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Streaming Media

The Challenge of User Demands for Conventional Broadcasting Models

My talk was next at the Australasian Media & Broadcasting Congress, and seemed to go down pretty well - I had been somewhat worried about getting booed off the stage by the broadcasters in the room, seeing as I was pointing out the dark clouds on the horizon for them. Here's the Powerpoint, and the paper is online, too - hope the audio recording worked, too! the audio turned out a little noisy once again, but it's better than nothing...

BBC's iPlayer: A Success Story

The next speaker at the Australasian Media & Broadcasting Congress 2008 is Tiffany Hall, Technology Controller of Nations & Regions at the BBC. She's focussing on the experience of rolling out the BBC iPlayer, an on-demand TV catch-up service (similar to the ABC's iView); programmes can be streamed or downloaded, and the service is funded by UK television licence funding (which is why content at present is not available outside the UK - unless you use an anonymiser proxy with a UK IP address). The player also contains parental guidance features (as timeshifting undermines the more conventional scheduling of differently rated programmes at different times of the day). iPlayer streams at 800kbps, with sound at 250kbps, and there are further moves to maximise the picture quality. About 80% of users use Windows, about 20% Macs, and only around 1% Linux; the player is now also available on the Nintendo Wii and on the Virgin platform.

Coming Up in October and November

Well, with the Future of Journalism now safely behind us (the event, that is - some reflections at Larvatus Prodeo, and also here later this week, hopefully), it's time to look ahead to other upcoming conferences and talks. I've posted some information about some of these on the site already, so here's a quick summary only. You can also track my progress through these upcoming events at

Webcasting Royalties: Plus Ça Change...

Following up on a previous post on this subject: Tony Walker over at ABC Digital Futures notes the likely impending demise of one of the most innovative Webcasting projects of recent years: Pandora, the online radio station of the Music Genome Project. For the uninitiated: the MGP is a database of the specific traits of thousands of songs by a wide variety of artists, which enables it to suggest to users that if they like a specific song, they're also likely to enjoy a variety of songs from other albums and by other artists. On that basis, Pandora offers personalised Webcasting of tracks which the MGP identifies as similar to those tracks that a user has already said they like.

Mapping, Tracking, Sharing, and Copying Creative Activity

We're back to paper sessions at the CCi conference now, and for a change I'm in the cultural science stream. The first speakers here are Chris Brennan-Horley from the University of Wollongong Susan Luckman from the University of South Australia and deals with mapping the creative industries in Darwin. This ties into wider creative industries and creative cities theory, and Chris's approach here has been to focus especially on mapping the micro-level through qualitative ethnographic approaches - this is necessary as much grassroots-level creative industries activity remains unaccounted for in standard quantitative surveys of creative industries performance. Chris operated especially through interviews with creative industries practitioners in the city, and he was interested especially in geographic information - what spaces in the city were of importance to such practitioners in relation to their creative work?

DIY Media before and after YouTube

There's a great line-up of keynotes and plenary speeches starting this second day of the CCi conference, before we get back to paper sessions: we kick off with Convergence Culture guru and serial book launcher Henry Jenkins, then move on to Camilla Cooke who was the driving force behind the online arm of the Australian Labor Party's successful Kevin07 campaign in the last federal election, and follow this with journalist and commentator Margaret Simons speaking on future directions for mainstream journalism. Should be good!

Beyond Broadcasting: TV as a (Deficient) Form of Streaming Media

Beyond BroadcastingContinuing the streaming media theme from Wednesday: the latest issue of the journal Media International Australia has now been released - "Beyond Broadcasting", edited by Graham Meikle and Sherman Young. I've contributed an article and have received permission from the editors to re-publish it here. In the article, I try to take a fresh look at television in an increasingly Internet-driven media environment.

Traditionally, the Net's equivalents to television (mainly, streaming media) have been viewed through the lens of the older technology; to some extent, streaming media has tried to mimic television's feel and format - this is visible in the user interfaces of media players like Windows and Real, and even (though perhaps with some irony intended) in brand names such as YouTube,, or Democracy TV, the original name for the podcast feedreader Miro. I would argue that this is a case of what we could call a paleomorphising process: the tendency to shape new media technologies in keeping with older technologies. (In much the same way, it's taken decades for the mobile phone to look and feel like a mobile media and communications device, rather than simply like a wireless handset.)

No News from the Webcast Front (But Sonic Synergies Now Published)

Sonic Synergies: Music, Identity, Technology and Community (Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series)

Yay - Sonic Synergies: Music, Identity, Technology and Community, a book collecting the best papers from the eponymous 2003 conference in Adelaide, is finally out (if apparently only in hardcover, for almost US$100)...

My chapter in the book deals at its core with the 2002 Webcasting wars in the United States - a protracted and complex conflict between the recording industry and various groupings of large, medium, and small Webcasters each pursuing their own agendas, which was not so much resolved as put on hold by the eventual intervention of a few members of Congress concerned about the deleterious effects of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA had put in place new approaches for digital royalty arbitration which posed serious problems for the long-term viability of small Webcasters (a fact which was bemoaned only rather fulsomely by the leaders of that market), and the ensuing negotiations finally hit the wall in 2002, after much toing and froing.

Club Bloggery 7: Election Flops on YouTube

Jason Wilson, Barry Saunders, and I have now posted the seventh instalment of our ABC series Club Bloggery, covering the online dimensions of the Australian election campaign. Just to mix things up a bit, this week we had a look at what's been happening on YouTube over the past few weeks, and found that (perhaps unsurprisingly) the more interesting developments are in DIY campaign advertising and mash-ups. Plenty of links included with the story, which we've also posted to our group blog Gatewatching - I encourage you to see for yourselves!

Election Flops on YouTube

By Axel Bruns, Jason Wilson, and Barry Saunders

In an election campaign as drawn out as this, you'd have to have excellent memory to remember the hype around John Howard's use of YouTube to make policy announcements. Some months ago, the media were all over the story - but unfortunately for the Prime Minister, much like the widely-predicted poll 'narrowing', the YouTube effect has been missing in action.

That's not to say that YouTube and similar sites haven't played a role in the campaign - but certainly not to the extent they've already featured in the U.S. presidential primaries, where debates between the candidates on either side of the political divide have invited citizens to pose their questions via YouTube, and where some politicians even announced their intention to run for President on the site.

Citizen Journalism beyond the Tactical Moment, Blogging with an Australian Accent, and Other Upcoming Publications

I'm very happy that a few of the articles and chapters I've worked on throughout the year are now coming close to publication. One of them is a chapter in Digital Media and Democracy: Tactics in Hard Times, a book edited by Megan Boler for MIT Press; my contribution is based on one of my papers for the AoIR conference last year and explores the possibilities for citizen journalism beyond the tactical moment, as it transcends the industrial journalism/citizen journalism two-tier structure first described (though not exactly in those terms) by Herbert Gans so many years ago. Will citizen journalism remain tactical, and thus perhaps excuse itself from attempting to exert a more permanent, strategic influence on public life? Will it 'sell out' and go mainstream? Or is there a third, hybrid option which retains its strengths as a bottom-up movement while developing more permanent, sustainable forms?

My suggestion in the chapter (which I've called "Gatewatching, Gatecrashing: Futures for Tactical News Media") is that we may see a development of citizen journalism that's not unlike the trajectory charted by the evolution of extra-parliamentary opposition groups in 1970s Europe into credible political alternatives (and here especially the Greens parties). As a German, the obvious case in point for me is the career of Joschka Fischer from street protester to German Foreign Minister, ultimately commanding grudging respect even from old political enemies - and in citizen journalism, I think we're beginning to see the potential for similar transformations. In the chapter, I do go so far as to call OhmyNews' founder Oh Yeon-ho "the South Korean Joschka Fischer of journalism", though with tongue in cheek - guess you'll have to wait for the book to come out to see whether you agree with me on that one. It's now listed for pre-order on Amazon.


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