“We feel privileged”. Storytelling for new storytellers

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In the sphere of storytelling, journalism constitutes a small yet important section, but our knowledge of society is sadly codified inordinately by it. Below for simplicity, and not to scale, I have illustrated recognisable areas within storytelling and zoomed in to an area of huge, but blinded interest.

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Then we arrive at an intersection of journalism, technology, and cinema. Not cinema as the fictional form you recognise, but as its original innovation: the collocation of images, words, sound made good factually, before Hollywood would commercialise its fictional form.

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Then this, we’re made to believe the crisis in journalism is either due to Trump or the Internet. Both wrong as the evidence from British trade mag, Broadcast shows. It’s 1998: Bulletin Bored?, a crisis in Television (read more here on Why Journalism is Failing) and then this “Telling the Same Stories in 2002. The rut television found itself in was re-churning the same tired stories.

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If you’re undertaking any form of communications, e.g. journalism and it doesn’t teach you about your adversaries, or implicit behaviour around psychology e.g. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that frames our values and drives what we read, ask for your money back.

We teach Shakespeare at a young age, says modern philosopher Alain de Botton, but the one thing that seeks to control our lives — News — is ignored as if it’s a natural phenomenon. It isn’t. If left to the industry too, as can be seen here as I present this news item at the birth of the media’s dalliance with the web, the Internet and social media would not exist.

So, the BIG question? Where can you go to future-proof your skills and knowledge to drive that ambition to become that writer, filmmaker, storyteller, that laser journalist? In 2020 Price Waterhouse Cooper see creativity and resilience as key skills in a world where automation and AI will diminish many jobs.

How do you write your future?

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Our idea was to conceive a programme fusing multiple innovative disciplines, and that word “design thinking !!!!!!”. Whilst collapsing the modular structure, introduced en mass into universities in the 60s, that has constrained learning. Universities are built to pass assessments, rather than to learn how to fail, and then succeed. That for instance, life is going to throw you raw deals, but that’s part of it. How do you devise solutions to overcome these? Hence ,a course that in the digital age would encapsulate a cornucopia of styles and disciplines where you could ride the barrel of new technologies, e.g. IBM’s Watson.

The core would be innovative storytelling, built around problem solving, and what is referred to as serious games — formerly gamification. One of my key research areas that has brought me international attention is cinema journalism. This would be offered alongside interactive practices and thought-provoking Image-based storytelling to create projects of impact (POI). However, Psychology, Art, Data, Social Media, Mobile, Drones, PR, key neuroscience elements of story, Human Behaviour and Philosophy would all play a part.

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We’d cover issues, events and stories that are often hidden in plain sight; ideas that house bold statements and produce outcomes that ripple across communities and networks. Often these stories reside in our communities. I know this well as an Applied Chemistry grad, when I had limited knowledge of the exciting and immersive ways to tell stories within my own university.

Importantly, we we didn’t consider you students. You were de facto agency creatives, taking on real industry live briefs, learning to manage agile productions and create multi sensory productions — amazing visuals and visceral sound.

The agency approach would give our LABers access to companies from the very start like @TBWA (the disruption company), The Financial Times, and global storytellers like Michael Min, Technical Director of Star Wars and many more films. Below, is how other cohorts, invited to an open session, responded when one of the most gifted technical filmmakers around told them the answers to VR-360 had not be written; they lie with you.

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“Looking forward to making trouble with you in 2018” says Michael Min to David

As a disLABer you’d absorb physical and psychological skills from projects co-supervised in-house by the Creative Enterprise Centre (see Leader’s List), as well as gain hands on entrepreneurial ideas from the best entrepreneurs in the country, the Guild of Entrepreneurs @G_Entrepreneurs managed by Nicola Manning.

Sounds too good, but that’s what was dreamt and we’re delivering — a new type of storytelling -millennia journalism programme, the disLAB.

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disLABERS AT WORK

Take disLABers Sofija and Sara. Sofija is creating an epic creative documentary around the Olympics and Lithuania which will have a historical and artistic impact.

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Sofija and the LAB

This is what Sofija says about the the disLAB

In the LAB she’s been testing and experimenting with a range of small scale ideas that feed into her grand visions.

These have been buoyed by expert exchanges, skills and knowledge from the disLAB team, as well as several global industry figures, such as:

Catherine Allen, a rising stars of VR who is in much demand for the work she did at the BBC, Robin Kwong Head of Digital Delivery at Financial Times who created the Uber game, Podcast Supremo Bernard Achampong from Weareunedited who has 15 years experience at the BBC, and Ilicco Elia (below) a mobile marketing guru who’s Head of Mobile Deloitte Digital and advocates mobile first productions.

Sara and the LAB

Sara, in the first few weeks, started to shape an idea around one of London’s most dynamic tale-of-two-communities, Deptford. The LAB team acted as curators, mentors and teachers. She says this about the LAB.

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WHY WE CREATED THE LAB

Technology’s success, we now know, is dependent on its social need. Experts call this the supervening necessity.

Hence, Facebook tapped into the need to create friends online and share intimate information with each other. Mojo (mobile phone journalism) & Mobile is about immediate, accessible ways to personally produce (PP).

You can now replicate what the professional broadcasters used to be able to do. The flash light? Yes, the flash light which was a new technology in the 18th century enabled journalist Jacob Riis to eradicate America’s slum housing.

The disLAB is a creative technology course with a vision of advancing story telling. We’re responding to a need for:

  • Today’s storytellers, technologists and journalists to be more agile and adaptive to the market acquiring skills in demand for the future.
  • For cohorts to acquire greater confidence to experiment with emerging techs and where early failures are shaped as a step to success.
  • To devise new styles and techniques, greater respect and range. There are assessments but we place a greater onus on life and industry skills.

The intention is for a fluid, agile response to modernise ideas, skills and knowledge in media productions. The pop-up studio above is an example of how to create your own brand.

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WHAT LABERS DO

Bowen and the LAB

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Bowen Sun writes

This semester we had visits to people in the industry such as BBC news lab and Grand Visual, a creative digital out of home advertisement agency. I was inspired a lot from these visits. In my medium articles, I briefly described of their most fascinating ideas, and then added on my own thoughts by researching relevant data and see how their practices can be applied to a wider range. Both of my articles got published by Medium online magazines. The first article, “Invasion — Artificial Intelligence in Newsroom” in“Becoming Human”

Since writing this, Bowen has been chosen by an international bank for their graduate scheme. Congratulations! For us, one of the things we do on the course is to interrogate student’s applications.

Jasmin and the LAB

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In Building the Agile Business Through Digital Transformations, authors Neil Perkin and Peter Abraham write that “Multiple studies conducted over a number of decades have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas”.

We adopt this approach which disLABer Jasmin James comments:

for me personally has come to define the creative process that has informed my work within this term.

Jasmin also says in her post Creativity- a clash of the Opposites, a chance at the new

One major achievement I credit to the exploration of this topic is the increased knowledge I gained in certain technicalities of photography, especially with regards to the use of alternative lenses such as a telephoto macro as well as the difference a good prime lens can make in capturing a low light scene when compared to a zoom. Learning to work with the limitations of certain fixed focal lengths (ex. 35mm, 85mm or 10mm) taught me more about composition and the importance of moving in close to your subject while providing me with a greater sense of control when angling for a specific shot.

As such, I made the discovery that in many cases it is the constraints which have the potential to render certain forms of photographic output exemplary.

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The NETWORK

disLAB is designed to help you become part of a number of communities and build a network. The network includes:

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disLAB presents — a monthly public event in which industry, disLAB cohorts and the public meet to hear and converse with the best ideas people in the industry.

Think of it as a different type of TED and the speakers have been amazing. Click here for disLAB’s tweeter account to see more.

The visits we take our disLABers to is intel gathering, as usually our hosts will tell us private business ideas that are not for publication or sharing.

Mixing with other Master students in sharing modules, say in mark up language coding and with the Universities enterprise centre, where they’ll be involved in undertaking real life client work, such as this in which disLABers had to pitch individual ideas to a client and then choose the brief they turned into a on week zero-budget commercial, which the client loved. Below are behind-the-scenes from the production. We’ll release the commercial once we’ve signed off with the client.

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USP

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We come at problems from different angles. Traditionally journalism and storytelling put an emphasis on processing, and formulas of production.

We look beyond formulas and at how conventions came to frame various styles. We also look at how the brain works. In one LAB meeting I brought to lectures a brain I made.

Traditionally courses facilitate small-scale work, with the final project bookending your degree. We believe epic and impact work should run throughout semesters.

Firstly, because invariably after you’ve produced that final project work, you’ll likely spot fresh ways of how you could or would have liked to have remade it, soon after. Our approach therefore gives you opportunities to iterate, strategising and finesse the cycle of ideation, prototyping and building projects.

Also, and equally important, what a potential employer or the marketplace would like to see is a substantive portfolio which demonstrates how agile, collaborative, as well as independent, you are in production.

We work with you in understanding the market place and how to brand yourself. We’re innovating on the while. To view the student’s website go here or our website here

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THE TEAM

David and the LAB

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I’m David, the course leader of disLAB. I have been a journalist, creative technologist, artists and filmmaker over thirty years working for global brands such as the BBC, ABC News and Channel 4 News and was one of the UK’s first official videojournalists.

I’m currently the 2017/18 Asper Visiting Professor of Journalism at University of British Columbia.

My most recent projects include presenting for Cannon cameras and co producing a national exhibition on Britain’s talented producers, which was acknowledged by the UK Minister of State for Digital Matt Hancock MP, now the Secretary of State. I’m interested in a wide range of media innovations e.g. podcast, drones, AI and have delivered keynotes and consultancies for the FT, BBC, In Russia, India and China, and specialise in Cinema Journalism.

Sandra and the LAB

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Dr Sandra Gaudenzi is Head of Studies of !F Lab — an EU training initiative for interactive documentary makers. She consults, researches, lectures, writes and blogs about interactive factual narratives.

As an academic, she taught for 15 years at the University of the Arts London and lectures in Interactivity at disLAB.

She is also Visiting Fellow at the Digital Cultures Research Centre (UWE, UK) where she co-directs the i-Docs conference and website. Her latest book, is available now via Amazon or Columbia University Press.

Mass and the LAB

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Dr Massimiliano Fusari writes:

I’m a digital consultant, scholar and results-driven visual strategist with established education and professional experience from Morocco to China.

Since 1994, I have been focusing specifically on the politics of representation of the Muslim world. In 2002, I launched my career as a photojournalist and multimedia consultant for private, public and third sector assets.

After a series of funded collaborations with IOM and UNESCO, I was awarded a PhD at the University of Exeter (2013), assessing, both in theory and practice, the ontological shift from the photograph to the Meta-Image, which has become the core of my current research: The Image As Storytelling.

In my 2014 AHRC Post-Doctoral fellowship at the University of Durham, I further developed my PhD findings using a research on the Cairo tentmakers, to finalise the notion of Post-Produced Communication.

The interactive multimedia project is visible on my online laboratory, as a complementing part to my latest photographic exhibition. You can download the catalogue here, and a list of exhibitions here.

Among many collaborations, between 2014 and 2016 I taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS — University of London) the module I devised on Contemporary Visual Cultures of the Middle East.

In September 2016 I was employed at UoW to contribute to a developing Digital and Interactive Storytelling Lab for a new MA. In the meantime, I re-wrote and I’m delivering UG and PG modules on Creativity, Journalism and Project Management for the Media Industries.

I’m available for Doctoral supervision on topics of image-based cultures, visual communication, interactive storytelling, aesthetics as semiotics, and on the ethical implications of new media forms and digital formats. Do not hesitate to get in touch to begin a conversation on the above topics.

Apply for the disLAB here

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Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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