Monday, 22 December 2014

Track 3: Provocations and Show and Tells

Attendees at the conference will present provocations around the themes of the event to stimulate your thinking. These provocations will be short and smart, and won’t reflect received wisdom. Other attendees will present Show and Tells, telling the story of the approaches to and challenges around a media project: seven minutes to show and tell, seven minutes to answer questions.

Show and Tells

James Cridland, Head of Future Media & Technology, Audio & Music Interactive, BBC: RadioDNS – enabling richer radio

Philip Slade, Creative Director, t7F london: Talking to teenagers [slides on Slideshare]

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Tinker.it: tinkering/new engineers/physical computing/interaction design in the creative industries

Provocations

Alan Patrick, Broadsight: The Myth of FreeConomics (longer version)

Milverton Wallace: A Tale of a Mouse, and the End of TV as we Know It

Martin Huckerby, editorial consultant, author of The Net for Journalists: Doom or Hype: How about some rigour in the claims we present to the public? [see Overviews below]

Chair

Ian Jindal

OVERVIEWS

Martin Huckerby I’m here to say that the new media world does itself no favours with doom-laden statements about legacy media, and exaggerated claims for the new (as Brian Winston pointed out in the opening session). And I have to question the standards maintained by many journalists, commentators and analysts in this field – I don’t think you could write on the financial world or international relations with the same relaxed attitude towards accuracy.

Take the death of print newspapers. This is often casually referred to as a given, or a strong possibility. Most writers ignore the reality of how legacy media survive such challenges – radio was going to destroy newspapers, then TV destroy radio, etc.

Who seriously thinks most of those who’ve been reading newspapers for decades could abandon them within five years? (After all, people have already been suggesting this for a couple of years now.)

It seems we cannot predict massive change without presuming that the medium affected will necessarily vanish, when precedents suggest that adaptation is far more likely.

The claims for new media are wonderful: The End of TV? I like the title of Milverton Wallace’s Provocation. But, as with Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History (which still seems to be continuing), I’m not yet convinced.

But if views about older media tend to the apocalyptic, so views of media futures tend towards the millennial.

So much is happening that is truly important to our future, yet coverage can obscure what is vital – while sloppily puffing publicists’ claims: from the latest ‘Google killer’ to how some new youth network is necessarily going to spread to most the population.

Keith Stuart pointed up the problem yesterday in Guardian Technology’s Gamesblog, noting that just because video games were no longer regarded as the spawn of Satan, it made no better sense to eulogize new gaming trends as some minor cultural revolution.

When it comes to accuracy, I admired the frankness of a partner from PricewaterhouseCoopers, on a panel at the Info Security event two months back. Looking at the long-term future of the sector, he merrily stated: “90% of what we say will not come to pass.” (Not a very good strike there, but at least I did not have to pay their fees to hear what he had to say.)

Blogging has not helped here: the ease of access has put a premium on the swift, sharp comment, as against the well-considered thought, let alone the well-researched one; Twitter exaggerates that effect – ever shorter, ever faster.

And what about the facts and figures we consume?

How many graphs and statistical tables have you read – about future activities, or usage of on-line systems – which are simply predictions of what might happen?

The tables generally start at ‘now’ and inevitably soar upwards to 2010 or 2012, generating headlines that, by, say, five years time, millions will be using some new gadget or system. You all know that in such a fast-changing field, these estimates are little better than guesses. Yet the results are commonly published as facts.

Equally worrying are the surveys. Researching my book on the Internet, I’d look for more details from interesting surveys, only to find there were no details. And when I chased the organizations or companies that put out the press releases, they’d refuse to give any more information – citing ‘commercial’ reasons.

Firms toss out a nugget of fascinating info, knowing it will attract instant comment, and that few will probe the original source.

We are simply expected to swallow their initial, scanty figures. Yet we’d not trust a political poll, unless it was from a legit organization, with survey data readily available, telling us the precise questions asked, and the full, detailed results.

So my request to those writing or commenting on media futures is, please:

  • a little more scepticism in judgments,
  • a few real statistics rather than just guesses, and
  • some restraint in the claims that the new millennium is arriving next week

Reports and Commentary

See Golddigga in Sofia’s Diary – case study by Futurescape by Colin Donald for report on Philip Slade’s show and tell

See Intelligent TV and rich radio by Colin Donald for report on Milverton Wallace’s provocation and James Cridland’s show and tell

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