3 day training course on new media

I recently conducted a 3 day course on new media for students, coming from academia as well as mainstream journalism, at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism. In 2010, I did a similar course for the SLCJ Faculty and senior administration staff to build internal capacity to engage with new media.

Though this outline gives a framework for the technologies and issues that I cover, in actual fact, after my initial presentation, the delivery and content respond to what I ascertain are actual needs and challenges faced by those in the classroom. I teach largely in Sinhala and make the class environment as interactive as possible, which is not something many are used to, since lectures in Sri Lanka are often thought of as sterile environments to take down notes and stay silent. Each student has access to a computer and SLCJ encourages them to bring their laptops if they have one.

Far more than web technologies, I teach them new media strategies to deal with censorship, online safety and security basics, minimising risk, content management and disseminating strategies using cloud services and a range of other platforms and tools, including VOIP, web based file transfer and field based multimedia production tools for mobiles. So it’s a large spectrum we cover, and because it is based on class discussion and pegged to real world challenges, including censorship and violence, three days goes by in a flash.

I also bring to bear experience from setting up and curating Groundviews and sites like Websites At Risk, which help the class understand though real world challenges I have faced how best to use new media to bear witness to whatever issues they are passionate about, ranging from sports to human rights violations.

Time magazine on the iPad: A glimpse of the future

Just before my lecture at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism (SLCJ) for newsroom managers, I came across this video on Time magazine’s app for the Apple iPad. I’ve not yet taken a look at the issue highlighted in the video below, but reading two other issues downloaded to the iPad suggest that along with other examples – Wired magazine’s avatar for the iPad in particular – the iPad as a device and platform showcases today what journalism tomorrow will look like in form and content.

As a platform, the iPad’s features and functionality has already deeply influenced media content production and delivery – even the iPhone failed to inspire this level of interest in packaging content specifically for a device. What is equally interesting is the emphasis on multimedia – photos, video, audio, text seamlessly combined with online content, social networking and interactivity, which has implications for the way stories are told and seen, as well as the manner in which consumers engage with the content.

Interactivity of course does not mean participation – the iPad remains a tightly, almost irrationally controlled environment where transgression of Apple’s strict content management, copyright and application boundaries is not an option. It is not possible therefore, even though the video suggests it, to reuse and revise, or mashup content from Time magazine, Wired and say the Guardian’s (gorgeous) Eyewitness photo application to create one’s own media. The iPad’s OS does not allow it, and strict copyright of everything that is on it, debars it. In this sense, this is not really a device or platform for true creativity or open content production and sharing.

What it has clearly inspired however are content producers who have the financial wherewithal and importantly, imagination to tailor their existing content and publications to fit the form factor and capabilities of a device that clearly will be for journalism what the iPod was to the music industry. Despite grave reservations about the platform and device about, I am excited to see great content rendered so brilliantly on the iPad. It is more immersive than, and for me, as natural as reading an issue on paper.

Of course, the experiences cannot be compared, and it’s not strictly evolution either. I will always purchase the longer lasting print version for the issues I would like to preserve. The magazine stand in New York at the end of the video will never sell iPads with the magazine (and others) preloaded. But at the rate of Apple’s innovation (take a look at how far the iPhone and iPod have come from their first generation technically, and in terms of content available on it) we can surely expect lighter, longer lasting, higher capacity iPads in the future. As it stands, the first iPad will never be a mass market device or platform. Everybody wants it, but few actually need one. It is its future and evolution, along with the evolution of the content produced for it (and eventually on it) that interests me deeply, and why I believe that ever today, it is a glimpse of what mainstream journalism will look and feel like a few years hence.