I’m working on a proposal for a project that experiments with the Semantic Web and just came across Kate Ray‘s informative, witty documentary on the subject. It’s an engaging overview featuring key players, and reveals the philosophical disputes around this emerging generation of web technology. It’s makes nice use of music too – I particularly love the klezmer in the intro. It also makes me think that I’d probably better update this blog’s tagline.Watch and enjoy!
Posts Tagged ‘Clay Shirky’
Tags: Clay Shirky, Kate Ray, Semantic Web, Tim Berners-Lee, World Wide Web Consortium
Tags: Andrew Tyndale, Brooklyn, Clay Shirky, David Evan Harris, Global Lives, Henry Jenkins, Kara Oehler, Khairani Barokka, Rahul V Chittella, Roland Barthes, TED, UnionDocs, UnionDocs Collaborative, Video Nation
It was good to revisit UnionDocs in Brooklyn, last Sunday, to take part in a panel on Global Perspectives in Digital Media . I was talking about Video Nation‘s work abroad during the 1990s, and the fruitful results which came from putting camcorders into the hands of participants, even briefly, or setting the camera up and inviting people to reflect on everyday life, as in this recording of a ferryman during the Bangladesh floods of 1998.
My co-panelists included producers Rahul V Chittella and Khairani Barokka (see Flickr stream below) from the remarkable collaborative documentary project, Global Lives (which I mentioned back in the Summer). Hearing them speak really brought home what a sign of the times that project is. Khairani explained how it all started in 2004 when David Evan Harris, now project director, was involved in making a film following a day in the life of a cable car driver in San Francisco. It gradually grew from there, until over six hundred volunteers – film-makers, photographers, translators, sub-titlers - have now collectively produced 10 x 24 hour films following ten people – a representative sample of the global population – through one day. David Evan Harris talks through the project’s evolution in this TED video.
It would have been impossible to imagine creating and co-ordinating such a volunteer effort only a decade ago – without what Clay Shirky has called the “ridiculously easy group formation” made possible by social media and the expanding connectivity of the web. Global Lives is crowd-sourcing with a purpose, a community of volunteer producers with a common vision to redress a Western skew in representation, in particular a paucity of global coverage in the US.
There are extracts from Global Lives online, but the full work is an installation which needs a physical space. It’s been in shown in galleries, museums, schools and public spaces around the world. There’s an open archive too – with the footage available to anyone who wants to create their own show. According to Chittella and Khairani the ten films are just the beginning, and more will follow.
In the Q & A my friend Andrew Tyndall asked something that was on everyone’s mind about the twenty four hour idea; what happens when the subjects are sleeping? [surely that's not great content?] Khairani explained how rather than being boring this was in fact a very revealing section of the day. The sleeping quarters and arrangements – alone, with others, quiet or noisy, interrupted or private – all contribute vivid detail to the picture of each person’s circumstances and culture. It made sense of their approach, and I could imagine how in an installation these quiet phases of the recordings would play well alongside the busy-ness of the other subject’s day-times.
In the face of what Global Lives is doing it felt rather like missing the point when someone in the Q & A asked whether it was ethical for people to be producing content without being paid. Don’t get me wrong – documentary is fraught with ethical questions, and, whether in conventional documentary or in participatory work, transparency about the terms is vital when media professionals engage with the public. (Though in the case of Global Lives many of the film-makers are professionals anyway, though doing this project for personal rather than financial reasons.) I don’t think there’s one answer on the payment front, but whether payment is available or not needs to be made clear right at the start so that people can make an informed decision.
But production technology is out there now. It’s becoming ever more accessible and affordable. People are going to do stuff with it – sometimes paid, sometimes not, sometimes co-ordinated by professionals, more often on their own terms. We’re looking at the emergence of a literacy in video which is analogous to written literacy, and an arena that – when cameras, tape and editing were expensive and scarce – was wholly a professional one is just not any more. This disrupts business models, raises questions about how creativity gets rewarded, and confronts us with a new problem of digital exclusion – what Henry Jenkins call the “participation gap”. But it allows for more and different perspectives, and (as “Global Lives” does) provides opportunities to counter representation by ‘Big Media’, which has to be good.
Before the evening panel I did a presentation for the UnionDocs Collaborative – a unique Masters-equivalent programme for early career media producers, theorists, and curators – now in its fourth year. As UnionDocs describe this independent educational initiative; ”It is both a rigorous platform for exploring contemporary approaches to the documentary arts and a process for developing an innovative group project.” Last year’s group made work inspired by Roland Barthes ground-breaking collection of essays,”Mythologies”. This year they’re focussing on the Williamsburg neighbourhood where UnionDocs is located, and have just completed a fast turnaround remake of an archive documentary about the area. I sat in on a seminar and was interested to see the programme in action. They were knocking around issues of authenticity and performance in the director’s position in first-person documentary, having watched Sherman’s March. My memories of my media studies MA are hazy, but I don’t think there was the kind of open, inquiring, critical discussion that I saw here, grounded in Kara Oehler‘s extensive experience as a media practitioner. If you’re interested in documentary and looking for a Masters programme in the US I’d recommend you check it out.
Tags: Capture Wales, Center for Digital Storytelling, Clay Shirky, Guillermo del Toro, Henry Jenkins, Joe Lambert, Kurt Rheinhard, Pan's Labyrinth, storytelling, transmedia, transmedia storytelling
Gosh, there’s a buzz about transmedia storytelling at the moment. It seems like some kind of tipping point’s been reached in terms of a recognition of just how significant non-linear storytelling is going to be. Here for example is Guillermo del Toro, the director of Pan’s Labyrinth, talking at the Toronto Film Festival last week;
“…I want to learn animation, I want to learn video games… I want to learn book publishing and I want to learn TV. Why? Because, as a storyteller, I’m convinced that in the next five to ten years, we’re going to need to know all of that… People talk about transmedia, and then some people are very radical and say “That’s not possible,” or “That would be the end of civilization.” I think it’s going to happen. I don’t think it’s going to happen for all things, I think there will be films that will be films, and games that will be games, and so on and so forth. But more and more, things are going to be permeable.”
Read more: http://techland.com/2010/09/13/del-toro-the-future-of-storytelling-is-transmedia/#ixzz109qiTg9P
If you’re interested in transmedia and the wider implications of the web and emerging technologies for storytelling then check out the Storytelling series of videos recently released on Vimeo. Created by Kurt Rheinhard from the Institut fur Theorie in Applied Arts & Sciences at Zurich University they’re based on interviews with a small group of key US commentators including Henry Jenkins – MIT, Clay Shirky – New York University and Joe Lambert – Center for Digital Storytelling (& mentor and friend to us on the BBC’s Capture Wales project).
The ten videos break this big topic down into themes - Games, Transmedia, Potential & Risks of Social Media etc – and offer contrasting perspectives and plenty of food for thought. They’re all worth watching. I’m embedding the videos that are particularly pertinent to the CollabDocs project.
Tags: Aaron Koblin, Chris Milk, Clay Shirky, Flight Patterns, For Ten Thousand Cents, Here Comes Everybody, Johnny Cash. The Johnny Cash Project, Mechanical Turk, New York Talk Exchange, The Sheep Market
Koblin is perhaps best known for his data visualisation works – Flight Patterns, which pictured air traffic over the US, and New York Talk Exchange which provided a visualisation of phone and internet communications out of New York. His previous explorations of crowdsourcing include For Ten Thousand Cents for which thousands of people worked separately using a drawing tool to jointly create a representation of a hundred dollar bill, and The Sheep Market, for which he commissioned workers through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to draw “a sheep facing to the left”, turning the process of each animal’s creation into an animation.
Tags: 350, Charles Leadbeter, Clay Shirky, Climate Change, COP15, Copenhagen Talks
Last Saturday my daughter Shauna, my friend Vron and I joined a few hundred other people in the park by the London Eye on the South Bank, to stand in the form of a “5″ for a photo. The same day people in Sydney made a “3″ and people in Copenhagen an “O”, so that when the photos from each location were put together they made the number “350″. Those photos now form part of a moving, impressive slide show on the 350.org site, along with thousands of other images made by people around the world.
350′s mission is to build a global movement around climate change. (The 350 name refers to the parts of CO2 per million which it’s believed is a safe upper level in the atmosphere. We’re at 387 right now.) Saturday was a day of action to demonstrate public concern in the run up to the important Copenhagen talks in December. People were invited to stage an event “incorporating the number 350 at an iconic place in their community and then upload the photo to the 350 website”.
Over 19,000 pictures have been submitted so far – you can see them all on Flickr. Some are straightforward, some witty, some poignant. There are schoolchildren in the Phillipines and climbers in Vermont. There are men on horseback in Mongolia, and divers at the Great Barrier Reef. Some women in Australia display the 350 quilt they’ve sewn. There’s a crowd in Times Square, each with a placard. In Babylon, Iraq, one woman holds up a sign. According to the 350 website there were over 5,200 events in 181 countries.
I went along not knowing much about 350. The action was fun to be part of, but when I saw the slide show I felt something important, a sense of possibility. Together the pictures are powerful – offering hope that maybe we can make a difference on this huge, scary, complex, often divisive issue. This is by no means the first example of mass collaboration as political action – which has been written about by Clay Shirky, Charles Leadbeter and others – but this approach is particularly fitting for the issue of climate change – where the network can connect people across the globe, reveal each others very different circumstances in situ, and nurture a sense of joint purpose. Content is still arriving. Check out the 350 Blog for the latest developments.