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Where's Tony?

Leeds.
(I realise I've started the last few posts with 'well' - so let's try to avoid this for a while.) As a long-time news junkie, since I've arrived in the UK, of course I've been looking to BBC television news for my daily fix. As television news goes, BBC World is usually held up as an alternative preferable to CNN - which like most U.S.-based TV news channels has lost a great deal of credibility in recent years, due to their insufficient ability to maintain a critical stance towards administration rhetoric. Similarly, BBC News Online is of course one of the most respected online news sources, and indeed has also shown some interesting and innovative tendencies to incorporate user contributions and external content in an effort to embrace citizen journalism within the confines of the BBC Charter.

Grave Matters

Leeds.
Here comes the snow...Well, the inevitable has happened, and it's begun to snow in Leeds. So far, there's been little more than a light flurry, which I understand is less than what they've had further down in England's south - but we'll see how things go as we approach the evening. At any rate, the weather has put a dampener on any idea of further exploring the Leeds University and the city itself - I think I might wait until it turns a little more pedestrian-friendly again.

Why Citizen Journalism Doesn't Suck

In the Australian context, the debate about citizen journalism has been rekindled by a recent piece by James Farmer in The Age's 'blogs' section, provocatively titled "Citizen Journalism Sucks". Unfortunately, though, the piece regurgitates a number of the 'home truths' which industrial journalists have been trying to spread about their citizen cousins - yet at the same time, the sharply critical debate which took place in the commentaries attached to the article also demonstrated clearly how effective citizen journalism (properly understood as a discursive, dialogic form of journalism) can be. Here's my response to the article.

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.

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.

The BBC and the Future for Public Service Broadcasting

Tonight I'm at UQ yet again, for the second CCCS public lecture by visiting scholar Georgina Born (and you've got to admire my restraint in not titling this blog entry "Born Again"). This talk looks like it's going to be more generally about the lessons to be learnt from the BBC's history and present. She begins by noting the distance between executive rhetoric and the reality of work in public service broadcasters (PSB), but of course such contradictions characterise any complex organisation.

Institutional Designs for Digitising Democracy

I'm spending the afternoon at a public lecture by Georgina Born from Cambridge University, at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland (who, as it turns out, for some time was also the cellist and bassist in British Prog icons Henry Cow). She begins with a nod towards Habermas's public sphere concept, which in relation to broadcasting has been seen as having been imperfectly realised (e.g. through the universalism of service, reach, and programming of the BBC in Britain). In these media debates, the specifically literary and cultural dimensions of the original conception of the public sphere appear to have been ignored, however, and there is also a gender issue here which privileges 'hard' content (e.g. news) over 'soft' content such as drama.

Cultural Meanings in Software, City Spaces, and Estonian Society

Tartu
The next session is kicked off by Jose Abdelnour Nocera, on the politics of technology culture. He notes that information technology has globalised, and has become increasingly affordable to small and medium enterprises. However, this also means that technology produced in one culture may be used in another, leading to a potential for intercultural misunderstandings. Users' cultural frameworks configure their understandings of the systems used, and these are likely to be different from those of the technology producers.

Interpretative flexibility is a key concept in theories of the social construction of technology: the character of technologies is not determined by their technological structure. The usefulness of a system, then, can be described as a social construct - and this is very different from the idea of usefulness as simply indicating (perceived) enhanced performance, or of usefulness as 'practical acceptability' rather than 'social acceptability'. Users 'construct' technology both symbolically in their reading of artefacts as well as literally in the articulation work that is essential before a generic software product can be used as an artefact supporting day-to-day business practices.

A Short Few Days in Hannover, World Cup City

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Hannover, Germany
We spent the last few days on a brief visit to my home town of Hannover, via a brief detour through Berlin and the Hurricane music festival at Scheeßel, to see Australian sensation Wolfmother. (Luckily, the storms which led to the cancellation of the later days of the festival only hit after we'd already left again.) This is the first time in six years I've been back to Hannover, and only the second since I left Germany for Australia in 1994. Strangely, I'm finding myself in a position of seeing Hannover (and Germany more generally) through the eyes of a tourist rather than those of a native, which is somewhat disconcerting - albeit a tourist with better local knowledge than many of the football fans and other travellers currently traversing the country.

Reporting the 'War on Terror'

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Dresden
The second session starts off with Douglas Kellner, presenting on the reporting of the Iraq wars. There has been a move from a fairly tightly controlled pool system in the first Iraq war, where reporters were held to tightly drawn contracts and media corporations sued the Pentagon after the war because of these restrictive measures, to the idea of embeddedness. Embedded UK reporters were found to be just as critical as other reporters and news anchors, but the case was rather different for U.S. reporters - the framing of stories here was very much in line with the intended message of the Pentagon.

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