Light at the End of the Digital Tunnel. Toloo Dublin MojoCON. One for the Road.
Leaving Dublin’s magnificent conference centre, for the last time, which one speaker likened to a crystal ‘cement mixer’ (see below) I walked the 3km back to my hotel engaged in the playful art of psychogeography.
Created by the French, who else, the movement compels its practitioners to become flâneurs taking stock of the architecture in their vicinity. Free associated thinking is greatly encouraged, cameras are optional.
For the first act, few, if any, would disagree with me that the two days of Dublin’s first international conference on mobile, MojoCon, has been a huge success. Knowledge and passed-on skills has been in excess supply. For that we have Glen, Sinead and the team at RTE to thank, heartily.
It’s also one of the few conferences I have attended where delegates and speakers mix freely and amicably sans the superior veneer that can mistakenly divide the two.
Last year I spoke at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia. I asked their organiser how long it took to prep their conference. Almost a year they said. A brief holiday and then it was back to work. Staging a conference is a full-time job.
In psychogeography for MoJoCON, the clue was in the title, so what was in my ruck sack (shhh — a DSLR and rigs and…) for team sharing cum workshopping became a moot point. Er, you imposter, you! I’m lugging my gear back home (sigh!).
The mobile phone has come of age — a computer in your pocket said a speaker and filmmaker ‘Q’. Its prowess as a mobile production studio (shoot, produce, output) was aptly demoed by the BBC’s Marc Settle et al in what could be described also as an App-fest — an app for almost everything.
The Digital-Analogue Road
Further down the psychogeographic road, on Merrion Square North street, I passed a row of artists and walked back again. There I met Peadar Sheerin exhibiting his work.
Paedar, whose work can be found here, illustrates the answer to a question that arose from MojoCON‘s’ floor. That is, what’s the future of mobile journalists and who’s going to pay for what we do?
Wearing an infectious warm smile and speaking in a lilt made for comfort listening radio, Paedar told me he’s been drawing since he was four years of age. He startled his parents by drawing the perfect circle — a feat Michelangelo would use to win epic commissions.
He’d initially spent his career working in the travel industry.
With training at institutions like UCD in various artistic techniques, including Japanese art, it was only a question of time, 2009, before he would join his wife also an artist, and would to become a full-time painter.
We spoke briefly about paintings and Hokusai’s famous The Great Wave at Kanagawa which his son had bought for him from Japan — a copy presumably.
And then I promised Paedar that by interviewing him it would convince any number of journalists from the conference to walk down to Merrion Square North street and purchase some his work. Go on!
The Artists’ Mirror
Paedar and his artist friends hold the secret to the plight of the future digital mobile journalist. What happens when democracy reigns in art and when the tools are widely available as digital is finding out?
The impressionists of the 19th century, Monet, Manet and Cezanne fought that battle to get their art seen beyond the control of Paris’ entrenched plutocratic and oligarchic Academy.
They became independent and it is their modus operandi that has trickled down decades to become the methodology for Paedar and other artists to operate freely. This time, talent would out. To re-use the coined phrase, ‘no one can police you anymore’. The Academy could no longer dictate who was an artist and where they could exhibit.
Which neatly brings me to the here and now. As I said earlier, the mobile phone is the communication device par excellence.
In its time, in 1934, the Bell Howell Filmo super 8mm made available for the consumer was the be all for filmmakers.
In the 1970s Ken Richter’s 16mm camera, proclaimed as the smallest in the world, wowed users.
Production was slowed down by printing and processing, but these were the expected inertias of the time measured in hours.
For mobile phone users, time and wifi processing is measured in single digit seconds. When it takes double digits we complain. It’s all relative, but history has an inevitable card up its sleeve.
That’s not to belittle the iPhone culture, I wouldn’t dare. But that just as Paedar has diversified, discovered his style, found the right location, had varying days of sales, so most likely will digital/mobile practitioners have to get used to how Paedar does it.
The competition is fierce, particularly the Academies — the broadcasters and publishers — never mind everyone else.
There is no magic bullet.
But there is a theme that does not whither or get usurped by the next new new thing. Craft skill. Craft knowledge. A host of speakers acknowledged this in public as well privately.
The tech becomes agnostic. Get their first as one speaker iterated means little if not done well. Sometimes it sounds glib, when a practitioner states that we need to understand why we’re editing in a certain way, undertaking a fade-in, as opposed to a cut, how a wide-shot signifies something different in the mind to a close-up.
Note that after a string of incredible films, Conrad Mess, believed to be the world’s most acclaimed iPhone filmmaker, emphasised a hint that his next film was unlikely to be made with an iPhone. Mobile, and its practitioners IMHO must not mistake the devices’ exclusive use against other formats.
Like many speakers I spoke to, they mix forms. It’s the appropriate tool for the job. In a short on Robert Drew, I combined DSLR with mobile filming, but you’d be hard pressed to discern any difference.
The conference light has barely been dimmed, but delegates are willing on MojoCON 2016. Having showed its hand and expressed the implicit and explicit sentiment that this is how you do a conference, other prey (conference execs) will be looking on. The audience’s expectation too has been piqued. Who knows too that by next year a new iPhone will spawn a new OS, new interfaces and new tools.
Meanwhile, Ocular, drone and 3D, seen at last previous week’s Guardian Summit are spoiling for a fight.
Digital cameras too are responding with their own inbuilt Net/wifi systems. And as Dan Chung demonstrated with the ‘Sony S’, he could shoot on his camera with a powerful lens and inbuilt stabiliser and export a feed into his mobile or any other receptive device for post-production.
Being privy to mobile inevitably fosters the inexorable excitement of imbibing all other things digital. That’s a default beauty of this technology.
To that end, that psychogeographic practice has a greater currency in the mobile world, other than walking idly through cities. It gives us permission to play, and play we did at MojoCON endeavouring to navigate the continuously unfolding world of 1s and 0s — and a mobile phone.
Seriously — a cement mixer?
David Dunkley Gyimah is a recipient of awards in digital, innovation and international videojournalism. You can find more of his work at Viewmagazine.tv, videojournalism.co.uk, Mrdot.co.uk, and his blog on medium and viewmag.blogspot.com. His PhD is being developed into a film and book.