Vancouver’s new media landscape – changes, challenges and models

An Introduction to Amb:IT:ion Scotland and its program

I heard about Amb:IT:ion from a friend. I then started to follow them on Twitter. And  just a couple of weeks ago my supervisor forwarded me an invitation to their Getting Digital Introduction event in Glasgow. It was something I couldn’t miss.

If you haven’t heard of them yet, sildenafil then AmbITion describes itself as a project, oncologist a virtual organization and “a change programme for the arts and cultural sector – helping organisations achieve their 21st century sustainability ambitions through implementing integrated IT and digital developments”. To my understanding, Amb:IT:ion is a project that aims to translate the foreign concepts of media technologies, social media and social networking to people very much involved in creation and promotion of culture: dance, theatre companies, artists, musicians, museums, all small or big interested in having more people hear their story, follow their journey and join it, as much as possible.

The group is working, among others, with the Scottish Arts Fund who has invested £1 million in the program. This means that some arts organizations will be receiving consultancy from the Amb:IT:ion experts.

Today the speakers were Julie Tait, Director of GGA (Glasgow Grows Audiences), an arts marketing and audience development agency, Hannah Rudman, founder of Rudman Consulting, a consultancy practice specialising in strategic digital development for 21st century sustainability. The keynote was delivered by Kyle MacRae, founder of Blether Media, social media marketing agency.

Using a nice looking, captivating and in place funny, Prezi presentation Kyle MacRae talked about user generated content. To me he stated the obvious, that online environments are very rich, give plenty of choice, but that organizations need to understand that social media and user generated content is not the solution for everyone. But then I was the odd person out in the group, fitting more the profile of the consultant than that of an art organization seeking advice on how to attract or maintain its online audience.

Kyle had some very good points. He advocated for strategic thinking, for listening and engagement with the audience but also for caution. One of the big words he used was policy. He shied away from offering straightforward solutions to the good and bad practice examples/case studies he showed but he emphasized several times that organizations need to analyze their environment and audience and come up with their own policies on social media. A great point indeed.

I believe what Kyle said today, which is similar to my PR 2.o presentation I delivered in December last year at HoWest in Belgium, is that organizations going digital need to understand why they do it. Going digital just for the sake of it (or because they can, as he put it) will not help further a coherent message nor it will support the organizations in their audience engagement. What Kyle didn’t clearly mention is that the web offers a myriad of free solutions and tools. I believe arts organizations would benefit from learning what they are and what they are good for.

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After all, going digital isn’t difficult (because of the many resources out there) but it needs to be relevant, coherent and creative. Moreover, going digital doesn’t have to be scary. Adopting a rational approach and coming up with social media policies helps as it forces organizations to analyze their activity online both in terms of present and future. Furthermore, policy drafting will inevitably end up in coming up with solutions for avoiding that the “worst case scenarios” happen. And THAT is what proactive organizations do.

While creativity is oozing from arts organizations, what they need is help with learning the rules and etiquette of the digital world. It’s good that a project like Amb:IT:ion is out there. It provides valuable examples, it gives them a chance to learn from others. Similarly it gives them opportunities to network. to share their stories, to challenge prior models, and finally to find their own voice in this noisy and loud digital environment.
Since the Atlanta Olympics of 1996 when Internet was in its experimental stages, advice many things have changed. Not only did the Internet grow in popularity, weight loss
accessibility, pestilence
reach and offers but technology has evolved at a similar dizzying fast pace. Additionally, the IOC has also learned, in time, to have a differentiated approach to emerging media and technologies embracing both and attempting to define their use boundaries at the same time. While innovative technology was welcomed in the field, such as HDTV, mobile internet, 3D TV, on-demand TV or live online videocasts, more caution was taken with regards to how these technologies are used and most of all by whom.

Photo Source: The BlogHorn

Alison Korn, sports columnist for the Toronto Sun, remembers for example the time when she got into trouble in the middle of the opening ceremonies because she had written a newspaper article, published that day, about the athlete experience of living in the Olympic Village. Since at the time the rules “athlete journalism” as she called it were grey at the time she got away with a warning.

From a media perspective, Vancouver promises to provide an exciting Games experience. Some call Vancouver the Blogging Olympics, since blogging is an activity that crosses the boundaries of traditional and citizen journalism, as well as those of official and personal communication.

In this respect, the Vancouver offers plenty of choice. For the accredited journalists, the Main Media Centre (MMC), located within Canada Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre on the city’s downtown waterfront, will house the Main Press Centre (MPC) and the International Broadcast Centre (IBC). These will be the working hubs of paying rights and VANOC/IOC accredited media. For example, some 7.000 broadcasters and technicians are expected to be working from IBC alone.

For the non-accredited journalists, academics, bloggers, artists and activists there is as well more than plenty of choice. The British Columbia International Media Centre, at the heart of downtown Vancouver in Robson Square Plaza, is a fully equipped and full service broadcasting facility that will enable access to athletes, dignitaries, government leaders and other stories from British Columbia. The centre however requires accreditation.

W2 Woodwards Media House, located on 112 West Hastings Street, serves the independent sector. It’s a cultural and arts infrastructure that selected and invited Djs, Vjs, visual and media artists, filmmakers, designers will use to reflect a diverse mix of Vancouver culture.

There is also the True North Media House, an online media centre who aims to promote social coverage of the Winter Games as well as collaboration among content creators.

The Vancouver Games have therefore a potential of being remembered not only for the sporting performances and records but also for the way communities of many sorts vibrated and reacted to them. This will also be enabled by wider access to smartphones and laptops connected to the internet via 3G, wi-fi dongles, free wi-fi spots or broadband and able to share news instantly via email, sms or bespoke applications.

So, with so many options, will there be any restrictions? Will the athletes be allowed to blog, tweet or facebook from the Games? Will media rights holders be able to monetize their investment in the Winter Olympics?

When it comes to athletes the guidelines are clear. Athletes can engage with new media and can share content online as long as it reflects their experience and their views. However, athletes will not be allowed to publish on platforms that gain revenue from advertising as they will not be permitted to record and then publish audio and video from the Olympic arenas. This no-video, no-audio restriction applies as well to all non-rights holders and to written media. In terms of photos, athletes and accredited persons can publish pictures of themselves from the areas where they are accredited provided that the photos do not depict any sporting action of the Games or of any of the Opening, Closing or medal ceremonies. So, as long as it is personal, is not audio or video, or a photo slideshow implying movement taken from a sporting event, labeled as Olympic (or anything related) and showing Olympic insignia, everything can be published. The series of IOC Internet guidelines provides further details:

IOC Internet guidelines ManyEyesAn easy and interesting way to visualize the IOC Internet guidelines generated by Alfred Hermida can be found on ManyEyes.

The media delivery model will also see some changes. In an attempt to maximize revenue from the Games related content available online, NBCOlympics.com, the US Games official and exclusive broadcaster in the U.S. will in an unprecedented move require viewers to prove that they subscribe to premium-cable service prior to be granted access to live, full-event replay video compared to previous games when only a ZIP code was required. Less restrictive, but still with limited access will be the content of CTV, the Canadian official Olympics broadcaster, available only to Canadian IPs. The move reminds of IOC’s YouTube channel launched for the Beijing 2008 where access to Olympic content was geo-restricted and made available online in areas where free to air TV was not available.

While technology and media practice (accredited, non-accredited or personal) hasn’t changed much since the Beijing Games, a move towards clearer rules and policies and better-defined boundaries is noticed. With so many options to follow and cover the Games, I really wonder where will these stories unfold the most and whose story will be heard more often – that of the sporting success and of the joy of competition, that of culture and diversity being celebrated or that of the disruptive and anti-Olympic voices?

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