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Annotated Digital Culture Links: November 26th 2008

Links for November 26th 2008:

  • Obama’s Video Strategy: A Peek Behind the Curtain [NewTeeVee] – “During the 2008 presidential election, the Barack Obama campaign set up dedicated new media teams in many states, but there were only eight with dedicated videographers: Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. What do those states have in common? They were key swing states — and on Nov. 4th, Barack Obama won every single one. I recently spoke with with Kevin Hartnett, director of new media for the Pennsylvania campaign … In this election cycle, the incorporation of online video as part of a wider new media strategy was clearly revolutionary — even to those involved. “This was not something the political professionals on the campaign had had before,” Hartnett said. “” (Fascinating look at how important social software, online campaigning and the cheap’n’easy nature of digital video was to Obama’s largely grassroots campaigning.)
  • Preview of my Television & American Culture book [Jason Mittell / Just TV] – Television and American Culture, forthcoming from Oxford University Press, copyright by Jason Mittell. Introduction: Why Television? Section 1: Television Institutions Chapter 2: Exchanging Audiences Chapter 3: Serving the Public Interest Chapter 4: Televised Citizenship Section 2: Television Meanings Chapter 5: Making Meaning Chapter 6: Telling Television Stories Chapter 7: Screening America Chapter 8: Representing Identity Section 3: Television Practices Chapter 9: Viewing Television Chapter 10: Television for Children Chapter 11: Television’s Transforming Technologies Conclusion: American Television in a Global Context (The introduction is online; looks like a possible textbooks for Digital Media.)
  • Web Suicide Viewed Live and Reaction Spur a Debate [NYTimes.com] – “For a 19-year-old community college student in Pembroke Pines, Fla., the message boards on BodyBuilding.com were a place to post messages, at least 2,300 of them, including more than one about his suicidal impulses. In a post last year, he wrote that online forums had “become like a family to me.” “I know its kinda sad,” the student, Abraham Biggs, wrote in parenthesis, adding that he posted about his “troubles and doubts” online because he did not want to talk to anyone about them in person. Last Wednesday, when Mr. Biggs posted a suicide note and listed the drug cocktail he intended to consume, the Web site hardly acted like a family. On BodyBuilding.com, which includes discussions of numerous topics besides bodybuilding, and on a live video Web site, Justin.tv, Mr. Biggs was “egged on” by strangers who, investigators say, encouraged him to swallow the antidepressant pills that eventually killed him.”

Student Digital Media Project Showcase

After getting off to a decent start with my blogging about student creativity this year, I seem to have fallen a little behind.  I’ve had this post in draft form for ages, waiting for some insightful commentary to spring forth from my uncooperative brain, but alas, none has emerged so I thought I’d just showcase a few outstanding examples from my Digital Media (Comm2203) unit last semester and let them speak for themselves! While the first Student News assignment in this unit asked students to make a relatively traditional television news-style story (the best of which were screened on local tv), the final project was rather different as it was designed to provoke some hard thinking about digital media more broadly both in form and content.  The outline for the final projects stated:

The Digital Media Project is designed to explore the affordances of digital video and media in an online context. Working in teams (the same as your Student News Project team), students will produce a 3-minute short digital video piece which critically explores an idea, concept or area which was discussed in or, or directly provoked by, the ‘Convergence & Transmedia Storytelling’ or ‘Citizen Journalism and Participatory Culture’ lectures, readings and seminars.

This project emphasizes (a) research in the area of digital media, (b) clarity in communicating and sharing a research-informed perspective or argument about part of the digital media landscape; (c) taking an innovative approach to creating digital media; and (d) technical proficiency in creating digital media.

Given that the first half of the unit was largely practical – many were first-time users of digital video cameras, sound equipment and non-linear editing software – I wondered if introducing conceptual material from the likes of Henry Jenkins and Axel Bruns might overwhelm students; on the contrary, I found almost everyone excelled at combining their newfound practical skills with wider issues and concepts.  All 28 projects submitted were of a high quality, and everyone who took this unit should be proud of their work, but a few really did stand out amongst the rest and are well worth highlighting here.

The first project I want to mention is ‘Citizen Journ vs Traditional Journ‘ which mimics the style of the Mac Vs PC advertisements, with a stop-motion twist, to explore the changing relationship between traditional journalists and citizen journalists:

In a similar vein but using a really different technique, ‘Something Old, Something New‘ mixes excerpts from a 1940s documentary on being a journalist with contemporary footage to examine exactly how far journalism has changed in the face of participatory culture:

Looking at web 2.0 culture more broadly, ‘A Blog’s Life’ is a comical look at the evolution of blogging, in the style of a nature documentary:

And in a slightly more academic tone, ‘Transmedia Storytelling and Convergence’ gives a pretty good rundown of some core features of Henry Jenkins’ arguments about transmedia in the digital media landscape:

Finally, ‘Joe Bloggs Presents Web 2.0’ is a laugh out loud satire looking at the average blogger (A LANGUAGE WARNING, though: Joe Bloggs swears like an angry trooper!):

And, yes, I did have what can best be described as an awkward cameo appearance in that the adventures of Web 2.0 there – but it was worth if, if nothing else, for that outstanding end credits song! If you’re inspired to see more, 27 of the digital media projects can be found here.  Also, it’s worth mentioning that the majority of students chose to post their work under a Creative Commons license (not all, I should add, but I’m pleased enough that by the end of the course everyone knew enough to make an informed choice one way or another).

Oh and quick shout out: my partner in crime in teaching Digital Media was Christina Chau who was an excellent tutor and whose own thoughts on the unit can be read here!

UWA Student News on Channel 31 THIS FRIDAY

With Perth’s community broadcaster, Access 31, alive for a while longer, it’s my great pleasure to announce that the eight best news projects from students in my Digital Media (Comm2203) unit this semester will be screening as a half an hour programme this Friday night (11 July, 2008) on channel 31 at 8pm. There are some very impressive segments in here, including several news stories which engage with critical issues for Perth right now, and about larger issues such as media and the upcoming Olympics. If you’re near a TV (and in Perth) this Friday at 8pm, please tune in and take a look!

For a sample of what’s going to be screened take a peak at this post.

Best of Student News

On Tuesday, the students from my Digital Media class, as well a few invited guests and colleagues, enjoyed a screening of the Best 8 Student News Projects from the unit. This project, the first major assignment for the unit, takes place after 4 weeks of workshops which introduce digital video cameras, sound recording and (very) basic lighting, non-linear editing and copyright in media production. It’s a bit of a whirlwind, but the culmination of these workshop is a project in which students, working in groups of 4 or 5, get exactly one week to produce a 3 minute news story on the basis of pre-assigned topics (all of which are based on relevant local issues).

Once the projects are completed, part of the feedback process is not just comments from myself or Christina (who is tutoring half of the classes, I’m tutoring the other half) – although we do give a fair bit of written feedback – but we also have a reflective seminar where the projects completed by the groups in these seminars (there are 4 groups in each seminar) are viewed and the other members of the seminar offer written and verbal feedback. I find this is always a very rewarding process, as students often engage more directly with peer feedback. To top it off, at the end of each seminar (there are 8 ) each seminar votes and the best project, along with the top from the other seminars, become those which make up the Best of Student News screening. While I am a little hesitant to place too much weight on the ‘best’ projects – learning is, after all, not a competition – students nevertheless respond well to this voting process. I suspect the idea of them deciding the best projects rather than the course staff is very appealing! Then, in the Best of Student News screening, the students get to vote once more and select their choice for the Best Student News Project of the year.

I have to say, I think the level at which students produced their projects this year has been outstanding. Even though most of them have learnt their media production skills over 4 one and a half hour workshops, many of these projects can stand up against the work of professionals who’ve had 3 year of training. The Best Project for the year, as selected by their peers, shows that humour – when used properly – really is one of the universally appealing elements of media. So, without any further ado, this year’s Best Student Project takes a comical look at the role of community radio in the era of media conglomeration.

Community Radio

At the screening, there is also a Staff Award given the the project which got the highest overall mark. This award went to the group behind a technically outstanding project which explored whether Australia’s young Olympians are adequately prepared to be thrust into the media spotlight at the Beijing Olympics.

Young Olympians and the Media Spotlight?

There are two other projects from the screening I wanted share: one takes a look at the proposed redevelopment of the Perth inner city foreshore, and the other asks to what extent Earth Hour is a genuine attempt at ecological change.

Perth Foreshore Redevelopment

Earth Hour 2008

One other noteworthy aspect of these projects, and of many others students created for the course, is that after our discussions on copyright, each of the projects above has selected to place their finished work under a Creative Commons license. Among other things, this suggests that far from the end of the conversation, some of these student projects may, indeed, have an interesting life being screened and remixed in different settings.

The students in this unit are now working hard on their second project, which is explores more specifically the affordances of digital video on the web, and I have to say, having just heard their Pitches for these projects, I’m really exciting to see the next projects as they’re completed!