• November 2006
    M T W T F S S

Connecting Bristol

I’m part of the steering group for Connecting Bristol, which is the city’s bid for the ‘Digital Challenge’, which is a national competition to win £4million from government for the iniviative use of digital technology to enhance the services of communities and to enhance social inclusion. Bristol have been selected as one of the 10 finalists.

Today we were visited by the Chair of the government’s judging panel, Bert Provan, and the Digital Challenge programme director Stephen Dodson. I was part of a ’round table’ discussion session with the theme of: “Skills, how will the Digital Challenge help people to help themselves?”

We met at the fantastic Brislington City Learning Centre, hosted by Ayleen Driver (ICT Strategic Coordinator) and Linda Brown (CLC Director). Also present were Stephen Hilton (Lead manager of Connecting Bristol), Jaya Chakrabarti (Nameless) and Stephen Wray (Director Culture & Leisure).

Ayleen gave us a tour of the CLC, and following that had a discussion about how those kinds of spaces enhance the learning capabilities of not only the school but also the wider community. Also discussed how formal learning institutions are working with informal learning providers & community groups to link activity to enhance the experience of the young people, and to greater the potential of longterm impact, (whether regarding career, health, general social engagement, etc). Also acknowledged the need for longitudinal research to track and evidence this impact, and Stephen Dodson suggested a ‘7-Up’ type media survey of participants if the Connecting Bristol bid was successful, to track impact and experience.

I felt the meeting was very fruitful and it was good to be able to share how the Digital Challenge has brought a diverse range of people together from across the city, to link our respective activities towards a common aim, across sector boundaries.

This all links very directly towards my own research looking into the impacts and sustainability of community media educational activity. If the Connecting Bristol bid is successful then I could possibly use a sample section of activity as a case study for mutual use. Fingers crossed……


I don’t really need to say anything, do I? 2006.

Remember this? 1991.

Films made for Mobile phones

As part of the Fresh 6 Film Festival, Calling the Shots, Firstborn Creatives and MicroFilm teamed up to run a day long workshop on making films for mobile phones. (As I said in an earlier post, I had man-flu so couldn’t be there to help out!!!)

Below are two of the six films that were produced. The makers were a mini bus of young people from Cornwall, a groups from Connexions (Bristol), and a few young people who came along having seen the publicity. (They are all creadited on the films). You can view all the films by clicking here.

Films for mobile phones itself as a genre and the part it can play/is playing in community media is something I’ll surely come back to at some stage. For now, i’ll just celebrate their achivements. Enjoy!

Title: CyclePath Granny

Title: The Very Lonely Pen

The Morning After Fresh

….or….(Joining the Dots between Media Education and Community Engagament)

Yesterday’s event was excellent and a real credit to Sam Burkey and all who helped organise it from Calling the Shots, Knowle West Media Centre, Suited and Booted and Firstborn Creatives, and all the young people who made the final decisions.

At various times I was on the script surgeries table – giving advice to people on their film ideas, overseeing the library archive screenings and on the welcome table.

During the script surgeries I met a lovely guy from Knowle West called Michael, who had the fascinating idea of making an animation/live action mixed film about a human and a fox. (I won’t give his storyline away here, but it is very good.) I would be keen to see how his film progresses as it had masses of potential. He is linked with the Media Centre, which is a good thing. For anyone to be given the support (no matter how formal or informal) in creatively expressing themselves I feel is a fundamental role of arts & media in society, and one I feel is grossly overlooked or not greatly valued.

Arts in many ancient African, Native American and Aboriginal societies were part and parcel of the fabric of the community, not separate from religion, family, rites of passage and the general sense of identity. Artists didn’t sign their names on their works as they made them for the whole community, not for themselves, but still, the artist was held in high esteem, as his/her role was serving the community.

In today’s climate the artist is vilified, as no one understands the art and why it is being made. I can defend conceptual art as I (think I) understand it’s place on the wide spectrum of the arts, but there is no doubt there is now a wide gap between the arts produced and the communities within which the artists may live. I would say though to those vocal haters of ‘modern art’ who have some money to spare – to save your ranting energy and instead support initiatives where you see the arts doing actual good in communities, (such as Fresh Film for example!!!).

The advance of digital technologies in ‘developed’ countries is seeing a convergence in arts/media and mainstream services, with proven impacts on education, health, and other vital areas of society. Harnessing and pushing the boundaries of how these new technologies are used – and much more importantly, widening the access of them – is a dynamic way of connecting these strands together for the common aim of serving all.

Not exactly sure how I got from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ in this article as this conclusion wasn’t planned, but there you go!!! LOL

Fresh 6 Film Festival

Today I will be working at – and taking my children to – the Fresh 6 Film Festival, which is for young people. Includes screenings, workshops, advice surgeries and competions/commissions. The website is www.freshfilm.tv

Last years went really well. I hope it has a good turn out today. Yesterday Firstborn and Calling the Shots ran a practical session on making films for mobile phones, which I hear went reallty well. Unfortunately I had 24hour man-flu so was too ill to attend! On Tuesday Knowle West Media Centre screened a documentary about Tricky – the Trip Hop artist who is originally from that area. He was there to answer questions with the Director of the film. Films being screened in the festival are a mixture of professional film & tv work, and work made by young people and facilitated projects.

It’s good to have an outlet for this work, as there’s so much of it. It also rhymes with the context of my research as it’s called ‘Beyond Project’ – interested in what happnes when the projects are over. What happens to the work, the young people, the facilitators, the ideas generated, etc, etc? What impact did it all have?

With regards the work produced itself, there are many other ways of getting it ‘out there’. To name a few:

· Video / dvd archive
· annual dvd compilation
· showcase festivals
· agency for educational materials (have to apply to get film accepted) – to judge educational value of made work and package & distribute
· web access / data base
· teacher materials
· directory service – where to contact rather than central archive
· magazine every 6 months as catalogue
· book to be written about community videos – interviews with makers
· national community media database
· membership scheme
· effectiveness of web based projects.
· YouTube / MySpace / Blogging
· Current TV, Community Channel

Of course many of these overlap. I personally like the idea of the 6 monthly magazine, and the national community media archive/database. Am I overestimating though the readership/users for this type of material?

I’ll come back from time to time to discuss each of these in detail, and see if any of them are viable ideas.

Time to get ready for work.

Distant light and the end of far far tunnel

Today had a meeting with fellow PhD student Emma Agusita, whose subject is very close to mine. Really good to catch up with her and it was mutually benificial. Peer sharing is a good thing!

Talked about many things, including the slippery ground that is PhD research, the shifting sands that is the ‘research question’, and the importance of theory in practice. We also agreed to write an abstract together for a conference next year.

Good to have a comrade near!!!


Talk of ‘User Generated Content

The one day ‘Digital Communities’ conference in the Watershed in June was the first time I heard the term ‘user generated content’, and since then the phrase is everywhere. [i]

In my opinion it’s just a clumsy/fancy way of saying ‘homemade videos’. [ii] To be fair it’s not just that though, as the shift in how amateur moving image work is now perceived is primarily down to 2 key factors:

One – The means of exhibition of this type of work has been completely reversed and revolutionised by sites such as YouTube and MySpace, etc, which has awoken a curiosity in the web public to see what home video makers are making.

Two – With the rise of such sites, home video makers have begun to produce work which fits the form of those platforms, thus giving birth to new genres in the process.

Contrary to popular believe I don’t believe the shift from ‘home video’ to ‘user-generated content’ is not down to the advances in technological hardware such as camera phones, etc, as they have been with us for years now. The shift is due to technological software that can give exposure to the products of those hardware technologies.

So where does Community Media sit within this new media landscape? That is something to be explored.

This is how I saw the moving image hierarchy landscape 2 years ago.

media ladder 2 copy

Based on a subjective scale of ambition, perceived professionalism and budgets, home videos at the very bottom. Admittedly with regards those same criteria not much has probably changed today, but there is now doubt that every other ‘industry’ on this chart are now bending to see what is happening at the bottom, and in many cases trying to be more like the things happening at the bottom. In the same way that in the mid 90’s the commercial companies began to populate and eventually ‘take over the internet’ [iii] Now in the 00’s, the mass media organisations are positioning to have a presence on the so-called Web 2.0, and maybe eventually take it over again, but they may be too late. Rupert Murdoch recently bought MySpace but the price was overshadowed by Google, itself a dotcom, buying YouTube for a record amount. Who is David and who is Goliath is no longer so clear. [iv]

Community Media educational activity has as its USP not only engaging non-media professionals in production, but also its participative and facilitation approach. The question I am interested in then is, ‘what is valued more by participants: making work or working with others?’

No doubt that part of what makes us human is the social interaction with others, but it has been long said that the internet have changed these dynamics forever. If a school, youth club or individual can make work in an afternoon and instantly show it to the world, will they still be inclined to employ a production company to do assist them in that process? And if I’m asking that question today, what is likely to be the reality in 5 – 10 years time? Will community media companies become the second hand bookshops of the future? (Still in the shadow of the mass media battered Waterstones, with the online Amazon taking the major share of the lead).

Unless educationalists within the community media sector can actively and convincingly evidence the value of participative/facilitative approaches, or unless it can re-position itself to ride the new Web 2.0 wave, it may become victim to the relentless pace of media technologies. [v]


[i] On the subject of the phrase ‘user-generated content’, I need to remember to trace who originally coined the term.

[ii] As also acknowledged by Ana Kronschnabl (Plug-In Cinema / Fluffy Logic)

[iii] Here I’m talking as much about companies such as Sainsbury’s, Argos and Tescos,
and Mothercare, and not just the media companies.

[iv] Also Al Gore has partnered with BSkyB to launch the UK version of its user-generated tv channel Current TV, which launched its US parent a year ago. In publishing, http://www.lulu.com allows you to upload your own manuscripts and print & sell them one at a time, taking the frustrations and risks away from mainstream publishing, and bringing it closer to DIY community publishing, allowing you to make a profit at the same time.

[v] This article may be overly dramatic and pessimistic, but I think still a valid discussion point.

The idea of De-Schooling

I came across the theorist Ivan Illich (a peer of Paulo Freire), who wrote an influential text in 1971 titled ‘Deschooling Society’. The popular perception of the text is that Illich was arguing for the elimination of schools, but in the Foreword to a 1996 book of essays titled ‘Deschooling our Lives’ [i] , Illich says his earlier book was misrepresented and that he was advocating advocating for the “disestablishment of schools, in the sense in which the Church has been disestablished in the United States”, not for their total eradication.

I need to do more research into it, but it seems the attributes deschooling advocates say should be in their ideal learning environments are very similar to how community media facilitators talk about their ideal projects. I am by no means suggesting that community media activity can replace schools, but rather that I will look into whether it can borrow any thinking from deschooling in terms of methodology and ethos.

Illich was not a Marxist, but apparently his work does parallel with Marxist views. [ii] This rhymes with my thinking as Marxist theory was more than likely going to form the predominant weight of the methodology of this research, through theorists such as Freire, Foucault and Althusser.

In ‘According to Sociology: Themes and Perspectives’, Michael Haralambos summarises Illich’s views as follows.

“Education should be a liberating experience in which the individual explores, creates, uses his initiative and judgement and freely develops his faculties and talents to the full. Illich claims that schools are not particularly effective in teaching skills and in practice, diametrically opposed to the educational ideals in which he believes. He argues that the teaching of skills is best left to those who use those skills in daily life.………

He regards schools as repressive institutions which indoctrinate pupils, smother creativity and imagination, induce conformity and stupefy students into accepting the interests of the powerful. He sees this ‘hidden curriculum’ operating in the following way. The pupil has little or no control over what he learns or how he learns it. He is simply instructed by an authoritarian teaching regime and, to be successful, must conform to it rules. Real learning, however, is not the result of instruction, but of direct and free involvement by the individual in every part of the learning process. In sum, ‘most learning requires no teaching’.” [iii]

Admittedly not all of this echoes exactly with how community media facilitators think, as they are not particularly anti-school. But there is something to investigate in how theorists are visioning alternative learning spaces in the wake of advancements in technology, especially in relation to how media literacy is becoming more of an accepted agenda in UK education: especially in Bristol where schools are failing.


[i] Edited by Matt Hern. New Society Publishers. Canada

[ii] ‘According to Sociology: Themes and Perspectives’. M.Haralambos. 1989. Unwin Hyman. London

[iii] page 187

Production Alliances

Was part of a good event today organised by South West Screen called Innovation Alliances, which showcased various companies work that they funded from the Alliances funding strand. Firstborn had a stall with Calling the Shots and Knowle West Media Centre to showcase our “Independent State of….” project, which we are working on together.

All the other companies there were more mainstream corporate and”commercial” companies. I was pleased to see us three Community Media companies as equals amongst the crowd. Just the way it should be!

Please click here to download the Alliances brochure (pdf).

I was pleased to be at the event, (although strictly speaking I shouldn’t have been working at all as today was the 76th anniversary of the Coronation of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I. A Rastafari celebration day. The celebration event is on the 4th so I’ll take time off from work then!)

JAH Bless and goodnight.