This is a pivotal moment for film and sound in education. Digital Britain was the last gasp of an ancien regime. We need Robespierres not Bourbons to do this future mapping. For the students of the future, multimedia will be their way of working. We will not distract them from Facebook unless we can offer a more compelling experience.
This was the radical message that came out of a lively session on the use of digital media in education, featuring the work of the JISC Film and Sound Think Tank (Peter Kaufman, Paul Gerhard) and JISC Digital Media (Zak Mensah).
New Yorker Peter Kaufman, president and executive producer of Intelligent Television, immediately got the British audience on side in this session on using digital media in education. To appreciative smiles he commented that, having driven through a series of pretty Cotswolds villages to reach the conference, he has a certain amount of regrets about the War of Independence. He also noted that there is nothing like JISC in the US – even if the name does sound like “a mysterious Soviet agency from Lenin’s plan from the 1920s”.
Pleasantries over, he offered an inspiring vision of what we could do to create a system to prepare cultural and educational institutions for participating more fully in screen culture and the great global conversation online. He argued that with ‘internetistas’ calling for an unregulated, neutral internet against fierce industry-led opposition, the competition for voice and audience will be fought among us like alley cats or a pub brawl with weapons close at hand.
“What tools can we give culture and education so it can hold its own in that fight?” he asked. “Can we create a system of support for the great libraries and museums and journalists and truth-seeking documentarians just as the great studios have done for film-makers, and can we do it at a time when people are losing faith in the schemes that are governing communication on the web?”
It is ambitious, he said, but no more ambitious than the work that the techies are doing now to make all the information in the world fit onto an iPod, or the cameras that can make every political event in China or Iran instantly recorded and uploaded.
“This is a pivotal moment for film and sound in education. The industry-led Digital Britain was the last gasp of an ancien regime. We need Robespierres, not Bourbons, to do this future mapping,” he declared.
Is the JISC Film and Sound Think Tank one such Robespierre?
Paul Gerhardt from Archives for Creativity and co-chair of the JISC Film and Sound Think Tank went on to explain its work.
The group aims to widen formal and informal participation in digital media, accelerate the use of media, improve the quality of teaching learning and distribute the benefits of cutting edge research. Over six stages there will be 12 deliverables, including:
- Imagine – a film antidote to the dystopian visions portrayed by Michael Wesch in his YouTube hit A Vision of Students Today
- studies of the anatomy of IP rights
- showreels highlighting the timeline of JISC’s investments
- case studies like those produced at Hull and shown yesterday
- podcasts of the think tank sessions
The Think Tank is looking at five key areas:
The work of the Strategic Content Alliance is very important aspect of this activity. Outside JISC, we can see the way that the BBC has already transformed consumption of media and TV through the introduction of the iPlayer and to come, BBC’s Project Canvas to bring internet into living room via open IPTV standard. The tipping point between on demand television and channel-scheduled TV has been reached. It also involves ITV, and Channels 4 and 5. There will be a profound step in the integration of media in the UK.
Origination and re-use of content
It is not just about the creation of new broadcast programmes but also how the value established in the archives can be opened up for the future. Some of the BBC archive team have likened this value to the coal seams established millennia ago whose value could only be recognised when we had the skills to mine them.
Open production methods
One of the most exciting developments is the possibility of truly open video where a number of people can become involved in its production and conclusion and use. There are now entire feature films made through open production methods. Wikipedia is working on an open video system and it is a very exciting development. The source code and all material will be open to be re-edited and re-used, just like the items within Wikipedia itself.
Academic community involvement
This is critical. The wisdom of crowds has to involve the academic community in revealing film and sound material. BBC has to tackle the issue of how it releases the one million items in its cultural archive. At the moment it is locked up within programme definitions – science or natural history or news etc – the BBC needs involvement of communities who can look across the collections and say what theme they are interested in – transport, biodiversity and so on – so the collections can be broken down and tagged. The BBC needs that involvement otherwise the release of archive becomes nothing more than release of old programmes you missed 20 years ago.
We need to be able to deliver trends and developments. The Open University was created in the late 1960s. If it was rebuilt today it would not be a bricks and mortar institution to deliver distance learning and media. Today’s enabling structures have to be lightweight and build in the ability to enable and involve their audience.
Paul mentioned Steeple, a collaboration across universities to form a portal aggregation of material from Oxford, Cambridge, OU and UCL:
“It is a vision of what might be the future of work to similar standards and metadata and working together and aggregate material across different institutions to allow institutions to encode and deliver the material efficiently and quickly.”
A delegate in the audience from UCL said that he was involved in a Steeple pilot project with film students. The issues was that while they could see material on the web, the students wanted to put it on their iPods and download it, play it. “We’ve got to get it on iTunes U and flash stream it and so on. It’s a big area and the more we can collaborate the better,” he said.
“This is a pivotal moment in film and sound – how can we cascade out all the good things that are being down to the sector as a whole so that people can be learn quickly? For the students of the future, multimedia will be their way of working. We will not distract them from Facebook unless we can offer a more compelling experience,” added Catherine Grout
An example of how JISC can help was offered by Zak Mensah from JISC Digital Media (formerly TASI), a service to help further and higher education with all their digital media needs. It has an email helpdesk plus training workshops, blog, advice papers, and consultancy.