Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Digitally generate opening and closing ceremonies for London 2012 Olympics

The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games 2012, plans to spread the opening and closing ceremonies accross multiple venues in London. I suggest it should be possible to digitally stitch this into a spectacular TV show. I discussed some of this in my presentation to the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games and some in the talks at the China New Media Conference 2007 (and their discussion forum). But there will need to be limits placed on what can be digitally generated, to avoid the faked fireworks which marred the Beijing opening ceremony.

THE UK will ignore the traditional stadium-based extravaganzas seen at the Beijing games, spreading its opening and closing ceremonies over the entire city of London....

From: London goes for grass roots Olympics, Paola Totaro, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 1, 2008
While watching the Beijing opening ceremony via TiVo, I though that Zhang Yimou's Beijing Opening Ceremony had too much reliance on projection screens. Beforehand, I had heard that the scenes of massed drummers on the great wall used in Channel 7's promotions were special effects, using just one drummer copied over and over again. Watching the 2008 drummers in the opening ceremony I had the uncomfortable feeling I was seeing another special effect.

The fact that part of the fireworks were digitally generateddigitally generated, suggests interesting possibilities for future Olympics. Rather than call this a fake, as many of the media have, it should be seen as opening up new options, freeing the games from restrictions which do not apply in the digital age.

It has not been possible for smaller, less prosperous countries to bid for the games, due to the cost and logistics. However, that most of the audience is via TV (and in future the Internet) removes this restriction. The Games could be held, for example, in several African countries, each with a small venue, specialising in one sport. For the opening ceremony, these could be digitally stitched together into one event. Those in the stadia could watch their live segment combined using projection technology with those of the other sites.

Perhaps London 2012 could be the first of the games of the new digital age. Many of the viewers of the 2012 games will not be watching conventional digital TV, but via TiVo and other computer based systems. This will create a different more involving experience for the viewer, who can use software to create their own perspective. Even those at the opening ceremony will be using their own mobile devices to watch part of it, and perhaps be involved in creating the digital experience. The challenge will be to make it an authentic virtual experience.

ps: But while digital effects might be okay for the opening ceremony, the sports themselves need to be genuine, for the event to be enjoyable. A suspicious number of swimming records have been broken. Perhaps the Olympic committee needs to bring in independent experts to measure the pool and make sure it is the correct specification. The Australian TV comedy "The Games" about the Sydney 2000 Olympics had one episode with a "100m" running track which was shorter than 100m.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

China New Media Conference 2007: Money, Art and Governance

QUT Creative Industries PrecinctThese are some thoughts on the China New Media Conference in Brisbane last week. Items from the event are listed under "China".

The essential point seemed to be that you could do online digital media in China for profit, or artistic purposes, and slip in a little political comment in it, as long as you were careful to self censor.

One theme running through the conference was the effect of the Beijing Olympics on new media. I was with the skeptics on that one. The Olympics is not going to see a blossoming of digital video art on 3G phones and the like.

QUT's Kelvin Grove campus, where the event was held, is most impressive. Having part of the ABC on site (relocated from the abandoned Toowong offices) ads to the media atmosphere. The campus is an interesting combination of education, business and real estate development.

The QUT's digital art gallery I was less impressed with: this is essentially a big white empty building (with as much warmth as the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building) . In place of art, it has images projected on the blank walls. It would have helped if they had thought to install some human comforts, such as a toilet.

Thanks to the Online Opinionites for buying me pizza. There is a discussion of China and democracy running in the OO forum.

ps: What was the Wiki conference some people were at in the same venue?

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

iPhone Smartphone problem for Olympics

On the second day of the China East Asia New Media Conference in Brisbane one of the speakers on a panel before me mentioned the Apple iPhone as an innovative product. Departing from my prepared talk, I pointed out that the Open Moko Neo1973 Smartphone may be more significant. The Neo may be seen as a poor man's iPhone, when in some ways it is more capable.

However, given iPhones are getting attention and may well be the first hand held web device most people see, I thought it was worth preparing a short item on how web pages can be adapted to the iPhone.

If such phones become common by 2008, the organizers of the 2008 Olympics could have a problem. The TV rights have been sold by the IOC. But if thousands of people use video phones to transmit coverage of the events, it would be possible to mashup a reasonable Olympic coverage from them. This would likely be illegal and something the TV companies which have paid billions of dollars for would not be happy about, but which BOCOG could do little about.

Even if this is not feasible for 2008, it is certain for the London 2010 Olympics. This is something the researchers from Westminster University, and other institutions researching for the 2012 Olympic Games in London should look into.

As an example of the type of technology which might be used,Microsoft's Photosynth Technology Preview shows how thousands of photos can be automatically combined to create a high resolution three dimensional image:
Our software takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed three-dimensional space.

With Photosynth you can:

* Walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angle.
* Seamlessly zoom in or out of a photo whether it's megapixels or gigapixels in size.
* See where pictures were taken in relation to one another.
* Find similar photos to the one you're currently viewing.
* Send a collection - or a particular view of one - to a friend.

From: Introducing Photosynth, Microsoft Live Labs, 2006

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Making money from culture online in China

Brand New China: Advertising, Media, and Commercial Culture by Jing Wang Greetings from the second and last day of the China East Asia New Media Conference in Brisbane. Some highlights:
My last panel session is on at 2:3pm: Web Site for the 2008 Beijing Olympics: Integrating Sport, Money, Phones and Politics.

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Uniform Office Format from China

The topic of if China would be content to use western developed standards came up at the China New Media conference I have been attending in Brisbane. One I just noticed is that China developed an XML based "Uniform Office Format" (UOF), similar to the ODF standard. There would seem to be no good reason why the world would need another XML based office format, but then Microsoft have proposed one, so why not China?

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

China and Australia using New Media for Governance

Terry Flew at the launch of his book Understanding Global MediaGreetings from the Creative Industries Precinct in Brisbane, where the China, East Asia, Media, New Media Conference 2007, just started. About one third of the delegates are from China and I am feeling a little out of my depth, not from the overseas visitors, but the media studies emphasis of the conference. To me the Internet and web are for carrying "stuff" and I worry the stuff gets from author to reader; exactly what the stuff is I don't much care. The other speakers at this conference are vitally interested in the content and its effect on society.

I will be on two panels at the conference. As I am last on each panel, I don't expect I will get to say much, but prepared notes and slides anyway:
  1. "Inventing a New Media for China Beyond the Olympics", 11:25am, 5 July 2007. In this I suggest the Internet and web can be used for a blend of education, media and administration to create consultative government of local communities. This can be applied to an apartment block in China or a remote aboriginal community in Australia.
  2. Web Site for the 2008 Beijing Olympics: Integrating Sport, Money, Phones and Politics, 2:30pm, 6 July 2007. I give a quick rundown of the various web sites created for the Olympics. BOCOG invited me to Beijing to give some advice on the web site in 2003. But I point out that the new Beijing 2008 Olympic Web site does not comply with accessibility standards. As a result it will be more difficult to use, particularly for those using mobile wireless devices and those who have trouble reading the languages provided.
Comments and corrections are welcome.

Also Graham Young, Chief Editor, On Line Opinion, has arranged Pizza tonight for the opinionated (I am on the advisory board for the publication). Contact him for details:

Terry Flew's book Understanding Global Mediaps: Photo is of Terry Flew at the launch of his new book "Understanding Global Media" at the conference.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Sport, Money, Phones and Politics in the Chinese New Media

The program is out for the 2007 China Media Centre Conference in Brisbane, 5 to 6 July. Somehow I ended up on two panels. The extra one is Friday, 6 July: Globalisation, Ideology and Theory, with Lian Zhu (University of Bournemouth, UK), Terry Flew (Queensland University of Technology), Xin Xin (University of Westminster).

I will be talking on:

Web Site for the 2008 Beijing Olympics: Integrating Sport, Money, Phones and Politics

Balancing the competing demands for the 2008 Olympic web site are as delicate as that of any gymnast. China needs to meet the requirements set down by the International Olympic Committee, the needs of internal readers, and the international media. The Sydney games made tentative steps towards a web based Olympic experience, which Athens retreated from. Beijing 2008 will be the first games of the new Web 2.0 era. How are issues such as control of content handled, what role will mobile phone based content have? Tom Worthington will discuss the issues from the point of view of someone involved with the early planning. He was an expert witness in the Australian Human Rights and Equality Commission on a case involving the Sydney 2000 Olympics web site design. He was invited to Beijing help in planning for the Beijing Olympic web site, with Chinese and International Olympic officials.

The other is Thursday on Re-Imagining Global Media, with Terry Flew, John Hartley and Michael Keane from Queensland University of Technology, Anne-Marie Brady (University of Canterbury, NZ), Jack Qiu (Chinese University Hong Kong). I am talking on "Inventing a New Media for China Beyond the Olympics".

It occurs to me that systems for community consultation in indigenous communities in Australia could also be applied in China. A village and a high rise apartment block are both forms of community which need day to day decisions to be made about them. Perhaps the same web based systems could be used in an Australian rural community and a Shanghai apartment block.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Inventing a New Media for China Beyond the Olympics

The 2007 China Media Centre Conference is 5 to 6 July in in Brisbane. I will be speaking on "Inventing a New Media for China Beyond the Olympics":
In the past few years the Internet has gone from being a theoretical idea invented by a few western scientists funded by the US Department of Defence, to an essential part of world commerce and culture. Much of the technological infrastructure of the Internet remains the same even with developments such as Web 2.0 However our methods of work and analysis have yet to catch up. The Web created a new wave of grass roots publishing following on from email. The operation of the web for the Beijing Olympics will be the test case both for China, and all organisation structures. Within the Internet has always been the Trojan horse of grass roots participation; with Web 2.0 this will emerge to will challenge traditional power structures world wide.

Cross-disciplinary analysis is needed to understand the interplay of technology, politics and commerce. Media and cultural researchers need to throw off their arms length analysis and embrace the new media in order to understand it.
In 2003 the Beijing 2008 Olympic Committee invited me over to advise on their web site design. Also some of the students I teach web design and e-commerce to are from China. They will be the ones implementing Internet, web and mobile phone based systems which will be the platform for new media in China. One student just completed a special project to modify the Wikimedia to include advertising.

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