Media Futures Conference, Ally Pally

I’m at the Media Futures conference at Alexandra Palace, London.
Am typing within the smallest text box in WordPress on my Eee PC, so please excuse any typos – will edit later 🙂

Matt Cashmore and Nico McDonald gave us a very warm welcome.

Dr Brian Winston introduced himself as the ‘grumpy old man of the day’.

He spoke very passionately about Amara’s law – ‘We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run’. Proposed by Roy Amara. He went on to say how ‘society leads technology’ that ‘we adopt things that adopt our pre-existing behavior, such as technology to communicate and be entertained’ – therefore new technologies are not revolutionary.

He then went on to talk about the ‘lore of suppression of radical progression’ – technology that is okay if it fits in with our cultural and social neccessity. So when thinking about media futures, he set down some groundrules :

*avoid the hyperbolic, be hardnosed – don;t see a new delivery sysyem as more than what it is – with ‘withering interjection’.

* Stop talking about content and keep thinking about creativity.

* Remember the forgotten nerds – the unknown unknowers should be less forbidding!

‘ we drive into the future with our eye on the rear view mirror’ – Marshall McLuhan quote.

‘Put thy trust, comrades, not in Mr Sony’ Dr Brian Winston end quote.

It amused the audience that he championed Luddites as misunderstood, and eyebrows were raised when he dismissed mobile technology. Although obviously a very interesting debate was going on here, I haven’t heard such opinions for years, it was a good way to get passions inflamed at the start of the conference. I have to say that I didn’t agree with Dr Winston – technology rokks my world! 🙂


Research in the real world – Alex McKie, Futurologist

She feels that we like living in villages, if you’re looking to the future, look at history and what matters to people. Some consequences we are aware of, some not. You need to know what you want as a consumer – belonging, attention and trust. Humans have a need to connect and this is probably why music shops survive as small shops whereas greengrocers and butchers do not (as a vegan the second pleases me ;-)).

* We’re all time pressed, all the predictions about leisure lifestyles is now sadly untrue.

* People trust people they know and this is often Richard and Judy!

* Very similar sentiments to how me and my colleagues work when creating new activities with our specific audiences in mind.


Nick Durrant & Gill Wildman – co-founders of Plot consultancy

‘meet the people formally known as users’ – how did UX (user centered design) take off?

Nick durrant started off talking about anthropologists – the us and them dynamic – turning a mirror on culture, sub and dismissive culture – the secret lives of the mundane, everyday and overlooked. Big Brother – the bastard son of observation – listening n watching. empathy and respect have got lost in this extreme. Masters are on the other end of the camera.

They played some highlights of recordings of interviews they made with some people, they asked them how they used media, how it’s changed and also how it is personal to them. There were obvious differences of attitude between people of different ages and lifestyles. Observations included: that media is more celebrity and soap driven. One lady said the internet was like a tool as she lived in a remote area, she used it for shopping and news – interesting she didn’t bother with a television. They take their laptop to bed and watch something in bed, they basically move their laptop around the house with them for various tasks eg listening to music in the kitchen.

Observations from the audience – the interviewees sounded very white middle class and this annoyed people. Where were the minorities represented? I wasn’t really sure how they selected the people they interviewed, perhaps I missed something.

A journalist from the audience asked what Nick & Gill’s conclusions were from the 8 interviews. The speakers went a bit quiet, the questioner jumped in and said that he wondered why they played interviews when they had no conclusions! Gill said that she hadn’t had the time to analyse them – with the reasoning that most researchers are time poor. This was a little disappointing as it felt like they were building up to some great revelation. As someone who does lots of user testing and audience research I was somewhat surprised that they hadn’t thought that this might be a question and what their feelings were – as I was having thoughts as I was listening to the interviews. Maybe they were trying to make a point that we should be contributing instead of them, but it got a bit lost.

Debate on Citizen Journalism with Claire Fox – director of institute of ideas – chairing panel

* Andrew Keene – author ‘How today’s internet is killing our culture’ – renowned for stirring things up
* Charlie Beckett – POLIS thinktank
* Andrew Calcut – University of East London

These guys had a debate about the state of journalism in the new media era and attitude to citizen journalism.

Andrew Keene learns a lot from newspapers and trusts what he reads. He doesn’t think that the public necessarily make good journalists. He thinks the public should leave journalism to the professionals.

Beckett stood up for citizen journalists in the light that some journalists are very anti ordinary people contributing and how they should not feel threatened – you should trust your public and not turn down free content.

Andrew thinks media today due to the reputability of digitalization gives human history making democratic objectivity – people making the history they want to make under circumstances not of their choosing. Journalist as DJ – mixing down of content. He objects to the fetishizization of objectivity – that of facts and people. We need to overcome the conditioning elements of media.

Claire asked if the attitudes of journalists towards the public was very patronising. Also how do we measure what is quality in the way that the popularity of an article is sometimes measured by how many comments there were when the comments could be all rubbish. Claire feels it’s phenomenal how the public are stalked, but she feels ‘giving them a voice’ is patronising and some aspects of the media have lost touch with real people and should stop stalking them.

I have some gaps in my notes here, but this was quite a revealing panel debate and I’m definitely on the side of the worth of citizen journalists and as there are all sorts of citizen journalists and different levels of quality I don’t see how anyone can be so black and white about this. I’m having a bit of a giggle to myself about whether I am worthy – apologies for any rubbish bits in my reportage 😉

Oh yes, can I just point you to this a rather cool & successful example of citizen journalism online.

Panel session – skills you need to innovate – chaired by Andy Hobsbawm –

Matt Biddulph – Dopplr
Ian Worley – Flow Interactive
David Lipkin – Method Inc

Ian talked about research being about making insights. ‘Making is Thinking’ a quote from a book he is reading, atm. He feels the process of validating your research is a continual one. Research is about understanding context, about understanding perspectives and not necessarily from your point of view and be willing to change how you think about things. The subtleties of interaction.

Process of making and breaking things and continuous engagement, strategy, concept.

How do you find out how you fit into the creative landscape? Feedback loops allow you to create better work.

David Lipkin talked about the greatest challenge is working out the question that you’re trying to solve, focus on the long strands.

His top tips are:
* Keep things simple – do a couple of things really well rather than lots of things – crystallize things
* In terms of looking for innovations, often you find them in the obvious places
* Research – investigate, understand and validate
* Ideation – try to create new ideas – take everything, even seemingly bad and stoopid ideas and talk about them
* Developing design prototypes – different ways of working – proof of concept, wireframes, sketches, drawings and more

The best sites are the ones that have razor sharp focus on what is important and good and don’t get lost in technology.

Matt Biddulph started by telling how he spent 4 years at the BBC and used to be interested in methodologies, how teams worked, processes, etc. He decided to chose to work for himself and go it alone. He feels that if you have a good team it’s really hard to make them do bad work. There are 8 people at Dopplr and this makes it easy to get face-to-face creativity and focus on one product, they don’t have to respond to a strategy, but only have to answer to investors. The agile methodology works very well for them. Developers are ‘information wranglers’ and they test things for you and can point to new product possibilities. Matt told us that everyone at Dopplr is quite arrogant and argumentative and they have a flat structure at Dopplr, so they have a very social aspect to their team. They have a darwinian way of AB testing. They all have an understanding of each others skills and use this to their advantage. They have a voice – they know what they are about they can think in terms of – ‘is this something that Dopplr would do, or something Dopplr would not do?’


Had a great day, really enjoyed it – thanks for all your hard work to bring this together for us, Nico and the team:-D