Archive for the ‘Creativity and Innovation’ Category

Parents Screw You Up – Adam Gee Archive #3

I commissioned this one around 2003 for Channel 4′s Family site. It was written by Tim Wright, my collaborator on MindGym. The title and aspects of the design are derived from an anti-drugs campaign of the late 70s or early 80s (Heroin Screws You Up) via a cover article in a university magazine when I was at college by novelist-to-be Wendy Holden, a contemporary of Tim’s and mine at university and fellow Girton girl. Plus of course a tip of the hat to Larkin. This light interactive offered you a route as a parent or as a child. It was commissioned at the same time as The Showbiz Baby Name Generator.

How much did you get screwed up?

How much are you screwing up your off-spring?

The pay-off

One of a pair

Archive #1
Archive #2
Archive #0

I’m Feeling Lucky – The Story 3

tom watson mp on the phone hacking scandal at The Story 2012

To Thine Own Self Be True (Tom Watson)

I was in Rottingdean the other day with the Enfants Terribles when we passed a small shop called Serendipity. I asked them whether they knew what it meant and I ended up explaining it in terms of the Google ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button (which I have to admit I’ve never quite got and always struck me as a bit of a lack of imagination on the part of the presser – it really isn’t difficult in the era of the Web to go on your own random or serendipitous journey).

The Wikipedia entry for Serendipity (which Google freakily informs me Aleks Krotoski shared on tumblr.com on 29 Apr 2011, Aleks having appeared at The Story #1 in February 2010) is one of its more charming entries:

Serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. The word has been voted one of the ten English words hardest to translate in June 2004 by a British translation company. [prime wikispam] However, due to its sociological use, the word has been exported into many other languages. Julius H. Comroe once described serendipity as : to look for a needle in a haystack and get out of it with the farmer’s daughter.”

Meanwhile, over on the other side of Brighton… towards Hove/Portslade my former colleague at Channel 4, Matt Locke, was busy putting the finishing touches to his The Story conference, like the programme for the day which was etched into bars of dark chocolate. When Matt started this one day gathering in 2010 it was a labour of love alongside his day job at C4. I thoroughly enjoyed that first iteration and recorded 4 things I learned from it on Simple Pleasures part 4. It’s interesting looking back at that entry today: the first thing I learnt was:

1) The best conferences (like this one) have only two outputs – Inspiration and catalysing Connections between people.

The same held good for #2 last year featuring the likes of a controversial Adam Curtis, writer Graham Linehan and photographer Martin Parr. I think I was too indolent to write up last year’s.

Connections, inspiration and creativity are the meat and two veg of this blog and what the Web is wonderful at catalysing. Straight after exiting Conway Hall yesterday I met up with Karyn Reeves who was waiting just outside, a statistician from Perth, Australia who specialises in analysing mathematical patterns around AIDS infection. Karyn is only the second person I’ve met in real life through having made contact online. The first was Sandra, a street art aficionado from Jaffa. Karyn writes a lovely blog about vintage Penguin books, which she collects and reads weekly, and I came across her in the wake of reading an old Penguin I picked up at random in my local bookshop, Black Gull, about the trial of Roger Casement. By chance Casement’s defence lawyer, I read, had his chambers at 4 Raymond Buildings from where my best friend now operates. What a tangled Web we weave. So Karyn and I headed back from The Story 3 to Black Gull where she picked up a few more P-p-p-enguins.

Meanwhile back at the start of the day… Meg Pickard of The Guardian, with whom I got into a lively online discussion at one of the earlier two The Story s about where The Guardian should gather their user-generated photos of Antony Gormley’s One and Other  (which we were discussing here and he was explaining here), kicked off the proceedings with a quick update from The Ministry of Stories, the excellent local children’s literacy project based in a Monsters Supplies shop in Hoxton and championed by the likes of Nick Hornby. Part of the ticket price for The Story goes to the now thriving, volunteer-driven project. It’s great to see such a thing burgeoning in Hoxton – when I was a teenager my step-dad would drive me past there on the way to Petticoat Lane where I worked on the market stall outside his shop, he’d point past some grim Victorian estate and say ” ‘Oxton, arse-hole of the universe, never go there, son.” How it has come on over the years…

Next up was Matt Sheret of LastFM in discussion with producer Simon Thornton of Fat Boy Slim fame about telling stories through the album form. Simon was the fella behind the brilliant remix of Brimful of Asha (way better than the original) as well as the marvelous Turn On Tune In Cop Out by Freakpower. The whole debate about the patterns of music consumption in the Web/On Demand age and the relationship between albums and single tracks is a fascinating one still, and particularly for me at the moment as I’m working on a development to do with a classic album with Bob Geldof’s gang at Ten Alps and Universal Music, very much shaped around a carefully constructed sequence of 9 great songs which may or may not now be a thing of the past (I take Simon’s side, but I would wouldn’t I).

At this point Channel 4 wove back in in the form of artist Jeremy Deller, currently setting up his one-man show at the Hayward on the South Bank and the prime mover of Artangel’s The Battle of Orgreave, commissioned and funded by C4. He sees the ’84-’85 miners’ strike as a critical moment in British history (it gets  its own room in his soon-to-open retrospective) and that programme/artistic re-enactment as a way of “exhuming a corpse to give it a proper post-mortem”. He spoke about how everyone of our generation remembers where they were when the miners took on ‘The Iron Lady’ (in spite of the fact I’d voted for her [Streep not Thatch] Meryl Streep’s apology [in the Miltonian sense of explanation/justification] for the strange politics of that movie at the BAFTAs the other night is still bugging me)  – my other half was up in Ayrshire making her graduation film about the miners’ wives with a dodgy old University of Ulster camera, while I was visiting my oldest friend at Baliol where a furious debate about how to support the strike was erupting in their common room, featuring toffs in donkey jackets as well as more grown-up, committed people than me, who was still relying on the likes of Joe Strummer and Elvis Costello to give me some political insight). Deller’s still- image only presentation was one of the highlights of the day for me, centred on one iconic photograph of a miner father and his glam rock showbiz son.

Next up, blogger Liz Henry who told the fascinating story of A Gay Girl in Damascus, a murky tale of hoaxing and fictional blogging (an area I find fascinating as an emerging writing form and which formed a substantial part of the now traditional annual Story lunch with Tim Wright and Rob Bevan, the former in particular much interested in this territory [and the person who taught me the value of the image-only presentation when I helped host the launch of his outstanding In Search of Oldton project at Channel 4 HQ a few years ago]).  I learnt a lovely new word too ‘Sockpuppeting’ – to comment on your own blog both positively and negatively as a way of stimulating interest/activity. One of the interesting facts that emerged was that The Guardian published the initial story without establishing proper (off-line) sources based on people who had actually met the Gay Girl in question in real life (shades of Karyn above and Tom/Emily below).

Late on Thursday afternoon, the eve of The Story, I met for the first time Anthony Owen, Head of Magic (arguably the best job-title in the business) at Objective TV, home of Derren Brown. We were kicking off a project to do with consumerism. Lo and behold within 18 hours he’s up on stage before me doing a magic trick and explaining the role of narrative within that art/entertainment form. Particularly interesting for me as the youngest Enfant Terrible has recently become obsessed with performing magic, daily learning tricks off of YouTube and practising them with his chums over Skype (before posting them back on YouTube and Facebook). Anthony singled out the quality of encapsulating “something we’d love to have happen” (e.g. being psychic, becoming immortal, etc.) as the defining characteristic of a great trick – so sawing a woman in half only to reunite the two still living ends is a story about immortality which also has the key quality of being sum-upable in a sentence.

Coincidence and serendipity came to the fore again in the afternoon when Emily Bell, formerly of The Guardian online and now teaching at Columbia (who I first had the pleasure of hanging out with on the panel of judges she lead at The Guardian Student Journalism Awards a few years ago, in The Ivy so clearly a former era) interviewed Tom Watson MP about the phone-hacking scandal whilst: Meanwhile across town… in Wapping Rupert Murdoch was entering the newsroom of the Currant Bun and sticking two Aussie fingers up at the British establishment and public, who momentarily humiliated him last summer, by announcing the impending launch of The Sun on Sunday. The audience was riveted by the recounting of events from both the MP and Guardian perspectives, and the interview typified the rich and perfectly balanced mix of contributions making up the day’s programme. Watson predicted that there was a massive PC/Data hacking dimension to the scandal still to break.

Vying with Deller for highlight of the day was Scott Burnham. The last time I met Scott was in the back of a Nissan Cube in which he was filming me spouting on about why I love London. At this year’s The Story he spoke vibrantly about design in the city and urban play through a classic tale of 7 Coins, the last vestiges of a beautiful public art project in Amsterdam. He told of the construction of a Stefan Sagmeister piece made up of 250,000 one cent pieces and its subsequent thoughtless destruction by dumb cops who were trying to protect the raw cash (still held as evidence in the police station). His conclusion was that we’ll always have Paris… I mean, we’ll always have Amsterdam… he means, we always have the story if not the creation itself. He took the 7 coins, painted blue on one side, out of his pocket to show me and the Royal College of Art’s Bronac Ferran as we chatted outside the hall during the tea break.

Also up in contention as a highlight was artist Ellie Harrison, author of Confessions of a Recovering Data Collector. She started her work focused on gathering everyday data on her life or ‘life tracking’ at Nottingham Trent university art school and then later at  Glasgow School of Art (where our host Matt once studied). An early such work was ‘Eat 22′ in which she recorded everything she ate for a year  in 1,560 photos. At the start of her talk she positioned herself firmly as a Thatcher’s Child (a resonant link back to Deller’s earlier session) and was sporting a Bring Back British Rail T-shirt (a campaign she champions, also resonant as my aforementioned best-friend above worked on that Kafkaesque privitisation). So food and beyond, Ellie’s obsession and the thread through her work seems to be with Consumption – she spoke about her development with great humour and insight (including into her own compulsions). From ‘Eat 22′ she went on to record all her everyday actions in a spreadsheet, in turn converted to colour-coded graphs, which is when the addiction kicked in. I was sitting in a brainstorm at an indie production company a couple of weeks ago discussing mental health and happiness when a colleague I have know a long time revealed he’s been keeping a numerical record of his mood on a precise scale of 1 to 100 every day for well over a decade, with the last five years available likewise in Excel form. So art/fiction are no stranger than life.

Preloaded I have known since they were born, as I worked with founder Paul Canty, as well as Rob Bevan and Tim Wright, on a game called MindGym way back when. Paul’s colleague,  Phil Stuart, and writer Tom Chatfield talked us through the game of self-discovery, death and philosophy they made for Channel 4 Education – The End.  This rounded off a fine day, alongside Karen Lubbock and Jeremy Leslie on mags and Karen magazine in paricular, ‘a magazine made out of the ordinary’, and a lively turn from Danny O’Brien on josticks, hacking, anarchy and the universe. And where can you go from there…

Stefan Sagmeister installation 250,000 coins

Among these 250,000 are 7 coins with a story

C4′s surreal Twitter experiments

Here’s a piece on integrating Twitter with TV courtesy of C21 Media, written by Jonathan Webdale:

SOCIAL MEDIA 2010: Channel 4 new media commissioner Adam Gee says Twitter saved the life of one of the channel’s documentary makers and is responsible for resocialising TV. Jonathan Webdale reports.

As a UK public service broadcaster, Channel 4 has a remit to innovate and over in its factual department that’s exactly what new media commissioner Adam Gee (left) has been doing with Twitter.

Gee, or @SurrealThing as he’s known to his followers (more on this later), cites four projects, each of which illustrates a different use of the micro-blogging service. The first came in July 2008 with Osama Loves, a multi-platform travelogue that sent two people off around the world to find 500 people named Osama in 50 days in a bid to counter Muslim stereotypes.

The journey included visits to places with limited internet and mobile network access, so the stripped down simplicity of Twitter 140-character updates offered a means for the protagonists to keep the narrative going.

“We knew we would have bandwidth issues when they were in the middle of Nigeria or some corner of Indonesia and we needed a different way of communicating, so we used Twitter to tell the story,” says Gee.

Similarly, Alone in the Wild, a series that last year followed documentary maker Ed Wardle’s attempts to survive in solitude when abandoned in the Yukon, also employed Twitter as part of its narrative.

While Wardle wasn’t allowed two-way communication with the outside world, he was permitted to tweet just once a day, partly as a way of adding further perspective to his experience, but also to allow the production team to keep tabs on his progress.

Wardle was trying to last three months in the wilderness but failed to find reliable sources of food and his physical and mental health deteriorated to the point where he had to be rescued after seven weeks.

In one of his Twitter posts he said he was losing weight so quickly that his muscles were disappearing. Another mentioned that his heart was at 32 beats per minute, when 60-100 is considered healthy.

“I can’t definitively prove it but it saved his life because when he started struggling psychologically it first became evident in his daily tweets,” says Gee.

Two other C4 shows drew on Twitter to shape their editorial direction in real-time. A year ago, Surgery Live was a series of four one-hour live operations that ran stripped across the week at 23.00. Viewers were able supply questions to the surgeon via Twitter while he was carrying out procedures such as removing a pituitary tumour or opening a heart.

“I’m pretty sure that this was the first time a UK broadcaster deliberately used Twitter and integrated it into a cross-platform project,” says Gee. It’s probably pretty safe to say as well that few broadcasters other than C4 would have chosen such as initiative to pop their Twitter cherry.

“The system was such that you could tweet a question and that question could get from your mobile or laptop to air in 90 seconds. We had to have a slight delay on the live feed in case something serious went wrong, but it was an absolute thrill to have such a direct impact on the programme.”

Gee himself tweeted in some questions from home on a couple of nights using his then anonymous handle. “Those were before the days when you had your actual name on the Twitter account,” he says. “The reason that my Twitter identity is SurrealThing is because when I first saw it about three years ago I thought it looked like the end of civilisation as we know it.”

But Gee decided that he needed to get to grips with Twitter if he was ever going to be able to commission anything that made use of it. “So I was a Surrealist for the first year, tweeting about melting watches and stuff like that. I couldn’t get what it was for. But over time what emerged was a tool waiting for a mission.”

Through the three experiments listed above he feels he’s now pretty clear about what that mission is, as far as broadcasters are concerned.

The fourth project he notes, Embarrassing Bodies: Live, took Surgery Live a step further, transforming what had been a two-screen experience for viewers into one. Ironically, however, it used a “Twitter-like” interface that ran on C4′s own website, rather than actually integrated filtered messages from the public Twitter feed.

“We didn’t want an un-moderated stream of stuff being published to the site and in that particular instance it was actually easier to build the functionality and integrate it into our moderation system than to use Twitter separately,” says Gee, though he doesn’t rule out direct tie-ups in the future.

Live broadcasts are definitely where he sees Twitter having its greatest applications but he notes that it’s not relevant to all programmes. “You’ve got to be careful what you build your Twitter cross-platform activity around because if it’s over-complex or requires too much concentration it’s not ideal. You actually want something you don’t have to concentrate on too hard,” he says, giving awards shows as a classic example.

As a general observation, Gee believes that C4′s Twitter experiments have helped crystallise exactly what the micro-blogging service’s mission is from a broadcaster’s perspective. “It’s resocialising TV,” he says. “Once, you might have chatted the next day over a shared big TV experience, but with the much more fragmented TV world we have now it replaces that – which I think is it’s greatest strength. That’s where the value for the channel is.”

Jonathan Webdale
27 Apr 2010
© C21 Media 2010

Please note: C21 Media provides free daily email bulletins and their site is a mix of free and paid for content. This article is reproduced courtesy of C21 Media – click here to register (top right) for their free daily email

Embarrassing Bodies: Live was nominated yesterday for a BAFTA TV Craft Award for interactive creativity

Dreaming the Dream

the dream by jaume plensa

The Dream Realised (courtesy of me)

Some great news just in at Channel 4 HQ – the Big 4 sculpture on the doorstep of the Richard Rogers designed home of C4 has been given an extension of 5 years by the planning department of Westminster City Council.

The public artwork – a 50-foot-high metal ’4′ – was originally constructed in 2007 to celebrate both the Channel’s 25th anniversary year and the launch of the Big Art Project and was granted planning permission for one year, during which 4 artists were to decorate it. The installation is based on the Channel’s on-air identity, with metal bars forming the logo only when viewed from a particular angle and distance. It is basically a framework over which to date photographer Nick Knight, Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner, Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui and recent art graduate Stephanie Imbeau have added a skin.

Nick Knight, known for his work with Kate Moss and Bjork among many others in the realm of fashion & music, covered it with bare chest skin of various hues, adding the sound of a beating heart at its core. I recently did an Amazonimpulse and bought Knight’s new book, imaginatively entitled ‘Nick Knight’ – at £32.50 one of the most expensive tomes I’ve ever shelled out on. From an Allen Jones-like Suede album cover to exquisite nude shots of Kate Moss, it’s a lively spectacle.

Mark Titchner skinned the Big 4 with panels inspired by trade union banners and advertising, the slogans questioning the on-going role of television: Find Your World in Ours, Find Our World in Yours. He came in one lunch time to talk to C4folk about his work, shades of The Waterboys’ Mike Scott about him. My second encounter with him was a great rum cocktail-fueled chat with at the Tate Summer Party this year. Guardian photographer Vicki Couchman took a top class photo of me in front of Mark’s Big 4 for a Guardian piece on the inaugural Media Guardian Innovation Awards in 2007 (which Big Art Mob won).

El Anatsui paneled the 4 with metallic newspaper colour printing plates. What I remember most about when El (as he’s known to his friends) came in to chat about his career in The Drum, the basement space beneath the Big 4, was his generous championing of young, emerging artistic talent from Africa like Nnenne Okore.

Stephanie Imbeau won a competition to provide what was to have been the final iteration. Her Shelter saw the Big 4 fleshed out with umbrellas of a myriad colours. This is the version currently in place – it’s best viewed at night when it is illuminated from within [see below]. The umbrellas all come from London Transport Lost Property Office so no pissing away of public money there then.

The Big Art Project from which the Big 4 sprang started life as a regular, if very ambitious, TV documentary series. In the original visually rich proposal for the project from Carbon Media a space was left for the cross-platform treatment. Into that space went the Big Art Mob and a bunch of interactive ideas I put together inspired by the wonderful public art works that punctuated the proposal. The Big Art Mob was born of my messing about for 18 months with Moblog‘s mobile picture blogging software after an initial encounter with Alfie Dennen in the basement of Zero-One in Soho. I was on the look-out for the right project to which to apply Moblog and Paint Britain which evolved into the Big Art Project proved the one – the first use of moblogging by a broadcaster and one of the first uses of Creative Commons licensing by a UK broadcaster (the first use was PixNMix, a VJ project I commissioned in 2004).

Besides the TV, web and mobile stuff, at the core of the Big Art Project was the creation of six actual works of public art, seed funded by Channel 4 and the partners we gathered. One of these was Dream by renowned Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, located high up on the site of the old Sutton Manor colliery overlooking St Helens, a 20-metre-high north-western rival to Gormley’s Angel on the opposite side of the country. It is the head of a nine year old Catalan girl with her eyes closed (I found that out by asking Plensa directly at the capping off ceremony, he was very cagey about who she was and reluctant to reveal much in that particular respect). Dream was Plensa’s response to a brief developed through conversations with ex-miners and other members of the local community. Initially he came up with a huge miner’s lamp but the miners themselves pushed him out of his comfort zone or at least nearer his true self

Dream most deservedly has recently picked up a couple of major prizes. Last month it won the prestigious annual Marsh Award for Public Sculpture which is given to a work of permanent public sculpture erected in the UK or Ireland. The definition of public sculpture is loose, but the location must be openly visible to the public without having to enter a building or gain prior permission. The award was presented at the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Plensa also picked up the British Creativity in Concrete Award for 2009 for Dream at a special ceremony at Southwark Cathedral. This award is presented each year to an architect, designer or artist in recognition of a particular achievement for the creative use of precast concrete. It’s difficult to convey the photograph-like subtlety of the face, no more than a pale reflection in photos like above.

The moment I walked round the corner of a forest path and first saw Dream in April was one of the high points of this year and indeed of my career at Channel 4, and made every second spent on the Big Art Project over the 5 year lead up worth it. It was a moment shared with my former colleague Jan Younghusband (ex-Commissioning Editor of Arts at C4, now Head of Music at BBC) who proved so open to the multiplatform dimension. It was indeed a dream come true.

stephanie imbeau

Night Shelter (courtesy of Tom Powell)

More on Big Art:

The launch

The mobile dimension

Mark Titchner’s iteration

Omagh – Adam Gee Archive #1

As I’m becoming an older git with a dog’s age of doing cross-platform under my belt, I’m becoming conscious of my work disappearing into the mists of time (hence my recent archiving of MindGym in this august journal, at least it will be August tomorrow). Next week a site I did to mark Paul Greengrass‘ drama ‘Omagh’ being broadcast on Channel 4 in 2004 is about to be ‘migrated’. I suspect that means ‘knackered’ so I’ve just nabbed a few shots for posterity, a couple of which I’ll archive here. This one was a real labour of love (my wife is Northern Irish, my kids are Irish, I filmed in Omagh in the wake of the bomb).

[Happy days, working with designer Mark Limb and producers Kiminder Bedi and Katie Streten]. Contibutors included director Paul Greengrass (who sent me his contribution from the set of ‘The Bourne Supremecy’), actor Adrian Dunbar, singers Brian Kennedy and Tommy Sands, writers Nell McCafferty and Colin Bateman, comedian Jeremy Hardy, nurses, churchmen, shopworkers, all reflecting on what, if anything, positive came out of the bombing of Omagh from the perspective of 5 years on…

the Home screen

the Home screen

Adrian Dunbar - actor

Adrian Dunbar - actor

Paul Greengrass - director

Paul Greengrass - director

Brian Kennedy - singer

Brian Kennedy - singer

Creds 22‘Omagh’ will be repeated this coming month on Channel 4 to mark the 10th anniversary of the outrage.

Channel 4 and Digital Participation

One of my current projects is Alone in the Wild. Cameraman Ed Wardle has gone into the wilderness of the Yukon to film himself and how he copes with 12 weeks of total isolation. Each morning, as part of the safety protocol, he has to send an “I’m OK” message. He does this by sending, from a semi-disabled sat phone (can do outgoing SMSs only), a short message which is posted on Twitter www.twitter.com/aloneinthewild . He’s just started his third week out there – you can see some of the early rushes here and here, more to follow tomorrow [he leaves off his tapes in a dead letter box-type drop-off from where they are later collected by helicopter or float-plane once Ed has moved on, so no human contact] – and already after this opening period, it is clear that Alone in the Wild is bringing new people to Twitter/microblogging as these screenshots illustrate:

Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 1Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 2Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 3Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 4Aitw TwitterAlone in the Wild twitterAlone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 5This is a good, clear illustration of how Channel 4 inspires Digital Participation aka Digital Media Literacy aka Being Digital [Digital Britain report] by providing a purpose or mission or story. “Inspires” is the key word – it is what is sometimes lacking from social networks and platforms, and it is what Channel 4 consistently offers – Inspiration is a rare commodity. Even Twitter is basically a tool in need of a task or purpose, it is only as good as the things people find to do with it. Alone in the Wild provides clear guidance on how to join in the conversation on Twitter, part of Channel 4′s commitment to helping drive Digital Participation. But Ed’s “awesome adventure”, his inspiring story of courage and endurance and an unquenchable desire to do the extraordinary (he has been up Everest twice, been to the North Pole, every year he tries to do a new extraordinary thing, but never has he done one in isolation like this, a whole new challenge, as much psychological as physical) his inspiring story is the real energy which is motivating people to have a first go at digital social media.

MindGym

Hooked up the other day, after a dog’s age, with designmeister Jason Loader (who has just set up on his own as Yeah Love). We made MindGym together way back when – a game about creative thinking. Jason has been kind (and patient) enough over the weekend to dig out some of the old design assets from a moribund machine…

MindGym: The Changing Room

MindGym: The Changing Room

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas - Deep End

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas - Deep End

MindGym: The Think Tank

MindGym: The Think Tank

MindGym: The Games Room

MindGym: The Games Room

MindGym: Spy sim

MindGym: Spy sim

There are some more here

All these 3D environments were designed by Jason Loader (at a time when they typically took over 18 hours to render, so a bit on the frustrating side if you didn’t get it right first time).  MindGym was a concept I came up with at Melrose Film Productions in the wake of making a series of films about Creativity.  I nicked the title from Lenin or one of those Ruskies, who used the term with reference to chess. So Jason and I started work on it, then the pair of us hooked up with NoHo Digital to realise a bastard creation of great energy. Rob Bevan (now at XPT) did the interface design and programming, skilfully combining this kind of rich 3D with elegant 2D inspired by You Don’t Know Jack. His creative partner Tim Wright led the writing team – him, Ben Miller and me – it was a comic script with serious stuff underlying the gags. I couldn’t help chuckling recently when I heard someone refer to Rob & Tim as the Jagger & Richards of new media. Talking of which, Nigel Harris did the music and sound design – excellent audio was one of our explicit creative goals, again inspired by YDK Jack. And talking of Jack the lads, Paul Canty (now of Preloaded) and Mike Saunders (Kew Digital), who were just starting out, were also among the production team. The studio was infested with red ants (possibly flesh-eating), but it didn’t distract us from the task at hand…

Slive: Surgery Live on Twitter

Surgery Live trending on Tweetdeck

Surgery Live trending on Tweetdeck

To round off the week of The Operation: Surgery Live with regard to its integration with Twitter here are a selection of tweets from the week. Trending 3rd, 2nd and 1st over the week reflects what seems to have been a successful experiment.

warrenfree: Enjoyed watching Channel4 adoption of twitter to allow us to question the surgeons.. Interesting to watch too #slive

OotSandShaman my question was just asked on @surgerylive! man twitter kicks ass

wisebuddha liking use of twitter integration in a linear tv show good example from C4 in UK more of this in future http://bit.ly/hevJ2 #slive

Sarahgrittin09 #slive good to see social networking sites used for more interesting things like this rather than poncy photos and relationship statuses!

Vialli25 #slive the first TV programme I’ve ever watched where they actually ask you to include this hashtag when talking about the show on Twitter!

liammoody Looking forward to Surgery Live at 11 tonight. Have just got the Twitterfall app to follow #slive discussion! It’s a rare gem from Ch4

vas_876 @ajd90 Hey, looks like #slive has brought loads of us prospective medics to twitter

mygadgetlife: #slive really C4 a great program made all the more enjoyable with twitter but poor scheduling  [many viewers were upset that the live broadcast had to end after its allotted hour]

InnerLambada: Surgery live is absolutely addicting. I just couldn’t stop watching. Although I couldn’t help but think “What if it goes wrong?” #slive

thumbfight: #3wordsduringsex (1 thumb down) VS. #slive (2 thumbs up)

anthayes: .@krishgm awe inspiring but can you be on for longer tomorrow though? #slive

beth_richards: #slive is genius

ellied18: Shame #slive isn’t on for longer… great insight!

MrCheapCalls: #slive Well, that wizzed by… not long enough!!

machotrouts: #slive This isn’t interactive enough, when do we get to vote on what bits to take out? Does the red button control any equipment?

simonday09: #slive I hope you all enjoyed live brain surgery as much as I did, simply amazing. well done channel4!

wren154: #slive Forget Susan Boyle and all the other wannabes. This programme is showing where Britain’s Got Talent

marcmcg @SurgeryLive please turn SurgeryLive into a weekly series. Most innovative and educational show I’ve seen on TV in a long time.

tweelhouse @krishgm Watching Mondays #slive – totally fascinating. Have a heart condition and helping me better understand what goes on inside me!

#slive wow this is extraordinary, just tuned in for the first time! Not for the faint hearted, but may be I could be a doctor

Bruce elrick #slive @krishgm another classic -quick work from tonights surgeon. Did you guys get started earlier? This would be great to show in schools

sotonrich watching day 3 of the amazing surgery live all week has been amazing. there should be more of this on tv #slive

Rachael90210 #slive This is one of the best things on TV! Love. It.

Unfortunately, I can’t watch #slive since I’m in the US :-( Sounds like just the kind of show I’d actually love to watch!

Chrissarnowski #slive Thank you Surgery Live; great eyeopener, makes me more determined to pursue my ambitions in medicine…

LyndaHull @surgerylive Am loving the shows. Totally mesmerising TV. Congratulations!

Ajnokia slive Great idea, always wondered what happens during surgery. Because once your under the blanket you have no idea.

Gregp94 #slive is brilliant

Lucy_locket_91 #slive: Will there be another series??? This has been my highlight of the week!

Martincollett #slive another excellent programme, shame the series has to end, looking forward to more soon!

TEDavis #slive = brilliant, loved every second of it!

Ummmdonuts #slive noooooooooooooooooooooo don’t end! more surgery! pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssseeeeeeeeeee!

J_Dizzle_: just watched heart surgery live on channel 4, twitter questions and updates.. very well done. #slive

mjmobbs: #slive excellent, see you tomorrow, really enjoyed the Twitter and Live TV combination.

philroberts: #slive this could be one of the best models for twitter, live interactive feedback brilliant twitter was a great enhancement to the show

manpreet1: Surgery live on channel 4, and #slive, was a great use of a new format.

Surgery Live trending on Twitscoop

Surgery Live trending on Twitscoop

Update 1.vi.09:

An article from Broadcast today. And one from the NHS.

Twitter experiment with live TV

Next up from these quarters is a microblogging/Twitter experiment with live TV. From Monday at 10.25pm on Channel 4 you’ll be able to watch surgery – live. Open heart surgery, awake brain surgery (i.e. patient awake as well as surgeon and us the trusty viewers), keyhole surgery, tumour removal – alive&direct thanks to Windfall Films in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust. Wild enough in itself I hear you say but that is not all, oh no, that is not all…

We will not hold up the cup and the milk and the cake and the fish on a rake, but as the Cat in the Hat said, we know some new tricks and your mother will not mind (unless she’s etherised upon a table, as that other cat-lover said). The plan is to tip our hat (red and white striped topper or whatever) to that increasingly common behaviour of Twittering whilst watching TV and encourage people to tweet away during the live operations, sharing their thoughts and asking questions. The big difference here is that this is live TV and you can make an impact with your tweet on the TV editorial. The best questions tweeted will be fed through to the presenter, arch-Twitterer Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News, who will swiftly pose them to the surgeon at work. So a matter of seconds between tweet and the question being uttered on live TV.

There have been some pioneering experiments in this area by the likes of The Bad Movie Club (established by Graham Linehan, writer of Channel 4′s Father Ted and The IT Crowd, spotted recently on stage at the TV BAFTAS) and Channel 4 News but I think this may be some kind of first in the telly realm. Now of course there are echoes of phone-ins and combining TV with forums/chatrooms the best part of a decade ago (by Danny Baker on Channel 4) but what this new generation of social media brings is a networked conversation which is global, searchable, tagable and open.

I think it is important to consider carefully what kind of broadcast material to combine microblogging with. I personally tend to indulge in the practice while watching undemanding TV like Jonathan Ross on Friday night. Bad Movie Club has the right idea – the clue is in the word Bad, stuff you may well have watched before and is crap in a good way. There was a little unofficial attempt at it at the BBC but it was allied to radio, and egg-heady radio at that – the broadcast material was too complex and demanded too much attention to allow for multitasking. What I’m expecting with Surgery Live is that once you get into the flow of the programme you don’t need to give it your undivided attention to be able to follow the action. I, of course, will be watching over the rim of my specs to take the edge off it all, being of a squeamish disposition and never cut out to be the doctor my parents wanted me to be. I’m a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, the City livery company associated with the crafting of swords and surgical instruments, which is ironic given my phobia of all sharp edges (other than the cutting edge of interactive media ;-)  ).

Surgery Live is the second of three Twitter experiments on my radar. The first was Osama Loves which used Twitter, early last summer, to enable our two intrepid adventurers in search of 500 Osamas in 50 days right across the Islamic world to update sharers in their journey from areas where they couldn’t get online or didn’t have sufficient bandwidth and were forced to rely on mobile. The third is the forthcoming Alone in the Wild (watch this space).

I’ll report back here on whatever interesting comes of it but in the meantime, please do join us for The Operation: Surgery Live on Channel 4 on Monday at 10.25pm (then Tuesday through Friday at 10.30/11.00, varies) to watch an illuminating show and discuss it there & then.

Journalism ain’t what it used to be

Matt of the Media Guardian

Tony Wells

A colleague sent me over a link to the last Media Guardian podcast in which I made an unwitting appearance. Maggie Brown saw a speaking gig I did last week and said it made her realise that “there are some people there [at Channel 4] with real knowledge driving the 4iP fund which I hadn’t expected” – I was talking about my Landshare project which goes live tonight as soon as the DNS switches over from the old Registration site .

So that much was spot on ;-)

What The Guardian unfortunately failed to do with their careful fact checking and old school journalistic attention to detail was:

  • get my name right – I was Tony Gee (an amalgamation with the next speaker who was Tony Ageh of the BBC)
  • ascribe the project to the right source – not 4iP which is not behind Landshare but Channel 4 Cross-platform (since it is related to a primetime TV show, River Cottage)
  • grasp the purpose of the site – not getting allotments but sharing land (the clue’s in the name)
  • link it to the right partners – Royal Horticultural Society was singled out from a wide coalition including the National Trust, Garden Organic, Capital Growth et al, with no sense that Channel 4/Keo Films was the prime-mover

The thing that stands out for me about event where Maggie saw me speak (at the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, chaired by Roger Bolton) was a rather odd question I got at the end from a lady in the audience:

- Why did you use all that jargon?

- Sorry, hadn’t meant to, was really trying to avoid it, what did I say?

- Well what did you mean by “pipes”?

- Those things water flows through

- Well what about “ether”?

- Sort of airy

Still, it was lovely to appear in the Media Talk podcast, not least in that it squeezed out a begrudging recognition that we do some good stuff at Channel 4 in the networked media world. Now I love The Guardian as much as the next white, male, Oxbridge-educated, middle class person – my own flesh&blood works there on the Sports desk, the luverly Jemima Kiss writes great stuff in it, a nice gardening man in G2 wrote a double-page spread about Landshare and Veg Doctors in it today – but it does bug me that the highly respected organ spends a lot of time having a go at C4 without declaring its vested interest (including vested interests in terms of the Guardian/Scott Trust’s media ownership such as radio stations etc.) in the Channel’s future not being secured by the Powers That Be as we travel over the crossroads of digital switch-over – how it would love to be the counter-balance to the BBC in the public service media landscape. But when we ask ourselves whether Skins viewers read The Guardian over breakfast every morning? whether the Sex Education Show viewers turn to The Guardian for a chance to talk openly about sex education issues? whether The Guardian can do a Jamie’s Scool Dinners? we understand why Channel 4 has its place in the landscape and why people of all sorts dig it.

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