Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Oct 10

Jiangsu Broadcasting learns about transmedia, social media and multimedia at Annenberg

Posted: under Politics & New Media, television.
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So this happened: I got asked to help train a team of 25 bright, ambitious, clever & talented people from Jiangsu Broadcasting. I believe they are headquartered in Nanjing, and they were set loose in Los Angeles for 20 days (missing out on some big & important holidays in China) to learn what they could about how to adapt to the shift from traditional broadcast TV, to a more multiplatform approach.

Here’s a gallery of images from the last day, when they had to present their projects.

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Yeah, I read the caption to this too – “loser … instantly … falling into a pit…” and realized that China’s gameshows are totally badass.

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Here are the contestants, perched on their precarious peninsulas (see what I did there?), waiting to have questions fired at them by the stern hosts.

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The students partied it up while they were in L.A., and experimented with Vine to post pictures of themselves toasting their success with California wine.

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As part of their presentation, one of the teams of students built sequences into their Prezi, where they took the letters U-S-C and used them to talk about how much they enjoyed their time in L.A. They were particularly impressed by the cheerleaders at our football matches.

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I think this spells out “M V” — maybe they saw the old Village People “YMCA” hand gestures, and figured they’d one-up it?

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So my students think I’m “Sully” from Monsters, Inc. Large, hairy, kinda goofy, by generally friendly and harmless. I guess this represents progress of a sort – usually, my students call me Hagrid.

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They were challenged to think strategically about how best to incorporate social media into their marketing and programming mix.

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Contestants on the singing contest show “The Hidden King” put on masks and perform against each other. Some of the masks really get ornate.

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One of the other ways that the students considered to drive traffic, awareness and interactivity with their content, is to start using the gossip sites to send out photos of Chinese celebrities making fashion faux pas. Zippers undone, bad armpit hair-shaving, etc. Somewhere, Perez Hilton nods and murmurs appreciatively.

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They’ve gotten the message that to compete against the market leader – a spinoff of “The Voice” – they are going to have to use a mix of social media strategies to try to build up a more engaged audience.

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Unable to built a real high-quality mask of their own, the students resorted to sticking post-it notes to the foreheads of their singer. I gave them extra points for resourcefulness and creativity. And, of course, silliness.

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The promos for “The Hidden King” would not look out of place in a Thor movie. Some huge guy, dreadful, menacing music … swinging a hammer with a glowing symbol in it … if it was a movie, I definitely would go see it.

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Nov 10

Ukrainian Professors Play with New iPad 2s

Posted: under Digital Migration, new media, Online Video, Ukraine.
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…in the courtyard of the Institute for the Digital Future of Journalism

I’ve got great video of everyone having a blast, experimenting with the new guerilla-style video production tactics I’ve been teaching them — I showed them how to use the front and rear-facing cameras on their iPads to shoot video. Here, they are working on producing “establishing shots” using whatever equipment is available to you at the time; in this case, it means holding the iPad up in front of your face and doing slow 360s, talking to the camera, so the audience can see for themselves what the landscape around you looks like.

journalism professors playing with ipads

They absolutely loved their brand-new iPad 2s. It was like seeing little kids getting handed Magic Mirrors. They were polite enough for most of the day, but about mid-afternoon, I just lost them in the wilds of the App Store. Also - I will never understand how the Ukrainian women manage to walk down these uneven, treacherous ancient cobblestone streets in stiletto heels.

I also taught them the basics of shot selection, framing, the Rule of Thirds, and some basic stuff about editing and shot sequencing as a means to create emotion. It was about a semester’s worth of material crammed into a one-day lecture, but at least I opened them up to what is possible, and where they can go to try to learn more on their own.

This is still a beautiful city, even if the sky in unrelenting slate gray, and the wind from Siberia knifes right through you after the sun goes down…

At night, the streets of Kiev are filled only with the rumble and clatter of Dr. Zhivago trolley cars, and the whistling north wind. The architecture here is like the people; kind of battered, but still full of character. Resilient.

I haven’t gotten to see as much of this city as I would like; I’ve always been working too hard, or pretty much exhausted & creaking from the demented flight schedule it takes to get here from Los Angeles. Still, the little I have been able to discover on my own has been delightful.

ukrainian student concentrates on the screen

This time around, my students arrived in my classes with significant New Media skills. Some of them were already creating infographics, and this girl is already ghost-blogging for big financial companies. As you can see, she is quite determined; meanwhile, behind her, another of my more active and vocal students gasps in horror at the convoluted assignments I have inflicted on the class...

One of the greater joys of this class was seeing my students help each other out. When they got stuck with some of my more technically challenging exercises, they reached out to each other, and shouted advice back and forth across the classroom.

There is no better feeling for me. I am only here for such a very short time; I keep wishing that I had an entire semester to really reach deep into these young people, to help them draw out their skills & refine them. But seeing their willingness to follow me down these strange multimedia pathways, and to help each other out along the way … leads me to believe that they will continue to help each other out after I am gone.

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Jul 07

How Africa Sees the Attacks on Obama

Posted: under new media.
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I found this painting in a humble little clothing stall in the merkato in Addis Ababa, during my last day there, when I finally got some free time to wander around and explore this fascinating city a little bit.

obama surrounded by the ku klux klan

It surprised me to find such an accurate depiction of the garb of the KKK in faraway Ethiopia. I guess movies or popular culture have exposed even the ordinary people around the world to our more sordid side...

Amongst all the funky art & tchotchkes, this painting caught my eye for obvious reasons.

What you can’t see, of course, are all the other exemplars of Obama’s presence here in East Africa. People walk around with Obama’s face on t-shirts, bumper stickers, hats … his face is pasted onto the clear glass shelves in the jewelry shops, and to the sides of the little “blue mule” micro-buses.

This is a good thing.

Invisible to just about everyone in the U.S., we are in a struggle for influence in Africa, which more and more people are calling “The Last Frontier.” China is spreading around the oceans of money (that we gave them in exchange for cheap plastic consumer goods, but that’s another story), and they are doing it in a very tricky, manipulative way. The U.S. and Western Europe have had decades of work, trying to figure out ways to actually benefit countries with their foreign aid. It has not been the easiest process.

However, we have figured out that nation-building takes time. Lots of it. And the investments tend to be gradual, building up infrastructure, institutions, ecosystems. The kinds of things that people really don’t see all at once – but if you take a snapshot of a country 10 or 20 years apart, you see the radical transformations. I know I did when I went back to both Colombia and Venezuela after 20 years absence in 2007-8.

modern catching up with the ancient

In Addis Ababa, the modern struggles to catch up with the ancient.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are throwing up big, showy projects. Roads, bridges, dams, buildings. And slapping their branding all over them. Ordinary people see this and say, “Well look, the Chinese are actually doing something for us. What do the ferengi leave behind? They talk a lot, but what do we have to show for it all?”

In this kind of environment, having an African-American as President of these here United States is a definite advantage.

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