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January 28, 2008

The Model of the Music Industry Continues to Crumble

The Model of the Music Industry Continues to Crumble

There is no doubt that online piracy and file-sharing has decimated the recorded music industry, which has been struggling to find an alternative business model in order to meaningfully survive. Interstingly the Jazz and Classical markets appear to be less affected when it comes to downloading. Usually the audiences are olde, better off and fussier about the music quality. Currently there are few sites that allow customers to download music files which provide even the equivalent quality to CDs. Linn the hi-fi company is one of the few. It can even offer studio quality masters at a price. 

Global Music sales in 2007 fall by 10%

Leona Lewis
Leona Lewis helped boost online music downloads
Global music sales fell by an estimated 10% last year, despite the growing popularity of the digital music market, according to an industry report. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said. This is despite the fact that music downloads rose by 40% in 2007.  

The organisation blames music piracy for the shortfall. It is calling on internet providers to disconnect people who repeatedly download illegally.

The (Music) Empire Fights Back  

Today was meant to see the launch of Qtrax which is an online only site which is going to allow visitors to listen to any of up to 30 million trqacks perfectly legally. This content would be paid for by advertising. Before every track ordered can be listened to the listener must undergo a barrage of advertising. Qtrax claim to have got the support of all the big four record companies:

But Warner, EMI and Universal all say they have not licensed their music. (BBC article)

Qtrax screen

Despite the hype Qtrax failed to meet its great opening on the announced day. checking it site today only got a beta version as announced in its logo.  There is a lot of opposition out there not least from Apple who do not wish Qtrax to become compatible with its iPods.

Qtrax Logo

More online shopping for music: not all deals are "good deals"!

Amazon has announced the international rollout of its digital music store. Already operating in the US customers can download music without any digital copying protection. Soon millions of songs will be sold without Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, allowing - for example - customers to burn their own CDs freely. Amazon says it is the only retailer to offer DRM-free MP3s for the four major record labels as well as thousands of independent record labels.  However this offers no real advantage over buying a CD  and has the disadvantage of  being recorded at a lower level of quality than a CD.

How far are the Music Industry's "Problems" of its own making? 

Perhaps the music industry needs an even more radical overhaul than just finding alternative models of making as much profit out of music as before. We have now entered the era of user generated content. Very high quality recodings of  music can be made relatively cheaply as the price of sophisticated recording technology continues to drop. But with most music downloads being listened to on inferior sound systems there seems to be little point in making huge efforts to provide such high quality original sound and "adding value" i.e. trying to put up the profit margin. People quite literally aren't buying into it. Sell a lot more music a lot more cheaply and have more bands working and cut out the super star celebrity bit. Instead lets just get back to the music and the culture that surrounds that music. 

The music industry has for decades being accusing the very people it relies upon for its existence as being 'pirates' or thieves. If people weren't feeling so ripped off and if music was sold at a fair price then it wouldn't be a problem.  Popular music by its very nature is ephemeral it belongs to the moment it is part of the Zeitgeist. Making more of it more available as the Zeitgeist moves would help profit, help the industry and provide audiences with what they want. The Music industry has failed the great test of all media enterprises: keep your audiences happy. what the media consumers are regualrly being accussed of thievery?

The shake up at EMI promises to cut a lot of the fat out of the music industry, it will be leaner, fitter and all the better for it, but it is still at its heart a celebrity / star model of music selling.

Branded Bands?

15 Jan 2008 - Could EMI's latest idea to get specific sponsorship for bands change the face of music in the future?The new boss of EMI, Guy Hands, has announced job losses of up to two thousand which is about aiming to save the label £200m a year. EMI was taken over by the private equity firm, Terra Firma, last summer but this new development about sponsorship suggests brands could become more involved with music. (My emphasis BBC)

Webliography

(Sorry this is work in progress at present)



January 19, 2008

iPhone Sales: Time for Schadenfreude?

iPhone Sales: Time for Schadenfreude?

It is difficult to avoid a feeling of Schadenfreude as one looks at the sales figures of the Apple iPhone since its UK release and faiure to reach the projected sales forecasts of 200,000. One might think that selling 190,000 was pretty good going as they cost about £280 quids and you have to take out not a 12 month but an 18 month contract at £35 per month. Well the latter fee used to be not so bad but now prices have dropped considerably. The fact of the matter is that Jobs launched the iPhone into the gathering storm of an economic recession and the reality is that the aspirants buying into designer this that and the other are going to suddenly think twice about these expenses as other things suddenly become a priority.

Jobs has already had to drop the price of the iPhone in the USA quite soon after its launch and today's FT reports that some analysts are expecting the same to happen in the UK:

Some analysts, who had regarded the original 200,000 prediction as a conservative estimate, said Apple might have to cut the price in the UK if it wanted to maintain sales momentum. The iPhone’s headline price is £269, but customers must also take out an 18-month contract starting at £35 a month, meaning a minimum outlay of £899. (My emphasis)

iPhone Launch Jaunuary CES 2007

Look out for some appearing in TK Maxx if the recession really bites!

In the US, 10 weeks after its launch, Apple cut the iPhone’s headline price from $599 to $399, which angered customers who had bought the handset. Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, subsequently apologised. On Tuesday, he said 4m iPhones had been sold worldwide. (ibid) 

As the FT points out Apple is facing the fact that mobile operators in both the UK and the US subsidies the handsets and claw back the costs through the subscriptions or relatively highly priced pay as you go calls.  

If you thought touchscreen is where it is at then check this out coming fairly soon near you (maybe): 

Nokia has also developed an interface method that doesn’t even require you to touch the screen where the phone reacts to hand gestures made in three dimensional space and can even track the movement of your hand. (From Pocket Picks)

In the meantime you will just have to suffer with these Nokias the excitingly named N81 and N82: 

Nokia N81  N82

The box says they do this lot which is a pretty good scorer on the convergence front:

The 140g N81 is an 8GB music phone with wi-fi, HDSPA, quad-band, 2MP camera, Bluetooth stereo, 3.5mm headphone jack, 16 million colour 240 x 320 pixel screen and dedicated music and gaming keys. Word from the Guru is that this will be one of the N-Gage Gaming Platform launch handsets. The 120g N82 takes all that and adds TV-out, GPS functionality, FM radio, a microSD slot, and raises the game with an N95-matching five-megapixel camera then bungs a xenon flash on top of all that. (ibid)

Customer Choice: The Nokia Nobrainer or the iPod Nano?

Well 8 gb is as much as an iPod Nano with a few other gizmos thrown in - like making a phone call.  Unlike the state of the market when Apple stormed the MP3 downloading market with the iPod the mobile phones is a sophisticated and hig hly competitive market with a lot of very experienced operators. It appears that Nokia's fight back for the premium phone market is going to be based around a very new model of consumption which involves free music downloading from a choice of around 2 million 'tunes'. You will be able to keep the music even if you drop the contract. This might not only hit iPhone below the waterline it could significantly effect iTunes itself. A quick trip to the Nokia site I couldn't find any Nokia phones which supported iTunes.

Phone for Internet Junkies from 2007

Now with upgrade 

Forthcoming Nokia N800

Phone for the YouTubers

Sounds like this Motorola has plenty of appeal for the budding film director promising instant uploading to YouTube:

Motorola Z10 Movie Phone

...the ‘mobile film studio’ aspect comes from the phone having the ability to let you instantly upload photos and videos to YouTube, Google, Yahoo and Shozu. So it’s not quite a proper ‘film studio’ but its still an appealing new handset.

That might mean Apple have to go back to their origins and try and flog computers, the trouble is Microsoft seem to have pretty much caught up.... (aside: well got to say something controversial it is a blog after all).  


Paul Greengrass

Contemporary British Directors: Paul Greengrass

Return to Contemorary British Directors hub page here.  

Paul Greengrass


Biographical Details  

Paul Greengrass has had a history of working at the cutting edge of documentary and also writing making firstly with the Granada World in Action TV documentary series. Although he should not be regarded as politically radical his career has been one which has sought to make liberal democracy become more transparent and it appears as though he sees the role of media as making a powerful contribution towards this. His treatment of events in Northern Ireland, his contribution to the Spycatcher book, which tore into the British establishment in the 1980s. His documentary United 93 underpinned the power and determination of ordinary people who will sacrifice themselves for others in the face of a totalitarian terrorism expressed on this occasion by the despised Al Quaida. Most of his early work has trodden where many other filmmakers and creative people have feared to tread. As as John Patterson in The Guardian puts it:


Five years ago, Paul Greengrass was an avowedly political, low-budget British filmmaker working within the documentary-style tradition that constitutes the core - the deepest, oldest thread - of British cinema; now he's a big-name director making kinetic, visceral Hollywood movies that are eagerly awaited at multiplexes worldwide. Ultimatum, budgeted at $125m (£62m), looks set to become one of the biggest hits of the summer. Funny how things turn out.



Born Aug. 13, 1955 in Cheam, Surrey, in the United Kingdom, Greengrass showed an interest in film at an early age. While still in secondary school, he directed several short Super-8 films. He attended Cambridge University and afterwards joined Granada Television.

Greengrass went to school in Kent, winning a scholarship to Sevenoaks School, and started his film-making career with a super 8 camera he found in the art room. He made a series of animated horror films, using old dolls and bric-a-brac props. He went on to Queens' College, Cambridge, and then, inspired by the story of Woodward and Bernstein's uncovering of the Watergate scandal in All the President's Men, decided to become an investigative journalist. (Guardian overview of Greengrass).


He worked with the "World in Action" (ITV, 1963-99) - TV documentary series. The series itself gained a reputation for being cutting edge and hard hitting often being more controversial and less mainstream than the main BBC competitor of the time which was Panorama. As Greengrass commented in a Guardian interview:

I arrived there 1978-79. The great days of World in Action had been the 1960s and it had lost its way somewhere, somewhat, in the mid-70s, but the onset of Margaret Thatcher gave it this tremendous new lease of life. (ibid)


During the 1980s, Greengrass also co-authored the controversial book Spycatcher with former MI5 Assistant Director, Peter Wright. The book, which detailed Wright's attempts to ferret out a Russian spy from the ranks of the British intelligence agency, was banned by the government and held from release until 1988. In the mid 1980s Greengrass met the controversial filmmaker Alan Clarke who had made Scum and had had a strong influence upon his thinking. Greengrass has also been influenced by the realism of Ken Loach particularly Kes and also Peter Watkins’ controversial documentary The War Game.

Spycatcher Cover


It seems as though Greengrass’s film Resurrection (1989) taught him a lesson about drama and film making which allowed him to break with the strongly social realist mode of his previous work enabling him to film an event which it wouldn’t be possible to witness – a brutal mock court martial. It allowed him to take his aesthetic approach to a different level. The film was nominated for a Golden Bear winning some jury awards at the Berlin Film Festival.

We were using the dispassionate, observational documentary eye I had developed, if you like, on recreated events, and the collision between the two allows you to get at a bigger truth than you could by using just the one approach or the other. (ibid).


From Gritty documentaries to Hollywood Action Adventure with an Edge


For many  followers of Greengrass who seemed to be following a path well trodden by many British directors working within a social realist mode it came as a great surprise when Greengrass was chosen to direct the Bourne Supremacy (2004). It was so successful - apparently netting $175 million in the box-office that he directed the Bourne Ultimatum (2007). It hasn't won Greengrass friends everywhere as a summariser from the Independent on Sunday noted in an interview with Harold Pinter and Time Out magazine which was scathingly critical: 

I saw a film, The Bourne Ultimatum," Pinter begins, "and I thought: Fucking hell! This guy is clearly the strongest man in the world. He can beat up about 12 people in about 35 seconds and kill half of them.

"The whole thing is totally unreal. I was stupefied by it, it was so lacking in intelligence." He adds that he sat in the cinema "seething, thinking: What am I doing here, being bombarded by this sound? It knocks you out."

The interviewer pointed out that Oscar-nominated Greengrass is considered a master of dramatic realism.

"Paul Greengrass?" replies Pinter. "I saw Bloody Sunday, I also saw United 93: that fellow is no chump."But: "I've never been able to write a film which I didn't respect, I just can't do it."

John Patterson in the Guardian was rather more sympathetic to the project than Pinter and in doing so comes to a position which finds cross-overs between auteurism and genre cinema almost identifying a British hybrid genre of the 'political-realist action-action thriller':


Bloody Sunday may be political and tragic, but it's also an action-movie manqué. Indeed, the idea of a left-progressive action-movie director isn't even that novel: in Britain it's almost a mini-tradition. Peter Watkins is an action director without compare - witness Culloden or Punishment Park. And no one shot mayhem and violence more compellingly than Clarke. Given such forebears, the move from Bloody Sunday to Jason Bourne is an entirely natural and seamless one.  (My emphasis; Guardian ibid).


Patterson has a point for it is clear that Pinter has little notion of the action adventure genre and in this sense we can point to  the subversion of the sterotype.

And instead of the usual boringly indestructible, mindless right-wing macho man in the lead, the left-leaning Matt Damon plays the isolated and existentially solitary Bourne as a man whose memory may have been erased, but not his sense of morality or his essentially liberal strain of patriotism. It's all subtly embedded within a framework of thrills and violence, but it's there none the less. Greengrass wouldn't be Greengrass if it wasn't.

Whilst Pinter from a more realist mode is right to criticise the impossibility of Bourne being able to whisk aside several hardened CIA operatives just like that this is merely a convention of this type of  film. This can be seen in films such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. It is a dramatic device for when Bourne meets the Arabic operative sent to kill him in a hand to hand he only just makes it similarly he only survives the car chase by chance. Here he is taking on his own kind the super-killer of which he is the Ur-figure gone wrong. As a political thriller there is a long tradition of defending the supremacy of the American political system against corrupt methods which would ultimately undermine the very raison d'etre of the United States Constitution itself.   This appears on John Gresham novels and  films and older films such as Clear and Present Danger dealing with drug cartels. Although not directly dealing with an American theme these kind of highly secretive undercover operations by states are also critiqued in films such as Spielberg's Munich.

What Greengrass brings to this more American sub-generic category is a decidely British aesthetic which arguably has its heart in European cinema itself. Greengrass brings a gritty realism which belongs to the tradition of the British gangster-heavy (Chibnall) tradition which hasdeveloped thought films such as Brighton Rock, Get Carter (made by Mike Hodges who also worked for World in Action), The Long Good Friday. All of these involved corruption of some sort usually amongst police and local government. Greengrass is well placed to deal with higher level governmental corruption because of his involvement with the Spycatcher affair. all those British gangster films are strong on a sense of place. This is an aesthetic that Greengrass has brought wioth him. One can compare the car chase scene in the Bourne Ultimatum with the ridiculous street shoot out in Heat, to gain a real sense in the difference aesthetic which as Patterson notes is one which is a:

... patented newsreel-style, quasi-documentary, highly organic aesthetic - non-professional casts, few effects or soundstages, lots of hand-held and SteadiCam, much wobble and blur, extremely long takes, cut together in sequences often made up of hundreds of microscopically attenuated shots -... (ibid)


In the Guardian interview with Patterson Greengrass comments that he sees the Bourne character as analagous to Patricia Highsmith's Ripley character becuase there is a duality:

I love Matt in it. He's not only a brilliant actor, but also brilliant in that part because he's a wonderful player of duality - you think of [Tom] Ripley and other parts he's played. You don't know which side of that duality he's on at any moment. And that's Bourne: a duality, a killer who's redeemed himself, the man on the run with a dark past, so he's perfect. You couldn't ask for a better actor in the part than Matt.

I don't think that this is a good analogy at all because Ripley is an entirely amoral opportunist. The comparison revolves around the issue of individual agency. Ripley sees an opportunity and takes it and gradually becomes involved in murder and then serial murder and his character declines. Bourne is an allegory for the honest truly democratic USA which has literal agents within who are suborning the true nature and aims of the country. Bourne represents this tension, this duality. We know he has truly broken with this dark instilled past when he fails to kill the other super-agent at the end of the car chase. When this person is positioned to kill Bourne a little later he lets him go asking why Bourne failed to kill him. Here the conversation allows for self-reflexivity for it is a question which many americans including their military are asking themselves: is what is going on in Iraq just? Are we making things better or worse? By what authority are we here? Given the CIA information about "Weapons of Mass Destruction" was the excuse for the USA to go to war and for the British Government to follow suit despite there being no clear evidence then means that we can see the Bourne Ultimatum as an allegorical critique of American foreign policy.

It is this lack of recognition by Pinter of the necessity to work within popular genres in order to subvert them if one is able to amount any critique at all within the American cinematic system. It is a reading that will have flown over the heads of many viewers of the film inevitably but audiences have many ways of viewing a text.


Other recent non cinema work

The Murder of Stephen Lawrence (1999). ITV Documentary. Directed by Greengrass.

Omagh Channel Four TV Documentary. Greengrass was the producer and writer of this.


Filmography

The Bourne Ultimatum, 2007

United 93, 2006


The Bourne Supremacy,2004

Bloody Sunday, 2002

The Theory of Flight, 1998

The Sweetest Thing, 1995

Resurrected, 1989

Indie London interview with Greengrass


Webliography

BBC the Writer's Room a Q & A with Paul Greengrass

BBC Interview on United 93

A Times overview of Greengrass's work

Guardian:  Hollywood's Favourite Brit

Guardian overview of Paul Greengrass

Independent on Sunday. Noting Harold Pinter's disgust at The Bourne Ultimatum

Working Title entry on Greengrass winning BAFTA with United 93

Sight and Sound Review of Bloody Sunday

British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) for Bloody Sunday 

An interesting comparative review by the well respected David Tereshchuk who was actually at the Bloody Sunday Event reporting for the BBC


Return to Contemorary British Directors hub page here.

January 02, 2008

Working Title: History of a Production Company

Working Title: History of a Production Company

(For a larger case study of a production company please see Channel Four / Film Four)

Fellner and Bevan of Working Title

Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner co-chairpersons of Working Title Productions

Introduction

The Co-chairpersons of Working Title  are  Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. It has been an extraordinary British cinematic success story as the following comment notes:

They have been listed as the most powerful figures in the British industry and in 2002 Premiere magazine put them at 41st in the world-wide movie power list.( BBC News story (2004

Without well positioned and highly effective producers film makers would have an even more difficult time. Firstly this article will look briefly at the role of the film producer, it will then look in more detail at Working Title as a case study of a success story. Without good producers in the last few years British Film culture would have been much poorer.  Good producers are essential for the success of any national cinema especially given the outside pressures from the big guns. Film making is a high risk business and good producers know how / learn how to reduce risk. 

However according the the Daily Telegraph NBC Universal already holds a majority stake in Working Title Films, and has been looking to create a European TV studio in London. 

Working Title Red

Origins

Extract from Guardian interview

Bevan had founded Working Title in 1984 with Sarah Radclyffe, and in 1992 went looking for a corporate backer. Polygram was the one, and Fellner came on board, Radclyffe having left. According to Bevan: "Before that we had been independent producers, but it was very hand to mouth. We would develop a script, that would take about 5% of our time; we'd find a director, that'd take about 5% of the time and then we'd spend 90% of the time trying to juggle together deals from different sources to finance those films. The films were suffering because there was no real structure and, speaking for myself, my company was always virtually bankrupt."

What the film producer does

A film producer creates the conditions for making movies. The producer initiates, coordinates, supervises and controls matters such as fundraising, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distributors. The producer is involved throughout all phases of the filmmaking process from development to completion of a project. (Wikipedia entry 2nd Jan 2008)

Here is the blurb marketing a training course for potential producers:

The producer is at the sharp end of the film business. They are required to

keep all options open, develop networks of potential funding and talent,
identify outlets and new markets for their productions, keep a range of
projects live, ready for pitching
. This Film School will provide an
invaluable insight into the working practices and strategies, of the lives
of a variety of producers. They will range from those working exclusively in
shorts, in the UK, through to feature films and working in a global market.
It will provide essential information and tips for up and coming producers,
how to pitch a project, where to seek funding, how to maintain networks of
contacts. Everything you wanted to know about the producers’ job description and the detail of producing film will be revealed in this film School.
(My emphasis, Encounters Short Film Festival )

Films Produced by Working Title

Working Title's breakthrough hit was 1994's Four Weddings and a Funeral, a romantic comedy which made the term British blockbuster seem less of an oxymoron.

Successes 

Films which have been critically and financially successful include both British and American films:  

British films

Atonement 1

Atonement has been a great success for Working Title functioning as a film in the "heritage genre"

Four Weddings and a Funeral
Bean
Notting Hill
Bridget Jones's Diary
Elizabeth
and American films
Dead Man Walking
Fargo
The Man Who Wasn't There
O Brother Where Art Thou?
Failures  
But there are plenty of risks as this comment on Captain Corelli's Mandolin shows:
Flops include Captain Corelli's Mandolin. It was their most expensive film and, ironically, the one that seemed most likely to succeed.

This is even more ironic given that the prices in Kefalonia have risen as the tourist trade increased dramatically after the film's release.

How Working Title chooses the films to support 

How does Working Title choose which films to make? Fellner says projects get championed by individuals in the development department and these 'percolate' their way up to the top. Bevan and Fellner then both take the decision on what to greenlight (Skillset)

Recent Films Produced Include

More recently WT co-produced the successful Hot Fuzz comedy released in July 2007. See also Hot Fuzz)

Elizabeth the Golden Age : Shekar Kapur

Targeting Audience: The Secret of Their success?

The Working Title philosophy has always been to make films for an audience - by that I mean play in a multiplex. We totally believe in this because we know it is the only hope we have of sustaining the UK film industry. (Lucy Guard & Natasha Wharton)

Working Title 2 / WT 2: Making the Small Budget Feature

As Working Title became more bound up with larger productions it became more awkward to deal with smaller ones so WT2 was established to deal with low budget titles.  

Despite its famous name, the structure at Working Title is pretty lean. It employs just 42 full time staff, split between the main Working Title production arm and its low-budget offshoot WT2, run by Natascha Wharton, which since 1999 has produced films like Billy Elliot and Ali G Indahouse. (My emphasis, from Skillset )

WT2 has had a good success rate and clearly the whole organisation is run very effectively.

Other films it has produced are the less than well received Calcium Kid starring Orlando Bloom

Extract from a Channel 4 Film Feature

Lucy Guard, Head of Development for Dragon Pictures and Natscha Wharton (left) who co-runs WT2 share with us their secret to developing talent..

How did WT2 come about?
When I was at Working Title we set up a New Writers Scheme to develop new talent. Normally we do not accept unsolicited material (scripts that do not come from an agent or producer) but for the scheme we had to relax a bit and open the doors. The problem was that at Working Title, smaller films would inevitably get less attention than the bigger budget projects so we decided to set up WT2 to give proper attention to those smaller films. Quite a few of the writers we were developing on the Scheme we are now working with us at WT2 while others have set up their projects with other companies, which is great.

Available films produced by Working Title /WT2 include:

elizabeth_dvd_cover_special_edition.jpg Four Weddings and funeral DVD Cover Bridget Jones Bean DVD Cover

WT2 Films available include:

Inside I Billy Eliott Ali G Indahouse

Filmography 

Webliography 

Guardian Interview with Fellner and Bevan

BBC News story (2004)

Film File Europe recording Working Title / WT2 films 

Skillset Film entry on Working Title & WT2 

BBC on Inside I'm Dancing a WT2 title (This is technically an Irish film) 

BBC Review on Inside I'm Dancing

Working Title plans TV Shows:By Juliette Garside. Daily Telegraph Jan 2008

Film Four Productions Interview with Tim Bevan

Screenonline Working Title entry + links to individuals concerned

Independent Film Producer Rebecca O'Brien. Who works with Ken Loach 

(For a larger case study of a production company please see Channel Four / Film Four)


December 23, 2007

Piracy and Downloading

Piracy Downloading and the Entertainments Business

For those of you doing music downloading within new media technologies this is a useful recent link:

BitTorrent search site loses case



The Size of the Internet


The Size and Growth of the Internet

Netcraft ran its first survey about the size of the internet in 1995 the year that Amazon launched.

1995: 18,957 websites 

2000: 19,800,000 websites

2005: 74,400,000 websites The year of its biggest growth

In its October 2005 survey, Netcraft found 74.4 million web addresses, a rise of more than 2.68 million from the September figure.

2007 (November) 149,784,002 websites

Netcraft Size of the Web

Netcraft estimate that in 2007 there has been an increase of 40 million sites since the start of the year:

Much of the growth in sites this year has come from the increasing number of blogging sites, in particular at Live Spaces, Blogger and MySpace.

If this estimate is right then it shows how important the development of Web 2.0 has become as a user generated publishing phenomena. In reality one can argue that this represents an increasing fragmentation of the publishing market.  


December 22, 2007

Virtual Worlds and Second Life: A Changing Media Environment

Virtual Worlds & Second Life: A Changing Media Environment

Philip Rosedale and his avatar

Philip Rosedale the founder of Linden Labs who run Second Life alongside his avatar.

Introduction

One of the most fascinating developments in new media is the growth of virtual worlds with Second Life currently the leading virtual world in the marketplace although there are other ones being developed. Here I start to examine the growth of the virtual worlds and discuss whether phenomena such as Second Life should be considered as a game, a social networking site, or as something else in its own right. A quick search on Amazon UK reveals 11 titles currently available on Second Life. But these are largely not academic more like Lonely Planets Guides. An academic one just published is linked below. It is the first in a stream that will undobtedly appear in the next 18 months.

This page has developed out of my attempts to encourage my AS students to investigate Teen Second Life as part of their Audiences and Institutions: New Media Technologies Unit. It would be interesting to develop a media teaching environment in there so any media teachers / lecturers teaching this age range please drop a comment in the box. 

Game or Not: A Convergence?

The Uvvy wiki points out with a clear position on whether it is a game in the opening to its entry:

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of people (August 2006) from around the globe. Second Life is not a videogame, but a complete platform for business and entertainment. ( My emphasis: Uvvi wiki entry 22 / 12 / 07)

Uvvy itself can hardly be said to be neutral on the issue as they are:

uvvy is a full service Internet, Virtual Reality and Metaverse consulting and engineering team

Here some of the ideas are explained:  

The uvvy is the ultimate p2p communication device invented by the mathematician, computer scientist and science fiction writer Rudy Rucker. The uvvy does not exist yet but maybe coming soon.

Academia hasn't quite caught on to the fact that computer games represent the convergence and the flowering of the most ambitious frontier efforts of the old twentieth-century computer science: artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and artificial life." Rudy Rucker, "The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul" (My empahsis).

Well this gets us around the question of whether it is a game or not - sort of!

The Virtual Worlds Review 

Virtual Worlds Review has a useful page which analyses several types of virtual world:

A virtual world is an interactive simulated environment accessed by multiple users through an online interface. Virtual worlds are also called "digital worlds," "simulated worlds" and "MMOG's." There are many different types of virtual worlds, however there are six features all of them have in common:

1. Shared Space: the world allows many users to participate at once.

2. Graphical User Interface: the world depicts space visually, ranging in style from 2D "cartoon" imagery to more immersive 3D environments.

3. Immediacy: interaction takes place in real time.

4. Interactivity: the world allows users to alter, develop, build, or submit customized content.

5. Persistence: the world's existence continues regardless of whether individual users are logged in.

6. Socialization/Community: the world allows and encourages the formation of in-world social groups like teams, guilds, clubs, cliques, housemates, neighborhoods, etc. 

Below there is an interesting attempt to develop a more politically astute environment.

Agora Exchange

This site has led me to an interesting  site in which a political game is being devised. It is taking a range of ideas from contributors who must first of all log in. It has actually been commissioned by the Tate Gallery online:

Commissioned by Tate Online, through funding from the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Changing Concepts of Cyberspace 

The 07 Siggraph Conference brought out some interesting ideas relating to virtual worlds. As Amy Bruckman suggested in a paper reported by the BBC. 

Already online worlds such as Second Life challenged notions of what was meant by "cyberspace", said Amy Bruckman, associate professor in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Coined by William Gibson, cyberspace has been defined as the "place" where a telephone conversation appears to occur. Increasingly it has been associated with online spaces, often games, where people go to play and socialize and are represented by an avatar.

However, said Prof Bruckman, it was becoming obvious that blogs and MySpace and Facebook pages were also in cyberspace, even though they also had strong links to the real world, because they were used to showcase events such as birthday parties, excursions or the birth of their children.

How will the Audience Develop?

Exodus to the Virtual World

Published by Palgrave in the US in November 2007 by Edward Castronova  this is one of the first of what will soon be a stream of academic publications on developments in Virtual Worlds.  

The appeal of online virtual worlds such as Second Life is such that it may trigger an exodus of people seeking to "disappear from reality," an expert on large-scale online games has said. (Edward Castronova, Associate Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University to the BBC)

But he stressed there will be a group of people that spends all their lives there, and that the big question is the size of this group. (Ibid)

Castronova goes to some pains to differentiate between escapism - somebody avoiding a  situation say a weak marital relationship -  compared to a refuge from the world in which somebody can make a go of things whilst in conventional life they were being discriminated against. He also comments that it is likely to have a strong appeal to those in low paid low skilled jobs. however wherever people congregate there is usually exploitation and they will be paying to be exploited twice just like going to the movies, but if they enjoy themselves and they feel there is some element of control in their lives maybe it won't be so bad.

However if you check out the Densu Virtual Tokyo initiative below they are aiming to use Second Life to conduct high added value services like selling real estate. Clearly there are a number of ways in which this world might develop its audiences in the plural.  

Identity in Virtual Life

It is remarkable to see the reactions of people when one talks to them about Second Life and the possibility of spending a considerable amount of time in one / several virtual worlds. Is the fear / attraction of escapism from "the meat" as William Gibson describes it?

One thing is for certain the issue of identity is likely to be the core one when it comes to the success of these worlds. Many of my own students either quickly expressed an interest or reacted quite strongly against the possibility.  

Historically it might be possible to equate these virtual spaces to the societal role of the masked ball or issues of carnival written about by Bahktin. These are spaces where people can legitimately "transgress". Psychoanalytic accounts based upon Lacanian thinking will probably come to analyse these spaces as ones of the remainder. Probably different worlds will develop different codes of behaviour and perhaps different worlds will prove more attractive to different classes and types of people and come to be understood as functioning differently there are after all lots of different types of pubs and clubs and Bourdieu's notion of cultural capital will, I'm sure, be applicable in due course. It is if course far to early in the development of these worlds to be anyhting more than speculative.   

Here is a long paper by Judith Donath teaching within the MIT media department on "Designing Sociable Media" in 2001. It is quite an old paper now but the issue of identity and deception is even more important now than it ever was. Donath's course had many intersting elements. Here we can see that she is applying her research into the early MUDs into the beginnings of the developing online virtual worlds:

Nearly all of the avatar systems in current development (or in fiction for that matter) are graphical versions of real-time conversation systems (Rossney 1996). This is not surprising, since many social cues that are needed in a real-time conversation - such as emotional expressions, indications of attention, turn-taking signals, and awareness of presence - are problematic in a purely text-based world. Many of the distinctive vocabularies and discourse patterns (smileys, emote commands, etc.) that have evolved in these environments are attempts, given the very limited communicative channel, to introduce expression and other non-textual components of real-world speech (Cherny 1995). Graphical interfaces provide a promising new medium for conveying this information. (From Donath: Inhabiting the Virtual City). 

Donath's key point here is that avatars will effectively become and already are much more effective means of communication incorporating a wealth of non-verbal communication. It might not be real life but then it's not meant to be! It is a media and communications system.

Avatars from Worlds Away

Donath has illustrated her paper with this image of avatars from the World's Away environment dating from 1996. Obviously things have moved on a lot since then.  This environment  originally run by Fujitsu is now owned by VZone

Making Life Easy or Making it Worse?

As we increasingly move towards shopping on the internet there could be distinct advantages in doing this in a virtual world environment points out Philp Rosedale the founder of Second Life:

Shopping on Amazon might be much easier and enjoyable if you could turn to one of the other 10,000 or so people on the site at the same time as you and ask about what they were buying, get recommendations and swap good or bad experiences. (Philip Rosedale in BBC interview - 14th Dec 2007)

The Developing Institutional Context

Thus far it seems as though the media giants haven't invested in Linden Labs and Second Life yet however I'm sure Rupert Murdoch has a close eye on it especially its possible business applications. computer companies are definitely getting very interested and IBM once one of the largest companies in the world is linking up with Linden Labs to develop Avatars:

A virtual character, or avatar, for all the virtual worlds in which people play is the goal of a joint project between IBM and Linden Lab.

The computer giant and the creator of Second Life are working on universal avatars that can travel between worlds.(BBC Technology pages)

The project started by IBM and Linden Lab aims to create a universal character creation system so people only have to create a digital double once. (ibid)

Clearly there is an expectation on the part of IBM that virtual worlds are going to grow and this development could make it much easier to move through a great variety of these worlds. If this sounds strange to some readers now remember it only about 12 years since the web started up with a graphical user interface and things have moved exponentially since then!. 
If you don't believe me then take a look at the impressive line up for the forthcoming virtual worlds conference in 2008 and also take a look at the topics being covered.

The Future Media and Communications

Dentsu in Second Life

One of my AS students kindly added this link from the Financial Times Aug 2007. The advertising agancy Dentsu has spent an enormous amount of money with Second Life establishing a virtual Tokyo:

Virtual Tokyo gets a virtual Second Life Tokyo 

By Mariko Sanchanta in Tokyo, FT.com site
Published: Aug 22, 2007

Dentsu, which spent about Y10m ($870,000) to acquire the 85 hectares in Virtual Tokyo, is aiming to recoup its investment by lining up 30 or so blue-chip companies to build a virtual presence within the first year.

Mr Aihara said: "We're aiming to create a virtual Japanese Wall Street, where major Japanese financial institutions will have a presence.

"For example, users would be able to negotiate a virtual home mortgage with a bank to then buy a virtual flat. (My emphasis). 

Virtual Business Tools for Second Life 

Just as this site uses Google Analytics to monitor usage and to help develop pages and audience relationships so a range of business tools are being developed for Second Life. This image comes from Maya Realities who have develop a Second Life Analytics.

Maya Realities Analytics Screen

Equally important to where visitors spend time on your land is where they are located in real life. The above map helps determine what languages to offer your products and services or what cultures warrent focused resources.

Work in Progress on Virtual Tokyo 

The Japan Times of Oct 25th 2007 reprots the following:

A work in progress, Virtual Tokyo so far houses online representations of such entities as Keio University, the TBS television network, Mizuho Bank, as well as a takeoff ramp for ski jumping and a sports stadium.

Sceptical and Critical Views of Second Life

The Phoney Economics of Second Life

Summary

The more I research about virtual worlds the more convinced I am that they will be normal for a lot of people in advanced industrial societies in 10 -12 years time. The enormous potential for interactivity will make older media forms seem like the dinosaurs they are. As the number of these world's increases we are likely to see the smart media money from the Rupert Murdoch's of this world move into the arena once it becomes a little more established. In world advertising will probably drive these environments making the cost of entry very low in order to attract mass audiences. Obviously the broadband systems will need to be far better. The likely outcome if this scenario unfolds is for low grade TV channels to disappear. Who wants so called reality TV when you can have a much more intersting time online elswhere? I would rather put my pension fund into Linden Labs than ITV (The current 84.4p, up 1.4p on Thursday) that's for certain !

For my students I'm hopefully preparing them for what will become more important in media, communications and cultural studies departments at an undergraduate level when they get to university. Right now a lot of research that has been going on will come on stream and new courses will start to emerge just as these worlds are likely to take off.  

As can be seen above the prospect of a multiplicity of virtual worlds is upon us. Just like early colour TV sets there will be much that is a bit flakey in terms of quality. But it seems clear from this brief round up of things as they stand at the back end of 2007 that the future of virtual worlds is currently a rosy one. Despite some figures suggesting that Linden labs has lost some members in November it is sensible to take a medium term development view. Dentsu a big advertising (media company) is clearly a large early adopter and is making a clear developmental push to develop quite a sophisticated audience. It is likely that this trend will continue. As the dollar equals around 2 Linden and the Pound Sterling is around $2 there are clearly some entreprenuerial opportunities awaiting! I still wonder whether there will be avatars queuing out of the Second Life Banks on a Satureday morning though! Things seem to have moved on steadily from a year ago and the the pieces are gradually moving into place for a much larger adotption rate of residents to begin who will swamp the pioneers. Lets hope Linden have got enough servers!

Webliography and Online Resources 

Search Term on Google: Identity and Virtual World. This leads to a list of scholarly articles. The ones at the top of the list are the classic ones. You will need to go down a couple of pages to find more up to date material

B. Book. Moving Beyond the Game:Virtual Social Worlds

Stephen Webb : Avatar culture: Narrative, power and identity in virtual world environments (You will need to pay for this one or have subscription rights).

BBC money Programme: Virtual world Real Millions

Elizabeth Daniel is Professor of Information Management at the Open University Business School check her blog here.


July 01, 2007

Public Service Broadcasting

Contemporary British Broadcasting: Public Service Broadcasting

Please note still under construction

Please follow this link for article discussing whether the BBC license fee should be topsliced.

There is still some more legislation to include however the webliography is very useful. 

Introduction

The question of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) is an especially important one in the Media Issues and Debates Unit of the OCR A Level Media specification. The fact that the BBC has been under a cloud in July 2007 because of vaarious breaches of trust around issues such as falsifying phone-ins has lead to demands for high level resignations which accompany a sense of shock that an institution with such a high quality pedigree could have slipped so far to have allowed these infringements to happen.  I have given a frank opinion on this matter elsewhere on the blog. Here though it is important to establish what the roots of PSB are and why it might still matter today. 

The BBC Brief

The BBC for many decades has developed a formula which has gained consensus from the highest instution in the land namely Parliament. The purpose of the BBC historically has been to provide entertainment, information and education. There have been many criticism of the way this formula was applied particularly in the earlier decades of the BBC when the content seemed to be more in favour of education and information with entertainment coming behind in the hierarchy. The entertainment that was priviledged was often considered to be more on the 'elitist' side of culture. This stemmed from the notion that public service meant bringing in the best work which had been achieved by the greatest artists, writerws thinkers etc and ensuring that these ideas became known to a wider public. This has been described as a 'top-down' approach to culture. A more 'democratic' and 'bottom up' approach was promoted by many of the BBC's critics especially from the 1960s onwards when there was a flowering of popular culture and a loosening of the class system with a corresponding desire for a more meritocratic society.

Brief History of the British Broadcasting Scene /Key Legislation 

With the development of the broadcasting infrastucture ITV was introduced. The first ITV broadcast was in September 1955 in the London region. Famously the popular Radio soap Opera The Archers tried to keep audiences away from ITV by killing off a key character Grace Archer.  ITV still had a public service broadcasting remit. It was required to entertain, educate and infrom just like the BBC however the balance and style was different and appealed to wider audiences.  

BBC 2 was launched in April 1964. This allowed the main BBC channel now renamed BBC1 to provide a different mix of lighter entertainment with a more popular appeal. BBC2 could have more adventurous programming without being so beholden to the ratings issue as Wikipedia points out.  

BBC Two is the second major terrestrial television channel of the BBC. It was the second British television station to be launched by the BBC and Europe's first television channel to broadcast regularly in colour, from 1967, envisaged as a home for less mainstream and more ambitious programming.

The beginnings of the breakdown of the BBC / ITV duopoly came from Channel 4 which was started under the insistence of Mrs Thatcher in an attempt to develop more choice for consumers and to challenge the dominance of the BBC.  

Channel 4 is a public-service British television station, broadcast to all areas of the United Kingdom Republic of Ireland), which began transmissions in 1982. Though entirely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned: Originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the station is now owned and operated by the Channel Four Television Corporation, a public body established in 1990 for this purpose and which came into operation in 1993, following the abolition of the IBA.

The next big development in Broadcasting was made possible by the 1990 Braodcasting Act. Originally the initiative came from the Thatcher government however after she was removed from office the baton passed to John Major. A summary of the act is available from Screenonline an extract is given below:  

The Broadcasting Act 1990 required the British Broadcasting Corporation, all Channel 3 Licensees, the Channel 4 Television Corporation, S4C (the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority) and the future Channel 5 Licensee to procure but not less than 25% of total amount of time allocated by those services to broadcasting "qualifying programming" is allocated to the broadcasting of arrangement adversity of "independent productions". The expressions "qualifying programming" and "independent productions" defined in the Broadcasting (Independent Productions) Order 1991.

As can be seen from the above passage existing TV companies were required to source at least a quarter of their programming from outside companies. This was particularly to effect the BBC as prior to this it produced all its material in-house with exception of films.  Whilst this opened the door to commercial companies this didn't entirely revolutionise British Broadcasting. This came about under the 1996 Broadcasting Act which as Screenonline notes below:

The Broadcasting Act 1996  made provision for digital terrestrial television broadcasting and contains provisions relating to the award of multiplex licences. It also provided for the introduction of radio multiplex services and regulated digital terrestrial sound broadcasting.

The next big thing in terms of legislation was the 2003 Communications Act:

The Communications Act 2003 dissolves the Independent Television Commission, Broadcasting Standards Commission, Radio Authority, Office of Telecommunications (OFTEL) and the Radiocommunications Agency, and replaces these with a new body, the Office of Communications (OFCOM). OFCOM is charged with the regulation of the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services, and with furthering the interests of citizens and consumers in relation to communications matters. The Act also liberalises UK media ownership rules and allows for the formation of a single ITV company, subject to existing competition in merger regulations.

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/research/tv/reports/newnews/
Ofcom on Public Service Broadcasting and the News

News is regarded by viewers as the most important of all the PSB genres, and television remains by far the most used source of news for UK citizens. The role of news and information as part of the democratic process is long established, and its status is specifically underpinned in the Communications Act 2003. (Ofcom Report
Ofcom discussion of the changes within TV in the digital era

What do all of these digital developments mean for the relative health of the
main terrestrial TV channels, and indeed for public service broadcasting itself?
Overall, there appear to be two main conclusions: first, public service broadcasting
has to be considered in the context of a complex, fragmented multichannel digital
world, not a simple five channel analogue one. In this digital world, BSkyB
has established a powerful competitive position. The growth in the number of
channels and the competition between the different digital platforms has brought
substantial new revenues into the television sector: for instance, BSkyB's
subscription revenues now exceed the total amount raised by the BBC licence
fee.
The established main terrestrial channels have had to learn to share the
broadcasting space with an aggressive, successful new entrant.
(My emphasis: Ofcom Report )

Webliography for Public Service Broadcasting 

BBC Question & answer (Q & A) on PSB 

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)

Ofcom ( Office of Communications) Review of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)

2002 Speech by Caroline Thompson the Director of Public Policy for the BBC on the future of PSB 

A useful academically based page summarising the position of some leading British academics such as Graham Murdock:  http://www.cultsock.ndirect.co.uk/MUHome/cshtml/media/peacock.html

The NUJ response to the Ofcom review of PWSB 

Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS): Broadcasting 

Speech by Tessa Jowell Jan 2007 on the renewal of the BBC Licence fee until 2012 / 13 

Guardian Report on Second Ofcom review of Public Service Broadcasting  


June 30, 2007

Charity Campaign Ideas

OCR Media Studies: Foundation Production Unit





cyberbullying_1.jpg





The hands of a cyberbully? Your opportunity to campaign against this!







Introduction

The development of mass media and the ability to communicate information fast has meant that media has played a powerful role in developing and maintaining improved standards of citizenship nationally and in the wider World.  Many charities and pressure groups have harnessed the power of the media to expose injustice and exploitation. They have often created broadbased campaigns to create awareness, persuade people to take action and therefore influence institutions, companies and the government of the day to make better policies. The ability to communicate powerful messages and values through effective advertising campaigns has played a fundamental role in this. In the foundation production unit you will be developing your skills in this area. 


For this specification you will need to be developing a powerful web-based media campaign. The general specification demands that it is as follows:

Main task: produce a campaign website including sound and video, including a sound and video for a campaign (eg political, health, charity, environmental. The site should include a logo, original photographs, (minimum four per candidate), written text, audio, video and easy navigation. (OCR Specification Document November 2007)


Below I have made some suggestions for campaigns based upon topical issues which can also link into other aspects of the New OCR Media specification for first delivery in September 2008. You will also find that the new draft specification for the WJEC Board will allow for a campaign of this nature. Teachers and lecturers will of course need to check out the specifications as they are fully accredited.




Choosing Your Campaign


As it currently stands the OCR specification allows you to invent your own campaign. The approach being taken here is to campaign for the development and maintenance of citizenship rights on a global basis. The production unit will be used to dvelop an understanding of three common areas where good policy needs to be accompanied by alert citizens to create awareness of hidden problems in our society.  This also affords us the opportunity to think about the important relationship the media can have with specialist organisations working towards ending specific abuses within our society. 




Public Service Broadcasting & Journalism

Many of you will be taking Media Studies with ideas of becoming a journalist. Good journalism and reporting has always managed to bring unpleasant issues into the spotlight and all aspects of media have their role to play. Good journalism must be supported by a good broadcasting framework which sees serving the public / citizens as a fundamental human right. We call this Public Service Broadcasting and is something we deal with in greater depth in the A2 year. Please note that most of the stories on this posting have emanated from the BBC not the commercial broadcasting companies who are primarily concerned with making money. As the links have been gleaned from general searches this shows you the importance of the BBC.




Campaign Against Abuse of Citizens

Previously campaigns have been focused upon four options however it is now easier to open up the range of choices. The first four choices relate to issues of abuse. 

  1. Firstly: the development of cyberbullying and other internet related issues. This will contribute an added dimension to the unit which we will study later on New Media Technologies
  2. Secondly: there will also be the option of developing a campaign for Amnesty International to help expose and stop the growth of the sexual exploitation of young women from poverty stricken countries who are trapped in a cycle of illegal immigration, violence and sexual exploitation. This links to the ooption to study Women and film for your A2 research project.
  3. Thirdly: we will look at the issue of child abuse in general which is still a big problem as shown by the work of the NSPCC.
  4. For the fourth option we will look at the issue of elder abuse which is now being recognised as an increasing problem in Britain







CyberbullyingWho is the victim of the cyberbully?

Cyberbullying appears to be coming more common. Communications systems as they are usually envisaged have the purpose of making life more transparent and opening up opportunities for all citizens of whatever age to develop their capabilities. However  most technologies can be used for unpleasant purposes and even downright criminal ones which oppress and repress people. Eternal vigilance  coupled to  an ethic of good quality citizenship rights for all  need to be combined to ensure that misuse of technologies for abusing fellow citizens is  resisted and eradicated as far as possible.

In the past one or two of my sixth-form students have taken up aspects of cyberbullying in the last couple of years and knew more about it than I did. But the phenomenon was still relatively limited. As it develops the issues of Cybercitizenship rights at a global level need to be taken very seriously. Below I have provided an initial webliography for students to do some initial research into this. It must be born in mind that this phenomenon is likely to get worse before it gets better which means that major charities are likely to get involved in the problem soon. 

For those of you who decide to take up this option you sh

ould see yourselves in a pioneeering and important role. Remember it is you rather than your lecturers / teachers / examiners who are likely to be more aware of this phenomenon in your everyday life. It is possible that major charities such as the NSPCC will take an interest in your work. Think of this project as your entry ticket into the adult world.  The fact is you can make a difference!  The combined results of personal research required for this project will provide  some useful data which we may wish to publish electronically.  If people from  a lot of colleges  find this positing and contribute then the pool of available data will become wider and the information potentially more valuable.  How valuable depends on the quality of the research.!

Cyberbullying Webliography 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/southern_counties/4412530.stm. East Sussex Council is one of the earliest to take Cyberbullying seriously.  

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/2902777.stm. About the growth of bullying of adult workers.  

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1929944.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/1930552.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1929944.stm. Link here to BBC Video on cyberbullying 

Striking back at Cyberbullies:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4912766.stm

Bullied girl sent hate e.mail: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/gloucestershire/4807396.stm

Cyberbullying on teachers (April 2007):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6522501.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6541073.stm

Social networking sites such as Bebo and MySpace must do more to police what users do, warns Computing Which?http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5344722.stm

Alan Johnson as the Education Minister under Tony Blair recently pledges to deal with cyberbullying (April 2007): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6527133.stm

Websites urged to act on cyberbullies (April 2007):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6539989.stm


Anger at cyerbullying in Cornwall (April 2007):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/cornwall/6586735.stm

cyberbullying gathers pace in the US (June 2007):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6245798.stm


Presenting yourself on the Internet 

A new chief safety officer, Dr Rachel O'Connell, described as "one of Europe's foremost experts in internet safety", is being appointed by Bebo on 17 July. Tunbridge Wells Grammar School monitors how its girls presented themselves on the internet. Their naievty was putting them at risk. As media students should know there can be significant differences between what the producers of media intend (preferred reading) and how audiences might gain meaning from them (negotiated reading). See the story here:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/kent/5140316.stm

Guidance on how to use social networking sites safely could be a good thing to campaign on.


Bebo safety tips: http://www.bebo.com/SafetyTips.jsp

Wired Safety: http://www.wiredsafety.org/





Anti-trafficking Campaign 


Trafficking in human beings to provide very cheap labour or else to feed the exploitative sex trade has  become an increasing problem in rescent years with the spread of globalisation as this image from a Danish anti-trafficking campaign makes clear.


freshmeatny.jpg



A recent powerful film by the Swedish  director Lucas Moodysson called Lilya 4-Ever was inspired the story of a teenage Lithuanian woman who was lured to Sweden and enslaved in the sex trade. The film is one which is considered as a representation of women for the research unit on Women and film. There is a posting on this blog which gives you a good range of internet links to research the film and this unpleasant aspect of social reality further: Lilya 4-Ever. Human trafficking is not limited to just the sex trade as the recent British drama documentary Ghosts has shown. This is also a film which we look at in year 2 for the unit Contemporary British Cinema in the OCR specification. This is a link to a posting on this site which again gives a range of external links to explore: Ghosts.




ghosts1.jpg


Many of the undocumented Chinese labourers who were employed as cocklepickers represented in Ghosts were drowned on Blackpool Sands




Child Abuse & the NSPCC

NSPCC Poster 4


For many years the NSPCC have run vey effective campaigns to highlight child abuse and child murder.  The design of these has often been in black and white and the mise en scene is often based on real looking locations and very poignant slogans which fit well with the image.

NSPCC Poster 5




NSPCC Poster 2

NSPCC & child Abuse Webliography

http://www.nspcc.org.uk/

http://www.nspcc.org.uk/whatwedo/whatwedohubpage_wda33342.html


The NSPCC FULL STOP Campaign


Full NSPCC Report on Child abuse 


Unicef Report on Slave Britain  

Slave Britain Exhibition 

Access Robbie Williams film  More Precious than Gold

BBC on Parenting: Your Kids - What is Child Abuse?

Kidscape: Bullying and Child Abuse








Elder Abuse


In recent years abuse of the elderly has been recognised as an increasing problem and several charitable organisations have developed to combat this whilst older charities such as Help the Aged have devoted an increasing amount of energy to this issue.





Kathlene an Elder Abuse Victim


Kathlene a victim of elder abuse with her new carers. Link here to BBC London's expose as Kathlene tells her story.




Good journalism and reporting has always managed to bring these unpleasant issues into the spotlight and all aspects of media have their role to play. Good journalism must be supported by a good broadcasting framwork which sees serving the public / citizens as a fundamental human right. We call this Public Service Broadcasting and is something we deal with in our A2 year. Please note that most of the stories on this posting have emanated from the BBC not the commercial broadcasting companies who are primarily concerned with making money.  Highlighting the problem is one thing but helping to get everybody thinking about WHY these things go on is very important. Programmes such as Woman's Hour have an important role to play. Here you can listen to a Woman's Hour discussion on why elderly abuse is so prevalent in our society.  


Elder Abuse Webliography


Link to Action on Elder Abuse a charity specifically developed to deal with this issue

Report highlights Elder Abuse (June 2007): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/6752965.stm

Elder abuse affects thousands (June 2007):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6751155.stm

Abuse of Elderly most common in UK (June 2007): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/6751637.stm

Elderly abuse becoming common (Summer 2006):  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5043896.stm


This link is strangely related to our unit on new media technologies for it is a BBC story about Child Abuse in Second Life the virtual world.  




Fashion Campaigns (1)

No Anorexia

Website Catwalk Queen made the following pusillanimous comment about this campaign launched at the Milan fashion show in 2007:

You can view the image after the jump but be warned that some readers might find it disturbing.


Unsurprisingly the Italian advertising authority banned the advertising campaign for breaching its 'code of conduct'. The BBC has noted the following comment in an attempt to blame the victim of course:

The image "commercially exploited" the illness, the advertising body said.


Interstingly the campaign was sponsored by Flash and Partners a fashion design company.


Of course quite a lot of readers should be rather more disturbed that the fashion industry helps to encourage mental states that leads to these sorts of symptoms. Here we need to be asking who is constructing the current set of so-called beauty standards. Many would argue it is the construction of a male gaze which creates a mental state in women who are used to be looked at. It is rare that the reality is portrayed.

No Anorexia Poster

Old-fashioned posters can still be highly effective:  No Anorexia hits the streets of Milan


Shock anorexia billboard annoys fashion designers reports the Guardian


LONDON - Unilever, the maker of Dove cosmetics and Lynx deodorant, has banned size zero models from appearing in its advertising in response to public opinion. (Brand Republic 08-May-07, 14:00)

Dove non skinny models




British Chiropractic Association (BCA) Backs Anti-Size Zero Campaign


Losing muscle mass means the support in vital areas such as the neck may not be enough to hold heavier structures like the head. This can potentially result in changes to posture such as forcing you to hold your head forward which causes the head to feel heavier, putting extra strain on the neck muscles, this can be linked to a number of long term problems such as headaches. In extreme cases significant weight loss can lead to loss of bone density (osteoporosis) and can cause changes to the menstrual cycle as well.




Fashion Campaigns 2

Children sewing for Primark

Children Sewing (slaving) For Primark


Primark & Child Exploitation

People & Planet groups organised a series of coordinated protests at Primark stores around the country on Saturday 10 March. Armed with banners and ironing boards they withstood counter-flyering attacks from Primark and collected hundreds of petitions.


Financial Times report on Primark 17 June 2008:

What you don’t know . . .
There are said to be 470 Facebook groups devoted to Primark, 392 of them positive. By severing links with three Indian factories for severe breaches of its ethical standards, including the use of child labour, the discount clothing retailer has given the other 78 something to chat about.
At least one campaign group castigated Primark for “cutting and running” rather than working with suppliers to improve. But most Primark customers, if not indifferent, will have taken the action as it was intended: a rapid, but considered, response to a grave breach that, according to Associated British Foods, the retailer’s parent, was so ingrained it would have been hard to correct easily.
That still leaves the question why the problem was uncovered by the BBC and not Primark’s supply auditors. The problem for companies sourcing products from developing markets is summed up in Primark’s statement that it would never “knowingly permit” the activities now uncovered.
Not knowing, lobbyists would argue, is no longer an excuse.

The Associated British Foods share price was in the article. Obviously serious campaigns will hurt the share price.


BBC Panoarma investigation into Primark and Child Labour


The Times, June 17, 2008

Primark drops firms using child labour


Primark takes action over child labour

By Maggie Urry


Bargain retailers Tesco's, Asda and Primark depend on sweatshops - report By SEAN POULTER,  Mail Online

June 16, 2007

Directors for Contemporary British Cinema

British Directors in Contemporary British Cinema

Return to Contemporary British Cinema Hub

All active links lead to in house pages on the specific director. Some are still under construction and may not be currently accessible. Please try again soon.

Each page will have a specific webliography and will also have both internal and external links to a range of their films. Obviously this is a major development undertaking and there are currently 30 directors listed below with some more who need to be added. 

Apologies for any shortcomings. British contemporary cinema is going to be a key development area in the coming weeks as many visitors are likely to be having an exam on it in the summer. It is recommended that you vist the relevant pages reasonably frequently as there will be quite a lot of change. Pages will be opened as soon as possible and the priority will be to provide a range of the best possible current web links which are considered as good quality.  

I hope you will find the system useful.  


Introduction

This posting is aimed at the interested general viewer in keeping up to date with British Films and film makers. It also functions as a core resource for the current OCR A2 Unit on Contemporary British Cinema.

Please note the term British Cinema is not the same as British Films. Cinema refers to the industrial systems of production, distribution, and exhibition as a whole. It can also refer to the criticics and reviewers who are employed at any given moment. Directors and the films they make here are only a small part of the industry as a whole.

The list below is primarily taken from the BFI Screenonline Directors on British and Irish Cinema.  There are a couple of inclusions of directors who don't really make films in the UK or about the UK. Sir Ridley Scott being one of these and Sir Alan Parker being another. They tend to prove the rule that Hollywood is the global centre of filmmaking which is both American and yet has an extra dimension to it which proves highly attractive to the most successful filmmakers in the world in terms of gaining audiences at least. There are some surprising omissions from the Screenonline listings such as Paul Greengrass. Here I have linked to Wikipedia in the first instance.

List of Contemporary British Directors


Arnold Andrea (1961 -).

Attenborough, Richard (Lord) (1923 - ) 

Bird, Antonia (1959 - ) 

Boyle, Danny (1956-) 

Branagh Kenneth (1960 -) 

Broomfield, Nick (1948 -) 

Chadha, Gurinder (1960 - )

Corbijn Anton

Dibb Saul (?) 

Daldry, Stephen (1961 - )

Davies, Terence (1945 - )

Figgis Mike (1948 -)

Forsyth, Bill (1946 -) 

Frears, Stephen (1941 -) 

Gavron, Sarah (    ) 

Gilliam, Terry (1940 - ) 

Greenaway, Peter (1942 -)

Greengrass, Paul (1955 - )

Hodges, Mike (1932 - )

Herman, Mark (1954-)

Joffe Roland (1945 - ) 

Jordan, Neill (1950 -) 

Julien, Isaac (1960 - )

Kapur, Shekah (  )

Leigh, Mike (1943 - )

Loach, Ken (1936 - ) 

Madden, John (1949- )

Meadows, Shane (1973 -) 

Minghella, Anthony (1954-2008)

Parker, Alan (Sir) (1944-) 

Pawlikowski Pawel (?)

Poliakoff Stephen (1952-)

Potter, Sally (1949 -) 

Ramsay Lynne (1969 -)

Ritchie Guy (1968 - )

Scott, Ridley (Sir) (1939 -) 

Williams Paul Andrew (?) 

Winterbottom, Michael (1961 - ) 

Wright Edgar (1974 -   ) 

Wright Joe (1972- )

TO VIEW OTHER CINEMA DEVELOPMENTS IN BRITAIN AND EUROPE PLEASE GO TO THE CHRONOLGY OF EUROPEAN CINEMA HUB PAGE


Return to Contemporary British Cinema Hub


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