— macroscope

I’m somewhat belatedly posting my notes for a presentation I gave at a convening in May 2011 on Media, Social Media, and Democratic Governance at Wilton Park (here’s a PDF of the conference programme, and POLIS Director, Charlie Beckett’s notes from his presentation are here.).

—–

“The Internet Is Not A Horse”: presentation at Wilton Park, May 2011

Over the past few months, I’ve been working with the human rights organisation WITNESS on a new initiative that aims to help those using video for human rights to do so more safely, more ethically and more effectively. As part of this initiative, we have produced a report [published in September 2011], called Cameras Everywhere, as WITNESS’ first toe in the waters of technology policy.

Why would an organisation that has focused on advocacy campaigns to expose and end specific human rights abuses suddenly decide to engage in the world of technology policy? Finding and sharing new ways to use new technologies for documenting and exposing violations remains a central part of what WITNESS does. But in the process of building and running human rights projects that involve technology, we have been forced to confront a range of extremely thorny technical, legal, editorial and ethical challenges woven through the evolving communication environment. And in conversations with technologists, say, we’d raise issues about ethics, and they’d say, “Well, we’d never thought about it that way.” And with policy-makers, “Ah, now I hadn’t really thought about the human rights impacts of copyright enforcement.” Or with NGO colleagues, “Well, we’d like to be more involved in debates about technology, but we don’t know where to start.”

We felt it important to share in an accessible way the lessons we have learned, and to try to stitch together a perspective for our partners, donors and fellow activists, for technologists building the tools we all use, and for policy-makers who set the laws and policies that govern these same technologies. Law and policy set and shape the parameters for what technology can do – indeed law is sometimes embedded within technology – and therefore what it is possible for activists (and citizens more broadly) to do, and what protections they can enjoy and exercise.

This report is based both on our own analysis and experience, and on more than 40 in-depth interviews with highly-placed experts from settings as diverse as academia, technology policy, grassroots activism and broadcast journalism. We hope that it will provide a springboard for further discussion and help bring these various stakeholders a few inches closer together in common understanding and dialogue.

Share:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Identi.ca
  • LinkedIn
  • Posterous
  • Tumblr

flattr this!

Read More

Earlier this year, I did some strategy work with a client to look at the documentary landscape in the UK, and here I’m sharing some of the overall findings and resources from that piece of work (some stats and market elements might have moved a little since then, but overall I hope it’s still helpful). It’s interesting that some of the recommendations I made overlap with a recent piece of research from the Open Rights Group – which finds that overall, consumers in the UK face “lack of availability, poor pricing and quality issues when compared with physical media.” I agree that UK consumers are very poorly served with visual media content, and face a fragmented and confusing landscape.

And there’s an evolving list of resources I used here - please feel free to browse and contribute.

=====

  • Fragmentation in TV audiences  but increase in DVD, download, theatrical documentary markets. (DVD sales plummeted 40% in the USA in the last quarter (early 2011) as digital downloads take off)
  • Tech barriers to entry lower than ever for individuals to make, participate in, distribute documentary, competition for attention ever more fierce as opportunities to watch multiply.
  • Funding still fragmented, largely production-focused, further decreases threatened, and nothing systematically replacing financial and editorial support decreasingly offered by TV channels.  Crowdfunding online seen as potential option for some, commercial sponsorship for others.
  • Online viewing growing in length, web now first port-of-call for many producers to show portions of their film, generate interest, secure funding, conduct outreach.
  • Perception of growing interest in more authentic (i.e. direct) content from new perspectives/voices.
  • Many in each successive generation increasingly comfortable with use of video as means of communication, and with tools of creation – different expectations around participation, form of content, cost, availability.
  • With journalism seemingly in crisis, some expect that documentary should take on more “investigative” role.
  • New types of documentary content emerging (especially focus online on short-form or serial content, animation, and closer ties with photojournalism), but traditional ones still dominant.
  • Action-oriented/advocacy documentary a growing genre, with associated online action opportunities – with foothold in theatrical distribution, and many new entrants in online space. Quality uneven.
  • NGOs, public sector more credible in documentary space as partners/endorsers of filmmakers, less as producers. NGOs beginning to commission films directly.
  • Many online documentary networks and platforms (including for development/human rights), yet few truly comprehensive places online or offline dedicated to helping people watch, learn about, discuss, get involved.
  • Academic centres for study/teaching of documentary not up-to-date with converging practice – not holistic (Depts for TV, online, radio, documentary, journalism, media studies, etc, all doing broadly similar/overlapping things).  NOTE – state of research about documentary is very fragmented.
  • Landscape in the developing world looks very different… – long-term need for any/all of these to be catalysed or strengthened, almost everywhere…

Finally, a stat from the BFI’s research: in 2009, 56 documentary films were released, accounting for 11% of releases but only £12M or 1% of the gross UK box office – and of that £12M, £9.8M came from the Michael Jackson tribute documentary, This Is It (UKFC/Rentrak data). In other words, a total 55 documentary releases earned just over £2M in 2009. It’s not a lucrative career, at less than £40k per release, on average….

Share:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Identi.ca
  • LinkedIn
  • Posterous
  • Tumblr

flattr this!

Read More

In two weeks’ time, I’ll be moderating a workshop at the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, on a topic dear to my heart:

Visual content and human rights - Visual content has changed our world – how do we manage its impact on society, governance, and privacy?

Panelists:
Sam Gregory, Program Director, WITNESS
Thor Halvorssen, Founder, Oslo Freedom Forum
Victoria Grand, Director, Global Communications and Policy, YouTube
Hans Eriksson, CEO, Bambuser

I’ll draw in part on Cameras Everywhere, but what topics and issues would you like me to raise with these panelists? Let me know either via a comment below, or tweet me.

Share:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Identi.ca
  • LinkedIn
  • Posterous
  • Tumblr

flattr this!

Read More