In make shift Gryffindor, Vancouver’s Green College Reuter’s Digital News Project drops into my feed. I’m fresh from lectures at the University of British Columbia (UBC) as Asper Visiting Professor of Journalism.
In the few days I’ve arrived, I’ve been excited by the student cohort’s interaction and been made to feel highly welcomed into UBC’s exceptional journalism family.
Reuter’s present report makes for interesting reading and has become an annual munch fest. I’ve been an avid reader since 2009, attended various launches and featured in competing global trend reports, such as WAN’s 2008 & 9 Trends in Newsrooms on my knowledge on video and video journalism.
Congrats to its editor Nic Newman. The report, will no doubt, attract realms of citations, as well as debating points from industry and media figures as execs dissect what its expert contributors say, whilst shadowing its predictions to ensure their own strategies are met in 2018.
Each year brings its own set of novelties and circumstances. For now, unlike the frenzy of 2009–2014, consolidation of existing tech e.g. twitter. Facebook looks to be generally accompanied by the platform’s own ‘S curve’ . Here the journey is on growth and different micro aspects of innovation.
This has pros and cons, as experimenting doesn’t necessarily yield desired results. What’s good for the goose may not be relevant for the gander — a tech take away for companies looking to ‘Steal like and Artist’ from others. One thing that has become evident in the disaggregation-distribution world of today, is how agile productions have been normalised and a company can turn on an existing strategy overnight.
TECH IN THE CHEM LAB
The irony today is sweet. Journalism students and I are in a Chemistry LAB, exploring, re-synthesising tech’s relationship with journalism. It’s made sweeter still, as I graduated from an environment just like this, as an Applied Chemist and regularly adopt scientific, social and artistic (as an artist in residence at the Southbank) methods towards knowledge acquisition and distribution.
Back home too, I lead an innovatory course, the Digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB, where we’re pioneering schemes of journalism meets tech meets entrepreneurs shepherded by the Guild of Entrepreneurs @G_Entrepreneurs Nicola Manning @NicolaManning1
Today’s lecture, in spite of calling myself a creative technologist, is to dampen the breathless avarice the industry sometimes displays towards tech. We, educators and professionals sometimes require a more critical lens towards companies launching products and innovations as squirrels, at times aware that the news beast cycle will welcome another tech announcement that only serves to provide a sheen to their brand.
In citing books such as Carolyn Marvin’s When Old Technologies were New, my aim for the next generation of nimble journalistic minds is to put tech in context, and restate Marvin’s point that a small group congregating around tech, can pre-determine its future use for all, hence today the commercial imperative of design thinking. Also, I illustrate how the Internet sits aside electricity, light and telephone as a major innovation.
Journalist Jacob Riis work exposing 19th century slum conditions by inventing flash light photography illustrates light as an innovation.
And then this, the beginning of media’s relationship with the Internet in 1995, where I’m presenting a colleague’s film.
The cataclysmic decision to upload content onto the Net for free back then, and lack of foresight, is why the industry is in the financial quagmire it is today. The last words from the reporter in the piece resonant like a cannon ball in China shop.
REUTER’S DIGITAL NEWS PROJECT
I have known several of Reuter’s Digital News Project’s expert contributors for many years, such as Damian Radcliffe (University of Oregon), Paul Bradshaw (Birmingham University), Richard Sambrook (Cardiff University) and Alfred Hermida (University of British Columbia). Alfred spearheads the Asper Professor position.
As a fixed publication the report sprawls across a wide base, but inevitably the format imposes limits. For instance I would have liked to find out more on video, hybrid video, and cinema journalism, leading to programmatic video and AI amongst others.
Increasingly, content (video journalism) being shared on platforms is less styled on traditional news‘ tropes but meaning making that embraces a myriad of styles. We are, finally, mirroring the art and literary movement of the 19th century with the impressionist years. AJ+, Vox, the Washington Post and C4’s Waad Al Kateab’s award-winning stories from Syria typify this.
As a jury member of the Royal Television Society, the UK’s highest body for the awards of excellence in film, when this came across my screen, it represented an exemplar of allegorical cinema journalism. Good TV yes, but not standard.
The film’s visual narrative and symbolism is complimented by one of the industry’s stalwarts who writes expressively and with brevity — de facto exemplar cinema journalism. Here‘s my recording of Matt Frei accepting his major award at the RTS of the year — a night when journalists let their hair down some after many months at the coal face.
I would meet Waad at one of the events we stage on our Uni programme, and unsurprisingly she knew the people I worked with on an assignment with young Syrian journalists, such as the popular Hakewati (orange shorts).
THE TECH YEARS
It’s been a busy year in Pro-Tech (Professional practice — academia) for me, with various excursions that include Ghana, Turkey and Russia. In Moscow Uni students tell me their social media preference.
Anecdotally, Gen M say twitter is out, FB Messenger is in. Google’s @mattcooke_uk provides a more empirical understanding about how different regions gravitate to different social media.
There is huge appetite for media innovation in Russia. I am working with someone, for shorthand purposes, I call Russia’s Lynda.com Oksana Silanteva. Phenomenal ! The workshop and public speakings were well received. More here.
Ghana’s industry is ripe for transformation this year. Bozoma Saint John, Chief Brand Officer at Uber, attended a summit on January 4th in Accra, which I just missed coming over to Canada.
Collaborations in India and China are garnering strong interest. Avinash — an alumni who runs the highly successful Talk Journalism hosted a gathering at the Front Line Club and is exploring tying up external partnerships. Social media pros in India continue to build alliances with Talk Journalism who’ve tapped into the country’s unconnected. Various programmes by the government aim to ambitiously connect the One billion non-digital (see video).
Talk Journalism has attracted some powerful tech friends to work with and has attention for bringing in international key note speakers.
Various tech conferences proved pivotal and exhausting last year. Tech conf. has become the social meet up platform, not the preserve of IBC and Vegas anymore.
At London’s largest gathering of techs, #TechXLR8 disruptive (DT) vs predictive thinking (PT) showed several trends. Visor VRs appeared to be on the increase in industry and easily could jump into story form. Google glass has, contrary to opinion, not gone away. Four years ago, I played with is as one of the adopters.
VR & AR
At our University’s engagement week, I invited and then shared a platform with one of the world’s leading authorities in tech film making, Michael Min. Michael’s been Technical Director on Star Wars and Indiana Jones, amongst many other titles. The industry may be talking up VR, but according to Min, it’s wide open, and there is a fundamental difference between 360 wrap around and VR stereoscopic for haecceity. This next generation have it in their grasp to make of it as they will.
Raindance’s Virtual show proved a spectrum of genres that have been tantalising, jaw dropping, and of course immersive.
Dear Angelica — a 3d in vitro comic strip is a visual kaledeiscopic feast of acid trippin, whilst Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon, brings the plight of an indigenous tribe’s existential plight home. Then there’s Space Walk — a BBC-Rewind venture which is literally out of this world.
IBM’s London conference was one of the big hits, key noted by Spaceman Chris Hadfield. Programmatic and AI video proved popular. And this year once broadcasters get wind of the potential of how video sentiments work, it’ll prove a boon.
If it’s not on Reuters’ Digital News Project radar, that’s not unusual. Trends are as much about where you shine your torch, and repurposing burgeoning transitive tech which warrant exposure. Videojournalism for years was ignored by broadcasters, though picked up by the Press Gazette, before YouTube added its voice
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Chat Bots
On the fringes too sweeping ever closer is API facial recognition films. IBM demoed behavioural video. Karen Palmer’s Riot featured at the Future of Story provides a template for advanced video hyperlinking-gestured based story telling.
In October, I took our cohorts to one of the UK’s most successful Programmatic video agencies. Grand Visuals. Programmatic video, a one billion pound industry, according to the agency, is only now findings active players as part of OOH ( Out of Home) services. In academia and industry it’s a training opportunity for the next gen of video makers, scrubbing data to influence events.
At our own home at the University of Westminster, after much consultation, and a visible trend in renaming and re-positioning courses (witness Paul Bradshaw’s change of Multimedia to a new course with data and interactivity ), we successfully launched the Digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB.
The course expands past multimedia, web journalism into a broader panoramas of storytelling via image-based storytelling, visuals and interactivity exploring memory, emotions and elements of neuroscience as well as different genres, mark up language, and styles including cinema journalism featured at Apple Store, a couple of years ago.
Disappointingly within Tech conf., including the BBC, and reports e.g. Reuters DNP diversity rarely features. Could this be that commissioners think that it’s unrelated to tech?
By Professor Brian Winston’s notion of the Supervening necessity all successful tech is tied to an initial social purpose or condition. Diversity’s fortitude was evident with hashtag #BlackLivesMatter — one of twitters continuing biggest spikes.
Elsewhere, there’s been increasing disquiet at representation of diverse talent in any number of media industries. That continues to be a disappointment for
me looking at a media industry I have been in for thirty years, having worked with some of its most respected figures, such as James Montgomery, Jon Snow, and Nick Pollard.
As the year wrapped up, working with one of the UK’s forward thinking champions TV Collective Simone Pennent, and support from industry key figures e.g. Lenny Henry, we launched our own diversity initiative which as you can see from this photo merits attention, and was featured in Broadcast magazine and given support by the Culture Minister.
Some bullet response from the report
The Grenfell story: as Jon Snow put it visibly shaken, it’s a wake-up call for journalists to get into the community, embrace a diverse newsroom, but there still appears little evidence this is happening.
Mobile portrait screen coverage launched by the BBC’s James Montgomery, a friend whom, as much as possible we sit down to a coffee to speak tech, still has resistance in media for those preferring landscape. Meanwhile Those challenged by this, only need to explore the framing wars in the 1960s when 4x3 screens were transformed to 16x9 in cinema much to the chagrin of many directors. 16x9 prevailed.
This year one of the super heavyweights of Mojo and mobile journalism bowed out from RTE and ha gone it alone. Glen Mulcahy @GlenBMulcahy is a trove of information, which needs harnessing as we move forward.
Facebook’s maximisation of users play in their garden includes their aggressive launch into VR, in which FB execs refer to traditional video as flaties. Thus far 500m users 360 on their site. Execs want this near to the 2 billion users. Is it 360, as a form they’re promoting, or another innovative manner for users to be sticky on their site.
FB vs Google project. At the moment no contest. Google continues to roll out its kit of parts.
I’ll be returning to dissect themes, and trends, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll temporarily end here. For more info or to get in touch, you can reach me at the Digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB below.