being agreed, I said yes.

The journey of BLM is perhaps well known, but deep inside their psyche, I would learn, were the proponents of change from history — principally Malcolm X and Dr Martin Luther King.

The two are often pitted as a ying and yang, but there’s was a common goal, being sought from different sides. It was about change. Thus they welcomed into their fold many different groups, people etc. There was no boundary to be observed.

Life, is a supply chain of challenges and interactions to accomplish a goal. Against the rub it’s easy to become insular. Each to their own issues. A renewed push on Diversity Inc however begs that supply-side canvas is attended to — big time.

I’ve explained in the past how Diversity and inclusion was introduced into the fold in the US in “How a Million Pound Racial Discrimination case created a Diversity and Inclusion Industry built on Sand”. All was not well.

The word “supply chain” was perfectly articulated by Dr Carlton Brown PhD,MBA,PGDiP in a conversation we were having. Brown is behind one of the UK’s most tantalising entrepreneur conferences bringing together empowering speakers of colour focusing on creative business and ideas. His last guest line-up featuring the Black Farmer was the talk on the circuit for weeks.

Change needs accelerating

Inthe 1960s change was achieved in various ways from Malcolm X and Dr King, but change required vigilance, constant care, otherwise memories atrophied, and you start all over again. That grand vision towards equality and inclusion — that muscle memory to be built upon is what BLM exposed in the British Library research and book. BLM would harness the ideas of the change makers of the 1960s.

In 2020, precipitated by a number of horrendous acts of violence, a platform for everyone to participate, share their thoughts surfaced. The renewed Diversity Inc was the injustices and solution-inclusive; Malcolm X and Dr King. Times had moved on. The conversations around inclusion and change have become more sophisticated. Yes means No, language use is more subtle, more easily manipulated. I lived in Apartheid South Africa. There, under a discredited system you knew where you stood.

The new figures behind BLM added something in the supply chain in which diversity was, should be a constant, but it’s muted. The widening space and tools to story tell. Not the act of simply telling stories, which in itself is powerful, but the psychology and strategic workflow involved that makes them land. Powerful narratives that ooze from multi-hyphenated change makers linked together and pulling in person after person.

As Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, would echo, “Does it make more sense to hear the story from us”

In weeks ahead I’m going to be chairing a panel, around driving deeper diversity. Sarah is the deal maker. It’s how as a framework there’s a large network effect to be adopted, and that positioned in your network are different disciples of change, and as a group or organisation, it acts as Jude Kelly CBE would refer to, as viruses. Good virus. Infect people with your ideas, she told us; I was one of her artists in residence at the Southbank Centre.

In practice that means on the supply chain, there’s a strategic conveyer belt to connect with all towards goal-orientated purposes. Take this as an example, I said to a friend, if you want to revolutionise conferences, they’d be minutes of inspiration followed up with audience members receiving knowledge about how to implement those inspiring moments.

On that supply chain, connect with purpose, network across a facilitated floor to create, be bold with a vision, make an impact, tell the multiple stories and then draw further people in.

If you look towards the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, just three years old, its multiple approach and research, nourished by years of innovation activism by its founders, Prof Diane Kemp, Marcus Ryder, and Sir Lenny Henry, embodies a viral approach to change.

They publish a journal, Representology, which I was a part of the co-founding trio. It’s storytelling. It’s bold. Three years earlier a friend and I brought 57 of the leading UK TV makers together for an exhibition and book, seen here by Marcus Ryder MBE and Baroness Lawrence at the Mayor’s building. Different idea, but same marquee-asset on the supply chain belt.

It brought a spotlight on achievers and its currency meant this year at Creative Clwstwr in Wales it surfaced. I’m looking to loan it out through discussion.

Making a difference is difficult, enacting change is sustainably more challenging. From presenting Black London in the early 90s, working with Jon Snow in the late 90s, to cofounding a journal Representology with Sir Lenny Henry’s Centre for Diversity, et al, I, like you see differences I’ve been involved in.

As a father of two creative sons, one a character rigger, the other a dancer who was the winner of the collaboration award at the BBC’s Young Dancers 2022, I’m full of praise for their ability to connect and push ideas forward fearlessly, to traverse this landscape of diversity with selflessness which appears indicative of the Gen Z, millennium Gen.

But it isn’t lost on me and others as parents, guardians, mentors and supporters, there’s many things us the “squeezed middle” can offer, knowledge, wisdom, strategies, the memories of how it was once done, but would no longer be effective.

We can do it alone, and many of us do. Otherwise like BLM there’s an embrace to a network that exists beyond them walls which eventually coalesce into larger ideas, and a movement, and that’s what drives greater change.

Being invited to share stories at Regents Univerity with Prof Wilson

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

2023 is going to be strange year.

I  suspect 2023 is going to be strange year. Visibly, a number of things are being nakedly exposed, even atrophying before our very eyes. Things like politics and its governing system, behaviours that upend equitable actions, and so on.

Yes they’ve been apparent, but we’re increasingly aware of the urgency to do something. What replaces pre-2020 is still in incubation, if not fully formed. It was a bit like this around 2004–2006 with ideas. The first wave 1989–2001 set up a correction for the next jump, and to now 2023?

Except that the last two innovation jumps, whilst opening up new communities have tended to veer towards the notion of capitalism at any costs. What happens next has many already acutely aware of the ills of the past. What happens next, particularly in the engine growth of new economies isn’t to replicate templates elsewhere.

The word “integrated” gets used a lot, because generally work and lifestyles are still seen as actioned as independent silos. It’s that division of labour thing necessary for its time concerning productivity. For instance work until recently was primarily office-based. It was felt if you weren’t in an office, you wouldn’t be so productive, but increasingly, meetings or work is taking place from the home and a balance for output has been found.

Journalism, which I know a bit about over the thirty years is an area that requires an integrated overhaul, but with what? And hasn’t it already been through change? And should it be called Journalism, any longer? Why is journalism important?

it’s a main conveyer belt for knowledge, but its achilles is its set form in which its guard rails can be found struggling against the status quo. Rightly bound by facts, but losing the sense at how it fashions a story so people take positive steps from being informed, taking action for the right reasons, taking action towards bettering society and cultures. AI, behavioural science and Applied storytelling have a role here integrated as one.

There was an out and out model of journalism as news that appeared to work before methods were found to undermine it. A model to inform people in the next wave that fails to integrate behavioural psychology, with applied storytelling, tech and art will only serve to provide what we’re already doing.

Some years back, I wrote about the journalism interfaces that would establish for readers connections in stories. That’s doable now.

In the 1600s the word “Nice” meant to be Ignorant or stupid. Words change, disciplines too. By 2030 I hope the word storyteller or journalist is someone who performs multiple functions from different domains in building things that solve problems, whether that be stories or otherwise.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

World Cup fever in a urinal. How some are really taking the kiss


Ifit wasn’t so serious, you’d howl laughing. Many did. Never one to miss a situation that reflects communications practices, a chuckle here and there was quite the moment.

A simple alteration of a urinal would be saving money on cleaners. I was in Stuttgart Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany getting ready for a talk and could I ever see a more obvious example of Nudge theory at work?

Nudge emerged more publicly as a theory in the 2008 book, ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ by Prof Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

Its authors uncovered how subtle changes to an environment could force people to do things the architects desired, but the actors still believed they were exercising choice.

Rather than telling people what not to do, a psychological route was presented that tapped into the fragility of human thinking. You likely saw it, or were influenced by it during the UK government’s Covid presentations with their use of different colour schemes for warnings. It’s not radically new. Depth manipulators and advertisers cottoned onto persuasion en mass post WWII.

For instance, toothpaste used to be marketed as killing germs, but psychologists uncovered users were actually concerned with having a clean taste in their mouth. The architectural change here would be words, colour and shape.

Edward Bernays, the father of PR, or should that be propaganda (his words) considered people to be utterly irrational and easily persuaded.

Nudge theory and deadcatting- just two of many psycho tools have been at work within public figures, politicians and government benches, more so now than any time I covered politics as a working journalist.

Sound reasonable to people, don’t get upset, pepper your response with part truths, and introduce fallacious facts, which with a moderate face you and allies keep repeating. You gradually nudge people over. The long term goal of this is the Peak end rule. Gradually by turning people to your line of thinking, irrespective of failings, people tend to remember the last impact they were left with.

Trouble with all of this, is whilst it’s evident to those in PR and spin, it’s rarely taught in journalism practices. That is the people we entrust to decode complex issues are themselves unaware. In previous years maybe there was a reason, but when it feels like active measures today you have to think why?

But what if you could be alerted in real time by AI to these persuasive techniques? What if whilst a seemingly innocuous conversation was happening, you could be privy to an index of nudge et al? It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while and with an expert acquaintance there appears to be a way. But would people use it? Would they care?

TV News’ rules were never rules. They just managed to convince us they were.


How does it hold your attention and how does it continue to hold your attention. There was a moment presenting at Apple Store in London, when there was a shift from the audience. A comedian friend told me about this phenomena during his set when that moment comes when the audience mirror the artist, referred to as mirror neuron.

All storytelling involves an intentionality, but sometimes motives can be masked or suppressed because of conventions. Conventions are human generated rules bound within a time and space. But dependent on societal and cultural progress they atrophy, or are questioned (disruptive necessity) for something else to take its place.

Consider then this. News journalism quite often doesn’t cover an event that’s happening in real time. What you see on screen is an attempt to construct a story based on a thinking of events by the storyteller. Where, how and when people are filmed is made invisible in journalism for the convention. It may not have been an issue in the 1950s when TV journalism was coming on stream because there was good faith in the actors — those being filmed were respectful of TV.

How about today? Imagine someone telling you a blatant lie. Have you ever recorded your gaze/ eye movement towards them? Imagine you wanted to question them about it. “John can you come here a second, please?” You’re on the veranda between the coats asking what on earth is going on. The scene becomes quite animated.

Imagine now a scene from a politician named John. He chooses where he’s filmed, actually journalists through convention choose the scene, outside parliament. John’s interviewed some time after the event, so if he’s not in reflective mode has had time to consider his response.

And the framing, by convention, in journalism of John is via the rule of third. The rule of third is in fact NOT a rule in the sense of a fixed command, its a visual choice. The rule of third maintains you place John on the third part of the screen, leaving two thirds of space for where he’s fixed his gaze. It implies John is speaking to someone off camera.

Yet it’s also a shot that invisibly unconsciously yields harmony. Way before TV News was born, in his film Citizen Kane (1941) the director Orson Welles shows a compositional arrangement of the “rule of third” in an interview scene. Western artists discovered that post renaissance. Chinese art found different compositions for balance.

So now consider this. John your politician is lying, yet he’s decided with you on the power of the scene, he’s working a narrative and you’re making him look harmonious by your filming techniques, and the audience will interpret the scene their way aided by the invisible codes used.

There are solutions, and they require a broader discussion, just as the hand cutaway (convention) has been largely laid to rest. There’s no such thing as an innocuous cut away. That much became clear where in a scene many years ago, a corporate was feeding back on a question and then it cuts to the corporate rigorously tugging at his wedding band. Someone in the edit asked innocently does he have marital problems?

So what next? I’ll post news of a form that’s addressing issues like this and is gaining in currency.

Storytelling Futures in a Future of Stories


Five stories connected: Syrian border, Chicago, Soweto, Spain and Norway. It looks like a scene from Minority Report. You view the story. AI in part generates its own narrative against the author’s preference.

The storyteller explains to its audience — human interaction is valued. A book is generated instantaneously. In 2030, against all logic, but just as history has recycled its form since the 1900s, from scale to miniaturisation, society has fallen in love with scale again and there are enough devices for it to be generated any place, anywhere.

Season greetings and here’s looking forward to a fruitful year. In that vein I wanted to share something, my findings on a form of storytelling that’s happening now. One that I’ve advocated from experience and international research across the world.

It’s taken me several years; the origins started in the early 1990s. This form of storytelling caters for news and journalism, branding stories, business narrative and new documentary. In fact it can be used on anything.

It brings together various styles collapsed around two seemingly well known forms, but the sum of them changes when merged. It creates a different experience for audiences.

I’ve tested this in lectures over the years. Seen many practitioners win awards for their work effectively deploying the techniques and style and have taught journalists from The Financial Times, The Press Association and many people internationally, for example in Russia, China, India and Egypt to name a few.

The template of collision or otherwise hybrid of forms has a history in other disciplines. That is the coming together of the classical and nouveau in artistry and creativity. You’ll find this in the history of architecture, music, painting, and writing.

There are reasons why it’s surfacing now as a disruptive necessity because of how attention has become a commodity. As one BAFTA and Oscar nominated filmmaker friend told me, “How in this morass of media do you make your work more distinctive?”

It is in effect a visual verbal esperanto and it takes account of changing cultures and habits, positivity rather than doom mongering, diversity and inclusion, Gen Z -Baby Boomers, and is largely platform agnostic, yet deploys tech in purposeful ways.

In presentations, as I’ve done previously with TV2 in Denmark and Facebook in India, I’ll tell you of previous reformers and pioneers who extolled its schema. Those filmmakers and artists sowed the seeds and their work today is described as cannons.

I’ll deconstruct how, for instance, news forms were by default formed and have stayed that way from the 1950s — a reason for its audience size. However, all other story templates have mutated. I’ll show how it captures attention, and can be used to take on spin and obfuscation from politicians.

And that a new generation of practitioners would serve audiences far better than the previous. It’ll map my journey first through the BBC e.g. Reportage, Newsnight, to Channel 4 News, before I became a creative director in advertising and then dotcoms, and artist in residence at the Southbank centre.

You’ll find feedback on it here, from well known figures, such as the following and inside books.

1. SXSW: 

2. Jon Snow

3. Mark Cousins  

4. Featured in the Documentary Handbook by Peter Lee Wright

2023 it’s that Masterclass, building on previous work in China, India, Russia and Norway to name a few places. Hope you can join me. Have a great year.
#business #experience #tech #branding #journalism #storytelling #media