Skilfully compiled from available footage and newly recorded clips, Inkception, a new film produced by my students on the course ‘Creative Media Analysis’ last semester has just been released and will be premiered on 18 April 2013 during the EU COST ACTION IS0906 Tampere meeting at the University of Tampere. Five student projects that turned two academic journal papers on participatory media and digital publishing (Carpentier 2011, Pasquali 2011) into entertaining, easy-to-understand multimedia pieces are featured in this 30-minute film. It is a result of a semester of learning media convergence and transmedia with myself and Greg Foster in the School of Arts and Media at the University of Salford. In this work, the students successfully deployed practical skills, knowledge, and capabilities of analysing, articulating and storytelling. The learning outcome truly celebrates the natures of contemporary convergent and remixing media cultures.
I’d like to extend my upmost gratitude to Nico Carpentier for his relentless support and enormous input, Francesca Pasquali for sharing her knowledge, Geoffroy Patriarche and the EU COST ACTION IS0906 “Transforming Audiences, Transforming Societies” project for administrative and financial support, Greg Foster for inspiring next generation media workers, and all the students who participated.
Inkception, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0), is available now, together with a trailer and a poster below.
The fantastic Peter Caddock gave a half-day workshop on Unity 4.1 to my students in computer & video games (and also some in music) at the MediaCityUK yesterday. The good attendance (25) to this free, drop-in session on a Friday afternoon showed the charm of Peter (and perhaps also Unity ). The generous contributions from Peter and Studio Liddell have made my life in a world undergoing severe budget cuts and staff reductions much easier.
Peter also announced that Unity 4 has a Linux version. However, I couldn’t find the version to download on Unity’s website yesterday. Although it may still take a while for Unity to release its Linux desktop publishing preview, it’s good to know it’s on its way.
Today, for the very first time, I gave a lecture to a large group (60+) of undergraduate students in music at the University of Salford.
The talk was based on “bits and bobs” of my research interests and the things I do these days (e.g., teaching on and leading the BSc in computer & video games course). I talked about freedoms of remixing, reusing, repurposing, recontextualising music, social media and music, the concept of “spreadable media”, peer-to-peer / crowd funding, open source tools and hacking, challenges emerging from this new age of web 2.0-enabled, sharable and spreadable, user-generated content production and consumption, and some emergent technologies I observed lately. Personally I thought the lecture was well-received, despite the interruption of the slow Uni PC and poor internet connection in the lecture room.
I have always thought that music bears much resemblance to software (or the other way round, since music appeared earlier than software) in that music scores or tunes, like software source code, can be codified, written, studied, modified, recorded, shared, distributed, played, performed. When I was finishing my PhD at the University of York, I co-authored an article with David Beer about the concepts of “hacking” and “music sharing”, titled “Is Hacking Illegal“, for the book Sarai Reader 05: Bare Acts. I wish I could have included the anecdotes from the era of Baroque music (e.g., Bach, Mozart) by drawing particular connections with the compositional practices at that time (composing variations, recycling and reusing tunes). This lecturing opportunity allowed me to put it right somehow, by making a case for variation.
Here are today’s slides, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Too often the discourse around media convergence is about utilising cutting-edge, networked computing technologies to deliver, produce and consume media content. We are constantly being reminded that we will be prosuming media on connected multiple platforms, sharing and remixing content and information, interacting with authors and celebrities on the social web, being recommended / directed / given access to quality media content that meets our tastes and preferences. These seemingly rosy pictures, however, are accompanied by some socio-technical, legal and ethical challenges. A technology-determined view sometimes over-celebrates what technologies can do and ignores other crucial elements that make media convergence possible (or difficult).
My STS background constantly guides me to think critically when approaching the phenomenon of media convergence. Despite my continuing effort of engaging with technologies actively myself, I would also like to bring that critical thinking into the teaching, and indeed everyday practice of ‘media convergence’.
I was grateful that Loz Kaye from Pirate Party UK came to give a guest lecture on social and legal challenges in the age of media convergence to my Creative Media Analysis students on 29 November. Splitting his talk into three areas: namely freedom of access, freedom of expression, and freedom from intrusion (rights to privacy), Loz effortlessly linked the important topics of digital freedoms and digital rights with current affairs.
Loz opened his talk by emphasising the difference between the production and consumption of tangible goods and that of intangible goods (such as music) to highlight why some regulations, laws, and policies are inadequate in a digital age. In terms of freedom of access, the controversial Digital Economy Act, passed in 2010, has created unwanted risk of violating human rights because it allows disconnection of internet users. Loz urged us to ponder whether “disconnection” in Digital Economy Act is proportionate? Is the means justifiable? Is it censorship or protecting innovation? Is it cost-effective to do?
That said, when talking about media convergence, we should not assume that we will always be in an always-on state. These days, there are still many occasions where we are not always connected: slow broadband connection, weak or no mobile phone signals, forced to disconnect either because of the restrictions intentionally created by hardware or software manufacturers (for example, Apple has been working on how to wirelessly disable the camera on iPhones in certain locations, which “could be used to prevent citizens from 2communicating with each other or taking video during protests or events such as political conventions and gatherings“) or because of governmental policies or law (e.g., the 2010 Digital Economy Act).
Loz used Paul Chambers’s Twitter Joke Trial and Lord McAlpine’s intention of suing Twitter users who falsely linked his name to false allegations of child abuse to exemplify how to balance the enforcement of the existing law (in this case, Section 27 Communications Act 2003, Malicious Communications Act 1988) and freedom of expressions. When the communications on social media are constantly monitored nowadays (by service providers, governments or other organisations or parties), how do we keep up with the changing nature of social media? How do we define or position ‘freedom of expressions’? Where does the boundary go? How to draw a line? When the government applies data mining and text mining technologies to detect “threats” on the internet, are the results always trustworthy (can we trust the machine) or it depends on the contexts?
Last but not least, the freedom from intrusion (rights to privacy), Loz raised our awareness of the draft Communications Data Bill. Just because technologies can afford, does it mean that it is right to implement blanketed surveillance? Loz also emphatically said that he has never subscribed to the view that site blocking is morally equivalent to the kind of great-firewall censorship in China. But, we need to think about those questions: is the means justifiable and proportionate?
I am in debt to Loz, and indeed many other guests who have delivered interesting talks to my students in TV and Radio, Computer and Video Games, Social Media in the past months. Without them, the courses would not have been that colourful. A big “thank you” to everyone and wish us all an excellent year to come.
I went to Larkin’ About‘s Mini Game Jam at Contact Theatre where a game workshop that brainstormed hacks and uses of modern computers akin to the likes of the Copenhagen Games Collective took place and several physical games were played (e.g., Werewolf, Turtle Wushu, Urban Cap Games created at the 2012 PlayPublik Festival in Berlin urban hacking with bottle-caps, Berlin’s most popular waste) and/or tested (e.g., Meeple, Attack the Block).
I like physical games. Contemporary physical games such as 2.8 Hours Later resembles the chase games and tap games I played when I was little, but with a more engaging storyline (usually apocalyptic these days), and perhaps mediated / supported by mobile, wearable computing technologies. For example, one of the facilitators today Greg Foster (who was introduced earlier in this blog) showed the participants how Johann Sebastian Joust or Idiots Attack the Top Noodle utilised the PlayStation Move controller, PlayStation Wonderbook, brainwave reader (mindwave reader) to stage physical games in urban environments.
During the mini game jam, Gareth Williams and I came up with a game concept for such a computer mediated physical game, which was provisionally named “Build the World (and Take Over)”. Inspired by SearchLight created by Hide&Seek and RTS games such as “Sim City” or “Civilization“, this game would use a Kinect (or an EyeToy) and a projector to enable a physical Real-Time-Strategy game, where two players would compete simultaneously to see who build the world (and take over it) first. The stage would be divided into several grids, which would be covered with projected images. Each grid has a task to complete – when stepping into one grid, the player would be required to follow the instruction to build some assets (tasks) by moving their bodies to perform the pre-defined body movements / gestures which would be captured, recognised, and judged by Kinect or EyeToy. If successfully identified by the console, the player would be awarded points based on the types of assets they build or the tasks they complete: for example, planting vegs or trees or flowers in a garden (3 points), building residential houses (5 points) or opening a supermarket (10 points), starting a school (15 points), building a hospital (20 points) etc.. The player who gains more points in a given time wins.
Let’s see if this game can be realised in not so distant future.
Through the Erasmus Staff Mobility programme, Prof. María del Mar Grandío Pérez, whom I have become acquainted because of the EU COST Action ‘Transforming Audiences, Transforming Societies’, visited University of Salford on 12-15 November and gave a guest lecture on transmedia storytelling. The well-received guest lecture introduced key characteristics of transmedia storytelling in TV dramas and transmedia strategies that are designated, developed and deployed to include fans / audiences in the making of TV dramas. Quite a few classic examples of transmedia storytelling in contemporary Western TV dramas were featured:
- Twittersodes (written by PR staff supervised by scriptwriters, best exemplified by BBC’s Sherlock with @SherlockSH and @WatsonJW conversing on Twitter)
- The intersection of graphic novels and TV drama (e.g., Heroes)
- Webisodes (unbroadcast clips circulated online) e.g. an unshot scene by Chris Chibnall about what happened to Rory’s dad and the Ponds
Maria reminded us that to successfully devise a transmedia project, one has to know the platform(s) well, know the language of each platform well, and know the (fragmented) audience groups well. At the end of her talk, we discussed some interesting questions: what are the differences between cross-media and transmedia? Are there risks of lost in translation if content are over-remixed (lost the original meanings or off the original topic)? Is journalistic production more like cross-media production while TV fiction or films or games more like transmedia?
It was week 7. Maria’s lecture neatly summarised most of the course content I have covered so far: transmedia idiosyncrasies (e.g., connected platforms, fragmented audiences, new ways of storytelling, transmedia narratives, co-production, value-adding). I observed that there seems to be an analogy between lecturing and cross-media content making: The fact that the same theoretical concepts can be lectured / delivered through different lecturers resembles that the same content being mediated / broadcast through different mediums on different platforms. Funny to think that lecturers (or performers) are kind of mediums, storytelling tools.
I’d like to thank Maria for delivering such an interesting lecture – definitely a good storyteller.