Stories and Streams: Introduction to Alternative Media and Web Production @BCUMedia #media2012

Following on from last year’s #mc539 Alternative Media and Web Production (AM&WP) module at Birmingham City University, which I had an active role in developing as a course and was encouraged to be shared online beyond the classroom through a class blog and the #media2012 network – this year we (Jon Hickman and myself) have collaborated with Paul Bradshaw and his 2nd year Online Journalism (OJ) module to produce, what we hope, is an innovative approach to teaching both OJ and AM&WP as a working newsroom behind an online content management system, where both sets of students from each module will work together to research, develop and report on stories across two important themes for 2012; higher education and the London 2012 Olympics.

What makes the combination of these modules stand out is (what we hope) the innovative pedagogy- where we have decided not to follow the usual lecture/workshop model that mc539 (now med5008) still maintained. Each week will follow a structure of a news conference, an option to attend one of 3 streams (delivered by Paul, Caroline Beavon and myself) and a working newsroom – with students working in groups of 5 throughout. Within those 5, there are roles delegated to each individual: Editor, Community Manager, Multimedia Journalist (AM&WP students), Data Journalist and Network Aggregator. The editor decides what streams that their team should go to – and in turn, each member that gets to attend a workshop session has to feed it back to the rest of their group, much like how you are expected to feedback workshops in specific work situations – encouraging peer-to-peer learning.

My stream focuses on ‘stealth theory’ – that is, developing an understanding for the ‘alternativeness’ in contrast to the mainstream. I will be focusing on developing a critique of large media events and helping to guide where they might find the alternative story in the process. Importantly, it is about unpicking discourses and rhetoric in the mainstream media and being able to use that to research and construct stories that may not be covered otherwise. For instance, what does it mean when a corporate PR company contacts you to recruit students, to work for free on olympic related research jobs, in return for the ‘prestige’ of being remotely associated with that space?  I have a feeling that this is only going to increase as we raise visibility of the project, and the students begin working towards the Olympics in 6 months time.

To get them started, I am putting together an “Olympic Lead” sheet on google documents that cover some of the issues that are not covered in the mainstream media around the games. This is an open document and can be added to by anyone. I encourage anyone to add to it.

The module is also part of a wider research project where we will be blogging the entire process as lecturers, recruiting some students as part of the Student-Academic Partnership program with BCU’s Student Union to record sessions using a flipcam and adding to a public youtube channel and seeing this newsroom as being part of the West Midlands hub for #media2012.

More to follow as the week’s progress, following the category tag “Stories and Streams:MED5008” which will also be relayed on a class blog over on BCU Media blog.

Module Synopsis below: 

Alternative media is not new, but the web has provided an increased opportunity for alternative-ness. This course addresses alternative media practices, and explore how the web provides opportunities for alternative production in the context of wider media events such as transformation in the higher education sector and the forthcoming London 2012 Olympic Games . The module explores a range of alternative media opportunities, including the cultural programme, media structures and the process of developing citizen media outputs. Traditional media events such as the Olympic Games (the most watched television spectacle in the world) can provide a local and timely context in which to access the phenomena of alternative media. Beyond the sport events, the Olympics is an domain where geopolitical issues are played out by competing narratives between the Olympic movement, media institutions, politicians and the public -positioning the tension of alternative discourse as part of the Olympic experience.

You will be working closely with the MED5001 Online Journalism, working in cross-module teams to produce multimedia content as part of an ongoing news team covering issues around the higher education debate and the Olympic Games. The module leader’s blog will provide additional background reading. You will also produce blogs, Twitter feeds and social bookmarking accounts to support your learning and to exchange ideas and information with other students.

You will develop an understanding of “alternativeness”, social media, participatory and citizen media. You will demonstrate these ideas through producing and publishing blogs, social networks, podcasts and videos to the web. You will also explore alternative enterprise ‘models’ and work closely with local media practitioners to produce a web product suitable for dissemination through the #media2012 citizen media network – a nationwide development towards a cultural, digital and alternative legacy for the London Olympiad.

Teaching and learning will be based on lectures introducing key concepts, supported by workshops exploring those in practical exercises. Directed independent study will develop knowledge and skills further.The skills and knowledge learned here could form the basis for a final year project and provide an introduction to debates and themes associated with alternative media, mega-events and citizen journalism. Assessment is based on ongoing and visible web production and journalistic practice – you will be assessed on both alternative media as a community engagement process but also in the weekly creative media outputs that you produce. This is intended to give you an awareness of different forms of alternative media, experience in using online methods of research, and experience of being an alternative media worker engaged with online communities.