A British Chapter of Media Convergence II – StarDotStar

Two members of the award-winning digital agency StarDotStar, Gez O’Brien (who identified himself as a retired graffiti artist) and Kate Fox (an alumna of the MA in Social Media programme) came to share their past and current work with our level 4 undergraduate students on the Creative Media Analysis (Media Convergence) module on 24 November. StarDotStar has an amazing track record of involving in media convergence, showcased by an unusually diverse range of projects such as the 2-screen Beaver Leaks project for Channel 4, data visualisation project for the Open University, IPTV prototypes for Channel 4 and the BBC (Radio 1, Graham Norton Show, Dragons’ Den), and last but not least – the interactive coffee tables placed at the lobby of the Salford University’s MediaCityUK campus.

No doubt that TV has been undergoing massive change for the past years, not only because of services such as iPlayer, FreeView, and then the forthcoming YouView and Set Up Box, but also because of other parallel media convergent cultures such as gamification, televisation (radio tv). StarDotStar has been developing prototypes that can release content (plots, audience’s comments online, tweets or dents from actors/actresses) before and during the show,so that interaction between the audience and the programme can be improved / intensified. However, this may challenge the traditional way script writers work, and how not to broadcast offensive audience’s comments (gatekeeping with proper filtering, re-contextualising) is another challenge.

Gez showed us some demo of Radio 1 on IPTV, Beaver’s tweet game (a social campaign on its own right involving groups of fans asking questions online). These demonstrate in the future we are going to see more interactive TV Game Show (e.g., the archive quiz, something more like a combination of QI + Where Million Pounds Drop). 2-screen (or multiple-screen) is also going to become more common. To facilitate the 2-screen experience and capitalising on ubiquitous computing, they have also been developing augmented audio scapes, mobile apps for Channel 4, involving the 2nd screen participant in the show.

Kate’s new project “We Make Jam” also tied in well with the media convergence subject. Jam, in a broader sense, is to improve audience participation, using cutting edge interactive technology to encourage content creation, create community and encourage participation. Kate’s career move somehow is telling – she was a publisher (University of Manchester Press), then a moderator of BBC’s Point of Views message board, and then a social media strategist for Cbeebies to engage with grownups/parents through the interactive website and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and now someone who is working closely with developers to develop a website to help the 3rd sector / charities to voice themselves and network through social media and easy-to-use interactive technologies. It kind of (implicitly perhaps) shows how a media worker’s career path has shifted from traditional print industry to a transient, dynamic digital industry.

When chatting with other colleagues teaching media convergence or similar topics, we often look for literature written by our North American or Australian colleagues. Students often question whether there  is any British example. By blogging about these invited speaker’s work, I hope I’m documenting the fast-moving British version of Media Convergence, and make our learning resources at Salford University more widely available to readers out there.




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