When Mobile is the Medium, how do you affect the Message?
The title of this post is a riff on the famous brilliant media scholar Marshall McLuhan. As a filmmaker, journalist and academic, that’s what I, with the support of my supervisor, set out to answer. It’s fertile ground for various myriad conversations, which is very healthy.
Much of the findings are contained in my post-PhD work e.g. MA module on Emerging Media at the LAB I led at the University of Westminster and now being transferred to the University of Cardiff (one of the best journalism courses in the UK, and in the world where it ranks 25 amongst journalism schools).
To delegates and MA cohorts I tell them we don’t need to attempt to frame what we mean by mobile as we have a firm understanding in the technological age, but we need to be cautious when speaking in media historical terms, so we don’t conflate Mobile phones’ gains and advantages with mobile news making.
For instance do you know in the 1970s, after the news camera had been revolutionised by Robert Drew, Richter presented the smallest film camera and that much of what is achieved with the intimacy of mobiles is mirrored by Richter (below).
In a series of experiments and interviews, I show how understanding what experts refer to the embryo of technology eliminates blind spots that, if we’re not careful, can be repeated. This phenomenon is embedded in traditional videojournalism and its relationship with MSM. By knowing the past we can focus on real technological advancements and where they’re appropriate.
The mobile phone represents one of the most powerful computers of its size, with the ability to, transmit, manipulate, edit, and rebroadcast to social platforms in various ways. This was one of its precursors and how we presented to delegates in 2003.
In 2004, documented here on Journalism.co.uk by Jemima Kiss, we presented News Futures to the BBC. In 2007, at the ONA’s London chapter meeting steered by Katie M King and with Tim Overdiek a multimedia journalist and ilicco Elia, I documented the agency’s breakthrough with mobile for his staff.
At the first mobile conf (Mojocon) in Ireland I was grateful to Glen Mulcahy, then at RTE, for inviting me to speak. I have known Glen since 2007 when I was on a panel for RTE speaking about future media.
It’s no coincidence that several videojournalists, such as Glen transitioned into mobile from videojournalism, or that they would master drones or any assortment of cameras. This leap in skills is resistant-free compared to specialist news crews having to learn how to be one person filmmakers.
It’s a feature of innovation within groups and individuals pushing the edges to understand self-filming, but at the same time adapting many of the conventions within news.
The previous day, I had invited Glen to join me at the Apple store in London where I was delivering a keynote about filming and innovation.
I have achieved some of my most remarkable experiments and films using mobile, working around the world e.g. China, Syria border, Ghana, South Africa , Europe, Russia etc — and built a rich seam of knowledge in doing so. This is captured in several academic books written by experts, such as that below.
1. Base Culture. This film was made for a £500,000 AHRC award into researching reggae culture and shown on the big screen at the famous Lumiere Theatre in London.
2. Promo for Jaipur hotel in India, which took three hours
3. Promo for our University — first of its kind, combined with Drones.
4. Ghana. Commercial for Hotel
Mobile features of note from experts include below. This is by no means an exhaustive list but those that have caught my attention.
- 1. The Time Fixer (3 min. version for MFF2012) by Conrad Mess. Shot on mobile. https://vimeo.com/66014759
- 2. The King of Coffee from Philip Bromwell. Shot on mobile. https://vimeo.com/95273884
- 3. Crisis in Darfur Expands: Testimonials from Travis Fox. Not shot on mobile.
- 4. Mobile Film Festival 2017 — Trailer shot using a mobile https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-2CCDF42A8
- 5. People & Power — Syria: Songs of Defiance Al Jazeera English Shot on Mobile. First major documentary by a broadcaster shot exclusively on mobile https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnvPXspjLtU
Feedback from David’s presentations at SXSW and ONA below.
Feedback from ONA
Dr David Dunkley Gyimah is the first UK winner of the Knight Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism and a recipient of other awards. He is the Asper Visiting Professor for UBC Vancouver. He’s been an innovative journalist for almost 30 years working on innovative programmes, e.g. BBC Reportage, Channel One TV and Channel 4 News where he was a VJ. He is one of the top writers in journalism for Medium. You can find out more about him here.