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Towards a Strong Basis for Everyday Social Documentary

The last keynote at ATOM2006 is by Andrew Urban, editor of Urban Cinefile, and previously the creator and host of SBS's Front Up programme. He begins by noting the importance of media teachers for the future development of society; further, he also notes the increasing question of information accuracy in an ever more highly mediatised environment - in Jerry Bruckheimer's words, 'the media are a mile wide and an inch deep'.

Journalism is today still posited as a noble profession, standing for honesty, objectivity, and truth - and Andrew shows an excerpt from Edward R. Murrow's famous 1958 speech (as seen recently in Good Night, and Good Luck) accusing the television industry of its failings - deluding, amusing, and insulating us. Broadcasting - and the media more broadly - today are as crucial as then, but their basis has shifted, now taking in also a broad range of new participants, all the way through to individual produsers.

The Media Worlds of New Zealand Children

Geoff Leland from the University of Waikato is the next speaker in this session at ATOM2006. His research is into the media worlds of young teenagers in New Zealand - how do they perceive their own worlds? This work has taken place through the 1999-2005 period with some 2000 children in Hamilton and Christchurch, and Geoff argues that because of the fast pace of technological research such research needs to be continuous - findings even from only a few years ago are already outdated. Another reason for tracking changes is also that the New Zealand population profile is changing markedly through immigration and its accepting of humanitarian refugees (in stark contrast to Australia's inhumane asylum policy practices which ignore and breach international humanitarian conventions) - one school Geoff has worked with has some 18% Somali refugee children, for example.

Singapore's Media-Literate Society

Next up is Pam Hu from the Media Development Authority in Singapore - which is one of the best-connected nations in the world, of course (next to some countries in Scandinavia, as well as South Korea, and Japan - indeed, the entire country is a wireless hotspot...). The MDA is similar to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Singapore is looking to position itself as an East-West Media Gateway, involving media financing, production, aggregation, and distribution; this is done in part also through the Asia Media Festival (29 Nov. to 3 Dec. 2006), including film, television, and animation components, and Broadcast Asia (in June 2007). Singapore is also increasingly placing itself in international media projects to develop global awareness of what it has to offer. The Media Development Authority was established on 1 January 2003; it is charged with developing the Singaporean media industry and acts as a facilitator, promoter, and catalyst.

New Media, Institutions and Media Education

Ben Goldsmith from the Australian Film, Television, and Radio School is the next featured presenter at ATOM2006. His focus here is particularly on new media and institutions (as well as perhaps also on new media institutions). He begins by noting the convergence of communications networks, computing and information technology, and content (as explored for example by Henry Jenkins). Such convergence touches on technological, industrial, cultural, and social aspects - and it is defined both from the top down (by media conglomerates) and from the bottom up (by consumers and DIY content creators). People (and not only the young) can now control content flows, collaborate, access, and build collective intelligence, and create new content as well as remix old content - and this has a profound impact on the development of the mediasphere. Ben also notes Mark Pesce's view that television died on the day that Battlestar Galactica was accessed by viewers in the U.S. via Bittorrent after its premiere in the UK (rather than waiting for the SciFi Channel to broadcast it some months later) - and yet it is notable that this did not affect BSG's ratings when it eventually did screen in the U.S.

Youth, Media, and Education in the United States

The second day at ATOM2006 has started, and we're beginning with a keynote by Kathleen Tyner from the University of Texas at Austin. She begins by noting the relationship between form, content, and context in studies of the media - and that the relationship between skills and knowledge in media studies and production is very difficult to reconcile. She also notes 'the tyranny of the narrative' - creating a conflict between how things are done, from a practical perspective, and what the storyline of any one media artefact is.

In youth media, there is now a transition to a digital literacy culture, with better access to lower-cost tools; this has also led to a remix culture supported by greater availability of content archives and new distribution networks. Further, there is also now the beginning of more supportive academic standards and practices. Newseum.org, Internetarchive.org, Livingroomcandidate, and the Library of Congress's American Memory project are all useful archives which can provide raw materials for such remix culture projects.

Online Creative Networks for Kids

My colleague Justin Brow is next; he's been involved in the development of Sticky.net.au and is a researcher in the QUT Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation (iCi). He begins with a brief introduction to the economic role of the creative industries - some 140,000 people are working directly in the CI in Australia, but the focus of CI analysis is now shifting from the production of creative outputs themselves to creative industries' input into other industries; some 160,000 people in Australia work in creative occupations within other industries. A further 150,000 people work in managerial and administrative roles related to the CI, establishing a 'creative trident' of occupations and contributing some $21billion to Australian GDP (this is set to double in the coming years).

Media Education and Copyright Law

Cushla Kapitzke is the next speaker here at ATOM2006. She focusses on the implications of copyright law changes in the wake of the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and how they may impact on media educators. She notes the rise of a large variety of neologisms - postindustrialism, fast capitalism, the information age, the creative economy, postmodernity, neoliberalism, globalisation, and McDonaldisation - even while the U.S. remains firmly routed in the traditional assumptions of modernity in a variety of ways. Libraries, for example, are often still excellently set up, but remain largely empty as they've failed to engage with the post-modern information needs of their clients. Cushla suggest a set of epochal shifts, from ancient ceremony to the traditional library of modernity, to the new 'libr@ry' which is being explored developed in a number of configurations by various organisations.

Towards an Australian Digital Children's Television Channel?

Lee Burton and Peter Maggs from the Australian Children's Television Foundation are the next keynote speakers at ATOM 2006, speaking on the children's television debate. The Australian Communications and Media Authority's current review of children's television standards provides a backdrop to this debate. They begin by showing a brief video of kids' statements of what thye'd like to see on TV - perhaps in the form of a dedicated kids' TV channel...

Peter now notes the long history and conflicted future of the ACTF. Government requirements call for 260 hours of C and 130 hours of P programming; within this C quota, Australian TV channels must show a total of 32 hours of first-run children's drama (financed usually around 30% with txpayers' money). However, such shows are invcreasingly shown at times when the intended audience isn't around - kids typically aren't home at 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon, for example. Daytime programming is largely filled with U.S.- and Japanese-made animation, which is often provided to channels free of charge and makes its money through selling related merchandise. In the afternoon, on the other hand, the 4 p.m. timeslot is filled with locally-made shows competing for the same audience, even though the audience isn't likely to be home yet. This could be seen as a waste of taxpayers' money. On the other hand, the audience figures for kid watching TV peak between 5 and 10 p.m. - along with primetime for other demographics.

Ambient Virtual Co-Presence through Mobile Devices in Japan

As if there hadn't been enough conferences over the last few weeks: I'm spending this weekend (mostly) at the Australian Teachers of Media conference here at QUT in Brisbane, which was organised by my colleague Michael Dezuanni. I'm also going to be a featured speaker on Sunday afternoon, talking about how to educate the coming 'Generation C' of produsers.

However, the conference starts with Mizuko Ito from the University of Southern California, speaking about the social life of mobile media. Japan is of course one of the key drivers of (3G) mobile media uptake at this point, especially within the younger generation. Mimi has mainly focussed on the use of digital technology amongst young people outside of school or work - i.e. in what are traditionally seen as non-educational contexts. Here, it is important to understand young people's uses of new technologies on their own terms - to regard them as digial natives and study their uses as such. Further, it is important to understand the social construction of such technologies. What emerges here are kid-driven peer-to-peer knowledge economies, from which adults have much to learn. Compared to traditional anthropology, Mimi's work also looks at a hybrid of the real (the physically local) and the virtual (the online and the remote); this can capture everyday action and local knowledge in personalised, non-institutionalised, and fluid settings.

Life beyond AoIR 2006

butterfly colour 72dpi.pngWell, the AoIR 2006 conference in Brisbane is over, and I'm slowly recovering... If I've been slow in updates to this blog in recent weeks, it's been simply because conference preparations had taken over my life - between running around to get things organised, dealing with last-minute registrations, changes, and other issues, and actually being there to make sure everything happened on the days as we'd planned it, there was very little time left for anything else (including luxuries like, say, sleep). Overall I'm very pleased with how it went, though, and we've had some great feedback on the conference - most importantly, I think we've proved that there is plenty of life outside of the North American and European conference circuits, and I hope that AoIR will continue its drive to engage with international communities of scholars. Asia, Latin America, South Africa - let's go!

As conference chair, of course I didn't get to see anything of the conference beyond my own panels, and the two keynotes. Slowly the reports from the conference are emerging, though, so I get to see a little more of it at last. My thanks especially to Kevin Lim, who not only blogged and photographed extensively at the conference, but also conducted a number of impromptu interviews at the closing reception - the video and some further discussion are over on Kevin's blog, but I've taken the liberty of also posting the video here...

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