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Media and the arts in an interdependent world

Updated Friday, 30th November 2007

A panel of experts discuss what the implications an interdependent world has for the media and arts

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Copyright The Open University

Featuring, in order of appearance:
Heather Ackroyd of artists Ackroyd & Hervey
Andy Hobsbawm, online media pioneer and co-founder of GreenThing
Jon Plowman, BBC Comedy executive producer
Brian Woods, film-maker


Heather Ackroyd: What we've been talking about is, what is the nature of activism now and what is the nature of how do you sort of start to lobby the change?

Andy Hobsbawm: What quite interested me about the panel was that, I'm interested in the convergence of media, I think that’s what’s interesting about the world, and that I got a real sense of the fact that these quite powerful documentaries, which reach a certain audience in a certain way but then actually get used in much more mass appeal programmes and fused together, and this idea that actually media’s taken and sort of remixed on line and repackaged and discussed and, I think that’s the future.

It's not an either/or, it's that all of these things work in concert, in ways that perhaps you can’t choreograph that precisely but you can just put the right ideas out in the right places in the right formats and trust that you’re going to create some sort of alchemy that will emerge.

Heather: And there'll be a reception of some kind.


Andy: And people will put it together in their own ways, in the ways that’s right for them, and I thought that was quite interesting just to be in a discussion where you got a sense of different pieces of that. You know, your work on DVD that I could imagine being discussed and talked about and remixed on YouTube and, I think that’s quite exciting…

Sort of good communications, isn't it, focus it and be very single-minded and have one central sort of point that you want people to get, and they’re far more likely to get it than if you give them five.

Jon Plowman: Because it's really tough, because if you say, look, there’s this terrible thing happened in Rwanda and please do something about it, you kind of go, urgh! I don’t know what I can do?

But if you say, look, if you give us a pound, we can spend that pound on digging this well or buying these glasses or whatever it might be, then people respond because they kind of go oh well, okay, I'm doing something worthwhile. Big blanket, doom laden things are quite tricky.

And I think the other thing is, whatever you do, be it on the Web or on television or radio or whatever it is, it's got to be good, the public aren't stupid. But if it's a bit crap or a bit, you know, Live Earth was a bit crap, and if it's a bit crap, people won't watch, they’re not stupid.

Heather: I think it's very hard to quantify what the effect of a piece of work is really without sort of like, you know, kind of stopping people on the Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, and asking them what their perception is, and then what’s their perception going to be a week or a month, whatever, further down the line.

Brian Woods: I think that, what we try to do is obviously get to people at a level at which they stop thinking about it and keep thinking about it the day after and the day after and the week after and the month after, and they, you know, in television, they’ve got this horrible phrase ‘water cooler moments’, meaning the thing that people talk about the next day when they’re standing around the water cooler.

Heather: A water cooler moment! I'm going to have to use that now.

Brian: It's a horribly common phrase I would think.

Heather: Oh my God, I’ve never heard of it.

Brian: And that’s what we try and do, in terms of just getting under people’s skin in a way that maybe then we can just influence their decisions some way down the line, hopefully, but there’s no way of knowing, you know.

Every now and again, we made The Dying Rooms twelve years ago, and I still now and again meet people who say something like, meet my daughter, I adopted her because of your film. I go oh, wow. And there are, that’s the sort of banal example, but there are lots of ways in which these things we do, you know, all of us, we kind of create stuff and then it goes out.

And it goes out on the internet and it goes on television and it goes all around the world, and you’ve no way of knowing what you’re influencing, far, way, way beyond, both in time and space beyond the first transmission or the first time you did it. So, hopefully, it's doing good.

Jon: If you’re passionate about a particular subject and you think if only there were a programme about that that was really good then the world would change. It won't, television is something that’s on in the corner of the room when you get home at night. It’s not, don’t overestimate its power.

However, what it can do is seed stuff. There’s stuff happening that isn't necessarily broadcast or isn't necessarily talked about but informs what you might call a change of mood in the public. So we make programmes, we do stuff on the internet, we do events, and gradually there is a change.

There is a change. So I think don’t overestimate the power of television and media but don’t underestimate it, as long as it's done with passion and flair and as well as it can be





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