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On access to uncensored, openly authored information

Fig.1 Open Education and learning online – is it the flight path to intellectual emancipation?

We’re considering the nature of ‘openness’ in education as part of this new Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) module. This is increasingly about ease of access to information, all of it, uncensored.

Often for ease of access and to gain a qualification with a marketable value, information that is packaged in books, journals and lectures, though increasingly in ‘sexier’ interactive and multimedia forms with the related ‘scaffolding’ that comes with learning design and planning. The natural tendency is to consider the hectic last decade of the Internet at the expense of the history of openness in access to information and an education over the last century.

A hundred years ago all but the most privileged were in the dark: leaving school after an elementary education, with reliance on biased newspapers, magazines and part works.

Libraries, BBC radio and affordable paperbacks, secondary then tertiary education, cinema and TV have each had a role to play, as has the Open University.

Does enlightenment come with access?

What does it say of power of information and ideas where access is controlled, as in China? Does connectedness within openness lead to even greater coalescing of likeminds in cliques, reinforcing stereotypical biases rather than exposing them to valid alternative views? Nothing is straightforward when it comes to people – heterogeneous by design, homogenous by inclination.

Where does corporate video production fit in our digital world?


Fig.1. Where does corporate video fit in a digital world?

I’ve had ample time to reflect on this. If you’d like me to talk it through just. I’ve used this to present a couple of times now. There are plenty of opportunities out there – just listen, integrate and look for ways to get your audience to sit forward and take part, rather than sit back and nod off.


Celebrating 25 years in video production


How I presented myself to clients in France when I was working for French news agencies, animation houses, broadcasters and corporate producers. Once again actively seeking to blend video production with communications and learning.

Accessibility, impairment and e-learning

Given the start of the Paralympic Games last night it is hardly surprising that disability is a topic or theme on TV, the radio and in the press. Even the Simpsons’ satire yesterday evening – the one where the school is split into girls and boys and Liza dresses up as a boy and becomes the object of bullies – had a powerful message regarding equality. It should be about seeing the strength while not ignoring the ‘weakness’, but accommodating or compensating for it, that it is the lack of x, y or z that makes the disability more of an issue that it needs to be.

Is it just about money?

It took a Paralympian wheelchair basketball player to point out how countries that hadn’t the provision of the richer economies had older, clunkier, heavier wheelchairs.

I watched a piece of theatre for deaf people by deaf people. It reminded me of comia del arte – highly physical and rumbustious. I hadn’t the slightest clue what was going on, certainly no idea what was being said. Had I someone twlking it through how different would the experience have been.

How do the movies portray disability? From Richard III and Frankenstein, to Finding Nemo, Slum Dog Millionaire and Avatar. Even Dr Who where Darleks, and certainly Davros, are disabled beings in wheelchairs with a wheelie bin, plunger and egg- whisk for limbs.

It takes being ill, of confined to a bed or wheelchair to get some sense if it, or having a close relation, infant or elderly in a state, or phase of amelioration or deterioration to feel it personally. I broke a leg badly enough and far enough away from home to require amabulances and special flights, hospitalisation then a wheelchair. For some months in order to get into the garden I pulled myself about quite happily on a large wooden tea-tray. We knew it was temporary, indeed within six months I was riding a bike and walking with a stick and six months after that competing in the swimming pool and on the rugby pitch – wherein lies a stark difference, the disabled person is very likely to be set inspite or despite of treatment and how the disability came about, indeed their situation is likely to be more complex with medications, care, a deteriorating prognosis even.

There is mental illness and disability in the family too – depression, learning difficulties, aspergers and autism. I’d even dare to say that being exceptionally bright or that ridiculously isolating term ‘gifted’ in the case of my late father isolated him.

If we wish for inclusivity when will the Olympics and Paralympics play out simultaneously?

Perhaps at a club level I should suggest that once a year we do this – having an inclusive event in contrast to the other exclusive events we run or take part in.

As I reflect I need of course to bring it back to H810.

The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) runs a workshop for coaches who work with disabled athletes – there is an online module too which I will sign up for. Annually we apply for a national award called Swim21 which includes an audit in relation to disabled swimmers – we ticked every box without question with qualified personal, watertime set aside, entry into internal and external galas and working with our local leisure providers but is this enough? If the bar isn’t that high no wonder it is easy to get over.

10 mind-maps of the precepts required to deliver creative problem solving successfully





From OU MBA B822 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'


From OU MBA B822 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'


From OU MBA B822 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'


From OU MBA B822 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'


From OU MBA B822 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'


From OU MBA B822 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'


From OU MBA B822 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'

The ubiquitous presence of intelligent video

I attended an IVCA Freelancer event last night at DRP in Covent Garden.

I was spotted by someone I last worked with in 1994. I first joined what was then the ITVA in 1982 as a teenage undergraduate. I attended meetings when the organisation become the IVCA a few years later.

It is shocking how quickly these three decades have sped past; though no surprise that I don’t have a BAFTA or OSCAR. I have at least filled them with 165+ video productions as producer and/or director and/or writer. I have moved in and out of London, married, two children, the dog and guinea-pigs (yawn, yawn).

My first corporate video was shot on a Sony Reel in black and white on kit by the training department of a PLC … where we lived.

(Don’t ask, it was Westmoreland and a very long time ago, not even the county exists).

An early client was Abbey National when Imagicians took on the internal video contract. Working with the former Money Programme producer we were replacing a slide carousel that until 1985 (or 1986) was the way Abbey National staff received their internal communications. This is not meant to be a memoir so let’s skip to the present day.

An insightful year as ‘the client’ at the Open University Business School (I am also a postgraduate student of both the OU’s Institute of Education and the OU’s MBA programme at the Business School) and I conclude that we are and will replace 500 years of print,  a few decades of wordpressed words and a decade of online text with video.

YouTube says so. Webinars and webcasting says so.

The guy at Microsoft who has a video camera around his neck and records EVERYTHING he does, says so. Along with cameras on cyclists’ helmets to capture idiot drivers and their moment of injury or death.

To capture impromptu interviews with visiting fellows and sometimes the equally rare presence of an academic I kept a Sony Flip and Roland Endirol digital sound recorder in my desk.

All my production training and experience and I am ‘reduced’ to finding a quiet office with some sunlight, propping up the Sony Flip, clipping on a tie-mike and using a stapler as a kind of clapper-board. I load and send the results to someone with as much experience as me (and a postgraduate degree in film) to edit in FinalCut on her MacPro laptop.

This and other interviews festoon the OUBS Testimonials webpage and via YouTube are embedded elsewhere on the OU and beyond.

Not all productions are like this. We had two cameras to cover the inaugural lecture of Cherie Booth, though there were only two of us and I was both client producer and camera operator (I had other plans for the several thousand pounds saved), not least attending an MBA Residential School where I interviewed half of the students attending (Russian,  Japanese, Italian, German, French, American, several East European countries, someone from South Africa via Austria and several from the Indian subcontinent via Scotland, Belgium and Switzerland … and Englishman living in the US).

I have have discussions with colleagues about turning Wikipedia into WikiTVia.

Look at how the FT becomes more like the BBC everyday. We want wall to wall video. It’s not that we can’t read, but we don’t always want to. The answer is video and text. Indeed, many educational and webcasting platforms do this and your eye happily flits between the spoken word in vision and the text from a transcript. It makes sharing into blogs easier. It makes sharing and commenting in other social networks a doddle too. Does this make the consumption of ‘stuff’ too easy? Or are we recreating the hub of the market place, the discourse of the Greek Forum, the Socratic conversation shared for all to listen in, share and comment on?

Where does this leave the ‘Corporate Video producer’?

The same question can be asked of the publisher and music companies. We have entered the world of D.I.A.Y ‘Do it all yourself’.

I didn’t chirp up because I needed a flip chart. I would have drawn a grid with an X & Y axis. I would have expressed everything from low budget, low production values to the big crew, big cost drama-reconstruction in 3D with steadicam shot from a helicopter at locations all over the globe. I would have also put a tick in all boxes.

Everything goes and everything is wanted.

How it is then shared, how distributed, how brought to the attention of an audience is another matter. The best place to lose content is to put it online, like adding another needle to a stack of needles content, like dripping digital ink into a digital ocean is made obscure by YouTube. Content needs a preamble and a long tail: it needs to be promoted, tagged, optimised and analysed. Video needs to be intelligent.

Understandably, amongst freelancers and producers the ‘One Man Band’ is to be feared and dreaded.

For a period in my career I would produce, but not write or direct. Sometimes I only wrote, sometimes I wrote and directed. I might sit in on an edit, or do the ‘offline’ but I didn’t take the edit to a broadcast conclusion as is now expected. I can do sound, and have been a broadcast sound engineer for a period and stepped in to operate a broadcast camera for mainstream output too. Where though the benefit of a collaborative effort? There are a variety of skills needed ‘on set’, not least an extra pairs of hands. A freelancer baulked at the idea of getting stills when out on a shoot for a corporate client, as if it were a request too far despite their having in their hands a camera no doubt initially designed for stills photography that now has a video card in it. These images, better taken separately, with skill, than from freezes of the video content, serve a vital purpose in various online outlets and to ‘mash-up’ content that may be used in a multitude of forms.

I can shoot and edit video on an iPad.

I’d hate to try on an iPhone but dare so I could.

I was in the Tate Gallery yesterday morning when the fire alarms went off. I left the building with the Picaso Audio Guide around my neck. I took a photograph or two. It could have been video. Had the gallery gone up in flames and the Picaso’s with it the video content, though less valuable than the Picaso’s in the building, might be worth a fortune.

Some months ago a student of the School of Communication Arts recorded an informal meeting that included Sir John Hegarty talking about ‘The Future of Advertising’.

The production values are minimal, but the participants can be seen and heard. I appreciate this is anathema to all TV production standards, but no one gives a monkey as what is said is far more important than how it is said, better to have the recording to share than nothing at all. And had I been there with two cameras (or more) and a crew would it have been less authentic?

This is what can be lost with the pelaver of video production, the authenticity of the moment.

‘More extraordinary, authentic stories easily shared’

This might be my legacy at the OU; it is the idea I developed and began to share. Such authenticity may be shot with a crew, broadcast journalist on steadicam … or it might be someone with a Smartphone.

The analytics don’t favour high production values over low. What matters is what is said, not how it is said. 

On YouTube go and find the OU Graduates who take themselves to a video booth to record their impromptu reflections on finally gaining their degree. Some of them are magic moments all the more genuine because they are people in a box talking to a mirror, self-conscious often in a British way and unaware even if they sign a release form that they had an audience of tens of thousands hanging on their every word.

My ideal crew? A minimum of three, possibly a fourth as a trainee. We’d take between us the roles of camera, sound, producer, director, reporter/interviewer. We might ALL ‘operate’ a camera in order to capture variety, view points and angles. Someone would write a script, another look after the interviewee and client. It would be lit, as likely by the sun as a set of lights. We’d gather clean sound, the mike and stand, even a radio and tie-mikes now a similar size to the cameras.  We’d be experienced, open, curious, familiar with some of the platforms where the content will be shown and understand how it might be used ‘mashed-up’ into elearning or a blog, grabbed as a still image and printed out, transcribed and edited as a podcast. And we may even stream the interview live as it is gathered, putting into onto a dashboard or platform where messaging or a Twitter feed offers comment, even questions we can put to our interviewee.

Is video coming to life as it becomes part of life?

What gives the content ‘intelligence’?

All of us. The audience have become part of the production team.

Why isn’t this video?

I write as much by talking into an iPad; I had might as well record myself in vision. (Or not. It is very early in the morning. My mind might feel like surfing, but my body is still under a duvet and my face buried in a pillow)

27 Reasons to blog

I’ve forgotten a few, not least the ones that got me started here:

  • As an ice-breaker (introducing ourselves by way of holiday snaps and pets … not to be recommened for setting the appropropriate tone).
  • Reflection (and learning how to do this correctly).
  • Stream of consciousness
  • A Writer’s Journal
  • As an e-portfolio

So I’ve missed out some important ones šŸ˜¦

Visiting Channel Flip I was treated to a screening of Lee Hardcastle’s new stop animation horror short. Is this blogging, or having your own TV channel?

Collaboration in all things

Engestrom came up with Activity Theory to explain collaboration

Experiences here, lessons learnt and studied, has me now appealing to friends and colleagues to collaborate on all kinds of things.

What strikes me, having spent a few years buried in my writing and alone with the task, is how I have always worked best in a team, if only in a team of two. I do well as number two, I like to have someone working to, for or with me, I like constructing larger teams.

The intention thereforeĀ is to throw several balls into the air, but rather thanĀ juggling alone there will be a troupe. These will be formed into formal teams (businesses, projects) and less formal ones (writing, thinking teams and partnerships).

The outcomes?

  • Results
  • Credits
  • Reputation
  • Income
  • Contentment
  • Pride

Whilst supported online I know too that for the sake of cohesion and commitment there will need to beĀ face-to-face meetings and shared offices. As soon as I can get an office in town, I will do so. I am looking for a space at the University Innovation Centre and for the first time in a decade will get an address in the West End, back to Newburgh Street or Newman Street, or in Covent Garden.

Ask me in 12 months time how 2011 has been.

Either way I’ll keep you posted here.

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