Thursday, October 30, 2008

Digital tools for citizen journalists

Briefly summarize your proposed project in one sentence. Max 50 Words.

Enable citizen video journalism to realize its potential for social change by providing the right learning tools and “stupidly simple” applications in a unique content management system which enables the blossoming of networks of film makers and viewers in a reciprocal learning environment..

3. *Provide a one paragraph description of your project. Max 200 Words.

Include information about your target users, principal goals and outcomes, the kind of user experience you will create, and what you consider the "wow factor" of your idea. Explain how you will implement your project.

Via a comprehensive set of learning tools, we empower people with stories to tell to be able to communicate them to a wide audience. Tools range from a practical, easily-repeatable template for absolute beginners to essential “gap-filling” tools for people who already have some training.

Alternative iptv station VisionOnTV will provide a unique home for the reports produced. VOTV is already funded to add them to thematic seasons or news magazines, together with documentaries and studio shows.

We will re-cast the software tools for production so that the interface on opening is “stupidly simple”, and more complex options are a click away. Essential to this project is that there are no barriers to user take-up.

The most exciting thing is the unprecedented content management system (cms) which integrates all the learning tools and plugs live social networking into the playing of video content. It not only enables simultaneous feedback on films being watched, but crucially gives the opportunity to create on-line and face-to-face communities around shows and issues, and forums for participatory learning..

Learning tools will be tested via Undercurrents' already-funded training programme. The interactive components of these will be plugged into VisionOnTV's cms.

4. List up to 5 tags that best describe your project. Max 15 words.

Please enter each tag in a list separated by commas. Some examples of possible tags include: collaborative media, virtual environments/games/3D, networking (software, virtual, physical), digital learning devices, mobile technologies, peer-to-peer, fabrication, libraries and museums. Please feel free to create your own tag.

iptv, peer2peer, people2people, grassroots, news


1. *Describe your project. Max 600 words.

Include information about the project's significance and the contribution it will make to advancing participatory learning, the goals for the project in the 12-month grant term, and goals beyond the grant term. Explain why your idea is novel.

There are two major things which prevent the spread of video citizen journalism – lack of knowledge, and lack of useable tools. Most of the open source tools available for “citizen journalist” video production and distribution are far too complex and “geeky” to be accessible to all but a small minority. Video reportage is a highly complex, multi-faceted skill, but could be practised on a wide scale if the learning tools and support were available. Our innovation is to furnish a perfectly accessible set of online production tools and bring them together with online tutorials into a space where producers and viewers can interact with film content and with each other.

Undercurrents has already obtained foundation funding to create a citizens' IPTV station (VisionOnTV), and further funds to carry out a UK-based training tour in order to form a ‘Citizen Journalists Network’ to create content for this station and others. Therefore this programme will have a secure home within this framework which expects to have 100,000 downloads in its first year. We are here seeking funds to disseminate this learning much wider and more permanently by:

1) Integrating existing open source digital learning tools for all the skills necessary for citizen journalist video reportage, and creating them where they do not exist.

2) Re-skinning and simplifying existing open source projects for video creation and distribution to make them useable by the majority, and stitching them together in an integrated package.

3) Refining all these tools via feedback from Undercurrents' Citizen Journalists' training tour.

4) Adding to the VisionOnTV content management system an interactive web of wikis, forums, chat and groups for participatory learning in this field.

1) Much video training fails because it tries to condense the learning of a very complex craft into a very short time-frame, leaving potential future video creators unsupported and adrift with only a fledgling understanding of the language of film. To address this problem, we will provide for citizen journalists at two levels, with different tools:

i) those with little experience of video production, who will be encouraged to make short video reports about important stories in their neighbourhood, using only still images and voiceover.

ii) those with further or higher education production training, who need to know how to encode and distribute more complex media, and how to build both online and real-life communities around their films via a content management system.

We will gather up, link together, and if necessary create, the best online tools for shooting video, editing, publishing and video story-telling, creating your own rss feed/tv channel using our simplified version of the Miro player.

2) We will build a front end of the very good - but completely inaccessible - open source tools for video citizen journalism. For instance, a key tool that is missing and holds back the effective distribution of video is an encoder. We will take an existing successful open source project, re-skin it and build it into our cms to allow everyone access to simple encoding. We will also create simple-to-install pre-sets for popular editing packages such as Adobe Premiere and Windows Moviemaker (for PC) and Final Cut Pro and i-movie (for Mac). All these tools will provide for high-quality downloadable files which can be used for community screening as well as online viewing.

3) Additional workshops in the Undercurrents Citizen Journalists' Training Tour are a crucial proving ground.

4) We will give citizen journalists the skills to use the cms, enabling them to build their own environments for learning and the sharing of knowledge.

2. *Describe the participatory learning you are trying to achieve. Max 450 words.

Explain how your project will help people participate, reflect on their experiences, and share their efforts and observations with others. Describe the different kinds of learning experiences users will have, how these experiences are promoted by your design approach, and the kinds of technological solutions necessary to implement your approach to participatory learning.

Users will have all the learning tools and online tutorials in the form of text files and videos in one place, the VisionOnTV cms. This first stage will be quite prescriptive and hand-holding fopr those participating. Imagine the design as two train-line maps, a beginners' and an intermediate/advanced. The stations on the line will be the necessary stages for producing video reportage, e.g. pre-production, shooting, editing etc. Each station will also link to text and video tutorials. Nobody has ever yet designed this, and this lack partly accounts for people getting lost when trying to do video journalism, and failing to produce a successful piece.

A second type of learning experience is the feedback on films from viewers and other journalists via the cms. This can be in the form of live chat.

A third type is forums and wikis on the cms, which can be intiated by the citizen journalist themselves.

The idea overall is to create a network of resources which the community has ownership of, rather than us. This makes sustainability much more likely.

Timeline. Max 350 Words

Detailed workflow management plan and timeline

June 1st 2009 is the ideal time for us to start this project. Our cms will already be working, and we can plug in the tools from this project. The Undercurrents training tour will have run three workshops, enabling the testing of some materials.

4. Project URL

List and briefly explain any URLs associated with your project (this is the basic HTML sight, CMS coming in 3 months time) (some examples of outcomes of training run at recent climatecamp)

Project Personnel

1. *Primary Applicant: Briefly describe the role of the Primary Applicant. Max 50 words

Richard Hering will be responsible for the learning tools, and will run the training workshops which will test them.

Hamish Campbell will coordinate the development of the cms and the development of software tools.

*Describe the most innovative learning environment in which you have participated. Max 200 words

Recently at the Camp for Climate Action in 2008 we worked with different groups to run a solar-powered live-edit IPTV studio. DIY workshops include practical filmmaking, solar-power video and the blogging/journalism divide. More than 20 shows were produced over the 4 days by a mixture of experienced video makers and journalists and first-time participants. The studio space provided a focus for lively peer2peer-based learning and a real model for grassroots media production/re-production.

Our favourite show was this book review

And the best video report by a first time producer was:

If the cms had been in place, this learning environment would have been considerably enhanced, though streaming site distribution has meant encouraging feedback for the above first-timer (over 7000 views and 78 comments on youtube).

Briefly describe the role of the project collaborators, if applicable. Max 350 words.

In addition, we will be working with many of the grassroots citizen journalist groups who currently provide training and access to video for campaigning organisations, eg Camcorder Guerilllas from Glasgow, Schnews from Brighton, the transmission project, indymedia etc.

3. Project Staff. Max 350 words.

The project will have some of the most experienced staff in alt-media and media advocacy training who have run numerous peer2peer based workshops over the last 10 years.

De Murphy (project sercretary) works part-time as an administrator and bookkeeper at Undercurrents. For this project, the fact she is also a film producer and trainer gives her a very valuable undertanding of the needs of the project.

Owen English -

Project Budget

1. *Budget Amount

2. *Itemized Budget

Itemize your project budget in table format (e.g., Excel). Use 10 or 12 pt font. ".XLS", ".DOC" or ".PDF" format required. Please be advised that the selection committee may require budget revisions upon review. Budget categories might include the following, as well as any others deemed necessary by the applicant:



3. *Budget Narrative

Explain all budget items and the rationale for the budget in detail. Provide the amounts recorded in the itemized budget. Max 500 words.

The direction of the project is split between two experienced people of complementary skills, where one looks after the learning tools development (1), and the other looks after the cms development (2). They each receive a modest part-time wage (for 2 days a week).

Programmers are then necessary to do the cms and the re-skinning of the encoding tool. Liferay is our chosen cms platform. Initial work designing the user interface will be done by our director in charge of the cms, who will hand over the detailed coding work to Liferay's team, who are the best to carry out this work (3). Our director will also blue-print the encoding tool re-skin, and commission the programmer responsible for the re-skin of Miro for our VOTV player (4).

The coordination and outreach nature of this project needs a part-time secretary to enable smooth running between its different parts (5).

(6) is a contribution to VOTV for server costs.

We need editing laptops and a hi-spec camera to make the training videos. (7, 8). For the security of the project, we need back-up hard drive storage. (9)

We have kept office costs as low as possible (10).

Travel and subsistence allows us to go to 6 training workshops around Britain to test the materials. (11)

Indirect costs is a modest percentage of 5% (14).

4. Other Funding

List all sources that have already funded or have committed to funding your project. For each source, list the amount of support, the source's general expectations, the informal or formal agreement regarding ownership of any work products, and any agreements about profits.

No funders have been sought for the VisionOnTV project.110K

Undercurrent 34K

The projects long term goal is to be self stutaning from ethical advertising and copurate advertising on sindicated websights – the videos are distributed to more than 40 web locations as well as hosted by us.

All the content produced will be creative commons (maybe not all – so need a better way of saying this)

There are currently no other funders for this participatory learning project, but already three other funders for essential parallel parts the project which the “Digital Environment for Citizen Journalists” plugs into.

£100,000 for core VisionOnTV project over 2 years from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust

£36,000 from the Esmee Fairbairn Trust for the Undercurrents Training Tour, plus £18,000 applied for to the Cooperative Community Fund for the rest of this.

5. Other Potential Funding

List other sources to which you are applying or have applied for funding, with results pending.

We are applying to the Knight News Challenge in this round (deadline: 1st November) for funding to expand the Liferay iptv cms for VisionOnTV). This does not include the participatory learning aspects bid for here.


1. *Outcomes and Achievements. Max 250 Words.

How will you know if your project is succeeding post implementation? What sorts of indicators will you look for?

Productive traffic on the cms will tell us a lot, but more importantly the proof will lie in regular new films being produced. A major strength of this proposal is that it would be part of an ongoing project to distribute alternative media, where content from newcomers will always be noticed, appreciated and welcomed.

More widely, we aim for the VisionOnTV project itself to be re-skinned many times, and that the learning tools and software would go with it. So we will partly judge our success by other people not merely producing their own content, but their rss feeds, TV channels, and maybe even Tv stations, with open source and standards.

2. *Troubleshooting. Max 250 Words.

Describe one or two ways that your project may not succeed and what you would learn from this failure. What will you do if you see your project struggling or failing during the project period? How would you know?

Trolls could attack the open resource wikis and forums with youtube-style abuse. This could be very off-putting for first-time reporters seeking a nurturing environment via the cms. To root this out, we will implement the flagging of problem posts and all users will have an activity wall, which means it will be very easy for admins to spot troublemakers and to deal with them in an open way.

More generally, there is a “save the internet” battle for the openness of the internet at the moment. If this fails the openness that is at the core of participatory learning will be missing, thus our project could become irrelevant. If closed formats become dominant on the web, then the standards we are hoping to set will be pushed to the sidelines. However this is not very likely. Closed video formats such as WMV and Quicktime are failing after hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent pushing them for the last 10 years. Meanwhile more open standards such as H264, RSS and torrents as flourishing. We see the training tools we produce as contributors to this “downhill battle” for open web standards.

3. *Social Networking, Peer-to-Peer Mentoring, and Professional Guidance. Max 350 Words.

A social networking site, designed and moderated by HASTAC, will support winners in information sharing, group communications, participatory learning, collaboration, and peer mentoring. Online workshops by experts will also be hosted on the site. In what areas will your project/team benefit from the help of previous Competition winners and expert advisors (e.g., management, marketing, business models, human resources)? What will you be able to contribute to this online community effort? How might your project work with other projects in the field?

We are very excited to be working with other projects that support open standards and hope to exchange content via RSS and custom channel embeds to enrich user experience on our site and syndicate video to there project sites.

We hope the HASTAC site will open doors to outreach beyond the UK by connecting us to other like-minded people.

Everything in our project is open source. Anyone can re-skin or adapt any element of it, and we actively encourage other projects to do this.

4. *Copyrighted Material

Does your project require use of copyrighted material or other intellectual property? Applications with the intent to obtain approval are acceptable. Distribution of an award is contingent upon approval. (Before completing review carefully the terms of the Intellectual Property and Privacy Policies; these terms apply to all award recipients as a condition of being funded. By applying, you agree to the terms defined in these policies.)

The grant will all go only to build creative commons outcomes.

5. *Profits

If your project generates profits, how do you intend to allocate them? You will need to explain why revenue creation is necessary and how any revenue will be used or shared in furtherance of the charitable objectives of the Competition. (Before completing, review carefully the terms of the Intellectual Property and Privacy Policies; these terms apply to all award recipients as a condition of being funded. By applying, you agree to the terms defined in these policies.)

The outcome will be empowered groups of community-minded people - the project will not make profit in financial terms.