A quick lesson for those thinking of studying 3 years at university to become a tv news reporter.
Give up now.
Here’s all you need to know, courtesy of Charlie Brooker.
A quick lesson for those thinking of studying 3 years at university to become a tv news reporter.
Give up now.
Here’s all you need to know, courtesy of Charlie Brooker.
Presently, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC) employs fifty-one councillors across the borough. The political party split and composition for the Council is currently:
Liberal Democrat 18
British National Party 1
Green Party 1
Solihull Borough has two Members of Parliament representatives, one Liberal Democrat for Solihull, and one Conservative for Meriden (a rural town within Solihull Borough).
At this stage, the author should declare that he is a resident of Solihull, and taking this into consideration, has a vested interest in the engagement outcomes of this research.
In September 2009, the author was invited to volunteer technical skills, support and mentoring services to SMBC Councillors during a series of short pilot trial workshops, based around the existing Social Media Surgery model initiated by Podnosh Ltd (October 2009).
Organised by an employee of the SMBC Data Centre team, acting as an individual, rather than an employee (Colson, 2009), the invitation was an attempt to join with other technically-minded volunteers, share knowledge and good practice, and encourage SMBC Councillors to investigate digital engagement with their constituents, using existing social media tools and platforms such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Posterous, Flickr, Digg, LinkedIn and others.
Two introduction seminars were held at the start of September 2009, where demonstrations and platform explanations were delivered by the author and Mr. Colson. In total, thirteen councilors attended one of the two seminars.
The initial social media workshop took place in late September 2009, supported by a team of seven volunteers (including the author and Mr. Colson) and these workshops are continuing at monthly intervals at the time of writing. To date, there have been seven councillors attend the workshop sessions, with a further thirteen councilors expressing an interest in attending in the future.
Primary research completed has followed an online questionnaire format. Invitations to partake in the survey were sent via email at the start of December 2009 to all councilors that expressed an interest in, or physically attended one or more of the social media seminars or workshop sessions. Because of the holiday break over the Christmas period, a total of four emails requests were sent in 2009, encouraging and requesting participation in the survey. Because of the relatively low level of responses, this was followed up with a posted letter, sent to councillors home addresses between Christmas and New Year, and finally prompted with a final email sent early in January 2010. The total number of councillors that completed the survey by the cut-off date was ten, equating to a 50% response rate compared with the amount of those invited, twenty.
The blank questionnaire template, questions asked, and answer options available are included as supporting documents, along with the detailed survey results gathered.
Review of relevant secondary literature
It is argued that one modern approach to democratic engagement also includes the use and participation in social media platforms. It is important to state that that both the education in, and improvement of social skills does not, of course, take place only within the workplace, schools, college and university, but also in family, and social, sports and community groups. This scenario is not only restricted to Solihull, but is also representative of the United Kingdom as a whole. “Democratic engagement is related to a range of factors, including social class, income, educational attainment, regional location and age” (Pattie et al., 2004). The opportunities presented for inclusion and learning of digital skills education is broad and wide across both Solihull and the UK, with educational establishments and social community groups facilitating digital learning opportunities for an encompassing group of age ranges, regardless of social class, income, religion or race. These educational offerings are also available to councilors; they are citizens also.
The learning experience of citizens draws benefit from peers gaining knowledge and skills through their experiences shared with each other. It involves forms of participation, engagement, reflection, and then subsequent application of their new found knowledge and skills developed. These skills are then shared again informally, both physically amongst friends, family and peers, and also digitally via social media platforms, forums and chat rooms. This form of active citizenship draws from both social and digital literacy, inclusion, active participation and peer to peer sharing. This expanding learning process then allows groups of communities to form, and this is where the power of voice, expression of opinions, the mobilization of social capital for social gain and open organisation around relevant issues can take dramatic, perhaps physical action and effect. This opinion has also been repeated “Human beings are social creatures- not occasionally or by accident but always. Sociability is one of our core capabilities, and it shows up in almost every aspect of our lives as both cause and effect. Society is not just the product of its individual members; it is also the product of its constituent groups” (Shirky, 2008).
Drawing direct comparison to this, similarities can be applied to the phrase of ‘customer’ applied by local and national government, when referring to the citizens they serve “the consumer is answering back” (Olins, 2008). Brands, services, retailers, suppliers and governments that do not deliver on policies and promises made, are experiencing increasing challenges in their respective marketplaces. The web 2.0 and social media platforms in particular are very public places where a minute mistake or error made, can very soon become a vicious online attack of rageful comments from many disgruntled ‘customers’.
At central government level, “as you would expect, for many MPs the technology they are predominately using is email with almost as high a number of MPs having their own website. There is a notable drop when it comes to the use of the more interactive technologies like social networking, blogging or instant messaging.” (Williamson et al, 2009).
Experienced opinions have been cited by Members of Parliament and political party advisors. At the recent Personal Democracy Forum conference in Barcelona, phrases such as “transparency hurts” (Watson, 2009) and “scrutiny scares” (Steinberg, 2009) were spoken. Relating to the open format of Web 2.0 governance, both of the respective speeches described the opportunities presented by utilising Web 2.0 platforms; their words of advice were both simultaneously cautious, and embracing. Both speakers were presenting opinions based on professional and personal experiences gained.
At local level in Solihull “The Council has been nationally recognised, through the IDeA beacon scheme, for its work on digital inclusion. This is the partnership working with Solihull Community Housing and the Third Sector to increase social inclusion and improve life chances in the most disadvantaged areas of the borough, and shows commitment to tackling exclusion and promoting life chances. The scheme has provided free broadband internet access to disadvantaged communities in the North of the borough living in multi storey blocks. Over 80 tenants now have access to the internet through this scheme. The Third Sector have been involved in the delivering aspects of the programme, this has included providing computers and training support for disabled and vulnerable people. Completion rates for these courses were high with 79 per cent of courses being completed by all those attending. Other work includes setting up the Social Homes Options so applicants can express interest in empty properties over the internet, telephone or in person, and ICT training courses. This work is focused in the district’s area of deprivation, in north Solihull. Other elements include digital TV service, laptops for looked after children, ‘Telecare’ for older and vulnerable people polling online over local issues, Facebook access for young people, and school to home digital services” (Audit Commission, 2009).
Consideration should be noted that the Audit Commission report does not take digital engagement into consideration, only digital inclusion is mentioned. No mentions of identification, classification or appraisal of digital engagement practices are made, and no links are drawn to this communication technique in the recent document.
The author was invited to take part in the social media surgeries, acting in two identified roles; volunteer mentor and participant observer. To collect the impartial communication study information, clarification of the author’s role was identified prior to the research commencing, and explanations and reason for the qualitative information gathering processes were given to the participating councillors. During these explanations, close analogies and examples of appropriate usage were given by the author citing similarities to commercial radio audience research (Rajar, 2006), and how the information gathered by participant observers, was used to influence fast moving consumer goods purchasing trends, and also audience perceptions of leading political figures during the lead-up to the UK political campaigns in 2006.
Based on prior learning evidence (Palfrey and Gasser, 2008), the qualitative information collection, both from councilors and volunteer ‘surgeons’ was conducted to ascertain why, or if, councillors are attracted to the medium of digital communications, and what levels and approaches of digital engagement led to gratification (Lin, 2002). An attempt was made to investigate if these outcomes actually transposed into policy decisions or votes from constituents. Particular attention was paid to motivational factors, such as; councillors own presentation characteristics and ‘self-image’ enhancement, personal fulfillment, expression, and affiliation with local constituents and peers via digital discourse, information and opinion seeking, and political surveillance.
Once the qualitative research information had been gathered, the author sought to gain further detailed information relating to the reasons behind the observed apparent low level of uptake, engagement with, and regular use of digital communication platforms with peers and constituents.
It was evident from physical visits to council-owned buildings and civic centres, that Solihull councillors were very familiar with collecting constituent information and opinions from surveys sent door-to-door, and also completed by staff at waiting centres, such as the housing benefit office, job centre and post offices.
Because of the similar, familiar and successfully proven quantitative information gathering approach achieved from an online questionnaire survey (Kraut et al 1990), and the advertised familiar format of communication via email (from each councillor’s own SMBC web page), invitations to participate were sent via email and posted letter between early December 2009 and mid-January 2010. However, one limiting restriction to this approach was the time of year chosen. It transpired that many councillors took annual leave early, and returned to work late after the traditional holiday period. This was ascertained to be the reason for the sending of multiple requests and reminders for councilors to participate.
From the councilors that attended the social media surgeries, a positive questionnaire response rate of 77% was achieved.
Primary Research and Analysis
Following direct contact by the author with the respective National Managers of Social Media platform publishing (Macmillan, Elder, and Angell. 2010) for the three main supporting political parties, there are no definitive published guidelines or policies directed towards digital engagement or social media platform use available to draw comparison from. However, all three main political party policies and manifesto statements appear to treat open government and ‘grass-roots initiatives’ as a recognised priority.
In contrast to this however, there are no mentions of the phrases “internet”, “digital”, “communication”, “listen” and “engagement” in the four main political party policy documents researched (Leslie 2009, Mabbutt 2009, Yeowell 2009 and Clegg 2009). Notably, the phrase “democracy” is only mentioned four times across all three works researched and published by New Labour and the Conservative parties (Leslie 2009, Mabbutt 2009 and Yeowell 2009). The exception to this is the expected mentions by the Liberal Democrat party, which features the word “democracy” many times throughout (Clegg, 2009).
SMBC does not have any published guidelines or policy appertaining to the publishing, engagement with and integrated use of social media platforms. Discussions surrounding this are continuing, and consideration for live audio and video streaming of SMBC hosted (public access) meetings are also being presently evaluated. Following discussions between the author and SMBC, it is hoped by SMBC that development of such policy and practice guidelines will be one successful outcome of this research and the social media surgery sessions.
The detailed register of workshop attendees, published outcomes, individual statements, comments and opinions are contained within the supporting documents attached to this research.
From in-depth analysis of the primary data collected, three key questions show the following results:
Question 3: “Are you aware of European and Central Government initiatives, or your party’s policy surrounding enhanced inclusion, open communication strategy and the use of social media platforms to build stronger relationships with your constituencies?”
Please note, from the personal contacts established by the author at the three main political party headquarters, the Managers of Social Media platforms are not aware of any such policy documents published by their respective parties.
Question 1: “Do you engage & communicate with your constituents via social media platforms?”
From the ten councilors that responded, there is only one councilor that actively engages with social media platforms, namely: writes a blog, micro-blogs on Twitter and publishes an individual Facebook page profile.
Question 5: “If you are not making full use of social media platforms, what are the reasons for this?”
1) Lack of time 60%
2) Need more technical knowledge 70%
3) Reluctance to have conversations in public domain 0%
4) Awaiting guidelines from policy 0%
5) Need more information 20%
6) Lack of equipment 0%
7) Would like individual training 30%
8 ) Would like someone to do this for me 10%
9) Don’t see social media being beneficial to my work 0%
10) Don’t have any budget available for this 0%
11) I’m fine, already engaging by using social media platforms 0%
Also, as part of the primary research undertaken, short statements and extra qualitative information was also gathered by the author from the volunteer ‘surgeons’. Highlighted sections of these statements offer varied personal experiences and subsequently, different opinions, including:
“I would say there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of interest by councillors in social media as the surgeries are poorly attended. I think Solihull Council should invest in putting on a series of workshops for all councillors to understand the tools and applications of social media.” (Hughes, 2010).
“More pleasing is how some of the councillors have quickly worked through the ‘learning how to use the tools’ phase, and recognise that the social media concepts of building networks, two-way conversations (as opposed to one-way broadcast), listening, transparency and sharing information across networks align closely with a councillor’s duties.” (Wray, 2010).
“The new breed of the approachable Cllr will be the ones winning elections though. They are the ones who engage with their communities, and take comments on board, and shape solutions based on what people actually need and want, not what the Cllr think is best for them.” (Colson, 2010).
Drawing conclusions from the combined primary and secondary research completed, the three main political parties acknowledge varying degrees of open democracy as inbuilt statements of policy and guideline documents.
The common factor that links all three parties together is the lack of official party guidelines directing the implementation of social media platform hosting, publishing and engagement. It is argued that such indecision could have an influence on varying levels of councillor apathy, reluctance, interest, and incentives to engage- particularly out of usual working hours, and subsequently, this is considered to have influence upon levels of personal enthusiasm for learning the social and technical skills required to host a digital engagement practice.
The “intentional digital contributions to identity” and self-confidence divide between digital natives and digital migrants have been comprehensively researched, analysed, appraised and outlined (Palfrey and Gasser, 2008). Similar conclusions can be identified and recognised in Solihull councillors’ practice, or lack of, within this research document.
Notably, during the primary research questionnaire information gathering process, one common statement that all participants cited for not making full use of social media platforms, was a lack of time available. Consideration is offered to the many possible reasons behind these statements- namely, amongst others- share of workload, geographical areas covered, time management, prioritisation of workload, delegation of duties, work-to-private life balance, and European working time regulations. Interestingly, in line with these considerations, the factors of the “confidentiality aspects of any of the social network platforms” in addition to “technophobia” have also been cited by one Solihull councillor surveyed (Rose, 2009).
“Florida vs Hays et al. follow the line of much academic argument in recent decades that has identified the media and particularly television as bearing significant responsibility for the anti- politics malaise that has taken hold in the UK and elsewhere. Repeating the criticisms of a number of American authors from Patterson (1993) to Putnam (2000) they charge the electronic media (and particularly TV ) with dumbing down its’ political news content, fusing commentary and reporting, and concentrating on the negative and competitive elements of any issue rather than its substantive content. In so doing, citizens reasons to be cheerful about politics have fallen sharply.” (Gibson, 2008).
The reporting from mainstream media on political campaigns affecting decisions taken by voting citizens nationally has historically been significant. The integration and cross-over between blogging and micro-blogging, instant updates and Web 2.0 communication platforms in the USA have “proven to be a major contributing factor to the Obama successful presidential campaign” (Harfoush, 2008).
The “thin air” definition (Leadbeater, 2000) is a call to action on the part of politicians, where citizens across the United Kingdom are suggested to be dissatisfied with the lack of direct action taken by politicians, after policy promises have been made and announced in Parliament. Since this paper was first presented to the DTI (now BERR), New Labour have embraced the openness of Web 2.0 principles, where many conversations take place in public domains, and comments and correspondence are positively encouraged. The launch of the Power of Information Review (Mayo and Steinberg, 2007) and Power of Information Task Force (Watson, 2007) have made significant advances, with support and initiatives being driven by The Guardian newspaper “Free Our Data” campaign, Channel 4 television’s 4iP initiative, and many significant internet based, open source projects, all based around community activism, all of which are following an information-sharing practice.
This impression of “thin air” is argued to be the underlying major consideration affecting potential engagement between Solihull’s councillors and citizens they represent. Solihull Council is currently split between Liberal Democrat and Conservative leadership, and at the present time of writing, no substantial direction, clarity, and political party-supported guidance towards meaningful, tangible and proactive digital engagement from Solihull Council as a whole is being achieved.
In the forthcoming UK general election, consideration for influences affected by this internet format should not be overstated, simply because of the relatively low amount of politicians engaging fully in the interactive process, and taking advantage of the critical mass that is potentially achievable. Lack of integration with video-on-demand services and associated social media networks provided by YouTube, Vimeo and Viddler are not yet being fully exploited by politicians to their full extent. It is these platforms where a large majority of digital native, generation Y young people are communicating and socialising in the online world. An increasing level of social media platform-hosted video content is being delivered via mobile telephone technology – “uploads from phones have jumped 1700%” (Maurer and Vogelzang, 2009), a platform that many young people in the UK are very familiar with. Frequently such users are linking online video content to their Facebook identities and fan groups. This is a missed opportunity to reach younger members of the voting constituency on a national level, and this draws a direct correlation and similarity to the lack of local political Web 2.0 presence and digital engagement in the Borough of Solihull, by both MP’s and councillors.
Both locally in Solihull, and nationally, political parties have failed to systematically and organisationally embed these social media tools, platforms and opportunities into their websites. There is no Web 2.0 platform integration on either of the websites published by Solihull’s MP’s. Similarly, by failing to offer digital engagement in these formats, the harvesting of contributors’ email addresses will not have been collected, and like the Obama presidential campaign in the USA, the opportunity to host digital discourse and call to action, both for campaign fundraising and voting support – at the time of writing – has been missed.
Conversely, as outlined and evidenced in the above research, on a national level, the engaging methodology and practice of Web 2.0 is presently being addressed by digitally engaging platform exploitation from Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the New Labour New Media Campaigns Taskforce. This team are attempting to engage and interacting with citizens on a national scale, via multiple Web 2.0 and social media platforms, as an integral part of Labour’s emerging 2009 election campaign. However, in line with statements from national political critics, the overall measurability of benefits and influence on political campaigning and engagement with UK citizens has yet to be evidenced; it is argued partly because of the unfamiliarity of the technology employed:
“It’s just that not many people in politics have worked out what it’s for yet or how to reach beyond familiar political audiences into the mindset of the wider electorate. That is the real test” (Painter, 2010).
Incorporating the seven million residents of the UK without broadband access at present (Carter, 2009), and the current high NEET factor of “poor rates of participation, high rates of attrition and low levels of attainment” amongst the UK’s eighteen to nineteen year old residents (Nuffield, 2009), perhaps some consideration for these factors should also be allowed alongside the aforementioned issue of familiarity. However, central government initiatives such as the Next Generation Fund (DBIS, 2010) and the Home Access Programme (Brown, 2010) will perhaps go some way towards combating these shortfalls in digital literacy, inclusion, participation, and future engagement.
Likewise, drawing direct local similarity to Painter’s statement, no such substantial digital engagement practice with constituents has yet been delivered by any one local councillor, regardless of political party, in the Borough of Solihull.
In conclusion, adoption amongst Solihull councillors of digital engagement practices is perhaps considerably influenced and affected by similar personal attitudes to national open democracy and technology. “On the downside, digital media is certainly no panacea and MPs report issues with office workload, and a desire for more training” (Williamson, 2009).
References & Bibliography
Angell, D. Web Officer for Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party. Correspondence via Twitter, 6th January 2010.
Brown, G. Prime Minister. Home Access Programme. Prime Minister’s Office. 11th January, 2010. http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page22100 accessed 11th January 2010.
Carter, Lord S. Digital Britain Report, 15th June 2009. Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. ISBN 9780101765022.
Clegg, N. The Liberal Movement, 2009. Demos. ISBN 978-1-906693-24-4
Colson, A. Published September 2009. http://www.letsbesocial.co.uk/ Accessed 6th January 2010.
Councillor employment information collected from telephone conversation with Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council Human Resources Department, 18th December 2009.
Dr Williamson, A. Dr Miller, L. Allen, R. Desai, K and Goodstone, J. MPs Online- Connecting with constituents, pp 3, 2009. Hansard Society.
Elder, C. Online Communities Editor | Conservative Campaign HQ. Correspondence via email, 7th January 2010.
Gibson, Rachel K (University of Manchester), New Media and the Revitalisation of Politics, presented at the Revitalising Politics Conference, London November 5th 2008, pg1. The first quoted sentence draws reference to:
Florida, R: The Rise of the Creative Class, 2003, Basic Books. ISBN 978-1864032567 and
Hays et al: Engaging the Public: How Government and the Media Can Reinvigorate American Democracy, 1998, Rowman and Littlefield. ISBN 978-0847688906
Harfoush, R, Yes We Did: An inside look at how social media built the Obama brand, (2008) pp 208-216. New Riders. ISBN 978-0321631534
Kraut, R. Fish, R. Root, R and Chalfonte, B. Information communication in organizations; form, function and technology (2001) pp145-199. Essay excerpt from: Strategies, tools and techniques that succeed, edited by Duarte, D and Snyder, N. Jossey Bass. ISBN: 978-0787955892.
Leadbeater, C. Living on Thin Air: The New Economy, 2000, P18. Penguin. ISBN 978-0140277937, originally a paper delivered to the Department of Trade and Industry (then DTI, now BERR)
Leslie, C and Scott-Smith, L. Control Shift: Alt, Insert or Delete, 2009. Published by New Local Government Network for the Conservative Party, via email from Elder, C. Online Communities Editor | Conservative Campaign HQ, 7th January 2010.
Lin, CA. Perceived gratifications of online media services among potential users. Science Direct- Telematics and Information: Volume 19, Issue 1, February 2002, pp 3-19 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V1H-44HY419-2&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=9884425a896d016c9d71a3aec383fa1c
Accessed 17th January, 2010.
Mabbutt, A. Trust in Politics, 2009. Published by the Conservative Party Democracy Task Force, via email from Elder, C. Online Communities Editor | Conservative Campaign HQ, 7th January 2010.
Macmillan, S. New Media Campaigns Taskforce Leader, The Labour Party. Correspondence via email, 5th January 2010.
Maurer, U and Vogelzang, M, Google Inc, t/a YouTube, 10th September, 2009. http://ytbizblog.blogspot.com/2009/09/new-discovery-features-in-youtube.html accessed 17th December 2009.
Mayo E, and Steinberg T, Power of Information Review, 7th June, 2007. Cabinet Office Members Reference Library, Hansard.
Next Generation Fund, Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 7th January 2010. http://www.bis.gov.uk/next-generation-fund accessed 7th January 2010.
Nuffield Review, The. Education for All: The future of education and training for 14-19 year olds. 2009. Routledge. ISBN 9780415547222
Olins, W. The Brand Handbook- University of Laguna. p23. 2008. Thames Hudson. ISBN 0500514089
Painter, A, 2010. Contributing writer for Labour List, labour critic weblog. http://www.labourlist.org/web-politics-not-communicating-anthony-painter
accessed 11th January, 2010.
Palfrey, J and Gasser U. Born Digital, 2008. pp 12-13. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00515-4.
Palfrey, J and Gasser U. Born Digital, 2008. P260. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00515-4.
Pattie, C. Seyd, P, and Whiteley, P, 2004. Citizenship in Britain: Values, Participation and
Democracy, p43, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521534642.
Podnosh Ltd t/a Birmingham Social Media Surgery, Company # 07029099, 2008. Initial investigative information at http://podnosh.com/blog/2008/10/07/blog-action-day-in-birmingham-a-plan/ accessed 9th October, 2008.
Rakar. Radio Joint Audience Research http://www.rajar.co.uk/docs/about/RAJAR_key_facts.pdf page 3. Accessed 16th January 2010
Shirky, C- Here Comes Everybody, p14. 2008. Penguin. ISBN 9780141030623
Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council Organisational Assessment, 2009. Published by Central Government Audit Commission. Detailed information was drawn from http://oneplace.direct.gov.uk/infobyarea/region/area/localorganisations/organisation/pages/default.aspx?region=55&area=402&orgId=1506 , viewed on 18th December, 2009.
Solihull Metropolitan Borough population and business statistics are reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office from the 2001 Census, Key Statistics. Detailed information was drawn from http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/profiles/00ct.asp , viewed on on 6th January, 2010.
Steinberg, T. Founder of, http://fixmystreet.com , http://www.mysociety.org/ and IT Policy Advisor for the Conservative Party (2009/10). MP3 Audio podcast recording, taken from the Personal Democracy Forum conference, Barcelona on 21st November 2009 – “Crossnational Collaboration: Case Studies and Lessons for the Future” http://civicolive.com/pdfeu/2009/11/20/audio-plenary-on-crossnational-collaboration-case-studies-and-lessons-for-the-future/ Originally recorded by the author, accessed 15th January 2010.
Watson, T. Cabinet Minister and MP (West Bromwich East). Power of Information Task Force, 15th March 2008. Cabinet Office Members Reference Library, Hansard.
Watson, T. MP (West Bromwich East, Labour). 2009. MP3 Audio podcast recording, taken from the Personal Democracy Forum conference, Barcelona on 20th November 2009 – “How the internet is changing politicians”: http://civicolive.com/pdfeu/2009/11/20/audio-how-the-internet-is-changing-politicians/ Originally recorded by the author, accessed 15th January 2010.
Yeowell, N. Putting Fairness First. LGA Labour Group. ISBN 978-0-9430346-2-5
The Metropolitan Borough of Solihull, West Midlands (UK) has a domestic population of 199,517, all of whom live in 80,930 mixed rural and urban households. In the Borough, there are in excess of 4000 VAT registered businesses, over 60 of which employ 200 people or more (HMSO Census, 2001).
Home to Birmingham International Airport, the National Exhibition Centre, and international manufacturing plant for Land Rover PLC, Solihull has been nationally recognised, audited and performs well in social and digital inclusion “exceeding minimum requirements and performs well” (Audit Commission, 2009). Citizens and workers of Solihull are very satisfied with the borough and the public services they receive, including satisfaction with the area as a place to live.
I give up – throw the towel in – resign – chicken out. Call it what you will.
I was thinking about investigating how computer generated graphics work in a video context, in order to try to enhance some very basic animation, so ran a search to see what sort of examples were available, just so I could see some good case studies that pushed the imagination. And no, I’m not talking about flash bang explosions, or men turning into robots for an all-out death race in outer space shoot-em up either.
I’m talking about the artistic interpretation of ideas- the creative realisation of thoughts and images inside one’s head.
I really wish I hadn’t bothered.
This piece, The Third and Seventh, by Alex Roman is an absolutely stunning demonstration of where the pinnacle of cgi currently stands for me. Produced using 3dsmax, Vray, AfterEffects and Premiere, remarkably, there are only 5 segments that are not cgi: the photographer (shot on greenscreen), pigeons, timelapsed growing flowers, flying airplane and sky backgrounds. All the rest is pure cgi, rendered on an i7 920 and a QX6850.
Fantastic work Alex.
Beautiful. Poetic. Sublime. Cutting edge – most definitely.
Now, please do Alex’s piece justice- turn up the volume, and watch full screen in HD.
As part of the usual European Tour when promoting singles, artists will go from national TV station, to national TV station, performing the same song time after time.
My involvement in this year 2000 tour was stage design coordinator, technical specification & set up consultant, camera jimmy jib, and crew management.
The brief was for a 7 minute turn-around in between sets, to enable very fast scene changes between artists, which involved coordinating a crew of 30 technical stage hands.
The turn-around involved complete set up of all equipment, including pa, instruments, mics, foldback, plus all the TV equipment.
The total time we had to rehearse the schedule with the artist was 4 hours, so a huge amount of pre-production and planning was involved.
It was events such as these that proved to be my grounding and learning for the future.
Amazing what you can do with a bit of applied knowledge.
This short video shows the stage of the Lowry Arts Centre in Manchester- the screen and corporate stage set is a temporary 1-day installation, for an event I produced and coordinated for the British Council of Shopping Centres, back in 1999. The video itself shows just a small part of the event- this piece is just the opening introduction that was captured in an empty conference hall during technical rehearsal checks.
Using powerpoint and photoshop images as the background, the embedding and overlaying of live video, afterfx, graphics, text and moving images are produced from a system called Suite P. The system incorporated all the above, and also allowed for live camera relay and incomming satellite video links to be placed anywhere on the screen, on-demand, during the event.
Owned by Blitz Communications (the production company I was working for at the time), the system is based around 3, soft-edge masked large screen digital video projectors, with images hitting the screen to produce a 20x8m image, from a distance of approximately 100metres, front projected.
The technical knowledge behind the design of the software system and soft-edge masking controller was completed by Alan Cox, and the widescreen display programmer was Richard Turner. I’ve got to give a huge hat-tip to those guys- they were (and still are) so far ahead of the game (remember this is 1999 we’re talking about here).
The system was installed overnight after the orchestra had vacated the stage, and was up and running for 8am the following morning. If memory serves me correct, there were 8 technical staff on the crew for this event.
It just goes to show just how forward thinking the appliance of technical skills and expertise can push the boundaries. I feel privileged to be able to work with such technical experts from time to time. It’s guys like these that shape the future of technology, so standards such as this become commonplace in the hi-tech world we live in today.
If this type of presentation is something you are interested in for your events, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Hat tip to Hannah Nicklin, thank you.
So, it’s 3.19am, I’ve just saved 3000 words as a draft, and I spot a tweet from Hannah: “A watched Posterous never autoposts.”
So, now I’m stuck for creativity and inspiration, it’s time for some fresh air.
The heavens have gently, silently delivered another 2 inches of beautiful virgin snow outside. “Ah what the hell, it won’t hurt” thinks I. So, with my iphone in hand, out I go to the garden, and grab this:
So, now inspired (and cold), I search for “snow, trees and video” on Google, and it comes up with this:
Inspiration and platform found in one go. Thank you Ommwriter- you look delightful…tomorrow I’ll have a play.
Now it’s time for a quick Balvenie- hell I’m going to go get all natural with it- usually I’d add a little water, but there’s snow outside, and it’s wonderful.
This time I’ll put a coat on, and add a small scoop of snow into the glass.
Who says I don’t think about the environment.
Then, probably, bed. Let’s see.