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From Selfish Giant to Slumdog Millionaire – lessons from Channel 4 film and drama

Sometimes it is good to step outside of the information echo chamber. 

What can we learn from leaders in another profession – one which seeks to balance creative vision with tight budgets; is challenged by new formats, technology and delivery channels; has to balance multiple stakeholders; is threatened by pirated content, and is working to meet the anytime, anywhere demands of end users?

Tessa Ross is the Controller of Film and Drama for Channel 4 and recipient of the 2013 Bafta award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema’.  Her projects included Slumdog Millionaire, A Field in England, In Bruges and The Selfish Giant.  She came to film via theatre and – speaking at the Olive Till Memorial Lecture* – described a ‘drift’ into her current role rather than a firm plan.  She commissions films for the Channel with a ‘tiny’ budget of £15 million a year.

Her responsibility is to spend that budget wisely and to help people fulfil their creative vision.  Her role requires her to combine creative mentoring, experimentation and risk taking, in depth knowledge of the industry and the people within it, team development and creative matchmaking – and financial and business acumen.

“I think you’re brilliant.  What can I do to help you?”

For Ross, talent rather than the medium is her objective.  The vast majority of projects brought to her will not be made and Channel 4 may not be the right home for everyone’s idea.  But for those that she does work with, her focus is on helping them fulfil their creative vision.  This requires tenacity and sometimes a long-term commitment (One of her recent films, Under the Skin, took 13 years to make it from script to screen).

Channel 4’s remit encourages eclectic storytelling and experimentation.  The recent ‘magic mushroom/civil war’ film A Field in England was the result of an experimental masterclass in making a low budget feature film.  It was released simultaneously on multiple platforms.

Ross works with – and helps to develop – creative talent and her role requires a wide-ranging skill set.  Many members of the audience, the majority of them film students, expressed their interest in working with Channel 4 – and her.  And who wouldn’t want a mentor like that?!

*The Olive Till Memorial Debate and Bursary are presented by Stewart Till CBE, CEO Icon Entertainment and Deputy Chair Skillset, in memory of his mother at Goldsmiths, University of London’.  Previous speakers have included Danny Boyle and Tim Bevan.

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Selfie is the word of the year

“Is this a selfie which I see before me,
The angle toward my hand? Come, let me tweet thee*”

Oxford Dictionaries have announced that their word of the year for 2013 is ‘selfie’.

Over the course of the year, the frequency of the usage of the word selfie (the act of taking a self-portrait) has increased by 17,000%. Several spin-off terms have also emerged, including ‘drelfe’ (a drunken selfie) and ‘welfie’ (a workout selfie).

Once again the word of the year showcases technological and social trends that impact the general consciousness.  (Last year’s words of the year included ‘omnishambles’ and ‘hashtag’.)

Other words shortlisted in 2013 include bitcoin, showrooming and <shudder> twerk.

In the Netherlands Participatiesamenleving – ‘participation society’ – has been named as the word of the year.  One of the runner-up words was socialbesitas – ‘addiction to social media’ – a word which some of us would find useful – and apt!

The German slang word of the year is ‘babo’. It derives from a Turkish word meaning boss or chief.

Selfies – selfish or ‘another way to connect’?

According to mobileYouth, 48% of the photographs posted by UK teenagers to Instragram are selfies.  Graham Brown’s slideshare presentation challenges us to look beyond the surface ‘narcissism’ of the selfie and encourages us to think of it – like Blipfoto – as ‘ordinary people doing ordinary things’.

The Oxford University Press blog explores the history of the self portrait – from early daguerrotypes onwards and *Alice Northover has rewritten Shakespeare for the selfie generation.

Finally, here’s a wonderful selfie image, taken by Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last Czar of Russia.  One hundred years ago.

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Teenagers, Facebook and message apps

If teenagers are losing interest in Facebook, where are going – and why?

Facebook’s Q3 earnings statement revealed that it had exceeded its revenue targets.   However, in the company’s accompanying comments it also revealed that it was seeing “a decrease in daily users, specifically among teens”.

As Facebook becomes increasingly popular – even with parents – it is at risk of losing any element of ‘coolness’.  Teenage interest is splintering into a number of other tools and apps, including Instagram, Tumblr, Pheed, Kik and WhatsApp.

There are 2.1 billion mobile device owning young people in the world and 36% of their money is spent on mobile services and products.  They are a big potential market for any social network and a decline in popularity with such an influential group is important.

Piper Jaffray surveyed 5,200 teens of whom 33% said that Facebook was their most important social network.  Although still a high figure, it is down a full 9% in a year.  Twitter is catching up with Facebook (30% reported it as their most important tool).  Tumblr took 17% of the votes.

A preference for mobile message apps

Writing in the Observer newspaper, Parmy Olson discusses teenagers preferences for messaging apps.  Mobile message apps (such as WeChat and WhatsApp) offer private, real time chatting with real friends – without advertising and without broadcasting to an entire network of friends and acquaintances. Message apps are incredibly popular – about 90% of the population of Brazil uses them; three-quarters of Russians, and half of Britons. WhatsApp has over 350 million monthly active users around the world.  The early adopters and power users of these apps are under 25 years old.

The messaging services also offer private sharing of photographs (which teenagers love for a variety of reasons!).  But they are also developing into social media networks in their own right, in Asia in particular.  WeChat, KakaoTalk and LINE have millions of users and provide messaging services, games, music sharing and stickers.

Sources: MobileYouth;  Parmy Olson The Observer;  Forbes; Tyntec.

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Digital romance and relationships

“Living like a 1950s housewife has saved me money, helped me lose weight and kept my marriage strong”.

Leafing despondently through a copy of WI Life, I came across this feature.  The interviewee and her new husband had agreed to spend the first year of their marriage without television, computers or mobile devices.  This radical decision had meant that they now “actually have to talk to each other to communicate”.

A small (and unrepresentative*) survey published in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy looked at how young adults in serious relationships used digital technology in their relationships. The researchers found that young people in a relationship were more likely to use text (rather than social media) to communicate with each other.   They also found that sending a loving text made both sender and recipient feel good about the relationship and those who attempted to resolve arguments via text message were associated with unhappier relationships. 

The Pew Research Center has just published its updated Online Dating and Relationship report (it first began researching this area in 2005).  The latest report explores how social networks and mobile devices are impacting the world of dating.

Key findings

Social networking profiles can contain a wealth of information on potential (or past) partners (relationship status, photographs, hobbies and interests…) and many respondents report doing so:

  • 31% of social network users have ‘checked up’ on someone they used to be in a relationship with
  • This rises to 48% of those aged 18-29

Breaking up can be complicated enough but the sensitive politics of breaking up now have to take social media presence into account.  Many respondents report blocking, unfriending, deleting and untagging their exes.  Women users of social media are much more likely to be doing this, either because a relationship has broken down, or because the other person’s behaviour is making them uncomfortable.   

  • 37% of smartphone users have asked someone out on a date by sending a text message on their cell phone
  • 17% have posted details or photos of a date
  • 30% with ‘recent dating experience’ have researched prospective partners on social media
  • This rises to 41% of 18-29 year olds 

Breaking up is hard to do

  • 17% of those who have a smartphone and/or use the internet have broken up with someone via text, email or an online message!
  • 17% have been broken up with digitally! 

* A small study with a much higher than average proportion of engaged couples – and Mormons.

 

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Developing professional networks – what social network analysis teaches us

Social network analysis has been used to measure the impact of the DREaM project which set out to nurture a network of researchers.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) explores social relationships and their implications.  As a research methodology, it is employed by a range of subject specialists, and is much favoured by knowledge management practitioners seeking to explore the ‘human’ aspects of knowledge mobilisation.

A new article by Louise Cooke and Hazel Hall* explores the applicability and value of Social Network Analysis (SNA) as a means of investigating the development of researcher networks. The authors believe that their study provides transferable lessons about SNA as a tool as well as the interventions that can encourage speedy development of social infrastructure in new networks, which are applicable across professional groups.

After a discussion about the development of SNA as a research tool and its previous use in the context of library and information science (LIS), the article reports on a case study based on the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project.

DREaM was established in 2011 to create, and support the development of, a network of LIS researchers, connecting them in new ways and improving the quality and impact of LIS research. It is this case study that will be of most interest to LIS practitioners.

What does the ‘before’ and ‘after’ data from the case study tell us about how strong professional networks can be nurtured?

Key findings

  • ‘before’ data shows that members of this participant network were not highly connected or aware of each other’s expertise: existing networks were highly centralised around a small number of academic librarians and researchers
  • ‘after’ data shows a demonstrable increase in expertise awareness and interaction; participants had increased their number of network ties; the network became more ‘even’ with less dependence on a small number of densely networked actors; academic librarians in particular moved towards the centre of the network

What was it about the way the DREaM project was designed that helped develop the network?

The authors suggest that the combination of workshops, social events, networking opportunities, the development of an online community and the effective use of social media tools:

  • Reduced the isolation of participants
  • Helped participants exchange ideas and broaden their knowledge base
  • Provided opportunities for participants to exchange sources of information and references

A range of event amplification techniques (live-blogging/tweeting; delegate reviews; session recordings and many more) also helped those unable to attend events in person, to participate in the network remotely.

This inclusive, boundary-spanning approach helped the participants double their awareness of each other’s expertise and almost double their levels of social interaction.

———————

*Cooke, L. & Hall, H. (2013). Facets of DREaM: a Social Network Analysis exploring network development in the UK LIS research community. Journal of Documentation, 69(6), 786-806.

Further information about the article (Hazel Hall’s blog).  You can download the full text of the article from Emerald (subscription-based service).  You can download the full-text of the article manuscript at no charge here.   Further information on the DREaM project can be found here.

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What drives traffic to corporate websites?

Visits to corporate websites are up (24% in two years) – and the rise is being driven by mobile.

Research from Investis IQ has been tracking visitors to corporate websites from social media platforms to see which sites drive the most traffic. The company tracks the website analytics of European companies (12% of the total surveyed), FTSE 100 (24%) and FTSE 250 (42%) companies along with AIM companies (27%).

The figures show that website visits from mobile devices have increased by 400% in two years.

  • 20% of all visits to corporate websites are now made by people using mobile devices.
  • 66% of all mobile visits are being made by iPhone/iPad
  • Only 23% of the companies surveyed have a dedicated mobile or a responsive website

Social media and search engines

  • 54% arrive at a corporate website via a search engine
  • 56% of the FTSE 100 companies studied link to at least one social media site from their website
  • LinkedIn drives the most visits – 64% of all visits to corporate websites from social media sites come via LinkedIn
  • Facebook’s importance is declining – it is driving 17% of the visits (down from 30% in two years)
  • Twitter however has grown from driving 4% of visits two years ago to 14% in 2013
  • Between them LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are driving 95% of all visits from social media sites – the influence of other social media sites is, as yet, negligible.

The report is available here.

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Cyber-attacks and staying private

Cyber-attacks on banks have been high-profile news in the UK.  £1.3 million was taken from Barclays when a computer was hijacked, while police foiled a similar plot against Santander.

The Bank of England’s policy makers have responded, drawing attention to the ‘potential vulnerabilities’ in the banking system, including old and complex IT infrastructure and a reliance on centralised systems.

Concern about a lack of preparedness against cyber-attacks was also expressed at a recent London meeting of information security risk and management professionals. Delegates discussed the ‘perfect storm’ of cyber-security risks – the widespread adoption of social media, cloud services, mobile devices – combined with the proliferation of unstructured data.  Potential risks to organisations include intentional or accidental data breach; social media account hacking and identify theft.  (Government figures for the cost of cyber-security breaches have been discussed previously on this blog.)

The UK is a global leader in identify fraud.  Fraud is said to have cost the UK over £70 billion in 2012 and nearly a quarter of residents have fallen victim to some form of identity fraud.

Staying private

Personal data is ‘the new oil of the internet’ according to the World Economic Forum. Increasingly sophisticated criminals are using the information and data we share to develop ‘spear-phishing’ targeted email campaigns or are able to glean personal details such as pet’s names or mothers’ maiden names which can be used to answer security questions.

As information professionals we are well-placed to help our organisations – and individual colleagues – understand the new information landscape and to help them stay safe and secure.

Phil Bradley is speaking about Privacy (session C103) in a special session at this year’s Internet Librarian International conference.

Val on Google+

 

 

Cyberbullying, trolls and good manners

Anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label has surveyed over 10,000 young people in the UK about their experiences of cyberbullying.  70% of respondents aged between 13 and 22 claim to have been victims of cyberbullying and over a million young people are subjected to ‘extreme’ online bullying every day.

In 2012, the charity ChildLine held over 4,500 counselling sessions with children and young people who were concerned about cyberbullying – up 87% in a year.  Boys and girls are equally as likely to be victims.  Facebook is the most common place for young people to be victimised, followed by Twitter and Ask.fm.

Meanwhile, YouTube has announced that it is reorganising its comments field, which previously had been structured to show the most recent comments at the top.

The changes use modified versions of Google+ comments which will use signals such as people you are connected to and social affinity to help display customised and more meaningful comments.  The aim is to increase the likelihood of ‘engaged discussion’.  New moderation controls will also be rolled out, so channel owners can manage and review comments and block certain words.

It’s not simply social media sites that have decided to change – or even close – their comments fields.  PopularScience.com has announced that, despite its aim to foster ‘lively’ scientific debate, comments are no longer welcome on its site.  It blames trolls and spambots and quotes research which suggests that uncivil comments and attacks can change other readers’ interpretation of the original posting.

Trolls and shamers

The shaming of Twitter trolls has also been news over the last few months.  Cambridge University professor and TV presenter Mary Beard shamed a troll who backed down quickly when Twitter ‘threatened to tell his mother’.  Boxer Curtis Woodhouse was the victim of a troll and managed to track him down to his own home.  Once again, the troll apologised.  An article in Wired describes how a delegate at a conference tweeted a picture of two other delegates who had been making ‘not cool’ comments.  The story went viral and people lost their jobs.

Etiquette experts Debrett’s have bewailed the decline of etiquette in the digital age.  The application of a combination of common sense, empathy, good manners and ‘social resilience’ could benefit all of us.

Val Skelton on Google+

New York shooting – citizen journalists on the scene

On September 15th 2013 (as reported in the New York Times), police officers confronted an ‘agitated’ individual and used their firearms, missing the suspect but injuring two bystanders.  After the incident, The New York Times was able to identify the (unarmed) individual, name the shooting victims, describe the extent of their injuries and report from the Police News Conference about the incident.

Before the ‘traditional’ journalists got hold of the story, however, members of the public were recording, and editorialising on, the incident.  At least one person tweeted a picture of one of the victims, almost certainly before their friends or relatives had been informed.  Several YouTube videos of the incident have been uploaded (a simple search will bring up results).  Eye witnesses claim the agitated man had been run over – the police later denied this.  The incident is an example of instant news reporting – often a mixture of documentary, supposition and emotion.

Independent, verified news reporting is considered by many to be essential to democracy.  Does the replacement of traditional forms of news media by new models of information gathering and distribution (e.g. citizen journalism, crowdsourcing, Twitter) make democracy more or less vulnerable?  Or do the two enhance each other?

Riptide is a fascinating ‘oral history’ of the meeting of quality journalism and digital technologies in the US.  Actually, it is a written report drawn from interviews with movers and shakers in the news industry since 1980.

The report looks at the disruptive influences of digital platforms, the decline in traditional journalism jobs and new digital news economic models.  The report covers the early days of teletext all the way through the development of the WWW, the dot.com boom and bust, cable news, the emergence of the blogosphere, social news and ‘pay to play’.

The report also includes videos and transcripts of all of the interviews, including this one with star of the London 2012 Olympics Tim Berners-Lee.  It is also illustrated with fantastic images.

(It is worth pointing out that the report has come under some criticism since its release.  Of the 61 ‘media movers and shakers’ the researchers interviewed, a mere five were women – all of whom were white.  Only two non-white males were interviewed.  Moves are underway by some of the report’s critics to conduct further studies.)

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TV viewing trends

The latest report by Ericsson ConsumerLab explores the ways in which connected devices are changing the ways in which consumers view TV and video content.

Consumers in 15 countries* were asked about their TV and video viewing habits.  The findings show how consumers are increasingly exposed to content and how this ‘wealth of choice’ is changing attitudes to video and TV programming.  This includes a shift away from scheduled TV, even amongst older consumers and late adopters (41% of 65-69 year olds are using streamed video at least once a week).

Key findings

  • 72% of respondents watch videos via a mobile device at least once a week
    • 42% do this outside their home
    • Linear/scheduled TV is used for social viewing.  This includes sports and other live events which people watch ‘here and now’
    • Video on demand (VOD) is becoming ‘relaxation TV’
    • 82% of respondents are using YouTube or other User Generated Content (UGC) sites at least monthly – and 25% of them are doing so on mobile devices.
    • The trend to ‘one TV, many devices’ continues as does that of multitasking while viewing content
    • Multitasking – 49% of respondents will look for content about what they are watching
    • Social viewing – Almost a third of respondents will take to social media to discuss what they are watching
    • Place-shifted viewing – a new phenomenon which sees people break up their viewing – they may watch part of the content while travelling and the rest at home for example

Paying for content

With the exception of China, the research shows how more people are reducing spending on TV packages, or S-VOD (subscription video on demand).  The report predicts that new commercial models will emerge, which combine affordable monthly subscriptions with unobtrusive and customised advertising.  Consumers place advertisement free, HD quality content at the top of their wishlist for their TV/video experiences.

(*Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK and the US).

The report is available to download here.

A second report, this time focusing on the US video streaming market, found that 51% of Americans aged 13-54 are video streaming at least once a week, with the figure rising to over 60% for those aged 13-33.