Sunday, December 25, 2005

Digtial Storytelling and Narrative

Two interesting leads to follow here. One is Dana Atchley (, the other is Stephen Denning. One was a performer, one is a theorist.

Atchley believed that "brand" is conveyed in stories. he made a good living going around to corporate meetings and retreats, stimulating creative behavior and innovation. His show "Next Exit," was a blend of performance art, memoir, stand-up comedy, and documentary film. He did a sort of trunk show, using a video campfire on a huge screen and a headset microphone, weaving his live narrative around digital movies crafted from 8MM home movies, stills, and video clips. Interacting with the audience, he selected 12 to 18 stories for the evening.

Atchley, who passed away recently, was a showman. It was about him. The real meme-carrier here may be Stephen Denning. His book, The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations, and his daylong workshop, Storytelling in Organizations, revolve around his experience in international development, but can be appled to any organization wishing to expedite the transfer of knowledge within its boundaries. The notion is that abstract ideas and Powerpoints often fail to ignite people's imaginations. Story is what moves people. Get the right one, tell it succinctly, and you can start a revolution.

One wonders how useful this simple idea could be on an organizational or company website: a good story, powerfully told, either in text or mediated form. The right story can communicate loads about a brand--even be the brand. The question of whether the story is true or not is of course going to be a factor in its power, but even myths presented as fiction may be quite moving.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Attention, please

Here's one of those seminal ideas (can there be more than 12 in a given zeitgeist?). We owe this to Michael Goldhaber and his bravura article in the online journal First Tuesday.

Prop. 1.: Classical economics is about stuff: commodities such as food, housing, air, water, labor--anything that there is only so much of, and that we need. The wanting of things and the striving to get them is the basis of value, classically speaking.

Prop 2.: Economics is the study of how we humans exercise choice under conditions of scarcity.

Prop. 3.: In the emerging information economy, knowledge is the basis of value. But here, a flip-flop occurs. Not only is knowledge unlimited (the "space" of the entire knowledge accessible on the i-net now googles in at about 8 billion pages, and counting ) but the cost of getting to to it, unlike the "stuff" of classic economics, is rapidly approaching zero.

Prop. 4.: The kicker. What is limited in this new economy is attention. We have only so much time, so much bandwidth. This changes the basis of value. Those who get a lot of attention are what we call "stars". They get a lot of money. Politicians and business people who get a lot of attention for their proposals and their ideas acquire power.

This seems pretty self-evident to anyone who ever passed a year in the eighth grade. Before we had cars or cool pads of our own, and everybody's physical wealth was limited to their physical selves and their clothes, attention was the coin of the realm. The popular kids got the most valentines, and ran for class president, and got to be captain of the basketball team.

The great ages of the material; stone, bronze, iron, and steel are rolling away, soon to replaced by hydrogen and then, perhaps pure thought alone. The coming century may redefine the very notion of value, basing it less on consumption of stuff, more on the differences among competing parties ability to exploit the vast amount of knowledge out there and convert it into something others will pay attention to.

Maybe it won't be "...who dies with the most toys wins", but "...who gets the most eyeballs along the way".

We need to be about attention. If we are, the long term odds for profesional communicators will be looking good.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Understanding Flickr

My first flickr picture.


I can't quite grasp it yet, but this appears to be an astonishing increase in personal capability: I can post, share, store, organize and tag anything I have in my stock photo files, and I can determine the level of sharing I wish to do with the asset. I can even sell it. The cooler part is this: I can acquire anything anyone else has shared.

This is apparently an example of what some call "web 2.0".
It is manifestly about collaboration, and to some extent, it is about trust.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Long-tail economics

The tech bloggers are warning us that what's coming is a set of new web apps and services that have "long-tail economics" at the heart of their business models. Wired magazine recently described the long tail phenomenon. Essentially, it's a lot of small publishers getting relatively few hits as opposed to a few biggies dominating the publishing space. "(This is ) an entirely new economic model for the media and entertainment industries, one that is just beginning to show its power. Unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it in service after service, from DVDs at Netflix to music videos on Yahoo! Launch to songs in the iTunes Music Store and Rhapsody. People are going deep into the catalog, down the long, long list of available titles, far past what's available at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble."

So much for the mainstream. More and more, we will find it easy to drill down to that particular content that interests us--whether it be music, videos, books, or simply the thoughts and writings of other people anywhere on the planet.

Monday, November 21, 2005

More on the Flat World

For corporate media managers to ask themselves:

Are we learning to use the new tools of collaboration?
(Friedman lists them, where are we at on the tools that have shaped the flat world: shared data, workflow, blogs, wikis, supply chain mangement, wireless and remote)

Do we fully appreciate outsourcing?
(Have we made outsourcing a bugaboo?...are we so busy resisting it that we are missing the opportunity to do a better job, to evolve our jobs? Conversely, should we be in-sourcing to capitalize on our strengths and assets?)

Are we properly specialized? (related to the above, involves digging into our selves, x-raying ourselves personally, departmentally, and corprately to see who we are and what we do)

Are we building trust?

(Say what you will about technology and efficiency, business is done in a social context. Trust is a keystone of economic behavior; how do we build it here, how remotely?)

Do we run through Kubler-Ross' 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Media Map

This is a project that could take a lot of time: mapping the various media forms as they have evolved over the ages, from ancient Greek drama and poetry to online computer games. It could also call for a real scholar, which I am not.

Why? Because we who work in the media professionally must continually reevaluate our media choices as the clutter of mediated content continues to grow. Attention is the ultimate bandwidth issue; our ability to get and hold the user's attention will require us to exploit all the art forms humans have ever created to exhort, delight, entertain, and educate.

In the wholly unreadable chart above, I've speculated that all forms of communication art emerge from two fundamental human behaviors: speech and gesture. The arrows suggest the evolution of the forms from the classic seven arts of the Greeks forward. Scott McCloud's books on the art of comics gave me a lot of good ideas. This is just a start. A really complete map would be scalable (like Google Earth) and have hyperlinks to articles and more links to books and examples of the forms themselves.

CMMA Short Bit

Fall CMMA Short Bit presentation:

As we focus on our creative inspirations during this conference, let me share some of mine, at least from the province of books.

I’m not going to talk about fiction. That’s a whole thing in itself. For me, there have been a handful of non-fiction books that I have come back to again and again in my adult life and have deeply influenced my work as a media professional. I can’t share a lifetime of reading in 5 to seven minutes, so I’ll quickly mention just five books.

One I read when I was 19, and a very serious young man. The book was The Divine Milieu by French Jesuit Philosopher and evolutionist Theilhard Chardin. He had a vision, very impractical, very “out there” --not be realized for a thousand years, that human consciousness had evolved out of the minerals of the universe, arising in life forms and flowering in the human as a spiritual sense. He believed it was Man’s destiny to merge eventually into a collective cosmic awareness he called the “noosphere”.

This book was a milestone for me -- my first encounter with a really big idea, and it was so exciting. Even though I’ve wandered away from this kind of religious speculation, a fascination and hunger to find the big ideas hiding in the mundane has stayed with me ever since.

If only Pierre Chardin could have lived fifty more years to see the world wide web, to see a billion people able to connect at the speed of light and catch the movie trailer for Wedding Crashers in Chinese! But seriously, the web does present major implications for the human family, even if all the things it promises may not come without pain.

One of those books I’ve just finished reading is The World is Flat, by L Thomas Friedman. We’ve heard our keynote speaker allude to it, and I know a few of you here have read it too. Friedman modestly subtitles it “a brief history of the 21st century”. Friedman, like Chardin, chases a globalization theme. He gives us a pretty darned gripping account of the technological and economic revolution that has been going on while most of us were distracted with 9/11 and what followed.

He’s telling the story that is affecting every one of us in this room! I have been assaulting everyone I know telling them they MUST read this book and was delighted to see it pop up right here at CMMA--- written into the theme of our next CMMA Spring Professional Development Conference that Bill Marriot and others will be hosting in North Carolina next year.

Another big book for me was The Language of the New Media by Lev Manovich. This is not an easy book, but it is a very rich one. I keep going back to it and finding insights into what we try to do with things like websites and multimedia. Manovich teaches media theory at UCLA. One of his big bombs is that the new interactive media we see playing out on the web are more than HTML versions of books or cinema. The new media are databases, and users are not passive audiences but active users. We will keep their attention only if we understand and use the new rules --building database worlds for users to explore.

I’m still learning from this guy.

I am an armchair architect. One of those books that’s affected my life and my work is Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, and others.

My copy is well-thumbed.

A Pattern Language lays out the elements of building, prescribing general rules of how things work best, from the perfect positioning of a reading chair next to a sunny window, to the principle determining how high counters should be in a workplace.

Christopher says he found these classic patterns hidden in the vernacular; the past two thousand years of human building. He lays out about 300 of these patterns. He shows how they can be used by anyone—not just professional architects and builders—to make a fit and beautiful habitation.

Alexander’s big idea about patterns has popped up the art of writing computer code—and the open source movement—the guys who brought us Linux and APACHE server and PERL and free Blogger! Its all about discovering and applying those most “fitting and beautiful” patterns. It occurred to me some years ago that another pattern language might exist for media forms just as well as buildings did in Alexander’s classic book.

A big project to do someday, perhaps.

I have come to think that there are patterns hidden in media for us to figure out and use to make fitting and beautiful media things. Right now I’m really on fire about the pattern language hidden in Podcasting. Last summer I started looking at audio blogs and their subscription-based cousins, Podcasts, for work. The idea is produce short "radio" pieces with corporate training content and make them available for download, or subscription via RSS.

This my current passion! My fire has been lit for the year!! I’m all on fire about the new medium of the 21st century! Radio! I am going to get my clients excited because production costs will be significantly lower than what we spend on even a very modest video project.

Radio breaks out of the box called “screentime”, and once the user subscribes to a show, new installments are downloaded automatically and saved on their hard drives. It’s time-shifted radio. You listen when and where you want.

One last book to mention. I’m slaking my hunger for big ideas about media right now by following up my reading of Understanding Comics by Scout McCloud with his Reinventing Comics. He shows us that comics is a serious medium, worthy of our study, not just as it relates to print, but online too. Big ideas here---lots of implications for our kind of work.

I’m out of time, but I’ll post this little list and my comments on my weblog if you are interested. As you see me walking around please feel free to ask me about my podcast pilot, or pattern languages or Chardin, if you really have time to kill! Thanks.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Carpooling is based on the insight that we have all those cars zooming around out there going everywhere 24/7, most with just one occupant. The unused capacity is mind-boggling. What to do? Carpooling is starting to go high tech, facilitated by use of computers, GPS devices, cellphones and the internet. Both free and commercial applications have popped up in Europe and the West Coast of the US. Newly jacked-up gas prices and the possibilitiy of supply line problems following Katrina may make it more popular in a lot of communities soon.

The high tech solution is a classic exchange. A database is accessed on the web by a limited membership group. Participants post and confirm "lift offers" and "lift requests", then users just confirm their trades and meet up on the parking lot. Basic services could be offered on a daily basis. It could get more formal of course. The addition of cellphones and GPS devices could aid in scheduling lifts ever closer to real-time. Setting one of these up would be a great service for IT and web development shops to offer their companies. The software essentials are close at hand, and we could look like the heroes we really are.

Some links:

From Wikipedia:

* As most cars are designed for 5 people but only occupied by 1, car pooling has great potential improve the capacity of congested traffic corridors in cities, with minimal investment in infrastructure.

* Higher occupancy rates also can reduce consumption of oil thereby reducing corresponding political and economic risks, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce common pollution, and save considerable expenses from gasoline, oil, tires, auto depreciation, tolls, parking, and in some cases insurance.

* Carpools may provide social connections in an increasingly disconnected society


* Drivers carry the additional burden of potential legal action from passengers in case of an accident.

* Car pooling combines the disadvantages of public transport (lack of privacy, fixed timetables) with the disadvantages of the automobile (low safety, high fuel consumption, high cost of labour). Well designed, dedicated BRT systems have proven a faster and cheaper alternative to car pooling in big cities.

Others offer a tool for carpooling using GPS and a commercial DB:

Free carpool tools and DB:

...and for group set up:

Here's a commercial service that uses cellphone technology to perform real-time, "dynamic" pooling:

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Podcasts, Two

Yesterday may have been historic in the annals of communications. Under court order, the city of New York opened part of its archive of records from Sept. 11, 2001. The New York Times today released a huge cache of of oral histories, dispatchers' tapes and phone logs in PDF and MP3 formats..."so vast that they took up 23 compact discs.", according to the Times.

We don't know to what extent this particular release will be accessed by the public, but clearly, it transcends the volume and complexity of what is even possible in a real-time stream of broadcast radio and TV. How will people use this stuff?

Like the whole podcasting phenomenon, this kind of publishing promises to further break down the singularity of the broadcast model. It points away from the realm of fleeting events toward something enduring and the searchable. More and more, our role as communicators may shift from preparing a single strand of narrative to presenting content as database.

If it re-defines the author, it may redefine "audience" to something like a "quirience" (to coin a word); the active set of users who build personal meaning out of a rich medium of information. In this new realm, both the content preparers and the quirience will need to live by the same set of rules; a mutually understood grammar of presentation, access and re-construction. The closest approximation I can think of right now is the set of rules that underlie the online gaming experience.

Unlike a movie one sits and watches for two hours flat, a contemporary online or multimedia game can deliver dozens of hours of "play time". Gaming has radically altered our notions of media use, presentation time and attention span. What game designers and their users have come to share is a whole set of uber-rules about game use.

Maybe the would-be datacasters, like today's Times', and their quirience, will need to arrive at the same set of rules. Maybe we already have them. What somebody needs to do is figure out what they are and explicate them.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Avid Bloggeristes have figgered out a way to do a video blog using entirely free online services. They make a video and compress it. Then they use Blogger for the basic blog site, paste a poster frame from the video in as a link to another location on the web (OurMedia at the Internet Archive) and voila: free, personal video narrowcasting.

The whole process is documented at

A good example of the emerging medium may be found at Josh Leo's Blog at

Of course a lot of this space (vblogsphere?) is going to be filled with garbage, and as the NYT of today has observed, it already resembles television because it faces the perpetual problem, what do you do for content? it may not be too long before we see some artistic and industrial use of the medium, just as we've seen with blogging.

Friday, July 22, 2005

First Big HDV Venture

We shot 18 hours of action in Scout Camps in California and New York this past few weeks, and the results are pretty impressive. I'd had a bit of experience with a 2-day indoor shoot in Indianapolis in late June, but this was the big one for the summer.

Shooter Steve McWilliams aggressively maneuvered the new Sony pro camcorder on a monopod for a lot of the material, and we went to sticks for twenty or so "standup" interviews with Scouts and Scouters. Most of the latter we shot direct to camera with the mini Eyeliner.

Some quick thoughts:

We shot with what was essentially a two-man crew, backed up by a PA and a coordinator. The run-and gun nature of the shoot made use of a tech monitor irrelevant, but we do think that a third, strong PA/grip would be a requirement the next time around.

HDV rocks. We couldn't believe the format's adaptability and picture quality. The 16X9 frame opens things up compositionally, well-suited to dynamic shots. It's still video of course, and the latitude still does not compare with film, but this will be a very suitable medium for us, particularly in documentary-style work, for years to come. This particular camera has its drawbacks. Steve found the menu-based controls more of a bother than a help, and the optics of the integral lens give you virtually unlimited depth of field, requiring a lot of care in keeping the lens clean. For 6 grand, however, it's a bargain, and it clearly points the way to future cameras. The HDV dream cam might have interchangeable lenses, a ruggedized body, and an onboard hard drive that would store a day's worth of material uncompressed.

Content is king again. Here's a camera you can poke right into the action, as we often did, inches from the talent's faces. You can move it around on a stick, and shoot off-eye shots as long as you want with minimal physical effort (see Steve above with the low-tech "steviecam" in action. You can take it in a car, or hide under your raincoat in a subway. It's a less intimidating way to do interviews because it's so small and "un-professional" looking, and you can practically shoot in the dark.

Now, on the post side of the event, we're thinking about transferring all the footage directly into a series of hard drives via our FCP-HD application, once it's set up. This will give us access to the MPEG-4 assets within our post application. The camera tapes go on the shelf, there to be pulled for emergencies only. In the meantime, we have DVD's with and without timecode burn-in, a decent source of MPEG-2 video for web-and CD ROM-quality video.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Podcasts for work?

Why not produce short "radio" pieces with training content and make them available for download, either via RSS or simple menu-based means? The initial list might be drawn from the existing professional briefings series, going back some 15 years.

Pretend this guy is holding an iPod
Those were all Relationships pieces, such as "working with Catholic parishes", containing the basic protocols within that church or organization and some step-by-step advice lifted from classic field operations literature. We scripted some as dialogues, some as essays. The rational for a renewed effort at audio is that podcasting has been spawned by the wide availability of MP3 players.

Podcasts are easy enough to produce. Just identify your content and hire a writer. To make them listenable, however, we should strive for NPR style and production values (such a book is available from NPR and on Amazon). We have enormous interview assets in the AV library going back for 20 years. We now have Garage Band to add an acoustic environment at little cost, and we'd do the editing at Scotch (or even cut them ourselves with several Mac-based audio editing solutions already in hand).

What will be the driver for use? Recently, as I toured the country doing LFL material, I've re-appredciated how much time our DE's and Exec's spend in thier cars. Podcasts that are listenable, relevant and easy to acquire might have real utility. And that's just the professionals. Volunteers might be the ultimate audience. They are as time-pressed as anyone, and with the right promotion, we could reach audiences in the tens of thousands. Clients for the new wave of audio might be found at Relationships and HR (these limited to professionals), but training under the big three program areas would be the big fish. If Council Services is ever ressurected, they might be ready for a pitch. Health and Safety titles might be found of interest too.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Interviewing Notes

It's the bread and butter of broadcast journalism, and a mainstay of industrial media. But how hard is it to conduct a really satisfactory interivew, one that is spontaneous, rich? Actually interviewing is a common social skill…a part of our inquisitive human nature…and a big part of narrative storytelling.

Even the driest industrial can be put across with a good story.

Stories are how we structure our life experience,converting it into memory. Stories are what make things memorable, hence interesting to others. Joyce Carol Oates: "We live by stories"
Stories can only come from people.
Interviewer styles: the contrarian, the empathizer, the seeker, and the naïve

History and Range of the Art
The Socratic method…the premise that the material is in there already, the dialectical process reveals it: thesis, antihesis, synthesis. Dialectic is conversation. Nature is in constant motion. Movement intrigues us, makes us an audience. Mere explication, description (the stuff of 90% of corporate and industrial communications) is static. How do we get movement? Only by following a statement with its contradiction do you get movement. The movement from conflict to resolution. Movement is what makes for drama. That is why we find stories more interesting than platitudes and interviews more interesting than mere exposition.

We can say; "love is a force more powerful than even the desire to live"; a platitude.
Or we can tell the story of Romeo and Juliet. It is interesting to hear the story because it reveals its ultimate truth through conflicts(middle) established in an ititial set of conditions (the beginning), and movement toward the conclusion (end). The story is utterly convincing because it seems so necessary to end as it does.
It lets us form the platitude ourselves.

We can make a presentation. We can make statements establishing or asserting one or more points of meaning. The art of making these assertions interesting comes down to this: making the necessity of each point of meaning clear.We do that through conversation.

We can say: "Apex makes the best widgets".
Or we can ask, "who makes the best widgets? first.
To raise the ante, we can follow up the assertion thus:
"How do you know Apex makes the best?"
We are off and running.

This is the heart of rhetoric. Assertion. Challenge. Resolution. Thesis antithesis, synthesis. Movement. We use inquiry to stimulate proof.

The heart of a good story is the neccesity of its resolution. Egri says:

The origin of the sound byte
Robert Siegel on the radio interview. Illusion of a conversation.
This book is mainly about interviewing for actualities: Standard industrial videos typically use actualities, not a true interview. Second type is used by the big stars--Charlie Rose--whose personality and on-camera presence is considered an asset. This is rare in industrial and corporate work, where anonymity is the rule.

Edward Be Bono talks about role-playing specific thinking styles, Red Hat: emotional, White hat :factual, green hat :creative and so on. He suggests that thinking can be more productive through some "playacting". The same is true of you in the interview. You are role-playing being thoughtful in a particular way. Your manner of acting and asking questions can role model how your subject is to respond.

The emerging importance of the video-based interview as a tool of corporate and institutional knowledge management is also a basis for this book.
Eliciting material in the standard industrial interview'
We seek hot tape or hot footage: the material that grabs the viewers attention and makes even the most instructional material come to life.
Find out all you can about the person you are going to interview. Note their line of work, family and any special facts or recent history that may help you establish rapport, or which later in the interview can help you elicit relevant and heartfelt material.
Eliciting 15-25 seconds of quote

You can't step on an actuality. Learn to hold off speaking or making noise for a good second or two after you are certain the subject is finished. If your subject steps on your line, excuse yourseldf and restart them.

Remember. You are here to elicit knowledge You are helping to capture the knowledge and experience,of one individual and make it hereafter accessible to an audience. You are engaging in a subtle dance of question and answer, probe and revelation, your part of which, will lie forever in the background, but is for the moment at least, absolutely crucial. . It no small role, but it's not a starring one.
Your stuff goes on the "cutting room floor". Use short, simple questions that provoke a response --think of your questions as stimuli only. You may say "what happened next" fifty times, just to pull the story out.
Siegel also mentions the strawman technique for asking "the high hard one" the provocative question. In our work though, we seldom are looking for "hot" or controversial material. A variant of the straw man may be useful however, one in which we set up a proposition intentionally contrary to the desired response:
Ask for a Definition. If you ask, "What are the qualities of a good den leader?" You are very likely to get a response that begins with oneo or more adjectives, like.."patient" or skilled". If you ask "What is your definition of a good den leader?" nine time sout of ten, your subject will begin with the phrase "A good den leader is…"This is a more subtle technique that it may seem. It's an obvious way to cover material that is definitinal subject matter. But it can elicit feeling statements even stories as well. "What's your definition of a really bad meeting? Or "What's your definition of a great one?".
Ask the Dozing Psychiatrist's Question. You may very well completely forget what your subject is talking about. Or, you may feel unsatisfied with the respnse. Your subject ends with the phrase. …makes a trip to the office not just unpleasant but awful.
The Blank, Silent Stare: Not as relevant for the industrial, but may help. WAIT. Don't automatically accept the question as answered. At the end of the subjects' response, you may feel there is more to be said. Send a look that says "there's more, I'm sure…."
Don't bother trying to sound intelligent or profound.
Good story telling is rare, a gift not all have. How to get stories from non-story-tellers. (see Art of Storytelling)
What constitutes a good story…shaggy doggin' it.
How speakers think. The nature of narrative.
Probing technique…good probe questions, hypotheticals "some would say shoot all the lawyers..What do you say?"
Some people's minds are like their sock drawers….
Keeping your subject focused…the finish this sentence game
Avoiding abstractions…keeping subject matter concrete
Are women better interviewers? Some experts suggest they are(Brooking), if only becuas ethey are percieved by both men an women as less threatening. My belief is that anyone who is respectful and reaonable intellgient can be a succewssful intervieer id well prepared and partient.
Working with kids
Working with kids. Using props and repetitive actions to decrease self-awareness.
Working with politicians and other deceptive and evasive subjects
Working with fearful and nervous subjects

Editing the interview
Power of paper transcripts…using court reporters.
Sentence continuation editing.
Word salad edits….re-structuring ideas and imposing dramatic arc (see Egri)
Preparation: editorial, technical, and psychological.

From Siegel:
"Before you start, know what you are after".
Take Charge
Social distance…. comfort varies
Establishing rapport
Eye contact

Establishing Rapport with Your Subject
Pre-interview smalltalk…establish a pattern of more than one word answers
In our media-savvy culture, people are familiar with the conventions of taking audio levels, etc. They may begin by saying "testing, 123, etc. We need break out of this stereotype right away if we are going to get genuine stuff, not a stylized or affected persona. When ask for a voice level..Ask about their most recent meal (Siegel)

Keeping sound bytes short
How to get your subject to re-state the topic (putting a head on it)
Closing down run-on bytes…clustered thoughts and sentences
One-liner responses …"the world's a better place w/out him" (as to say, do you agree?)
Setting up the interview
The interview space
Lighting for the interview
Using the monitor
Eye contact Shooting at eye level, your body language.
Framing/composing the subject
Backgrounds, video voodoo, and green screen technique
Running your crew..
Maintaining control of the set and the process at all times

Practicing the story beforehand, eliciting the one-line story from a subject

Sound Reporting
Marcus D. Rosebaum and John Dinges, ed.
Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co. 1992
ISBN 0-8403-7202-7

Six Thinking Hats,
Edward De Bono
Little, Brown and Co. 1985
ISBN 0-316-17791-1

The Art of Investigative Interviewing

Basic Interviewing

On Narrative

Corporate Memory
Anne Brooking
International Thomson Business Press
ISBN 1-86152-268-1

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Project Tables

I've long been interested in stools, counters and bars, particularly in what kind of work and interaction they support. Clearly, they are common in commercial and work settings (see below). What's surprising is how seldom you see them used in homes, outside of kitchens.... and, of course, in those wonderful 1940's penthouse apartments from the Thin Man movies.

Bars work because they permit people to stand or sit, work mutually or independently, and interact at closer distances than they would fully seated, or standing out in the open. They support concentrated tasks as well as casual interaction. The subtle difference in this pattern from conventional table and chairs is not as much physical as it is social: interaction does not require the same level of commitment from all parties. Ever notice how party people will migrate from the living room (where they are expected to sit) to the kitchen counter or the work island? People would rather "hover" where they can break away and reposition themselves more easily than if seated.

Bars let people work and interact in special ways. The very term is of synonymous with the legal profession, practiced under, around and over it for centuries. The related term "bench" pops up in legal world as well as baseball and even (in its Italian form, "banco") helped originate the term for monetary trading, solidifying back into English as "bank".

Bars (which I'd define as at least 40" to perhaps 48"in height) can support light to moderately intense physical work (heavy labor, like pounding out pork cutlets or mounting tires on rims, calls for something closer to standard counter height of 28-34"). Bars and the tall stools that accompany them permit more postural diversity than chairs and call for a bit more alert behavior than conventional seating. Barstool seating or "perching" is shallower than full seating, and takes less effort to stand up from. Related to the “bar” pattern is the “counter” pattern, both of which are found all over the commercial world. What you find less often in homes is a workstation with the same social/ergonomic characteristics, but designed for the whole family to use. I’m calling this a “project table” pattern, and I bravely predict it will show up more often, as laptop computers become the media of choice in today’s homes.

My theory is that a raised central "project table" in living areas could support a particular pattern of behavior--call it "cross-age project work" like nowhere else in the home. It would need three or four adjustable height stools with backrests on at least two of them. The stools would have to be kid-accessible and free rotating. The work surface would be durable enough to permit use of messy art media and sharp tools. You'd have plenty of flush mounted power outlets and a cable chase for computers and other devices. Power would come up through the floor. I'd install an array of halogen floods overhead, and make them dimmable.

What happens here? Kids do their homework. You can walk right up to them and look at want they are doing--because you are at the same eye-level, you can easily talk or share tasks at cuddle-distance. It's a place for kids to sit with friends and confide or play cards. It's a drawing table, a worktable and a game table. It's a puppet theater and dollhouse platform. You may wrap presents here (without backstrain) do your Christmas cards, sort out the family photographs or arrange flowers. One could do crafts or scrapbooking. You will use your computers here (you'll bring your modem/DSL line here too). I'd bet you would move the family computer (once it's a flat-screen) to this space, liberating that other room as an adult reserve, or office. Then you'll be editing and showing home movies, working on your family website, ripping MP3's, doing genealogy tables, composing music, surfing Ebay, and so on, all in a communal space that supports shared tasks. Closet spaces could help house tools, games, art supplies and media.

A full-out version would look like an unusually tall library table, with shallow drawers around the edges and the whole thing resting on four sturdy legs, or better yet, a pedestal base (perhaps housing a computer printer/paper) anchored to the sub-floor. Pencil cups might be recessed into the surface.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Kid dialogue

Writing for kids is so difficult. One problem is geting kids to sound enough like kids to be credible to them, the other is to make the copy entertaining enough for them to pay attention. Most industrial "kid speak" sounds patenlty fake and fails on the "interest" side too. (One good model for good kid copy I've heard recently are in the film "Mean Creek").

Kids don't typically write well for kids though. Instead, some of the brightest writers fo, those who have aknack and an ear for it.

I'm not Judy Blume, so what do I do?

I've found that listening to kids on the set is often helpful. Our brighter actors have good ideas for improving lines, and substituting words. Why not put a propoased kid-aimed piece in "workshop"--like the Broadway-bound plays do, to iron out the kinks and sharpen the edges? Hire a panel of kids to read through your script and do riffs on it in front of a DV camera. Let them improvise some scenes and come up with questions and suggestions about the proposed product/service/offering. It's a combination casting session and script session.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Invisible Cities

Italo Calvino has written a masterpiece that is poetry, yet profound philosophy at the same time. This work demands a deep reading; you can miss it if you don't dig in to its surprises and lean, but etched language.

Calvino link

"A book (I believe) is something that has a beginning and an end (even if it isn't a novel in the strict sense), it is a space where the reader must come in, walk around, even get lost, but in a certain moment find an exit, or several exits…
This is a book that is made as a polyadr, and the conclusions that it has are somewhat visible everywhere along all its edges."--I.C.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Digital Mortuary

As burial gives way to cremation
the question becomes
what remains of person
and where does one reside in the temporal realm?
Why not store pictures,documents and motion clips of the deceased in beautiul place fitted out with a good screen?

Language is THE medium

For us humans, language mediates the world. If so, why not caption it all? GPS linked to the WWW makes it feasible to tie unlimited text to specific places. Go to a cultural site, open the text referenced to that space, read it-- add your own annotations--make new links. Thus the space/object can be extended in time. (This was posted in February; Google has sonce introduced several aplications that bring it close, of not to, reality).

An entirely different way of approaching this is to reflect on urban life without text--no street signs, no text advertising, no "restroom", no license plates on the cars, no elevator button numbers, no bus, subway or emergency pull handle directions. Add to the list of banned items the quasi-texts of handicapped symbols, corporate logos and direction arrows. Maybe strolling through midtown Manhattan, you'd be able to decode the architecture in some places (Public Library), but for the mosrt part, urbanity is text.