Intelligence, the web and the reflective practitioner
I musn’t gripe. It saps positive energy but I need the past to nudge my preferred direction.
‘Insanity’, the saying goes, ‘is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results’.
It’s 2000 a whole editorial team has been let go from a dot.com I am working at and I have some spare change. There are three things I want: a Mac, software and some training.
I also need a new job. My previous broadcaster where I have freelanced for five years asks if I’ll take a staff position— one’s coming up.
I smell rare freedom from day-to-day productions and possibilities to explore new digital horizons, so madly and gently decline the offer. A long-standing career in journalism is becoming less stable.
The next week, I’m on a plane to New York. The total cost around £250 return and the Mac Powerbook and cameras I buy for a days stop over are considerably cheaper than London.
Hell, I’ll even have a classic pizza from Little Italy. Back in London, I plunge headlong into Flash and Director. I have already built my first website called MrDot back in 1998
The mac has a massive 16g hard drive with 256RAM. That’s huge.
I don’t know it yet, but I’m soon to have an interesting encounter at Chatham House with the former head of the CIA, James Woolsey.
Chatham House, formerly the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a renowned international think tank.
It organises a discussion on security and as a member with interests in international affairs and security, I have been invited along.
I have been a member of Chatham House since 1994 —in fact I was one of their younger members admitted after their Director of Studies Jack Spence came to hear my reports from South Africa freelancing for the BBC World Service (below).
At Chatham House, I listen to the challenges facing the security industry and ask Mr Woolsey if I can follow this up with him. He agrees and I later fly out to Washington to interview him.
Reading about Laura Poitras’ documentary Citizen Four this week made me reflect.
The circumstances are vastly different. I have no explosive leaks, but a structured ‘on the record’ conversation about intel into the 21st century by an actual security chief.
The nub of the story was the intelligence community upping its recruitment from within universities. One former CIA expert is calling for open source intelligence. There’s enough accessible data online to be sourced and shared by the intel community, however there are risks to journalists.
CIA Y Generation’s was pitched to BBC 3's commissioner who wrote effusively about it. But it never got made. The trailer is an example of what cyber culture writer refers to as ‘accelerated cinema’. MTV on anabolic steroids. It was also turned into an online trailer-movie folded around a cube — an early prototype can be found here. [ You need flash to view]
Thirteen years later open source connotes different feelings.
Poitras film has caught my attention for other reasons. She describes it as a mix of journalism and cinema. Is this possible: journalism and cinema?
The answer from traditional broadcasters is a resounding no. Jeff ( Jarvis) told me how he liked my presentation at CUNY’s Reinvent TV, because, how should I put this in a british way: ‘it was kinda bonkers!’ I think he was being nice.
Journalism and cinema seem such unlikely bed fellows because they use different tropes for truth, belief and to an extent narrative forms. One relies on figurative language and the stuff semioticians have wet dreams over. The other, journalists would have us believe, is fixed on facts sans opinion.
But their relationship goes back more than a 100 years.
Looking at more contemporary events, I have been fascinated by this style since watching Soderbergh’s Sex Lies and Videotapes and Dogme used DVcams for filmmaking in the late 1990s.
Cinema and Journalism
Cinema and journalism, or as I like to call it videojournalism-as-cinema is a symptom of a large transformation occurring in media, literature and the arts.
Look around you and whole discourses in classical tradition are being plonked on their head. They’re decaying, becoming an irrelevance to a new generation, giving way to a digital dialect.
In practice this has been a slow burn for some while, catalysed by cable in the 1990s, but has become as highly visible in the Social Network age as volcano Eyjafjallajökull spewing its guts in Iceland.
However, there are several paradoxes here. We’re analogues living in a digital age, when the foundations of analogue are as much needed for the moment, as our craving for this new event horizon.
Talking at UKNewfront, the very dynamic Cindy Gallop, chastised those who are not for change, who cloak themselves in the old ways, who fear taking risks. It was a convincing argument.
How I’d like nothing more than to kicas things stand at the moment, a cognitive awareness from analogue keep us ticking over, up until the time, they’ll be an all out digital revolution, or generations force the landscape to change irrevocably. Kant, Habermas, and Barthes still have some relevance.
No where more so is this clash of cultures shaping up for a good fight than in academia. History tells us of a new dawn for academia in the 1970s as film and literature skills were birthed.
What’s happening now is whole theories are being challenged with no clear answer what comes next, unless this occurs in concert with pragmatics, that is the data tells us so.
Look how experts are telling us Twitter and Facebook work — a combination of new ways and our aged-old lust for attention.
The need to experiment then becomes paramount: cinema and journalism; essayistic literature and journalism, fashion and architectural design concepts, and whatever next.
Which leads to my last point for the moment, that these tensions can be examined in ways that perhaps differ from the past, as this set of videos I’m set to post show.
The first of these which I’ll post shortly is labelled Hashtag Student. You. Let me know what you think?
You can read more on videojournalism-as-cinema on David’s dedicated site to his doctorate study on www.videojournalism.co.uk