Auckland: Mobile and Augmented Reality Film Workshops/Journalism Symposium

(and a title so long it reminds me a really must sort out my WP template…)

Oz/NZ Week Three

Many of the contributions to last week’s MINA 2013 Mobile Film Screenings and Symposium explored locative media and geo-located production practices. Carrying on the same theme, for the past week I’ve working alongside iCollab/ELVSS collaborators Thom Cochrane and Laurent Antonczak, with the welcome addition of Vik Narayam from AUT. We’ve been running a series of Mobile and Augmented Reality Film Workshops (#marmw2013) for academics from AUT and beyond.

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It’s been a packed week, where we’ve covered many aspects of mobile/locative media creation with guest speakers from around the world dropping in via Google Hangouts. Together we’ve explored collaborative mapping and augmented reality applications (similar to the recent #iCollab project); collaborative movie making using Vyclone; Vine and a range of mobile film apps; Vimeo and YouTube (or rather Vimeo vs. YouTube); mobile film history and aesthetics; mobile filming techniques; mobile audio production tools and practices; and transmedia narratives for audience engagement.

Guest speakers via hangout included:

  • Vernon Rive (NZ but currently at Cambridge University in the UK) – as an environmental lawyer, Vernon’s use of social/mobile media in his casework is a real eye-opener as he uses online platforms to highlight community issues in relation to legal cases. This led to Averill Gordon musing on the blurring of boundaries between law and PR if lawyers are using digital media to engage people/raise awareness of campaigns – reminding me of Ron Burnett‘s writing on transdisciplinarity in networked spaces, which I find myself referring to on a regular basis, including in our paper “New Global Learning Cultures: Interdisciplinarity through Networked Technologies
  • “The Swedes” (Sweden, funnily enough) who told us about the ways they’re using mobile and social technologies at Umea University – they’re wonderful, as is Thom’s blog post which tells you more about them…
  • Dan Wagner (UNITEC, NZ) who gave us a live demo of filming techniques (from the great outdoors – well the lush grounds of UNITEC at least – complete with a serendipitous tui birdsong accompaniment) particularly focusing on the technical capabilities/limitations of camphone lenses.
  • Everybody’s favourite German mobile filmmaker Max Schleser (Massey University, NZ) who gave us an entertaining yet erudite perspective on mobile filmmaking, including a sample of his mobile-mentary “Frankenstorm“, filmed at the Jersey Shore, two month after hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and caused an estimate of over $71.4 billion in damage.
  • Catherine Cronin (Ireland) – a member of the iCollab team, who talked about our international collaborative google mapping project, raising important issues around trust and identity in online networks. It’s always good to hear Catherine’s graceful musings on learning and teaching through social and mobile media…
  • Finally, Mark McGuire (University of Otago, NZ) joined us on Friday afternoon and gave a rich overview of digital media practices and possibilities before spending time talking to each participant individually about their projects, which was much appreciated and ensured that people went away brimming with ideas.

While the workshops ran Monday to Friday, we also spent part of the day on Wednesday at the AUT Journalism Symposium, where Thom was presenting on the use of mobile technologies in L+T and I was a panellist (Innovation and The Future) along with Jeremy Rees (Editor-In-Chief, APN-online/NZ Herald) and Richard Pamatatau, expertly mediated by Helen Sissons, where we discussed, debated and occasionally disagreed on the role and impact of social media on mainstream journalism.

Danni Mulrennan, who organised the Symposium (and is doing great stuff with mobile/social in journalism ed.), also gave us a tour of the fantastic journalism facilities at AUT. Myself and Laurent had a great time playing around with the VidyoCast system and making… erm… screen art

All in all it’s been a packed week, and we’ll be seeing the workshop participants again on 5 and 6 December to view their individual/group projects, which I’m really looking forward to.

Here is the G+ Community for the workshops, which gives an idea of the kind of things we’ve been covering, and for a visual summary see this Flickr set.

MINA 3rd Mobile Creativity & Mobile Innovation Symposium 2013

WEEK TWO: Auckland (post 3 of 3): MINA 3rd Mobile Creativity & Mobile Innovation Symposium 2013

The Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa [MINA] creates interactions between people, content and the creative industries http://mina.pro/

This is the final post of three covering ‘WEEK MINA’ (as it shall henceforth be known) – my first week in Auckland and a welcome excursion into all forms of mobile creativity. The main event of the week was the 3rd Mobile Creativity & Mobile Innovation Symposium 2013, organised by Max Schleser and Laurent Antonczak and held at AUT’s stunning Sir Paul Reeves Building.

Now in its 3rd year, the MINA Symposium is gaining a reputation as one of the leading-edge academic events around mobile creativity, with close links to partner mobile film festivals around the world. The 2-day symposium was punctuated by 3 nights of mobile film screenings that I wrote about here.

I was delighted to be invited to the symposium as a keynote speaker along with Prof. Larissa Hjorth from RMIT. This was the first time I’d attended a MINA event, and I was impressed by the diversity of sessions. With key themes of:

  • MOBILE & PEDAGOGY / Learning & teaching
  • MOBILE & MEDIA PRODUCTION / Distribution & collaboration
  • MOBILE & AESTHETIC / iPhonography & filmmaking
  • MOBILE & SOUND / Music production & Instruments
  • MOBILE & HYBRID ART / Installation
  • MOBILE & INTERACTIVITY / Ludification & gamification
  • MOBILE & SPACE / Locative media & GPS tagging
  • MOBILE & APPlications / Science & Health

Contributions ranged from gaming, interactive film, pedagogy, citizen journalism, film theory, cultural theory, politics, audio (design/art), pedagogy, documentary filmmaking, transmedia, product design – in fact, I kept finding myself thinking ‘(insert colleague/collaborator/twitter contact’s name) should be here. There really is something for everybody at MINA, with the devices in our pockets serving as springboards for an impressively rich range of contributions from pretty much any discipline/field – I was as transfixed and inspired as I am by The Rest Is Noise festival, and that’s saying something…

The full programme is here, but I’ll just pick up on a few (personal) highlights beginning with Hjorth’s keynote, a brilliantly nuanced exploration of social, mobile and locative media signalling a need to focus on emplacement and co-presence rather than the dominant ‘network’ metaphor in visual/media and internet studies. Mobile, movement and geolocated production practices were recurrent themes (as you’d expect), with Hjorth’s keynote followed by Trudy Lane and Halsey Brugund’s audioscapes – which being based in acoustics/audio I found especially interesting – and Candy Elsemore’s mobile location-based augmented reality gaming, which resonated with me from the perspective of engagement through alternate realities and pedagogies.

Lorenzo Dalvit’s focus on camphones as devices for capturing events as they happen was a sobering unfiltered view of the inhumaneness of an oppressive regime. Showing footage that captured police brutality in South Africa, Dalvit highlighted the role of the devices in our pockets as tools for citizen journalism – a theme also picked up by Ben Lenzner who highlighted the work of Tim Pool and the community-activist group India Unheard.

In terms of mobile aesthetics, there were several notable sessions from practitioners/theorists/practitioner-theorists including Patrick Kelly, Dean Keep, Craig Hight and Felipe Cardona. I loved Miriam Ross’ session on ‘The New Vertical’. Ross set up the Vertical Cinema Manifesto as a response to the anti-vertical PSA-spoof (and related) vids that were doing the rounds online. Making the case that this in itself is a form of policing, Ross is calling for us to fight for our right to go vertical. Whatever you think about the horizontal vs. vertical debate (personally, I’m a big fan of the idea of vertical – although I don’t always find it comfortable to watch), it’s important to recognise industry-led convention and to keep questioning, exploring and innovating. Why should film always be horizontal? What about vertical, round, etc? Don’t they have a place too? I always find it interesting when we’re working with students on 24F24H, seeing how many people reject outright the vertical – because that’s how it is, that’s how it’s done, “there’s this study that says…” Ross’ work is timely, needed and refreshing.

MINA 3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening 2013

WEEK TWO: Auckland (post 2 of 3): MINA 3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening 2013

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As well as working with some of the ELVSS team on our Mobile Augmented Reality Film Workshops (more of that later), I’m in Auckland as a keynote speaker (along with Prof. Larissa Hjorth from RMIT) at the 3rd MINA Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium. I’m writing this after the event, which was so rich that I can’t fit everything into one post so I’ll write about the mobile film screenings here and the conference itself in a separate post.

SO, the films: The Symposium itself launched on Wednesday night with the first of three nightly screenings of mobile shorts from around the world. Each screening was held in a darkened theatre with films shown on a large screen. I’ve rarely viewed mobile films in this way before (having generally viewed films on smaller screens/devices – apart from when showing films to students, but then as standalone pieces rather than as a running showreel) and I was struck by the intensity of the experience. Because the films were so short, ranging from something like 15 seconds up to 3 minutes, we were immersed in mobile film in all it’s glory – a real cornucopia of genres, styles and aesthetics which showcased the rich possibilities of pocket cinema brilliantly. I’m more in love with mobile film than ever after this…

The depth and power of emotion in many of the short pieces is quite remarkable. These filmmakers really understand the medium and the art of telling a short story quickly. Interestingly, some of the films were virtually indistinguishable from big budget counterparts in terms of production values as a result of technological shifts (HD camphones) and were not only crisp and clear but also incredibly cinematic due to their framing and sweeping shots (for instance, Wilhelm Jerusalem – Kołacze by Lukasz Krysiewicz). Others retained a more lo-fi aesthetic, including several made using apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic. Max Schleser’s film “Midtown” was filmed on an iPhone 4 with mCAMLITE, the mobile video created with the Time Piles app, edited with the Splice app and the music was produced using the iMaschine app. It’s amazing to think what can be created with the devices in our pockets.

As is practically a defining characteristic of ‘pocket cinema’, the films had a sense of immediacy, intimacy and authenticity. Personal devices are ideally suited for telling personal stories, and the films were so imaginative and varied – the one unifying feature being that they all proved how compelling short-form content can be when the idea/story is really strong. It doesn’t have to take a long time to take people on an emotional journey, as proved by films such as “A Grand Mother” by Candy Elsmore, which conveyed her delight and pride knowing that her grandmother had signed New Zealand’s Suffragette Petition over 100 years ago. The spark and wit of pieces such as Kevin Logan’s “To Have and To Have Not”, and Paul Taylor’s “Digital Trust Hike” were palpable, without detracting from deeper messages. I won’t list all of the films here, but I’ll be searching them out online and if available, will write a follow-up post listing the contributions with hyperlinks (many are not in the public realm as this may compromise their eligibility for festivals etc.).

The final night (Friday) was a showcase of films from other/partner mobile festivals, including SEISFF (Korean Mobile Film Festival), the Cinephone Spanish Mobile Film Festival, the Macedonia Mobile Film Festival, the USA Mobile Film Festival, and the Ohrenblick and Mobile Streifen Festivals (Germany).

There’s something about sitting in a darkened room watching a succession of short-form films on a big screen. It’s intense, compelling, leading the viewer into a Zen-like state. It had me thinking about the Netflix model of releasing an entire series in one go (see Kevin Spacey’s speech here). Increasingly, audiences want to be immersed in a viewing experience, and in the digital age, we can be. However, this isn’t just about gorging on the latest epic (obvious examples being The Wire, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black – even though 3 of these were broadcast as regular series, many or even most viewers saved themselves so they could watch the entire thing over a short space of time). In the case of the MINA 2013 screenings, we experienced the depth and immersion in a much shorter time period, ideally suited to short form content.

As you can tell, the MINA screenings were truly inspiring. They made me want to go away and start creating there and then – and judging by the conversations I was having many others felt the same. These screenings were invaluable in terms of opening the mind to what’s possible – vertical and square formats, durations as short as 15 seconds, a huge variety of styles and genres – it’s a brilliant exercise in freeing the mind from the constraints of industry-led convention. I’m looking forward to showing the MINA 2013 DVD to my students next semester as I think it’s a powerful way to experience mobile film, and I hope that it will really open up their minds and get them thinking about what’s possible, pushing them to create in new ways.

Here’s the MINA 2013 Showreel as a taster – and some stills here.

Some more of the films: