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Presentation: Stories and Streams at the University of the West of Scotland Learning & Teaching Conference.

Stories and Streams was a project that I have blogged a lot about last semester whilst at Birmingham City University, where I have taught new media theory, alternative media and web production for the last 3 years. We (Jon Hickman, Paul Bradshaw and myself) were funded by the centre of excellent in learning and teaching within BCU to evaluate and transform the pedagogy of teaching media practice modules (such as online journalism, alternative media and web production) and to develop modules that reflect on the nature of the topic, rather than replicating traditional learning structures of classrooms, lectures and workshops. We also managed to hire some student research assistants to blog and capture the classroom activity. That’s the bit I particularly like.

Here is a (nitty gritty urban) video of me chatting about the project with David McGillivray:

Last week I was drafted in to the University of the West of Scotland Annual Learning and Teaching Conference to talk about this project. It has already toured to Winchester University’s Exploring Collaborative Approaches in Media Studies event in April with more outputs to be produced in the coming months for the Higher Education Academy and Media Education publications. Already, we are plotting the next year’s activity, where I am now living in Glasgow (and not able to work in Birmingham anymore) so we are giving up my teaching fee to be managed and spent by the students. Because as they say, students are customers and they obviously know more about what they think they need to know about media practice than me right?

I jest.

but I think it is important to think about what is going to happen in September with the fee regime changing and we are talking serious money/debt to do a degree. And the purpose and point of a university in this space. And all of that in the context of Scottish HE as well now. More to follow.

More on Stories and Streams:

Slides from UWS.
Link to project website
Audioboo with Cameron King about the presentation at UWS

Media2012 West Midlands, 29th-30th June (event born from Luke Seager (a student on the program) assessment brief)

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New Publication: The Olympic Movement, New Media and the Monitization of Open Media

Ages ago (I’m talking summer 2010), I wrote something with my PhD Supervisor Prof Andy Miah on the Olympic Movement’s New Media revolution and the monitization/exploitation and intellectual properties of open/citizen media around media events of this scale. It was published in the Handbook of Olympic Studies and a few weeks ago I received an actual, physical copy of the book. My name in print. Wow.

In the essence of open media, here is an extract – but you know what to do if you want to read the full thing.

Historically, the journalists at the non-accredited media centres (NAMCs) have been professional journalists who are not part of the rights-paying community. Yet, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games was the first Olympiad to have a substantial and independent social media or online media representation, with a number of alternative media centres and platforms acknowledged and formalised prior to the event. Indeed, Olympic Review cited Vancouver 2010 as ‘The First Social Media Olympics’.16 Yet, while the IOC’s articulation of this status focused on the user-generated content from IOC-controlled Facebook, Flickr and Twitter sites, a lot more was happening on the ground in Vancouver that describes a differ- ent population of social media contributors. The various new media centres in the city that were mentioned earlier included W2 Media and Culture House, a community media centre situated in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, one of Canada’s poorest postcodes; True North Media House (TNMH), a fully online media centre, allowing participants to print their own media pass and to publish and distribute information using their own websites and social net- works; and the Vancouver Media Co-operative, a mostly anti-Olympic campaign which distributed information about protests across the city. Much like the non- accredited media centres, the citizen reporters who registered with these media spaces emerged with the intention of covering alternative messages, which were not just about the Olympic sport, but the broader festival at large. Moreover, the 2010 Games provided an increased focus on digital content generated and distributed by the interface of informal networks of creative workers and online activists from within the host city, some without the aforementioned physical base and communications conducted via free web platforms.

The Olympic online media – bloggers, for example – and independent social media centres (such as W2 and TNMH) are fast becoming an integral part of the Olympic media landscape. Yet, their messages may not always correspond with those of officialdom, thus presenting a challenge to what may be seen as the Olympic media. Thus, one of the central questions about their work that concerns us here is whether the output of such alternative media is likely to be integrated within the official program. However, perhaps a more radical consideration is whether their existence will jeopardise the financial base of the Olympic movement and its relationship with the media, its core financial stake- holder. After all, if an Olympic fan with a high-specification camera can shoot the same quality of images as a professional photographer in the press section of an opening ceremony, the currency of the latter’s work – and thus the incen- tive to pay for the privileged access – is diminished. In turn, without the right to maintain exclusivity over such reporting opportunities, media organisations will not be incentivised to pay large amounts of money to have such access.

The non-accredited and independent media centres of the Olympic Games arise at a time when the capacity of user-created digital broadcasting and reporting has become a mainstream, mass participation culture.17 Already, Web 2.0 start-up organisations have become dominant forces in media content distribution, with such web platforms as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr indicat- ing just a few of the major players who’ve managed to sustain viable business models on the back of user-created content.18 The low cost of entry to the self- publishing realm of blogging, image and video hosting and short and mobile message sharing has blurred the boundaries between the media producers and the media consumers.19 As access to content creation, content distribution and content consumption becomes predominantly free to those who have access to the internet, the landscape of media production shifts towards one in which media audiences become part of the entire process, giving rise to a potentially new power relationship between broadcasters, journalists and the audience.20 Although questions remain about whether the new communities of reporters are beginning to occupy the privileged position of traditional media,21 our focus returns to scrutinising the IOC’s enthusiasm to harness new media com- munications to promote the ideals of Olympism and, in particular, find a way of monetising the Olympic digital assets. 

Reference: Miah, A. & Jones, J. (2012) The Olympic Movement’s New Media Revolution: Monetization, Open Media & Intellectual Property, In: Wagg, S. & Lenskyj, H. Handbook of Olympic Studies, Palgrave.

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Trolling from within: On how citizen media might *actually* transform the grand narratives of media events

I’ve found myself writing (and been given the keys) for the sister paper of the Daily Mail. So far, I’ve wrote three articles – and if I write another two before the Olympics is over, I am in the chance to win another iPad. It is the new media economy of volunteering in return for access and ‘credibility’ (hey, my mum actually reads (understands and retweets what I write now!) – but what has been quite interesting is that I’ve managed to play a game where I’ve wrote the distinct articles that cover topics not traditionally favoured by said publication. I’ve had an anti-Olympic, call-to-action one (in the spirit of Occupy), I’ve had a pro-Scottish, anti-bunting one – and now I’ve managed to slip a pro-media studies, anti-establishment one under the radar as well.

But what does this mean?

Probably nothing, it is the ‘blogs’ pages, where 100 people who blog about the ‘lympics can now blog about the ‘lympic over on a mainstream hosted platform. But interestingly, it has generated a bit of buzz for the bigger project I’m working-a-million-hours-a-week-on-but-it’s-my-baby, #citizenrelay.

What I really want to raise attention to – but also is starting to become a catalyst for other things, like the partnership with Help Me Investigate the Olympics  and Newsnet from the Media Trust – is the multi-layered trajectories that begin to emerge around small findings in big data. Like breaking a story about the corporate shame behind sponsor nominated torch bearers in the Independent here (first reported here.)

Working precariously between higher education (so getting students involved), journalism (with connections to big projects from big outlets), the cultural olympiad (where #citizenrelay is within the Festival 2012 brochure and funded by Creative Scotland) and academic research (critical informed events and media geeks ahoy!) , we are actually beginning to leave teeth marks behind some of the more general coverage that is rampent within mainstream, accredited broadcasters. See also the Jobbylee.

That being said, we (#citizenrelay) are being fed onto the BBC Torch Relay pages to be included on each day the torch is in Scotland. Those who go to watch the torch live, will be able to click into our humble wordpress site, hosted for peanuts on my server and view content produced by people who, thanks to Adam Perry from Newsnet, have now been equipped with the skills to ask proper interview questions, to anybody – not just authority figures or celebrities – and record and upload them on devices that they already own.

We potentially have more capacity to be on the ground asking these questions than those who are employed to do it. We don’t need to compete in that arena, we just need to go out and do – and make it easy as possible allow others to as well. It is easy as filling out this form. But the really important part of this, isn’t just capturing the citizen’s voice, no matter who they are, it is what we do with it during and beyond the project.

There is real potential, thanks to covering in the context of just one nation as a whole, using a consistant method of aggregating, archiving and visualising social media data – and working in, against and beyond the larger media outlets who might be too cautious, too restricted, too under resourced to attempt what we are about to do, in the way we are going to do it – that we could actually affect, change, transform the wider and dominant narratives of the Games time.

It is always worth remembering that something of this scale has never been done before at an Olympic Games. We didn’t have the tools that made it possible and access to the internet and mobile web has rocketed in the last 18 months. I’m going all out to make sure we can attempt to take on the Olympics at its own media games.

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