Category Archives: current affairs

Mainly media-related

What I think you think

As a media maker I often wonder what you think of my work. In some ways, such queries are a hopeless hiding-to-nothing: the opportunities for direct feedback are rare, the possibility that I will misinterpret you are high, and what desire or ability do I have to change my work, even if I do understand your misinterpretation?

And yet, you are my ghost; I am haunted by your presence.

I decided to carry out an experimental project to try to understand our relationship. One strategy was to test out your interpretation of a very short piece of media.

The media in question consists of a 15 second extract of then Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott answering an interview question. Mr Abbott pauses before answering. You can view the extract on Youtube at the 5:35 – 5:48 minute mark – and I strongly advise you to leap ahead to those all-important seconds if you want to experience the pause yourself:

I asked respondents to tell me their reaction(1). Here are some:

Respondent 1:

Polly on the run. He’s wondering what he has told his ministers to say – whether he will contradict them or they will contradict him.

ME: That word ‘Polly’. A sympathetic term. The Canberra Press Gallery uses it. I’m thinking that this person might be a Journalist. Checking for coherence is what Journalists do. Why does that matter? It does and it doesn’t. It’s your profession to commentate on politics. You have different motivations – but for all that, your opinion is just as valid as any other. Should my assumptions about who you are flavor my interpretation of what you are saying?

Respondent 4: Abbott leaves the surface for a brief moment; checks to see if there is anything, any intuitive intelligence, emergent from his depths; stumbles on the discovery that there are no depths to be had; returns to the surface none the wiser.

ME: I like these metaphors. It’s an interesting way of making Abbott’s thought processes visual. Does this respondent always think in such a visual way?

Respondent 5:

I don’t really feel anything – I’m waiting for what he says. Not because I’ll take every word as true, but because I expect all politicians to pause regardless of the honest of their responses. I also don’t think Abbott’s thought process here affects his ‘political future’ – we already knew he wasn’t taking action, and most planned to vote for him anyway. My reaction is that I’m sick of analyzing his character – attack the policies and not the person. He’s not a President.

ME: An unexpected response. Now I’m defensive. I am playing the man and not the message? This respondent is talking about me as much as she’s talking about the media moment … but I want to outside the media! S/he is thinking about the wrong things!

Respondent 6:

- He was thinking how he could not look like an idiot or be rude to “Andrew”;
-My reaction is that he was taking a deep breath in a form of a sigh … how do I answer this diplomatically when really he just wants to ‘yell’ that everyone else is just wrong about climate change;
-My reaction is that he is an idiot and slimy but that is motivated by my strong held political beliefs

ME: An angry person with strong politics. Wait a minute, I know this handwriting. Of course, I know she thinks like this. Maybe she knows I’ll recognize her handwriting. Maybe she knows that I know who she is, and she’s saying these things because she knows I know.

Respondent 7:

He is pausing because he needs to marshall his thoughts before responding to a contentious question. I think he is trying to work out the best way to communicate his skepticism about climate change without putting off too many voters. The pause has connotations of insincerity for me in this context but this may be due to my own anti-Abbott bias.

ME: This response echoes my view. Did I do something to encourage this response? Does saying this under-estimate your ability to think outside of my manipulations?

Respondent 8:

A practice of disconnection, putting emotive quality what has been conveyed by questioners aside … regathering
Giving space to allow everylay – re-entry of structure of opinions he knows.
Ultimately there is no room for conversation for listening, only surviving with your core messages intact.

Me: I can’t read your writing. What is ‘everylay”? But more – what does your writing itself say? What damage am I doing to you by typing it? I should print the poetic original, your pauses and spaces –
What have I learned? Tentatively:

  • often we don’t even acknowledge the things we understand in the media; interpretation can be quite subconscious;
  • we bring a lot of contextual information to interpretation
  • interpretation is expressed in language, and cannot be divorced from that language
  • it may also have a materiality
  • I don’t understand all your interpretations, and
  • I never will.

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 2.12.50 PM

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 2.13.06 PM

Channel 7 (29 June 2013) ‘Sunrise – Abbott Unfazed by Labor Polling’ Viewed 18 December 2013.

(1) This project has RMIT Ethics Committee approval (DSC CHEAN B Project 0000015696-09/13)

Why I hate Manifestoes

The Web seems to spawn them. They are so neat. Quick. Like, summarising one’s in a tweet (even though the particular manifesto I’m about to refer to doesn’t like tweets). They also exclude, ostracise. Set up an ‘us’ and ‘them’.

I think men love manifestos. I know, that’s reductive. But. The rest of us who live in the small grey area known as being human know that a manifesto is a limitation. OK, so you can use it to explode boundaries, but too often they are a means to exclude, to erect the boundary.

So. I. will. never. write. a. manifesto.

Here’s one, the Slow Media Manifesto. I almost like it, but then, there are bits I don’t. So it excludes me when it pretends to include me. It’s a rhetorical sleight of hand.
Where I am meant to go? Home, with ball and bat. here’s a bit:

12. Slow Media are progressive not reactionary: Slow Media rely on their technological achievements and the network society’s way of life. It is because of the acceleration of multiple areas of life, that islands of deliberate slowness are made possible and essential for survival. Slow Media are not a contradiction to the speed and simultaneousness of Twitter, Blogs or Social Networks but are an attitude and a way of making use of them.

Some of my media projects are soooo slow. years. Others are tweets. Seconds. They have quick high-falutin’ avant-guard ideas (I think the web killed the avant-guard, except, maybe, for hackers):

High-quality, thoughtful work that pushes the boundaries in many different directions – sustainable, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and in terms of community building. A movement which seems to rehabilitate or reinvent an avant-garde practice.

I nearly love this. Why did they have to binarise their aspiration by making it into a manifesto?

owning the second screen

Image: Burn notice graphic novel

Apparently, 60% of Americans watch TV with another screen on their laps, and this other screen is likely to be networked. A report by IMS Research proclaims 2012 the year that the consumer electronics industry “finally realizes the promise of multi-screen content consumption.”

So how do we leverage this second screen to channel viewers into another level of engagement with what’s on TV? Build an app, of course, and create ‘social TV’.

In Social TV series–The Race for the Second Screen: The Show’s the Thing, Jim Hanas argues that

apps tailored to specific shows or networks are in a position to offer up rich, exclusive content.

One example is Burn Notice, whose graphic novel app is available for Android and iPhone. According to Jesse Redniss, senior vice president of digital at USA Network:

There are a still a ton of lean-back users. There are the users that want to Shazam things and have content pushed to them and there are different users that want to install the Burn Notice interactive graphic novel and take the next step into the content experience. It’s really important to be able to cater to each one of those types of viewers, otherwise we’re forcing people into one type of content experience, which I think is just a horrible user experience overall.

A ‘real’ documentary?

This video, shot automatically from a car video camera, has almost no editorial – especially if you don’t understand Japanese. The only editorial is the minimal editing.

It is, therefore, a ‘real’ documentary? You can’t argue that its not the truth, unless you’re a hopeless conspiracist. But no, I don’t think it is. This is some sort of witnessing, but a documentary needs some sort of author, even participatory ones. Otherwise the genre is belittled.

Japanese Tsunami Viewed From A Car.

2 views on the Convergence Review interim report

One, more approving, from Ben Goldsmith in ‘Convergence Review heralds a dramatic shift in Australian media‘:

In line with the review’s consistent emphasis on “regulatory parity”, the report proposes that all “Content Service Enterprises” be required to commit a percentage of total production expenditure to specified Australian content, along the lines of that currently operating for select subscription television channels.

The category of Content Service Enterprises is a broad and as yet ill-defined class of entities providing programs and other content to Australian audiences on any delivery platform.

It appears likely to cover large and small Australian players such as the existing free to air and subscription television companies, Bigpond and FetchTV, as well as international services that supply content to Australians including, presumably, Facebook, YouTube, and BBC iPlayer.

Some commentators are already suggesting that the imposition of this requirement on international services will discourage them from operating in Australia and potentially lead some Australian services to relocate offshore. And there are many questions about how these enterprises will be identified and monitored. But in theory at least, this is a bold attempt to spread the responsibility for supporting Australian content production to all services operating here.

Martin Hirst in Media Convergence review is light on detail – and on regulation is less impressed:

I think it’s quite empty of content, to be perfectly honest. The headline in it for me is that it’s an attempt to come to terms with what I call the “techno-legal time gap” – the dissonance between what technology can do and how it is regulated….

The devil is really in the detail, and it’s difficult to tell just from this interim report where exactly the entire review will head.

One of the most crucial issues seems to be the time frame. We are now probably 18 months out from the next federal election, and it’s going to take much longer to get that sorted out. So it looks like the review has created a political football to be kicked around until the election comes.

on the future of ‘TV’ (=internet)

TV near CCF1

TV near CCF1 by Jacob Whittaker (

Managing Director of the ABC Mark Scott, writes interestingly in Content and competition in a changing media world about the future of TV, how its not dead, but evolving. They seem to be putting a lot of faith in iView – I can’t comment there, I tried it some years ago and my bandwidth just wasn’t up to it. I should try again.

An issue I had not thought about from the producer’s POV is the issue of competitors:

To date, audiences are still more lucrative in front of linear television, with the volume of advertising that can be sold in that forum.

And if there is to be catch-up content, the idea of putting it alongside a competitor’s content on the same service can seem like it’s a bridge too far.

There are rights issues, management issues, technological and revenue issues. And let’s face it, it can be difficult to get competitors to work together.

I hope we can.

Despite all the technical innovations, and the ways that younger people are accessing content, Scott concludes:

We know our future will not depend on our platforms. They’ll be robust for a while yet. Our future will depend on delivering compelling content and program offerings: distinctive, high quality, Australian content of wide appeal and of specialist interest. And our future will also depend on us relentlessly making that programming available to audiences to consume how and when they like.

I think he’s kind-of saying what I believe – content and platforms go together. If you’re not making that marriage in heaven, then the union will probably not get consummated. IE no one will engage with your stuff.

Will have to watch this space for the Convergence Review Report.

The new etiquette

…is all to do with devices, social media, and how we use them. 10 signs you’re a social media jerk  offers a few tips, some referring to behaviour so obscurely evil I don’t, thankfully, have experience of them.

Psychologist John Suler has created a new syndrome, called the ‘Online Disinhibition Effect’, which is when someone expresses aspect of their personality otherwise suppressed, or dissociates from their online behaivour entirely.

Well, I’m all for new syndromes, but isn’t that just a case of immaturity?

We learn etiquette online as well as everywhere else, and there are lots of examples of people working out netiquette on the fly in various social media contexts.

But you’ll have to read the forthcoming paper by myself and Hugh Macdonald for more.

If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead

Another great one-liner from Henry Jenkins, referring to successful transmedia products. In How Transmedia Storytelling Is Changing TV (an article with lots of gr8 links) Lisa Hia, Executive Vice President of Bravo Digital Media, argues:

The ability to efficiently create affordable, participatory storytelling vehicles that go beyond being “bonus extras” and spreading it through different circulation channels is changing the rules and creating a potential value proposition too big to ignore.

She’s talking about a cooking contestant show they’re creating, Top Chef:

The goal is to flow content from platform to platform and to bring in the fans along the way — both the diehard and the casual. This is something that has not been possible until the scaled adoption of smartphones, tablets, social networks and gamification tools like Bunchball and GetGlue….

If we can prove that engagement and value is increased exponentially by integrating storytelling seamlessly across media platforms, we all win — fans, content creators, advertisers.

Hia looks to a future with ‘collaborative social storytelling, where fans themselves can further the plot in a pervasive, meaningful way. Smart media companies will look for ways to go beyond the “walled garden” model and turn their fans into ultimate brand ambassadors.’

It’s the end of control as we know, folks. Why, it’s remote control. My bad pun for the day.