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Live Blogging: Beyond Broadcast

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Chris Vallance | 15:54 UK time, Saturday, 24 February 2007

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It's a clear crisp and very cold day here in Boston, snow is still piled up at the sides of the road and the sidewalks are treacherous. I'm at MIT for the Beyond Broadcast Conference, typing in the auditorium of the Strata Centre a modern building that looks rather like a shopping mall that somebody dropped. I'm live blogging the conference which means typing at break-neck speed - spelling, accuracy and lucidity of argument will all suffer: errors will abound.

The theme for the conference is how participatory media (blogs, YouTube etc) are changing the mainstream and altering our democracy. This blog is a bit behind the times, thanks to the failure of the wifi system to work (initially). Don't know why but techy-conferences always struggle with -er tech.

Henry Jenkins the Director of Comparative Media Studies at MIT set out a vision of the way that participatory culture was changing democracy, but also the challenges that presented for politicians and the media. One of Henry's argument was that in the new environment the distinction between serious politics and "fan" content, or content based around entertainment is no longer relevant. The tools and communities that are, lets say remixing movie trailers on YouTube, is also the pool from which content challenging politicians and engaging with the poitical process comes from. His closing example the hilarious "comedy" skits of Ask a Ninja used in one video to lobby for net neutrality as part of the Save The Net Campaign. Large media organisations, Howard argued, can pose a threat to this community by to aggressively trying to enforce copyright.

It was a great talk and lots of questions arise.. Heather Hopkins analysis of the Downing Street petition site suggests that it's not just the Revver generation who are using these tools. Silver Surfing Daily Mail probably aren't a large part of the community Henry spoke about, but I may be wrong. Political participation on the net, is moving beyond it's historic community, the young and tech savvy. Again if you look at the demographics for the readership of political blogs, that's an older community. I wonder what tools this community use, and where they will come from.

UPDATE: There's a lead by Jesse Walker of Reason Magazine now taking place. Interestingly Jesse put the issue of why people should submit content to "walled garden" sites for User Generated Content to Elisabeth Osder of Yahoo and Kenny Miller of MTV. As he said the World is Open and Flat so why seek to enclose it? The response from Yahoo was focused on pointing to the best content. Possibly not a complete answer. It's an interesting question. Doctorvee for example has some very strong views about it. My feeling is that it's the community that's the draw whether it's MySpace or Yahoo. UGC sites that don't enable users to share their content and interact without central co-ordination are missing an important trick.

UPDATE: We're now talking about participatory Democracy. Drew Clark of the Centre for Public Integrity gave the introduction.Their well connected site enables you to map local media by ZIP (us postal code) and includes maps of broadband supply.
Jennifer Harris of the Centre for Digital Democracy is concerned about the commercialisation of the participatory media. Big media companies will be going after local sites and content soon so, in Jennifer's view, community based organisations need to pre-empt this. Not sure why advertising revenue is necessarily an anethema. Podcaster networks have started going after ad-revenue collectively..does that make them less credible, less participatory? Answers on a postcard.

UPDATE: Chuck DeFeo who was e-Campaign manager for Bush Cheney is speaking. He thinks that we are re-learning old lessons of voter participation through the new technology. He argues that broadcast media saw the audience as a group to be talked at NOT talked with. Now, he argues, candidates want to use many-to-many models back into the process. Interestingly the parallels he draws are with talk radio and the phone-in format.

UPDATE: The breakout sessions are feeding back. From the session on how public service radio can use open source technology there was widespread support for Pubforge.org which looks very similar to our own BBCBackstage concept...surely the two should be in touch if they aren't already

UPDATE: They're are talking about public access television and whether it has a future given that so much public access type TV is already available on YouTube. There's some resentment that PATV programmes are regulated in the same way regular cable TV is, yet online video isn't. The group looking at "Beyond YouTube" are reporting back. Predictions of a long tail of independent content creators...but no big media head to the TV beast. Talk about the resources helping people to become video citizen reporters.

UPDATE: Dave Weinberger is talking. The MSM (mainstream media) and UGC (user generated content) is theme. The MSM is "thrashing"..they wan't more of "your stuff" on their sites, but they don't know how properly yet. (IMHO because they haven't answered "why" yet). Dave is arguing for a transformative role for the new democratic media. He says that when we create content we have a special connection to it. (I'm subbing out a long Aristotelianish breakdown about what "ours" means - you can tell he used to teach philosophy - good stuff) He's arguing that the common experience of building content is uniting people from across the world. He thinks we are building a new "us" that will eventually change politics.

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