The Web at 20: Digital Revolution

Along with a host of others, I had to cut short my attendance at the #newsinnovation unconference* on Friday to hope on a Central line tube to White City for the launch of a new OU/BBC collaboration tentatively called “Digital Revolution“.

* I did and I didn’t feel bad about leaving #newsinnovation early. Bad, because I could have stayed longer and probably got quit a lot out of the presentations and, more importantly, the conversations, not bad because in the time I was there I got value out of it (a head full of thoughts and possibilities), chatted to a few people who were there, and hopefully added my own little bit of value. I’ll try to jot some notes down before the end of the week…

Digital Revolution is, in the jargon, a new 360 production for BBC Two, hosted by Aleks Krotoski (good choice, chaps…) that will document the revolutionary impact of the first 7000 days of the web in a series of four TV programmes, backed up by a major website.

The launch event was a panel affair, with four leading light speakers giving us their 2p’s worth about the web and then taking questions… Rather than me repeating what they had to say, you should check out Rory Cellan-Jones’ write up at The Web at 20, or these notes from @KarenK: BBC Digital Revolution launch event.

If that’s too much trouble, you can watch Tmm Berners Lee’s keynote here:

As befits the nature of the project, a programme blog has already been set up at: Digital Revolution (Working Title): Blog, along with the programme’s production website: Digital Revolution (working Title): Home.

As the programme’s producer (Russell Barnes ) writes at Charting the Digital Revolution:

we have decided to adopt a radical, open-source approach to the production process. We don’t just want to observe bloggers from on high; we want to blog ourselves and get feedback and comment on our ideas.

(Stifles a yawn…shouldn’t these more open production processes be the norm already? [I know they’re not, of course, which is why I started things like Digital Worlds and Visual Gadgets to draft ideas out in publicfor courses I’ve recently been involved with.] For example, will production staff be posting personal thought on personal blogs, twittering along etc etc too? That’s where the real community grows…)

But there’s more:

The second phase of our online project will begin in September. We want to share our rushes online, as they are filmed, including our encounters with the web’s head honchos.
We hope to release those under a permissive licence so that web users can re-use them or do their own mash-ups as they please. Whenever we can, we’re trying to rewrite the traditional BBC script and create something truer to the spirit of the web.

Ooh… sounds like a bit of R&DTV to me, the BBC RAD Lab initiative to produce a geek news programme in raw form, as well as the finished online article. (I am hopeful that we can do something similar with an OU co-produced version of Digital Planet, so if you have any ideas for how we can make that work, pleas get in touch ;-)

In just the same way I couldn’t start experimenting with different feed powered ways of how we might deliver OU course materials until OpenLearn opened up some authentic OU materials, it seems that easiest way for the OU to add remix value to OU/BBC co-pros could well be to take publicly shared assets and have a tinker with them, rather than try to negotiate rights hurdles over what we can do with stuff we’ve, err, paid for… ;-)

(Although that said, when I embedded some audio from a Digital Planet episode on an open2 blog, no-one was concerned about it… DIY tech – just making it up with the Arduino.)

in our next phase, and working in partnership with Tim Berners-Lee’s Web Science Research Initiative, we will be engaging web users in a number of online experiments that we hope will put long-held assumptions to the test.
For instance, it is said we now write more than we read, but what percentage of web users create genuinely new content out there? We want to find out.
Are there still six degrees of separation between anyone on the planet or has Facebook crushed it to two?

Good stuff… Maybe they can take things like Digital Planet listeners’ map to the next level, or use the power of the web to pull together something I haven’t managed to persuade anyone to support yet: a photosynth edition of Global Sunrise?;-)

(For other examples of what we have done to date with Digital Planet, see Exploring the GeoWeb with Digital Planet and A Week on the Digital Planet….)

Finally, in the last phase of production, after transmission of the series on BBC Two, our website will host a fully interactive version of the series that will remain online indefinitely.
Here web users will be able to browse through shortform video clips linking off to all the debate and discussion that we’ve generated on and around the web.

Ah, the legacy site… Shame we’re not allowed to host copies of the Digital Planet programmes we co-produce on (a site that is soon to be deprecated – I’m just hoping that the current URIs persist…), although there is the odd programme clip embedded there… That said, I think w have a reasonable legacy from the sites we’ve produced so far, from the listeners’ map, to a couple of travel bugs from the geo episode that are still out there; our photosynths (from the studio and the Colossus at Bletchley Park); a Digital Planet font; and of course, the Digital Planet ringtone. All of which is hosted on the Digital Planet open2 site itself, of course. And all done with no real budget to speak of ;-)

Anyway – it’s great to see the Digital Revolution programme being launched in such an open way – lt’s hope the production process continues in the same vein :-)

PS if we can hook an episode of Digital Planet into the process somehow, I think it’d be a good thing to do…. but maybe that’s a little bit too 360…?;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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