Archive for the ‘media literacy’ Tag

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.

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Digital Britain: grit in the oyster

pearlWith the publication of the Digital Britain report today it’s an apposite time to reflect on the role of Channel 4 in Britain’s Public Service landscape. After listening to former BBC Chairman Christopher Bland asserting (this morning on Today) that the UK can only afford one public service broadcaster and after reading a spiky response from BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons jealously guarding the BBC’s cash, I reflect on last night’s RTS Education awards. I went along with The Sex Education Show presenter Anna Richardson and the Sexperience team from Mint Digital and Cheetah. During the evening I caught up with Tanya Byron who was presenting the awards and served on the Digital Britain steering group (I worked on the DB Being Digital / digital media literacy work group, whose outputs Tanya polished. I also helped her a little with her government Review of Children and New Technology last year and have been busy trying to get it implemented this year via the UKCCIS). At the end of the ceremony she spoke of how she had been inspired by watching all the nominations with her family and picked out Sexperience,  Chosen and Troubled Minds for special mention.

Just playing the numbers game, the BBC with its pots of cash for education scored 2 awards. Littl’ ol’ Channel 4 bagged 5. And some 5…

For Educational Impact in Primetime  Chosen (True Vision for More4) – three courageous men disclose the abuse they suffered at school. Turned down by 17 commissioning editors before More 4 had the balls. Talking of Balls, one of the three protagonists, Tom, drafted a set of recommendations taken up almost in their entirety by Secretary of State for Education Ed Balls when he reviewed this area in the wake of this film. The jury said: “A revelatory and dignified film… which explored paedophilia by allowing three highly articulate middle-aged men to tell their own stories of having been groomed and serially abused by teachers in the same public school as they were growing up.”

For the 11-16 Years category KNTV Sex produced by Tern Television (whose trusty leader Harry Bell – he knows a good Rioja when he sees one – I caught up with in the bar afterwards) – a lively, funny animation (punctuated with weird archive from Eastern Europe) tackling tackle and other forbidden subjects. The jury said: “A witty and uncompromising look at a subject of great relevance to its target audience. It uses first-class entertainment devices and characters to deliver tough content. An engaging and fun watch with real take-home for the viewer.”

For Campaigns Jamie’s Ministry of Food (Fresh One for Channel 4) – love him or loathe him, you have to admire Jamie’s commitment. I was lucky enough to work on Jamie’s School Dinners which in many ways set the gold standard for mainstream Public Service TV. The jury said: “The winning series was utterly brilliant – it truly enriched the lives of the people involved and gave the viewer a rare insight into other people’s lives.”

For Factual Education 7/7: The Angels of Edgware Road (Testimony Films for Channel 4) – driven by one committed film-maker, a story of people who risked their lives to save others. The jury said: “not only a deeply moving account of the appalling events on the London Underground in 2005 but challenged its audience to consider their own responses if faced with the dilemma of whether to save themselves, or try to save others.”

For Educational Impact in Primetime (Series) Can’t Read Can’t Write (RDF Media for Channel 4) – teacher extraordinaire Phil Beadle (who I worked with on The Unteachables) again teaches the ‘unteachable’, this time adults who have never grasped reading and writing and had given up. Now two of the featured contributors have written books! The jury said: “powerful storytelling and memorable sequences within this important series which highlighted the shockingly high numbers of British adults who cannot read or write. The jury was genuinely surprised by the extraordinarily brave characters whose stories were at the heart of the series, finding them engaging, surprising and honest.” Compare that one for example to BBC RAW for flair, passion and imagination.

Sexperience lost out for Innovation in Education to the BBC’s School Report which marshals the whole BBC machine – BBC News, Radio 4’s Today, the network of local radio stations, the Full Monty/Aunty – to encourage children to try out news journalism. Laudable and solid. But an exact replica of Channel 4’s Breaking the News for a different audience (Newsround age as opposed to 14-19) which won an Education RTS in 2005, a year before School Report was launched. Yes, a strange choice given Raw’s Battlefront was the other nominee.

All of this illustrates how Channel 4 is the grit in the PSB oyster. The BBC would be even Blander (scuse the pun) without the boundary pushing of C4 and its discovery and nurturing of talent. On BBC Jamie cooks and makes a dish, on C4 he campaigns around food and makes a difference. (He was discovered of course by an ex-C4 PA who followed her passion straight out of Charlotte Street to become a highly successful exec producer, Pat Llewellyn.) Digital Britain has highlighted and backed C4’s place in British media and started rolling an exciting updated remit:

Championing and promoting creativity and new talent across all digital
media, by:
●● Investing in a wide range of original, innovative, high-quality audiovisual
content, including film, which provides alternative perspectives
and reflects the cultural diversity of the UK.
●● Providing audio-visual services and programming that can stimulate
learning and which will inform, challenge and inspire people, particularly
older children and younger audiences.
●● Maintaining a strong commitment to distinctive national and
international news and current affairs.
●● Enabling through partnership the development and reach of other public
service content from British cultural organisations.
●● Developing new services and applications to support its overall role,
embracing the potential of all digital media to connect with audiences
in new ways and to encourage the wider take-up of and participation in
new digital media by audiences.

Tweet Dreams Are Made of This

surgery live

[This post was originally published in an edited form on The TV Show blog]

Twitter has been in the mainstream media a lot in recent months. Surgery Live was the second of three experiments by me run out of Channel 4’s Cross-platform Department using this increasingly popular ‘microblogging’ service in connection with television programmes. The experiment reflects the increasingly common habit of ‘Twittering’ whilst watching TV, plugging in to that behaviour in the context of a bold, educative factual television series – importantly a live one.

[Twitter, if it hasn’t crossed your path, is a website from which you can send short messages (of up to 140 characters) to a network of people who are interested in similar things to you or who to choose to follow your short messages or ‘tweets’.]

When I first saw Twitter a few years ago I thought it was the end of civilisation as we know it. I gave myself the identity SurrealThing on the site because I felt at the time the only way to engage with it was as a persona or character, so I decided to be a Surrealist to match the weirdness of the whole concept. I began tweeting about melting watches and the like. Since then I’ve come to see it as a tool in search of a purpose and the three experiments I’ve commissioned (as Channel 4’s Cross-platform Commissioning Editor for Factual) have been about applying the Twitter tool to a worthwhile mission.

The first experiment, early last summer, was Osama Loves which used Twitter to enable two young British Muslims to go in search of 500 people called Osama right across the Islamic world with a view to illustrating the diversity of Muslim culture. Twitter was used in that instance as a means of updating Channel 4 viewers from areas of the world where they couldn’t get online or didn’t have sufficient bandwidth and were forced to rely on mobile to send in their updates or respond to their followers.

Surgery Live – broadcast live on Channel 4 in May – used Twitter to enable viewers to ask questions and discuss live the surgical procedures featured in the series. Viewers were invited to watch a selection of four fascinating operations live at around 11pm each night of the Surgery Live week. From open heart surgery to awake brain surgery to keyhole surgery, the programmes invited viewers to ask questions of the surgeons via Twitter (or email or phone), all filtered via the production team who selected the most interesting questions which were then posed through the intermediary of the presenter, arch-Twitterer Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News. So a matter of seconds between tweet and the question being asked on live TV.

There is of course a long and honourable tradition of surgeons talking and teaching whilst operating and every effort was made to make the Surgery Live questions and answers no more distracting than that normal medical training practice.

So viewers were encouraged to tweet away during the live operations, sharing their thoughts and asking questions. The big difference from the few previous experiments in this area is that this was live TV and you could make an impact with your tweet on the actual TV editorial. Now of course there are echoes of phone-ins and combining TV with forums/chatrooms the best part of a decade ago (notably 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. In other words, unlike emails, text messages or phones, you can join in a discussion among numerous people from right across the UK and beyond – fellow viewers, experts, medical students, enthusiasts, all manner of interested parties – live and simultaneously.

The online dimension of the project was produced by Windfall Films (who made the TV series) in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust. Included on the Surgery Live website was a section on how to use Twitter, to enable anyone unfamiliar with it to get up and running in under 5 minutes. This is part of the Channel’s ‘digital media literacy’ activities.

The third in this series of experiments is the forthcoming Alone in the Wild which will start life properly on Twitter on 27th June (watch this space – there is some early activity already). It revolves around a British man immersing himself alone in the wilderness of the Yukon for three months.

To get a sense of how the Surgery Live experiment panned out I leave it to the words of our viewers/participants. One measure of its impact was that it ‘trended’ #1, #2# or #3 on Twitter every night – that is, for a while around transmission was the 1st, 2nd or 3rd most popular topic globally. Another is that by the second night, if you googled the word “surgery” the Surgery Live website showed up number 2 of 121 Million results.

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.

bruceelrick: @wellcometrust it was a great success on twitter. #slive now 3rd most popular trend on twitter – pretty great achievement!

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.

Furgaline: What a brilliant way to educate people… #slive

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

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

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  [some viewers were upset that the live broadcast had to end after its allotted hour]

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

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!

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

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

Update 17.vi.09: Alone in the Wild in Daily Telegraph

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