Tag Archives: video

Tablets and UGC


This week Kerry McCarthy became the first-ever MP to read her speech off a tablet computer during a Commons budget debate. They seem to be slowly embedding themselves into our society, but what of tablets’ contribution to UGC? Of course, their portabilty enhances the opportunity to interact with news while on the go, and at the source of the action.

But it’s not all smooth sailing.

Integrated UGC

I have an HTC Android Desire phone, which has a camera/video camera and voice recorder. The Android Sky News app I’ve downloaded has a direct UGC facility. Should I happen to capture something juicy, I can touch the app’s ‘Your Report’ tab, which enables me to send the material straight to Sky News, with the option of adding a comment. Fast. Free. UGC.

The Missing Element and its Knock-On Effects

But the much-vaunted Sky News iPad app – launched on March 17th 2011 – lacks this capability, principally because the first iPad lacks that integral part of our online experience: a camera. The iPad apps for CNN and BBC are therefore similarly constrained. New though they are, all have yet to be updated to fit the more sophisticated iPad 2 which, thank goodness, has front and rear-facing cameras. Yet other tablets have had cameras from the beginning, like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. This means their users can take advantage of the Sky News for Android app’s ‘Your Report’ feature, as well the CNN ‘iReport’ function which is very similar.

The Reasoning

The first iPad then was focused around the consumption of media, rather than the creation of media, and the limiting effects are still evident in its apps. So, why did Apple take this seemingly regressive step in the first place? Well, when announcing the coming of the iPad, Steve Jobs was very clear that it wasn’t supposed to be just a beefed-up version of the iPhone. (Because actually it’s more a beefed-up version of the iPod Touch). Nothing wrong with vehicles of traditional, mainstream media of course. But for £399 I can’t help feeling those early iPad pioneers were short-changed.

Since the iPad still holds 73% of the tablet market (according to an International Data Corporation report in the last quarter of 2010), its lack of camera represented a significant dint in the progress of UGC. Now that this big drawback has been addressed, let’s hope the apps catch up!

CARON BELL

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GOOGLE GOES GAGA!


Google has a history of user-generated interviews – Authors@Google has been running for a while, where watchers can submit questions and be answered. But this took on a whole new level with one Stephanie Joanne Angelina Germanotta: the unstoppable force that is Lady Gaga.

Legions of her fans posted video-questions on her YouTube page and then got to see her responses. And the whole thing was streamed and uploaded onto YouTube itself!

It’s a nice take on the interviewing technique, especially for someone who’s as fan-conscious and social network-savvy as Gaga. This way, her devotees can put their own faces to their names and convey a little more about their situation in life and how they feel about her.

One of the questioners talked about Lady G’s support for gay rights, adding that he lived in the relatively LGBT-unfriendly Houston, TX. Others shared their experiences at concerts or asked about particular aspects of Gaga’s performance or aesthetic that related to them.

But the real strength was in the commitment and passion of the fans. They asked questions that a journalist might never think of asking, no matter how well briefed they might be.

The ‘Little Monsters’ who submitted their questions are unswervingly, wholeheartedly loyal to the Gaga – and as a result, their questions are heartfelt and incredibly well informed. These are people who follow everything that Gaga says or does in the media and absorb it – as the user above shows, they remember comments in interviews from years ago. That sort of commitment just wouldn’t happen in a showbiz journalist, no matter how dedicated.

So is this the future? It certainly works – reviews for Google Goes Gaga have been positive and the Mother Monster came across as sympathetic, funny and committed to her music and to her followers. Maybe it’s time the bands started bypassing conventional interviews and throwing themselves on the mercy of their fans?

SAM BRADLEY

Is UGC too small-scale?


The rash of dramatic events across the world, from the Christchurch earthquake to the Arab Spring to Japan’s current problems, have led to widespread debate about the role of the civilian journalist and many of the iconic images from the struggles have come from mobile phones or handheld cameras.

But after reading Emily’s post, I came across this blog on MediaPost, and it got me thinking. The author’s argument is that civilian journalism and crowdsourcing doesn’t work when it comes to vast natural events like the Japanese earthquake and tidal wave – the sheer size of the event means that the necessarily small-scale images captured by members of the public can’t convey the full impact. Instead, he argues that this is where conventional news, with all the resources of multiple cameras, aerial filming and rapid deployment, come into their own. Conventional news gives a sense of perspective that UGC just can’t provide.

But is he right? This prompted a heated debate on the issue from commenters – some of them with some very interesting perspectives. One actually said that the advantage of professional news is its neatness and the sheer convenience of its packaging – instead of ‘trawl[ing] through heaps of UGC’ you can get all of the facts, and the most pertinent images, in one place – simple and quick. Others argued that the inherent strength of UGC is its ability to get the unexpected shot by being on the spot by sheer fluke at the right moment.

There are elements of truth to both of these arguments, but I fundamentally disagree with the original thesis. I think that some of the images coming out of Japan captured by normal people as the battle their way through a horrible event are utterly mind-blowing – see the footage below, taken by a man as his car was overtaken by the tidal wave. The essence of UGC is not the ‘being on the spot’ – it’s the fact that it reminds the viewer that these terrible things are happening to real people. This is a crisis experienced on a deeply personal level, a level which its difficult to appreciate as you watch helicopter shots of tiny houses, tiny cars, tiny people on rooftops. That makes you feel further from the real horror of the situation, turns you into something along the lines of a cinema-goer – with the news teams focusing on ‘spectacle’, its easier to overlook the human cost.

And then the other day I found this post, also on MediaPost, which explains in very simple and affecting terms just how UGC can be more than ‘entertainment’. It can actually help people – help them find family and friends, help them understand what has happened in a more immediate sense. Is it safe on my street? Which areas are affected?

Obviously, there’s a place for perspective. Explosions at the Fukishima nuclear power plant need to be captured on a grand scale. But UGC isn’t professional and it isn’t concerned with looking good. It’s the reactions of real people to shocking circumstances and that’s what makes it so powerful.

SAM BRADLEY

User-generated news: pitfalls and possibilities


User-generated content is becoming more and more central to news-telling. But over at MaYoMo.com they’re building a community of mobilised, networked users that they hope will create its own global news agenda. Your2pence spoke to Christina Bozhidarova, a community manager at the site to see what their endeavour teaches us about UGC.


 

The site was founded in 2009 by two enterprising Bulgarians, Hristo Alexiev and Ilian Milinov. MaYoMo and stands for Map Your Moments, and fittingly, one of the site’s main features is a giant map of the world with pegs linking to the latest news-related video content.




UGc vs. Citizen Journalism

Bozhidarova says the site was envisaged as an online platform where ‘ordinary people without professional journalism skills would be able to share mobile video and photo content’. This tallies with how Matthew Eltringham from the BBC Hub defines UGC – something made ‘accidentally’ by ‘dentists, doctors and shopkeepers’.

But Bozhidarova says the site’s main contributors are ‘civic activists, freelance journalists, bloggers, journalism students, photojournalists, filmmakers & NGO’s from all over the world’. So, they aren’t all ordinary people – many are aspiring or even practising journalists. And the videos are listed under the tab ‘Citizen Journalism’ implying something more conscious, conscientious or even constructed.

If we follow Eltringham’s definition, MaYoMo’s videos are not UGC, but citizen journalism. Bozhidarova, though, doesn’t see the two as mutually exclusive: ‘citizen journalism is a form of UGC… made by non-professionals’ she says. But of course, many of MaYoMo’s contributors are professionals, or on their way to being so.

It’s easy to get into a pickle over this. Drawing a distinction between an ordinary user and a citizen journalist becomes impossible at MaYoMo because the site plays host to both. But it’s interesting that MaYoMo originally wanted to be a place for an ordinary users, but, by its own admission, became a place for aspiring and professional journalists. As a specialist community rather than a mainstream media outlet, MaYoMo can hardly expect to attract many people who don’t already have an active interest in video journalism.

Anti-establishment

The non-mainstream nature of UGC means MaYoMo has attracted a specific type of content. Bozhidarova cites ‘the political protests and demonstrations in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon’ as particularly popular videos. Marches and demos make up a large percentage of the content, perhaps because MaYoMo market themselves as champions of ‘freedom of speech and expression’.

Watch the video of protests in Albania

The prevalence of this sort of material is in many ways a result of access; protests can be filmed  easily and often have serious, violent consequences but they rarely make headline news in countries other than their own. MaYoMo, as an international platform, fills this gap.

We also see MaYoMo’s place among the demonstrators in its coverage of the 2009 UN Climate Change talks in Copenhagen. The summit attracted a large number of activists and protesters and MaYoMo created a ‘virtual rally‘ online inviting users to ‘voice their opinion’ on the talks.


Bozhidarove insists that ‘everyone was free to express their views, thoughts and beliefs without the means of news propaganda’, making the channel a vehicle for climate-skeptics as much as eco-activists. I found only 2 climate-skeptic videos (here and here) out of about 500. Clearly the activists had the upper hand with so many people on the ground, but this again shows how UGC here leans towards a people-driven, anti-establishment mode.


do we care about quality anymore?

Hardly any of the footage on MaYoMo is of broadcast quality, Most of it is mobile phone or handheld camera quality. The films are shaky, grainy, and often unedited. But footage from MaYoMo has made its way onto The Observers, a UGC-led site and TV programme on France 24,  The Huffington Post, Now Public and into the hands of the BBC. Clearly for these news organisations, shoddy camerawork is not a problem if there’s no high-quality footage available and a film shows events from a privileged, front-line position.

But Bozhidarova goes a step further. She says MaYoMo encourages their contributors to send raw, unedited material. ‘Raw, original video is very valuable nowadays’ she says, ‘it gives the impression to the viewers as if they have witnessed the event themselves’. Peter Berghammer said back in 2007 that ‘the audience for low resolution, small format video is exploding’ despite the growth of High-Definition, and he held user-generated content to blame.

The low resolution, small-scale video of YouTube provides an intimacy, immediacy and inspiration… that exists because of its low resolution.
Peter Berghammer

Berghammer said that low quality UGC provides ‘intimacy’ and ‘immediacy’. It creates a sense of being right in the heart of the action but only shows a limited perspective – a far cry from the Sky News helicopters. UGC is cheap, fast, fresh and focused. It will never replace the mainstream, but with help from sites like MaYoMo, it’s finding it can offer something different and more and more essential.

HARRIET BIRD