Screening in the Rhondda

The end-of-workshops screening – along with the storycircle – is everyone’s favourite part of the workshop. This afternoon at two at Valleys Kids, Soar Chapel, Penygraig, Rhondda, we’re holding the Rhondda Lives! screening and I’m really looking forward to it.

This week has been a fantastic one with ten people making a personal film with Valleys Kids using archive footage from BBC Wales and the National Screen and Sound Archive in a project funded by Heritage Lottery money. This project has been a lot of hard work for a lot of people and – seeing the stories that people have made – makes me realise it’s worth all the hard work. The stories they’ve told are fantastic!

I’ll reflect more about Rhondda Lives! in a future post and about different ways of facilitating storytelling using archive footage. For now, I just want to enjoy the anticipation of that final screening today.

Early on Monday morning, I’m taking a trip to Scotland organised by Susie Pratt of the George Ewart Evans Storytelling Centre at the University of Glamorgan. I’m looking forward to this, not least because it’ll be the first time I’ve ever been to Scotland. I’ll write about this trip next week.

What God looks like

Hamish Fyfe: ‘I remember being in a classroom in Northern Ireland where the children were drawing. I noticed one little girl of about seven and asked her what she was drawing. “I’m doing a drawing of God” she said. I said I thought that was interesting since a lot of people didn’t really know what God looked like. “Oh”, she said, “that’s alright, they will in a minute”.’

That’s a story Prof. Fyfe told at University of Glamorgan last night as he set out his vision for society where there are exciting new spaces set out for the arts. He show digital stories and compared today’s You Tube age with the moment when Eastman invented the one dollar box Brownie Camera and vernacular photography was invented. He warned that changes need to be made in the way arts are integrated into society. Here’s a summary of my understanding of his manifesto for new social and creative literacies:

We need to find better ways to communicate with each other and to engage with artists and a range of forms. The creative needs of those who work in the socially engaged arts need to be met and there needs to be space for children and young people to more freely explore creativity for themselves, instead of those opportunities always being so highly structured. People who care about this need to speak out as advocates for the arts as a cultural right for everyone and there needs to be a climate in which people can interact both locally and internationally, take risks and experience creative transformations for themselves. (A summary of key points by Hamish Fyfe in his ‘Cycles of Affirmation – Art and Community in the New Century lecture. Look out for the full text of his lecture which, based on past experience, will probably be posted here.)

I don’t know about you, but that I think that sounds like an improvement on the society in which we currently live and, unlike many utopian visions, this one sounds deliverable.

Queuing

When I lived in Ardfert, County Kerry, in the Republic of Ireland in the mid 90s, I remember a radio programme called ‘Queueing For A Living’ in which the presenter Paddy O’Gorman sought out queues of all kinds and recorded conversations he had with those waiting. From laundrettes to prison waiting rooms, there was something about the stories that came out of those everyday situations and people spoke of things I hadn’t heard many people speak of on radio before.

I think Professor Hamish Fyfe of University of Glamorgan would have enjoyed that programme too. I’m looking forward to attending his inaugural professorial lecture  this evening at the Glamorgan Business Centre, University of Glamorgan, Trefforest CF37 1DL.

Hamish is a fellow member of DS Cymru and the University of Glamorgan and BBC Wales are collaborating in research into forms of digital storytelling and participative media. I last heard Hamish speak formally at the University at the conclusion of The George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling 2007 Research Seminar series on 14th June 2007. In that seminar, “Habits of the Heart” Storytelling and Everyday Life,  he  compared digital storytelling with the Mass Observation movement. He showed half a dozen digital stories and a 1930s Humphrey Jennings film. You can read the text of that lecture here (pdf file).

It’s fascinating to have the bloodline of what we’re doing in digital storytelling today traced by Hamish from Surrealism, though Mass Observation, via the radio ballards to a new book by Joe Moran called ‘Queuing for Beginners’. Moran (as does O’Gorman) revels in the everyday, routine and the ordinary – but not in the negative sense of these words.

And Hamish (as does Moran) wants the everyday and the ordinary to be taken more seriously by academics and by the mainstream. Because I think we can learn a lot by paying greater attention to the stories people tell in their digital stories.

Media Literacy Summit

I had an interesting day at the Media Literacy Task Force’s Digital Media Literacy Summit at Channel 4 in London yesterday.

“Right now there are more than 300 million people around the world watching video content online. It’s a fundamental shift that completely democratises our business.” Peter Chernin, News Corp. (Jon Gisby’s slide; I think this is the source.)

Yes, democracy can be served by absorbing content but it’s participation is what makes the democracy vibrant … and that isn’t happening yet because only:

“0.16% of YouTube users  upload to YouTube” (Ewan McIntosh‘s slide – photo of  Guardian chart, May 2007)

I’d really hoped for more from the Task Force yesterday about how to address this gap. But as we’ve discussed in our own Wales Media Literacy Network, media literacy is a broad church – from understanding media messages and staying safe on the internet to being able to create your own media, so much of the yesterday’s talk was less relvant to content creators.

James Purnell MP – Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport – was refreshingly unconventional in his style as he spoke. When challenged about digital literacy in primary schools, he asked the questioner for possible solutions instead of defending existing policy.

Purnell introduced Dr Tanya Byron (House of Tiny Tearaways) and she later outlined her Byron Review about “risks to children from exposure to potentially harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games”. If you’re interested in this field, Dr Byron invites your input

Jellyellie (aged 17) said she always took her parents along with her to meet people she’d messaged on MSN – “otherwise they might stab me in my back!” Jellyellie was the day’s most entertaining speaker. She told us how she scared a businessman on a tube train by bluejacking him as he was falling to sleep by telling him she liked his tie. Bluejacking is anonymous bluetooth texting and Jellyellie made a website all about it when she was 13.

P.S. Overheard on the Circle Line yesterday a man telling a story about a large woman on the escalator in front of him getting stuck. Punchline: “I laughed my contact lenses out!”

Decisions decisions

If you’re starting out in digital storytelling, you face  some fundamental decisions that will determine or be determined by equipment and software you have access to. I’m not going to give many answers today, but I’ll come back to these in future. It’s just useful to be aware of the scope…

What kind of computer am I going to use: Apple or PC? Or am I going to use a device like a mobile phone?

Am I going to work in Standard Definition or High Definition?

Which operating system am I going to choose: Windows, Apple, Linux?

Will I launch the operating system from the comupter hard drive or will I launch it from a disk or portable drive? E.g. dyneBolic is a LinuxLive OS which runs from a CD-Rom

Which aspect ratio am I going to use: 4 x 3 squarer format or 16 x 9 widescreen?

Which video editing software am I going to use?

Windows: Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere Elements, Adobe Premiere, Avid, etc?

Apple: iMovie, Final Cut Express, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, etc?

Linux: Kino, Cinerella, LiVES,  etc.

Browser-based: eyespot, JumpCut, etc?

If you ask the advice of a TV video editor, many will say ‘buy Avid or Final Cut Pro’. I’ve avoided using those when helping people make digital stories because Avid uses baffling professional jargon on labels and FCP’s writing on buttons is too small for many of the people we work with to read. You may decide to go with them or explore other software like Adobe Premiere (Elements?)

Whatever you go for, if you want the stories you make to end up on TV, make your own story using the proposed kit and software, then show it to a technical TV professional to expose any shortcomings.

Participative media in the mass media

My friend and colleague Rhys Williams just showed me a website he’s project managed for a new Welsh-language TV show for young people called Mosgito. I haven’t watched it yet but judging by the website  this looks like a fantastic show, where the producers have woven elements of participative media into the on-air programme.

They’ve recruited a team of participants – Gwegang – who use their own webcams to record pieces for the show. Other kinds of participation are also encouraged. In the Citcreu (create-kit) area, there are video tutorials on storytelling, camerawork, animation as well as uploaders so authors can share their work.

It’s great to see a programme like this going on air, helping people who participate to get the material they make shared with a big TV audience. Well done Adran Addysg a Dysgu BBC Cymru and S4C!