By Aelwyn Williams

snowballs

Preparing for the trip to North Wales, and there’s a good snowball effect happening as I speak to people and they suggest others we should speak to. So far, we’ve got Rondo, Cwmni Da and Barcud covered hopefully, and I’ve expanded who we’re talking to a bit – dubbing mixers seem to have quite an effect on music choice also, for example.

Most things are going up in the calendar. Also, just to clarify, we’ll be keeping things nice and anonymous in general, for the internal research report also, and we’ll be asking people whether they want names used, as standard practice.

Notice that there’s both a project calendar and question framework (which people can feel free to comment about /add to) on the right. I’d stress that the framework questions are are only intended as a loose guide to the areas we want to explore and we encourage tangents into relevant areas.

good meeting

Good to meet you Hefin and Lisa! Bit of a clearer idea of the way ahead now, and some of the underlying themes for the question framework. What hit me was that, the underlying driver for many themes in our dicussion was technology, so I think gaining a perspective on the use (by producers and editors) of current web-based services will be essential (last.fm and the like, as you mentioned Lisa, or music blog aggregators e.g hypem.com ), with web-based technologies being particularly disruptive. Memory has never been cheaper, and vast libraries of tunes are the norm for all. So we know people (including music producers) are listening and consuming music differently, compared to even a couple of years ago etc. etc. – how does this affect current practices and approaches, consciously or unconsciously? This is bound to affect the next generation of editors and tv producers: so how can the music producers respond to that? However, people aren’t just bound to the technology, obviously, and good practice is more than following the latest trend. How important is company ethos, reproduced through informal/formal training etc.?

It’ll be interesting to compare biographies and professional backgrounds for those concerned. Though it’s not a scientific sample by any stretch, there might be some underlying themes which cut across working for larger bodies such as the BBC or coming from a smaller independent company background etc. What’s the ethos? Cheap and cheerful, or thought out with more quality? Also, what the attitudes to local consumption, in this case the sense of pride in using Welsh-sourced goodies, not just four-legged varieties? There’s a whole heap of understanding about economics and culture behind the decisions people make I guess.

Anyway, as mentioned earlier, I’m pretty busy on other stuff until Wednesday pm, but I’ll be writing out a question framework (and hopefully road testing part of it) before the end of the week, + filling out the diary for interviews.

more links added

Looking forward to hearing how our editors/producers view these distinctions between ‘featured’ and ‘production’, what it actually means for them in practice, how they make their decisions and on what basis – my hunch is that cost wil be one of the biggest issues, but this we can explore using the question framework. From initial discussions with some contacts, the whole issue of ‘searchability’, tagging the information properly in a single database, would seem to be a consistent theme, but we shall see. It was remarked that the difference in price is always going to be an issue and that there has to be some flexibility in this – but also, time restraints/pressuresetc.

More links added, including to Rhys’s site.

First post for Welsh Music Foundation

Croeso! As always, the start of the research project. This blog will be for those involved, a diary of work in progress and any emerging ideas, so feel free to comment and contribute, in any language. In fact, comment is to be very much encouraged if we want a good piece of work at the end….

We’ll be putting up any relevant links, of course, and try to chart things as they come up: though it’s ‘ten days’ up there, inevitably this will entail work over the next month until the 10th March (and beyond), so at least the blog will enable us all to keep in touch and record some ideas that we bat about. Inception meeting on Monday will be important so that we can sort out:

  • developing the work programme, including question framework, main concerns of research commissioners
  • get comfortable with fieldwork approach
  • do some serious work on timetables etc.

Also, the more serious desktop research can begin once we fully understand the issues from WMF point of view. We could also potentially agree a set of interviews according to contacts etc

digital refuseniks

Some interesting studies which I’ve come across (late in the day….) also look at those who refuse to use most ICT technology, and live perfectly happily without it, the question asked being whether non-users of these technologies are falling into existing and deep-rooted patterns of social and economic inequalities, or whether they are exercising agency in their own way to not use. One paper suggests a hierarchy of non-use.

Digital divide is an incredibly contested term, which I’ll explore more fully in the report.

digital summit

Ongoing debate about broadband is highly topical as everybody is also waiting for Lord Carter’s report (….another one….) into digital services, summit today at the British Library. This is also an intersting addendum to the Caio report, because it means that the UK government is prepared to intervene in the market both to ensure that the nbecessary infrastructure is there, but also to deal with the problems facing media companies regarding digital content – a digital economy bill on the horizon according to today’s news. Peter Mandelson:

“Speaking at the Digital Britain summit in London today, Mandelson said the government cannot be content with the telecoms industry’s current plans, which will only make super-fast broadband services available to about half the country.”

Basically, it’s pretty obvious that the landscape for this has changed dramatically because of the downturn – my guess is that the optimism in the Caio report, which was based on the markets taking care of most of the development, has had to change….plus, inevitably, this is an area which most other developed countries are keen to invest in as a way out of the recession (the US comes to mind). Budget next week might be interesting on this.

more reports

Writing is well under way, but there are always reports popping up which I need to take into account for the final draft. This is just to remind me …….. the former Consumer Council which has been folded into Consumer Focus/Consumer Direct , and they produced a series of reports about ‘internet inequality’, including a response to the European Commission’s report in 2005 – though I don’t know yet how up to daye this will be to be honest, because the whole issue is so fast moving. What was true in 2004-05 probably will have changed by now. A further report/consultation on ‘e-Wales’, refresh of 2001’s Cymru Ar-lein, completed in 2007.

Atkins report remains one of the most authoritative recent documents, including good background information about the WAG strategies for the last few years. Background to the built and being-built networks which are connecting services both in the public and private sectors, such as Fibrespeed Wales – this site has a regularly updated news section on the project.

More on the education side, some important reports into harnessing technology for learning from Becta, and a really intersting site based in the states, Educause.

contexts

Apart form the Ofcom Reports, which seem pretty invaluable, the two most recent major pieces of research relevant to Wales would seem to be the Communities @ One evaluation – major piece of community informatics investment by WAG & EU, run by Wales Co-op Centre, and the Atkins report highlighting the benefits of broadband to the economy generally – which is interesting reading next to the BERR Caio report in 2008 (one of the many on the future for UK broadband by BERR). On the surface, both would seem at the different ends of the spectrum.

Also, have just come across the RIMS scheme by WAG.

some good background material

Two of the most important general background papers , though not specific to Wales, would be the Futurelab report and the 2004 JRF report also (both listed in the side panel). Futurelab report especially good at describing the complexities and definitions behind the notion of ‘digital divide’ whilst maintaining that there are significant grounds for arguing that demography is destiny when it comes to predicting who will go onlineā€. However, the complexity of not only the multi-modal nature of ICT experience, but also the multi-dimensional aspects of ICT use have to be taken into account by policy makers and others – ‘bridging the gap’ in terms of hardware and software should not be the sole goal, nor is it only a matter of the usual suspects in terms of social variables. The website worth a look, and they’re a forward-thinking but realistic organisation.

Still working through the Leadbeater book, which is more about the possibilities which are perhaps only clearly emerging now, in the last couple of years – but it is actually making me glad that I’ve started this blog as a means of sharing the work eventually, possibly. He points to five different scenarios for the internet in the initial chapters, underlining the fact that we might be at a critical point in its development:

  1. For some the internet is an overblown tool, just that it allows you to do things quickly and to a larger audience – but essentially it remains a flea market (ebay) or shop (amazon)
  2. Internet might have a big impact on society, but technology should always be seen in the long view – Shock of the Old, Dave Edgerton
  3. Web is already having a big influence on society, which is mainly bad – The Cult of the Amateur (Andrew Keen), The Big Switch (Nicholas Carr), Larry Sanger (co-founder, but now critic of, Wikipedia) and Susan Greenfield. The web is an unfiltered mess which obfuticates ‘truth’ and ‘expertise’, ‘Google is making us stupid’ etc.
  4. The web mainly good for us in a libertarian way, – ‘faster, frictionless market and an abundance of free culture – Chris Sanderson,(Wired – The Long Tail – which is a great book…, but has come in for criticism in its premise) seen as chief advocate
  5. The more communitarian viewpoint, espoused by Leadbeater : ‘the possibility of community and collaboration, commons-based, peer-to- peer production, will establish non-market and non-hierarchical organisations’. Other advocates along similar lines: Clay Shirky (Here Comes Everyone), Yochai Benkler (The Wealth of Networks)

Crucial systematic review by Yu (2006) accessed through Sage.

Ivan Illich and Web 2.0

This has been bugging me for over a week. I’ve been reading The Right to Useful Unemployment and Disabling Professions, both of which have been either written by or have contributions by Ivan Illich – reading as part of my studies for another research project at Cardiff Uni, partly looking at ideas ‘professionalism’ -and it suddenly struck me that there might be a link between his ideas about informal learning back in the 70’s and the way Web 2.0 is all about users creating their own networks and content. One of his central themes is the need to overturn technocratic elitism, and give the average person the ‘tools’ needed for a fulfilling, independent life. Lo and behold, a short search later, it turns out that he was a major influence on another radical, who happened to play a major part in the development of the personal computer, Lee Felsenstein ( “If work is to become play, then tools must become toys” – one of his most famous aphorisms – influenced by Illich’s Tools for Conviviality).

Exploring this a bit further, I’ve come across some recent policy ideas by Charles Leadbetter which develops this further (there’s a handy synopsis in Prospect) , which is also an interesting part of Leadbetter’s recent ‘We-Think’ – ‘a rallying call for the shared power of the web to make society more open and egalitarian’, so I’m hoping to use part of this in the work.