Digital Berkshire, July 2012: Dr James Morris


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For his Digital Berkshire presentation, Dr Morris discussed how this project illustrates a trend to much more interactive media and education. I, Cinna (The Poet) is a classic example of "transmedia", bringing together theatre, filmmaking, TV production, website design, social media and user-generated content into one cultural artefact. The trend is increasingly in this direction, and this huge project is only a first step towards media which routinely crosses boundaries, providing greater engagement both in education and in the wider landscape of digital culture. Dr Morris looks at where this trend is heading.

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  • TV drama has traditionally been dominated by linear narratives like this, which can still grab huge audiences.
  • Although made-up reality narratives like this, which feign user participation but offer no real surprises, are winning the ratings by offering greater interaction and viewer engagement.
  • But kids are now growing up submerged in a mobile culture of interactive communications.
  • They’re digital natives, at ease with the idea of being virtually in touch with a huge network that stretches far beyond the physical one – “Alone Together”, as Sherry Turkle has called it.
  • But words are powerful, and their consequences far from virtual, as last summer’s riots illustrated horrifically.
  • The Web, on the other hand, has a reputation for providing random blockbuster viral hits like this
  • And lots of these. Public taste feels far less under authorial control than it was a few decades ago, and for many centuries before that.
  • Although increasingly the randomness is being harnessed by big media culture, such as Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga
  • In this context, Ravensbourne was approached by the RSC to create an innovative, Web-based educational production
  • How do you present Shakespeare in a media landscape where the younger generation are potentially more interested in looking at pictures like this?John Wilkes Booth (left), Edwin Booth and Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in 1864.
  • We really wanted to push the boundaries of what was possible, although there were many hurdles to leap along the way
  • We had originally wanted to something groundbreakingly data-driven, inspired by the Guardian’s work with Twitter memes. In the end, we had to make do with something more traditional due to the many constraints of working with schoolchildren and the necessities of fitting into school ICT requirements, but still containing Web 2.0 interactive elements
  • The film was shot a couple of weeks ago in a disused chapel in Peckham
  • Students used a Red camera, so were shooting in 4K cinema resolution. Total overkill for the Web, but giving us the maximum flexibility for what we do with the end product.
  • Students of Web Media created the host website that held the event together, provided teaching materials so teachers could get their students ready for the event, and also provides a legacy of what happened.
  • The studio portion was run by yet another group of Ravensbourne students.
  • This is the details of the end result
  • You can still watch the film and submit poems at the legacy website. Watch first few minutes, then 34 minutes onwards.
  • This is a huge project, but actually just the beginning of experiments we have planned. The user participation is still very limited. One future plan is to involve students in the project at a much earlier stage, so their contributions form part of the final piece.
  • Around the world, musicians and filmmakers are pushing the boundaries of what is possible when video and the Web collide. These are just some of the most advanced and innovative examples.
  • Here’s a very basic example on Soundcloud, which doesn’t use HTML 5 but (currently) its own technology to achieve similar results. Here, you see listener comments can be linked directly to specific timeslots on the music waveform.
  • Which brings me to my final point, which is more like an open question. How does a developed linear narrative coexist in this age of user participation? Will deep stories in the Shakespearean tradition be overwhelmed by vacuous, viral snippets?
  • So we’re essentially trying to create a hybrid of old and new, a bit like this. I don’t think I’ll show this slide to the RSC, though. I’m not sure they’d like it… which is a whole new discussion!
  • Digital Berkshire, July 2012: Dr James Morris

    1. 1. I, Cinna Online Dr James MorrisSubject Leader, BA (Hons) Web Media Ravensbourne
    2. 2. RSC I, Cinna Project: The Context• Surprisingly few films of Shakespeare made by the RSC itself• Constant need to find contemporary relevance for The Bard• Educational imperative• Desire to “skip a generation” and create something cutting edge• Aim to work with educational institution as part of the process – Young people know best what young people want
    3. 3. RSC I, Cinna Project: The Proposal• Use Web 2.0 technology and philosophies• 50-minute one-man play written by Tim Crouch – Author of The Author and my arm – Growing series of I, xxx plays inspired by Shakespearean cameo characters – Julius Caesar as seen from a minor character• Audience interaction during stage version to be replicated by viewer participation during Web stream – Students write poems and submit them
    4. 4. Three-part project• Film of I, Cinna (The Poet) play• Website to host promotional materials and as focus for event• Live studio event
    5. 5. I, Cinna online• Film live-streamed to 9,000 schoolchildren on July 2nd, 10:30am• Students aged 11+, English or Citizenship classes• Live Q&A followed film, chaired by Konnie Huq, with Tim Crouch, Jude Owusu and Mallory Blackman• Opportunities for students to contribute poems and Q&A• Over 500 poems submitted in first 10 days after event• Partnership between: – Cisco, Ravensbourne, and The Royal Shakespeare Company, LOCOG (part of the Cultural Olympiad)
    6. 6.
    7. 7. I, Cinna is just the beginning…
    8. 8. Technological enablement• Web 2.0 context provides culture of user participation in media – Blogs, social media, instant messaging, user-generated content• HTML 5 allows much tighter integration between media and page – shows some advanced examples – Popcorn Maker: – Popcorn Macbeth• Future projects will use HTML 5 implementation to link user participation directly with video content
    9. 9. Technological inspirations• Groundbreaking music videos – OK Go’s All Is Not Lost – Arcade Fire’s The Wilderness Downtown – Rome’s “3 Dreams of Black”• New interactive documentaries – National Film Board of Canada’s One Millionth Tower – Bay Area Video Coalition’s History In These Streets• Tech showcases: –
    10. 10. Bite-size narratives• Dickens – Pickwick Papers serialised in 1836• Comics – Graphic novels such as Watchmen• Gamification – Writer supplies a backstory; gamer provides the linear narrative by interaction
    11. 11. Transmedia Challenges• Create a strong, engaging story• Create a story users want to participate in• Create a story that can mutate with user interaction – Whilst also maintaining a strong narrative drive
    12. 12. thank you any questions? @cyberwest