Overheard today…

July 4th, 2008

 “We need to broadcast electricity…”

– on the subject of finding somewhere to plug in laptops and batteries

Innovation in Online Video

July 4th, 2008

A fantastic, inspiring session, hosted by Carlton Reeve, with Andrew Chitty, Michael Odgen and Adam Selkeld.

Adam introduced Think Space, starting by saying that ‘Interactivity is a Good Thing’ but made a plea for the old skool ‘narrative’ to be considered and included when developing interactive media. Story telling is fundamental to human development, even before language we had cave painting with humans wanting to share ideas and stories – using stories to make sense of the world.

Adam also suggested that our interest in incomplete narrative, or stories where we don’t yet know all the facts – makes it all the more interesting and raises our curiosity.

Think Space was a BBC Jam project, focusing on RE for secondary school age children. Tackling RE you are looking at complex issues, ideas where there is no wrong or right and the conclusion reached was that the best way to present this was using narrative and they identfied a ‘need for stories’. Ideally they (users) would interact with stories and then make their own stories and reach their own conclusions from that.

Adam showed a BETA version, based on the idea of a globe with video content behind each block/screen. Users explore the themes of happiness, faith, values, media, change, identity, justice and purpose by watching a series of short documentary videos. using the video users can explore issues, guage their own reaction or opinion, use the slider to see similar opinions as well as the opposite ends of the spectrum. Users can explore idea deeper and find out facts and background info.

What do you want to do next? users can ‘Keep’ content and build their own map in their own Think Space. As you keep content you can tag it and add notes. Once in the think space mapping area, you can drop and drag the content you have chosen the keep to make a mind map, join items/ideas and make connections, add notes and create your own mental model very visually on screen.

You can then share your map by adding it to the think space gallery. Others can comment on it. With this tool you can respond, explore, save and share all through the power of narrative.

Visually, Think Space is very impressive and the clean ‘blank 3D canvas’ design allows the user to be drawn into the video content and the mapping drop and drag looks simple and easy to use. The content is very engaging and the idea of exploring ideas and theme through video, to help you reach your own conclusions about your place in the world is very appropriate. thinking back to my RE lessons at school, this definitely falls into the category of “I wish I had this when I was at school”!

Michael Odgen showed us Daedalus Hex. With an over-arching ambition to bring film, video, animation and online games together, this project was also a BBC Jam commission, for Key stage 3 Maths (11 –14). the aim was to use compelling story lines to drive the learning environment and give context, meaning and motivation to the games.

Bring together a team of writers, educators, designers (set and web) flash developers – games and the production team, the expertise was there form the outset. Michael talked us through the development process… Start on paper – mood boards, diagram/map, drama & game, story boards, set build etc and then throw all the elements are brought together…film, games – flash – video – green screen, drama to make the end product.

Seeing the clips of the final product, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the drama worked with the gaming elements and the narrative was more complex and the characters more developed than I was expecting. Remembering maths lessons where kids would say but “what’s the point of learning this, how will I ever use it, how is it relevant to me?”. I think this approach does give context to learning, does allow you to look at Maths as challenging, problem solving and shows that we have come along way from learning about fractions with analogies about slices of cake!

Finally, Andrew showed us Axon, also a BBC Jam commission, for Science.
Axon offers you the incomplete narrative and invited you to help complete the story by exploring this interactive environment. There are a series of missions and individual narratives where you are the protagonist, but there is also an over-arching drama that glues it all together. Andrew mentioned the X-files trajectory as something that uses a similar model.

Each mission has a mystery to be solved arranging from bodies in peat bogs to art fraud. Using real archive footage and other assets, users soft and sift through the data and deduce an answer from that. The interface was design and produced by Philippa, and by Rob Bevan (Online Caroline). The interaction is sophisticated and allows you to play each mission in a non-linear way (any order), however the drama unfolds at the same pace.

The drama and video content itself would make a 90 min film.

Again, like Hex, this presents a subject, in this case Science, in a way that is interesting, relevant and exciting, with real world examples.

The one astounding fact that came out from all 3 presentations, was the fact that as BBC Jam commissions, all 3 as sat on a shelf because the BBC trust has suspended BBC Jam. As Carlton said these are unprecedented projects, with high ambitions and generous budgets. With over 130 million pounds investment (public money) and 2 years of development time, not to mention blood sweat and tears, it’s unbelievable that these fantastic and exciting developments are not out there being used. There was some discussion about rights and licencing, however at the moment it appears to be in the hands of the BBC, unless Channel 4 fancy putting out some amazing interactive content for teenagers?

Er, is Janey still in the house?

Ed Vaizey MP

July 4th, 2008

Ed Vaizey MP

Ed Vaizey MP

Anna Home

Anna Home

Ed Vaizey MP

Ed Vaizey MP

Greg, Ed & Anna

Greg, Ed & Anna

Whose space is it anyway?

July 3rd, 2008

Thursday morning kicked off with ‘Whose Space is it anyway?’ hosted by Jake Humphries. On team one there was Adrian Mills, Michael Carrington and Catherine Marshall (aged 16). On Team two, Nigel Pickard, Alison Warner and Faizah Sabir (aged 16). Armed with old skool hooters and bells, the teams went head to head, as Jake gave them a series of headlines and quick fire questions, covering a range of topical themes.

Opening with ‘Who killed Teletubby Television’ and ‘Give us your cash or the kid gets it’ and the panel discussing the impact of cuts in broadcasting; the effects of online and a move to digital media and how top slicing is really just Channel 4’s ‘cry for help’. Nigel Pickard pointed out that whilst the effects might be felt now more than ever, this is not new and changes have taken place over a ten year period.

The quiz was interspersed with video, the first asked children what TV programmes they like to watch: Doctor Who, Blue Peter, Xfactor and Britain’s got talent – cos you can vote, Raven and Tracy Beaker, which had several mentions. On UK vs US programmes, the comment that US telly is better because ‘they have better equipment’ had us all laughing.

This was followed by a question, based on the video, are children affected by the problems face by the industry? The panel suggested that it’s case of not realising the problem until it’s too late, by looking at the TV listings and seeing hours and hours of TV it’s hard to see the problem; it is only once this vanishes that people will see what they have lost. Adrian pointed out that from a political perspective Children’s media is not high on the agenda – it’s not going to be an election campaign topic, and in a world where knife crime, education, health and a failing economy are the problems faced, it’s never going to be.

Nigel said that even with the Tax credit suggestion, tax solutions are too obvious and the idea doesn’t tackle the issue that broadcasting platforms are disappearing.

Children’s suggestions of what they would like to see on TV: life of a school child; comedy, stand up comedy; documentaries; cartoons; more programmes like Doctor who; realisti/relaity shows; famous people’s lives – what they do when they are not working; singing, dancing and performing arts.

The panel then went on to discuss the Tanya Byron report, which led to looking at ratings and ‘safety’ of children playing video games and using the internet, particularly social networking sites. Sites that children said they use included: Wikipedia, Cartoon Network, Neopets, Sky Sports, Disney Channel, CBBC and iplayer. When talking about the dangers online they used phrases like ‘ they might come and hunt you down’ ‘dodgy chatrooms’ ‘paedophiles’ and ‘I can be trusted to know what’s right and what’s wrong’. It was clear that the children interviewed were aware of the dangers.

On video games, the children overall felt that their should be ratings for video games, particularly for violent games such as ‘Grand theft Auto’ , however the idea of self-regulation was also an underlying theme, with some of the children suggesting that the ratings were there for ‘little kids’ but that they themselves (10 & 11 yrs olds) were capable of deciding what was safe or appropriate. One child said ‘What’s the big deal, it’s just a computer game?’.

Catherine felt that there should be regulation and ratings on violent games, because ‘you are not just watching, it’s actually you doing it’ . Nigel agreed and said that the immersive nature of game playing is not a passive experience, however having ratings can result in those games becoming aspirational. Faizah felt that video games do have a direct impact on children’s behaviour siting her younger brothers playing games and then fighting with each other. Alison suggested that with the introduction of the Wii, we will see the development of more family based games.

In the clip from Tanya Bryron, she talked about a ‘new culture of responsibility’, about less blame and more collaboration and suggested that as adults, we need to ‘get beyond our own anxiety’ about the media available to children.

On social networking, some children mentioned msn, MySpace and Bebo and for the girls one of the main attractions is being able to see each others photos and comment on them, however some of the boys were simply not interested saying they prefer to see their friends and family face to face to talk to them and would ask them questions when they see them, rather than online. One child said he didn’t have a profile as he wouldn’t know what to do with it. Other were not allowed, saying ‘it can be dangerous’ and ‘there are men, which isn’t good’. Jake told us that 25% of 8-11 year olds now have a social network profile.

Final thoughts from the panel: Nigel suggested that we need to find new ways to finance content and different forms of distribution, and to realise that things will never be the same again and we should stop thinking that we are somehow going to get back things back to how they were in the 80’s. Adrian sugested that TV and education have drifted apart and that while Children’s media may be low on the poltical agenda, Children themselves are high. TV can be a very powerful tool for education and that we should look to move away from the 1950’s idea of school television. Michael talked about ‘mashing’ content.

Catherine and Faizah’s last thoughts were that programmes that reflect the real lives of children and relate to them should be a priority, with both girls mentioning Grange Hill, as well as Byker Grove and The Queen’s Nose – as having strong storylines about teenagers’ lives.

The final suggestions from the children in the video, were more video games for girls; funny videos; more war and fighting; good news; mysterious games, with levels and funny televison – clowns.

Showcomotion 2008

July 2nd, 2008

Showcomotion 2008 starts this evening, with an opening keynote from Ed Vaizey MP, Shadow Minister for Culture and Broadcasting at 7pm!

See you there.