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Multimedia Practitioners Vs Web 2.0 Revolution

Option 6:

“the Web 2.0 revolution is decimating the ranks of our cultural gatekeepers, as professional critics, journalists, editors, musicians, moviemakers, and other purveyors of expert information are being replaced. … For the real consequence of the Web 2.0 revolution is less culture, less reliable news, and a chaos of useless information.” (Keen, 2007: 16) What are the implications of the ‘Web 2.0 revolution’ for multimedia professionals?

In her book, ‘Communication, Technology and Society’, Leila Green speaks of ‘domesticated technologies’, where a family or individual adopt a technology and in return the family is ‘technologised’ (2002:44) The family becomes familiar with the technology and software and then through a process of conversion according to Silverstone et al ‘defines the relationship between the household and the outside world – the boundary across which artifacts and meanings, texts and technologies pass as the household defines and claims for itself and its members a status in neighbourhood, work and peer groups in the ‘wider society’ (1994 p130, Cited in Green p45)

It is a development in these technologies along with the development of the Web 2.0 that together must be looked at to see the implications for multimedia professionals. Without both, consumer and multimedia professionals’ need to push advancements both of these would stagnate.

Computer programme makers such as Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) and Apple (www.apple.com) started including software with their basic operating systems that allowed consumers to edit video using Microsoft Movie Maker and iMovies. Along with music software, these were the tools people used to make home movies and music demos. As these consumers became experts with these programmes they looked for advanced programmes like the current Adobe CS4 package and technologies to allow them achieve their audio visual goals.

Advancements in technologies and internet speeds though, also gave way to consumers not wanting to pay for products. Internet users were now able to pass information and large files at ease. Downloading illegal software and music has had a detrimental effect on both industries.

In 2008 this led to Adobe laying off 600 staff members (8% of its overall workforce) (sfgate.com)The Global recession may have played a part here, the company were then forecasting profit of $30 million dollars less than expected. The availability of illegal software should also be taken into consideration. Increased broadband speeds mean that the full CS4 6Gb software package can now be downloaded in less than two hours.

Software hackers have now developed keygens (key generators) which generate serial numbers for software. Videos on YouTube or websites like bestserials.com show the user how to get this software for free, leading to a lack of revenue and loss of jobs in the industry.

The ‘Web 2.0′ revolution has given the general public, with little or no computer or media training the ability to put content online for the world to see, this could be through YouTube.com, Twitter.com, MySpace.com or other social networking sites. A lot of this information though, could be verbally communicated through friends conversations, for example , on Twitter.com from @curlydena to @bngr ‘yeah, including most of my friends from home. convinced 2 of them to sign up… but no sign of them yet’.

On Facebook.com there are 350 million active users with 55 million status updates everyday. 2.5 billion photographs are uploaded every month and 3.5 billion web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums are shared each week. According to tweetstats.com there are 2 millon Twitter tweets per day. The importance of all this information being available online is debatable.

For bloggers and novice web designers, WordPress.org has now become a way of developing your own website without the need for a knowledgeable web designer. Using WordPress powered templates the amateur can create their own website with ease. This is good for the amateur but for the multimedia professional indicates that they must stay one step ahead of consumer technologies and breakthroughs all the time.

Yahoo removed its Geocities sites from the internet in Oct 2009, it had 38 million pages of user generated content. However, it does not seem that we have lost 38 million pages of priceless history. Bruce Lawson has said that ‘the demise of GeoCities was because it provided a platform for people who had nothing to say. …Of course, one man’s dull-as-dishwater web page is another man’s wonderful treasure trove of information.’ (zdnet.co.uk)

There are however some well informed and qualified bloggers who write on different subjects. A lot of these people through their work, have acquired a trustworthiness and social standing on their chosen subjects, for example, Nialler9.com on music and Leo Laporte,(leoville.com/) on technology.

Multimedia professionals have strived for better technology so they can better their own work. Musicians, filmakers, and journalists have in the past been people to look up to, that have a special skill, ability or command over their peers. Through the advancements in technology and Web 2.0, the playing field is leveling and according to Henry Jenkins ‘There’s a credibilty attached to amateur media right now, people care passionately about these channels of communication and they’ll listen to other amateurs with more credibilty with more attachment, more sense of urgency than they are going to listen to mass media.’ (2007 Thoughtcast.com)

Newspaper sales have been in decline in recent years as more people get their information from online sources and 24 hours television news. The life of a traditional journalist is changing. No journalist is guaranteed keeping their job, most are now freelance and work in online media also. Una Mullally, writer for The Irish Times (www. IrishTimes.com) also presents a music show on TG4 ‘Ceoll Ar An Imeall’. Although while bloggers become journalists, Nialler 9 writes a weekly column for the Irish independent. (www.independent.ie)

On March 17 2009, The Seattle Post Intelligencer www.seattlepi.com printed its last copy. It has now transformed its self into an online version, The CEO, Frank Bennack Jr., has said “Our goal now is to turn seattlepi.com into the leading news and information portal in the region.” … and a “community platform”.

Following the closure of the printed version, some journalists lost their jobs and decided to start their own news portal seattlepostglobe.org/ which is quite blog like in appearance. However this does not seem to have been as successful as they had hoped as posts made have an erratic timeline.

Online, through twitter and other social networking sites the distribution of news or gossip is immediate. There is no need to wait until the first morning edition is printed. 24 Hour television news such as Sky News or CNN, have correspondents in all corners of the globe. The advancement of technologies in equipment and Web is very apparent here as almost as soon as a ‘newsworthy’ event happens the reporter can relay their report via video phone, webcam or skype to the studio base, perhaps thousands of miles away.

During the first decade of the twenty first century, Web 2.0 has changed the way by which we obtain our news updates. Celebrity news and gossip has thrived on this through American sites TMZ.com and perezhilton.com . The Death of Michael Jackson in June 2009 was firstly reported by TMZ.com and quickly followed by people posting on twitter.com.

TMZ.com, owned by Time Warner, quickly and reliably has broken celebrity news stories. While main stream media, has not totally accepted their celebrity contacts as the corroborated truth, as far back as 2007 the New York Times said ‘The site has become a reliable source for the mainstream media

On the television programme Ireland’s Biggest Hits (www.rte.ie) newscaster Bryan Dobson is quoted as saying ‘in terms of hits it was the biggest story on the RTE website’, while journalist Mark Little speaks of how receiving ‘tweets’ about Jackson’s death, his family were dancing to Thriller ten minutes before the LA Times confirmed the story.

Following Jackson’s death, scenes of the ambulance leaving Jackson’s home were appearing online. Although these were reports that were not normally seen in mainstream media, due to the popularity of the videos online, these later appeared on television news reports. (www.etonline.com)

While Twitter spread the word immediately, anyone can make a statement and publish it to the world. These may not always be true, later on June 25th reports on Twitter stated that Jeff Goldblum had died. (www.screencrave.com)This turned out to be an internet hoax.

Andrew Keen states that ‘the real consequence of the Web2.0 revolution is less culture, less reliable news and a chaos of useless information’ (Keen 2007:16) In iran in 2009, Twitter and social networking sites proved to be the only way of getting information to the outside world. The lines of who was reporting stories, professionals or amateurs were blurred as all journalists in the country were not allowed to work and were escorted across the border. This meant that those with access to the internet, mainly students, had webcams on their computers and the broadband needed to broadcast or skype news reports across the globe.

The BBC (bbc.co.uk) admitted that during this time that they were ‘forced to rely on the honesty of citizen journalists ‘. Dr Azi Khatiri, a producer for the BBC’s Persian TV service said ‘as a news organisation we have to make sure what we report is accurate and correct. ‘We look at what’s going on on Twitter, and then we follow it up in order to verify’. Verifying facts and sources takes time, one reason traditional News teams seem slower than their ‘Twitter’ counterparts.

The Society of Professional Journalism states that www.spj.org‘ Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.’ In Broadcast Journalism, Andrew Boyd points out “Even the most respected journalist can only be the sum of his/her own beliefs, experience and attitudes, the product of his/her society, culture and upbringing. No one can be free from bias…” (p160) Citizen journalists and bloggers are their own editors, and so can show their own bias unashamedly so the reader does not get an objective viewpoint.

As technology and computing collided and were domesticated they have changed our world. According to Richard E. Sclove (1995:112) they offer a barrier free design where everyone, despite handicaps or social background can ‘participate fully in social, economic and political life’. Everyone has the opportunity to engage in social networking and interacting online.

On the BBC2 programme ‘The History Of Now’, editor of NME, Krissi Murison, spoke of how the noughties was the ‘age of the amateur’. Technology and Web 2.0 have made it easier for the bedroom music artist to record their work and put it online, According to Murison, ‘we could make a song now and put it on our Myspace or Youtube in half an hours time.’ Advancements in technology now mean that ‘Young people can now set trends themselves’. You don’t need to go to a professional recording studio to record your demo. Using software like Protools you are using what ‘professionals’ use, without the professional cost.

This creative explosion, while having a positive effect on young artists, makes it harder for the prospective listener to find the music or quality they want. Previously when a band made a demo, it had to be mastered and duplicated and cost a lot of money to do so, this meant a quality control of sorts on the level of music in the public domain. Now however, every demo, from every band, good or bad is on Myspace.com. Audio professionals have now found them themselves out of work because home recording became so affordable. A basic Pro Tools Set up costs 422 euro on Thomann.de

Lee Kimoto speaks of how of ‘how television radio and newspapers were ‘mass media because they were produced by few but consumed by many’. (Kimoto: 2004:41) he also speaks of how computers and digital information make it cheaper to produce and distribute information. This information does not always need to be ‘news’. Music, videos, data files can be shared across the internet with immediacy and for free. Telephone companies also suffered as people now used Skype.com to chat to friends across the world instead of expensive phonecalls.

The ability of the user to access free information is one reason why illegal downloading takes place. Mark Wall (www.mickwall.com History of Now) ask a group of young people how much would they legally be prepared to pay for their favourite music. ‘100 percent agreed, ‘Nothing’ that’s what we are prepared to pay’.

While the record companies complain that sales are down, more people are going to live gigs, they are willing to pay for the live experience. Murison says ‘This cannot be replicated or downloaded for free.. You go to see bands like the Libertines or the Others and there are more members of the audience on the stage than there would be in crowd..’ (History of Now)

In 2007 Prince gave 3 million copies his album ‘Planet Earth’ away free in the Mail on Sunday. (www.time.com) On the back of this, Prince sold 21 night in the 02 in London, generating £11 million sterling.

This is slightly confusing as Prince’s as according to news.cnet.com Prince issued a lawsuit ‘for allegedly encouraging copyright violations’. Allowing users to embed his music on website or use it for non commercial use on their own home made movies acts as a form of advertisement for the artist.

Overall sales of music maybe down up but the sales of video games and dvds are up. (Guardian.co.uk) See Figure 1. In the UK, DVD sales and rentals, meanwhile, have nearly doubled, from a total of £1.286bn in 1999 to £2.56bn in 2008. while games have gone from £1.18bn in 1999 to £4.03bn in 2008. What is not taken into account here is the amount of royalties artists get from having their music included on a film or game soundtrack.

Our convergence culture has determined that we now have pocket technologies, capable of audio and video capturing, as well as high resolution photographic capabilities. In May 2009, YouTube announced that 20 hours of video were adding to its site per minute. Like Twitter many of pieces of video are personal, like that of many home movies. According to sfgate,com on YouTube.com Susan Boyle had 120 million views while the second most watched video was a video about a seven year old who had been to the dentist.

The Canon range of DSLR cameras (EOS Rebel T1i EF-S 18-55mm IS Kit) now features the fully HD video feature. (www.usa.canon.com) This now makes it possible for amateurs to make HD quality movies/short films at an affordable cost. Youtube.com have now introduced HD quality playback on their site.

Not everyone is excited about this though. In October 2009, filmmaker Mark Romanek

(www.markromanek.com) visited Dublin as part of the Darklight Film festival (www.darklight.ie/) A question and answer session prompted Romanek to say he wasn’t a fan of these technological breakthroughs. He explained that currently there are a lot of casual filmmakers who can casually try something without the passion to do a long term project or their own new ideas. He explained that when film makers of his generation started making films the raw materials were expensive and although you could have film a scene or short, one would have to save to get the film output for viewing. These expenses made the experience much more rewarding, lighting set ups, technical details had to be exact while with current technology it can easily be reshot, or colour corrected. (Personal Account)

Film technology has remained more or less the same for over a hundred years (media Students Handbook p421), reels of film must be edited together carefully before showing in the cinema. The digitalization of film has now left the film industry open to illegal downloading like the music industry. Jobs may be at risk.

Films such as James Cameron’s Avatar,(www.imdb.com) and the 3D technology it uses may be saviours of the film industry for now. Using RealD (www.reald.com) technology the viewer gets a 3D version of the film.

Consumer technology is already catching up on this though at CES, Las Vegas (www.cesweb.org) which took place in January 2010, Panasonic launched its first 3D plasma television. Panasonic are the first company to have a price and actual launch date for the technology (www.twit.tv), they also launched a 3D camcorder, which currently expensive, will allow consumers to create 3D movies, just like James Cameron.

Technology, computers and the Web 2.0 are entwined in our daily lives. Our Culture is entwined with these through the amount of time we spend online communicating and sharing. As all things, consumers goods catch up to a professional level, it is up to the multimedia professional to ensure their end products is above the consumer standard and their knowledge is one step ahead.

Figure 1:

Sales graph

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