Monday, 21 September 2015

MOJO Rising

Catherine Adams reports from “News : Rewired”, the latest digital journalism conference on how Mobile Journalism and Virtual Reality are set to dominate our news. 

Security was paramount at the gleaming, corporate headquarters of MSN in Cardinal Place, central London – even going to the Ladies required a secret code. A murmuration of delegates from across the UK news industry attended presentations on live news, social storytelling, smartwatches and more. As well as staff from BBC, Reuters and the Guardian, representatives flocked to the July 16th event from digital-native operators such as Google, and Mashable

Among some notable international speakers were the founder of Smart Film School, Robb Montgomery, who exclusively teaches mobile journalism (MOJO) and Patricia O'Callaghan, a TV journalist with RTE, who showed reports shot and edited on her iPhone for broadcast, using apps such as Filmicpro, Pinnacle Studio, Storehouse, PicPlayPost and Adobe Voice.

The star turn was online news guru Emily Bell, ex-Guardian, director of Tow Centre at Columbia University, who stressed that the social media desk is now firmly fixed at the centre of news organisations. She explained how mobile alerts are breaking news, social media is the new “content management system,” (ie, where you publish stuff) while “ye olde” website is the archive. This, she warned, means publishers are potentially handing control to the 24-year-old engineer tweaking an algorithm. 

Ongoing issues such as how to verify User Generated Content and how to protect sources threaded through the conference. Publishers are learning new ways of coding content so that text and photos cannot be cut and pasted and randomly shared with others. Other speakers identified the urgent need to educate the public on what risks they’re taking using Twitter etc. Media students should be made aware that if they geotag their pics, it gives their location away to anyone.

There was a smattering of marketing. Tom Quast and Nils Kaehler of Creative Vikings demonstrated smart watches, “the most personalised tech so far,” which the New York Times are experimenting with to publish ‘one sentence stories’. Wearing one of these £500 devices as “an extension of yourself”, you are never separated from the net - as whoever you’re with will be acutely aware, whenever it ‘taps’ you on the wrist with a “micro-interaction” to let you know your team’s scored a goal.

Virtual Reality is the next “hottest thing”, according to Dan Pacheco on a videolink from Syracuse University. He claimed that transporting viewers to the scene of a story in graphic 3D would explode as a way to experience news. Although he admitted “huge potential for misperception.” Ed Miller, from came up with the extraordinary (and unsourced) statistic that VR would rise by 13 000% in the next few years. The FT has already created a VR version of stock charts which you can ‘ski’ down. In the future, your avatar could ‘meet’ and ‘chat’ with avatars of people involved in the news. Reddit could be a series of virtual rooms. Anyway, the race is on to beat the launch date of The Oculus Rift headset in January.

Should we be immersing people in the news? Will MOJO put yet more highly-skilled news professionals out of jobs? Do we want to be jacked up to social media during our most intimate moments?

In spite of the huge implications of these latest developments in digital news, there seemed to be little or no opportunity to debate or discuss such things at News : Rewired, leaving participants feeling rather limp.

You can check out the next News:Rewired events here

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Losing Mothers: Queer Allure of Julianne Moore

Cüneyt Çakırlar presented an audiovisual essay on the star-image of Julianne Moore at the symposium Performing Stardom: New Methods in Critical Star Studies, which took place at the University of Kent (29 May 2015). The symposium was hosted by NoRMMA (Network of Research: Movies, Magazines, Audiences) and focused on way to explore film studies research through nontraditional approaches. Examples included: performance, video essays, interpretative dance, creative fiction/non-fiction, poetry, music, and any kind of multimedia project. Through this symposium, the team explored the connections between scholarship and fandom, research and creativity, the benefits and disadvantages of exploring an (audio)visual art through (audio)visual means, and the development of the innovative and ever-emerging field of practice as research. 

Çakırlar's response to the event took the form of an audiovisual essay. Çakırlar's videographic analysis reflected on the queer potentialities of Julianne Moore’s on-screen star image that comes to repeatedly reveal her presence as an unconventional, if not failed, maternal embodiment. The essay focused on the ways in which Moore’s body-image has frequently become an object of (i) (queer) cinematic pastiche, (ii) an ambivalent transgressive sexuality, and most significantly, (iii) an uncanny erotic of motherhood. Çakirlar's piece is currently under review for intransition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies.    

World Cinema and the Essay Film

Cüneyt Çakırlar presented a paper (with Elif Akçalı, Kadir Has University, Istanbul, Turkey) on Werner Herzog's film-making at the international conference World Cinema and the Essay Film, at University of Reading (30 April - 2 May). The paper, titled ""A Form of Proto-Cinema": Aesthetics of Werner Herzog's Documentary Essayism", explored potentials and paradoxes of interpretation in Herzog’s recent documentary practice. Capitalizing upon the various aspects of “the aesthetic” embedded in his filmmaking (from the on-screen presentation of the subjects’ urge to create and re-invent to the fimmaker’s performative address at his “documentary” aesthetic), the project aims to discuss the ways in which Herzog turns his documentary material into a series of artful acts and “proto-cinema” gestures. What makes this transformation possible especially in the  documentaries Grizzly Man (2005), Encounters at the End of the World (2007) and Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) is the filmmaker’s persistent interventions both as director and participant observer in the pro-filmic events as well as his highly stylised additions to the narratives during post-production including his editing decisions, use of sound and voice-over narration.  The subject matters that these documentaries originally deal with multiply and turn into remote questions both voiced by the filmmaker’s on- and off-screen comments, and implied through his filmmaking aesthetics.  Rather than reinforcing a documentary truth claim, Herzog’s subjective interventions in each film create an alternate narrative prone to essay-films, which run next to these otherwise participatory documentaries. The continuous juxtaposition between Herzog’s subjectivity and the films’ photographed, quasi-objective realities including the people and the landscapes creates an ambiguity in defining certain moments from these films as they fluctuate between fiction and non-fiction, real and represented, and natural and artificial. Focusing on his engagement with film form, style, and the recurring themes of ecstasy, spirituality, scientific reason, and the indifference of nature, we would like to address wider methodological implications in Herzog’s practice. 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

My Child (2013) in Nottingham

Cuneyt Cakirlar hosted a screening event for the documentary My Child (2013). Can Candan’s feature documentary focuses on a Turkey-based activist collective initiated by the parents of LGBTI individuals in Turkey (LISTAG). LISTAG, founded in 2008, is a solidarity and support group for friends, families and especially parents of LGBT individuals, actively working against homophobia, transphobia, discrimination and hate crimes in Turkey. To gain visibility, the group participates in discussions, panels and conferences in cooperation with NGOs and universities in Turkey. Candan’s feature documentary recounts these parents’ experiences.

My Child has been travelling in international festivals and its public visibility in Turkey had become an important catalyst that facilitated debates in the Turkish parliament on LGBTI rights. Mr Candan visited the UK with 2 members of LISTAG under the sponsorship of British Embassy in Ankara. NTU hosted them in Nottingham and the film was shown at Broadway Cinema on 1 December 2014. The event was followed by a Q&A session with the director and the LISTAG members, Mr Metehan Özkan and Ms Sema Yakar. 

For the Introduction and Q&A, please see below. Special thanks to NTU students Darrell Bickley, Hafsa Mirza, Umair Naushashi and Laura Shenton for preparing the film.