Monday, December 03, 2007

Aalborg University — Project Plan B

Media Timeline
Media Timeline,
originally uploaded by miabacke.
Friday Nov 30th I was invited to speak at a one-day conference at InDiMedia — Research Centre for Interactive Digital Media — and Peter Kofoed at Aalborg University begun by describing the focus of Plan B, the research project on user-generated video and tv (user-generated content) that started back in 2005 and is finishing now. This was the context of Friday's conference.

The next speaker, Tove Arendt Rasmussen, provided us with information about their framework, Plan B, and the introduction of broadband in neighbouring Aalestrup in cooperation with the local electricity company HEF, where they have studied whether the users change their habits in a more interactive direction. Her colleague, Bettina Bertelsen, went into more detail about their survey, in which they had interviewed 33 families, and showed us how the users actually were using their computers more interactively. However, she concluded that the families are still primarily consumers of information techonology and broadband mediated content, they are not content producers.

Aalborg University's Lars Holmgaard Christensen opens his presentation by showing the audience a YouTube clip of a Norwegian sketch about the monk Ansgar having trouble opening and using a book. It is of course a parallel to more current concerns about computer use. He then continues by showing Hans Magnus Enzensberger's model from 1970, who identified what we today would label Web 1.0 (repressive media use) and Web 2.0 (emancipatiory media use). Holmgaard Christensen's timeline (above) starting in 1960 is very illuminating, beginning from an idea about media as centrally distributing content from an authoritative perspective developing into a distributed, interactive user-perspective. He then shows some examples of different genres: vlogs: Rasmus Rasmussen (Aalborg). Discussion sites: 3forum. Chicagocrime.org using Google Maps. Holmgaard Christensen ends his presentation with the idea of the Open Source human: if you can't be found on Google, you aren't credible or don't even "exist."

Jesper Hauerslev then talks about user-generated content at BBC in London, where he has spent a year. He shows what is happening in their children's progam department at the moment. First example: SMart — an art show for children where children send in their own drawings and are taught, encouraged and also evaluated by the design and art educated hosts. Second example: Bamzooki where children can create 3D "zooks" and put them in different contexts. One of the most popular zook to create is an R2-D2 one. The zooks can then be customized by other users online, and it is this feature that scares a lot of people from the BBC side. Will the users leave the TV platform entirely? Third example: me and my movie, a BBC collaboration with Bafta. In a YouTube like fashion, children can upload their own movies and view them at an online "cinema." So.... what is about to happen: 3D game, Adventure Rock, that has been under development since January 2006, with "creative studios," for instance a music studio and a drawing studio, where the children can create their own music and art, which then can be sent in to BBC and broadcasted within minutes. The augmented reality element will be developed further by realtime television broadcasts into Adventure Rock.

Kjeld Jensen, Concept and Product Manager at HEF Bredbånd A/S, talks about HEF's experiences when building their broadband network. He begins by outlining a common family situation when it comes to electricity, tv, phone, Internet access etc — his own — in which his household has five tv:s, several computers and a number of different providers. What HEF is trying to do is to gather all that and offer it to households in the Aalborg area as one package. Jensen shows the results of a customer satisfaction study, and, depending on delays etc, customer satisfaction is very polarised. The content — the Internet, television and phone — is well used, and the Internet is the most popular product. The initial problems are now over and they are expanding, finding new products and services to offer the customers.

Niels Jørgen N. Skov from FastTV with offices in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Using satellite technology, they offer media portal with TV, video on demand, e-mail, Internet and EPG. The Internet and e-mail functions have been disabled in Denmark, however, since these features are not considered fast enough. Triple Play. IPTV, VOIP, fiber broadband. Skov is stressing "freedom of choice" and interactivity. GoBeyond. "A la Carte TV" Joost, Bablegum, Sputnik. Convergance between different platforms, but content is crucial.

Anton Gammelgaard from Danish TV gives a background to viewer participation in television: The crew when creating a piece of news 30 years ago: a photographer, his assistant, a sound guy, a journalist, a producer, a production assistant, a lighting guy. The handycam revolutionized news production, as well as programs like "America's Funniest Home Videos," which showed that users could create content that would draw attention. It also provided the first examples of "reality tv." Gammelgaard says: "Af alle tilstande foretrækker jeg virkeligheden," Danish for "of all modes I prefer reality." Reality, voyeurism, is something that suddenly became an important feature. Gammelgaard shows examples from the Danish contingent of the UN peace keeping forces in Tuzla in former Jugoslawia. Another example is the show "Vi stiller om," which features 15 "reporters" all around Denmark. This people are ordinary people who responds to, gives their viewpoint on a current issue, and this becomes controversial when these people express views that are not in line with the "official line" in Denmark. Anton Gammelgaard claims that public service will be back in a position where selection (someone decides what is important and what is to be aired), perspective, quality and free press will gain an increasing importance. Sees it as a problem that young people choose YouTube as a medium and predicts that they will "come back" to public service when they want quality.

Claus Klok at NovaMedia, TV/Midt-Vest, discusses media democracy and begins by showing a series of short movies captured with a mobile phone, featuring everyday actions. He describes their project (which is a collaboration with Plan B) where user-generated content is in focus. To the Aalborg University/HEF project in Aalestrup, an user-generated content aspect was added. People in Aalestrup, who were interested in doing that kind of work, were invited by TV/Midt-Vest to attend courses, to learn how to make TV. The quality wasn't of utmost importance, they were even allowed to use mobile phones (even if the didn't consider this an "appropriate" medium for television). He shows a few clips from that course: a couple of teenage girls showing their weekend jobs, teenage boys showing their fantasy role-play, and a couple of other teenage boys doing "jackass" stunts. Yet another example is from a group of older (all were retired) movie makers. They tell the story of two plane crashes during WWII, one with an British crew and one with a Polish one. A ring, owned by one in the British crew, was found 50 years later. Storytelling became the most important feature for the older group. (Video Aalestrup).

The last one of today's talks is my own: "Possibilities and Boundaries for User-Generated Content in Second Life." I mainly talk about different ways to create content in SL and show some of the content that actually has been created by the residents. I also focus on the tools Linden Lab has chosen to make available and the last few year's development in this regard.

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