20 years ago today-ish

March 2nd, 2010 No comments

It was 20 years ago come this May when the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) was founded. Although the name and principles by which it was established were nutted out a couple of years earlier, the formalisation of what has been a journey of ground-breaking efforts across the globe, took a little longer to swing into place.

This May I will be meeting with other members of the APC board nearby the Sterkfontein Caves, about an hour or so from Johannesburg, South Africa. Part of this meeting will put in place some of the activities that will see all members of the APC come together in November to celebrate our achievements and the road ahead.

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EngageMedia reports from Copenhagen

December 10th, 2009 No comments

Frequent video updates and reports at EngageMedia.org.

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CTV has a digital future in Oz!

November 5th, 2009 No comments

It took some doing – media releases, trips to Canberra, the efforts of many, the incredibly focused efforts of a hand-full, community awareness programs and mighty media campaigns – the efforts paid off! Community television in Australia has a future on the digital spectrum. And it’s official!

The big question now is, what do we do there that hasn’t been done before, that ensures the viability of a television broadcaster in the face of increased bandwidth and the ubiquitous nature of the Internet?

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A cultural activist blogs

October 18th, 2009 No comments

The net has its fare share of cultural activists, but none more experienced at the business of social change through cultural endeavour than author and Circus Oz co-founder, Jon Hawkes.

We’ve recently had the pleasure of working with Jon and the Cultural Development Network on a new blog, fourthpillar.biz.

Jon describes the Fourth Pillar blog as being designed to:

… give you and me the opportunity to develop more articulate expressions of the ways that cultural action can support the development of societies whose members are engaged and empowered.

Jon goes further to ask:

Has a consciousness of how social meaning is constructed through public planning processes developed among those who do it?

Has the essential contribution of regular, participatory and collaborative community-based creative activities to the well-being and sustainability of society been recognised by our representatives?

We’re wrapped to have worked with Jon on the Fourth Pillar blog, one of the sites that I do hope stimulates the kind of discussion it seeks in this the year we make a difference!

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Sep 2009 update

September 10th, 2009 No comments

We’re well into 2009 and the pace has yet to let up as we steer through a micro-documentary series, open content and social networking consultancies, a fusion cabaret and IT project management contracts.

Grant has been providing technical project management to a number of companies around Melbourne. This includes working with digital agencies and multimedia graphics groups to produce a number of projects ranging from animated billboards to campaign based web sites.

He’s also been working with a company supplying insulation products for houses as part of a government backed energy reduction program.

Other projects have taken Andrew to Cape Town, the forests of the Ulu Baram in Sarawak, Buenos Aires, Kuala Lumpur and more recently, an arts community in the Australian bush, Dunmoochin.

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apc.au on Twitter

July 1st, 2009 No comments

Not enough information? More time on your hands than you ever expected? Here’s yet another way you can keep tabs on what we’re up to. Find us on twitter @apcau. You’ll be so glad you did!

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CC Case Studies

May 6th, 2009 No comments

Late 2008 a sensational homage to Creative Commons (CC) usage within Australasia was published. Edited by Rachel Cobcroft and produced in collaboration with the team at the Australian Creative Commons Clinic, Building an Australasian Commons features a vast repertoire of projects and initiatives that have employed Creative Commons licenses.

We are very proud and honoured to have been invited to have some of our projects represented here. Such a work has been a long-time coming.

Creative Commons is calling for more case studies to their wiki, also initiated by the energetic and inspired Rachel Cobcroft. Write up a story of your experiences with CC licenses or learn how others are using them.

Go CC wiki – Case Studies.

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The most significant thing…

May 6th, 2009 No comments

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is conducting an “End of Term Evaluation” covering the period 2004-2008 so they are asking all members to provide a story about the most significant change the APC has produced during that period. As members of APC, we were invited to include our perspective on the most significant achievement of that period.

Where to begin? During this time, staff & members of APC have been key drivers in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the establishment of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the globalisation of ICANN. To me, this was pretty big stuff as I’m a big believer in the Internet being a global enterprise with equal input required from “we the people” as well as corporate & governmental groups.

Of course, there was much more than that to consider. Over the four year period in question APC has also been achieving great results connecting people in the “Global South” to online information that helps them improve their lives. There has been great work on Gender Issues (including the Gender Evaluation Methodology and GenderIT.org) and the ItrainOnline initiative.

With so much work being done by APC and its members in so many areas, which one thing would we select as being the most significant to us? Well, we actually chose two as they were both fundamental to the work we do.

Here is our submission to APC regarding what we believe was their most significant achievement for 2004 to 2008:

From apc.au’s perspective, perhaps the most significant aspect of APC’s work from 2004 to 2008 has been the publication of resource materials, produced largely in collaboration with contracted members and associates, that members can employ in their own work.

Of specific interest to apc.au has been the development of the APC Internet Rights Charter. Since our beginning in 1997, we have worked towards the goals of equality, freedom and empowerment in the online world. The fundamental concepts expressed in the Internet Rights Charter are a framework that neatly encapsulates the foundations of our work.

Access to knowledge and sharing what we learn are key aspects of the projects we take on and the content we produce. We are frequently recognised as leading the way in the promotion and application of open and flexible content licenses (eg: Creative Commons) and free and open source software. We work within our sector to leverage ICTs to empower people online. All of this is driven by our adherence to the concepts so succinctly captured in the Internet Rights Charter.

The APC Internet Rights Charter, particularly relevant to APC’s strategic planning outcomes for 2004-2008, provides us with a tangible product that expresses our core, fundamental beliefs, our organisational DNA. This allows external groups to understand our motivations and provides us with a measure we can assess our activities against.

In addition to the Internet Rights charter, APC’s engagement with international ICT Policy processes during 2004-2008 has supported our own efforts in Australia, particularly in fostering a broader participation in the early WSIS. Additionally, materials produced through WSIS, such as the ICT Policy Handbook, have greatly assisted in the ease in which complex issues are translated.

The Handbook formed the basis of the “Your Rights Online Forum” events we ran in association with the Arts Law Consortium. These forums gathered representatives from the Australian Creative Commons Clinic, the Australian Performing Right Association, media groups and a number of artists themselves for discussions and debate about what rights artists actually have in an increasingly digital world.

These activities, and the promotion of participation in ICT policy processes was in part a trigger for the co-founding of Open Spectrum Australia with independent and community media representatives.

One recommendation apc.au would like to make, given it’s knowledge of APC’s strategic priorities during the ETA period, from both the perspective of a long-time member and our participation on its Board of Directors, is ensured capacity within APC programs to work consultatively with individual members on their own initiatives. This may not be the case with many members from developing countries, who often enjoy greater participation with APC programs, and so they should, but it ought be far more widespread without taxing the resources of management and staff.

It has been, and continues to be a rewarding expression of solidarity within the APC, both in our relationships with other members and the long-standing engagements with APC’s steady growth, reach and influence.

Grant McHerron & Andrew Garton
Directors, apc.au


Karen TV is go!

April 27th, 2009 No comments

A Karen child from the village of Pilokkhi in Thailand near the Myanmar border

The Karen community, for whom 2009 is ancient history, will celebrate the year 2748 this December. Australia is host to a growing number of Karen who arrived here as refugees having fled their homelands in Burma.

In 2007, or rather, 2746, we began working with the Melbourne based Cultural Development Network on an internet video production series, Homelands, for young people from the Karen and Sudanese communities. The idea is to co-produce video pieces discussing their perceptions of homeland with other young people from Karen and Sudanese communities abroad, and where possible, those still living in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border and / or Kenya and the Southern Sudan respectively.

This afternoon I worked with a group of Karen young people who have formed a web development team to start the work of producing a site that will support, develop and promote collaborative video production amongst themselves and young Karen abroad.

They arrived with a draft plan for their website, however it had not included any scope for supporting the video production project. What it did provide though, was a clear outline of information flows that would inform, guide and promote the project. It just needed the Homelands components added.

I showed them through Vibewire, SlumTV and EngageMedia. As I talked through each of these projects Homelands Project Officer, Kirsty Baird, logged onto a chat room on karen.org and found someone involved with the Karen community in California who not only makes videos but was keen to gather up stills and videos from Karen living there. The pieces were starting to fall into place.

Curiously, Vibewire seemed less representative of an online community of young creative people than I recall. EngageMedia will no doubt become the host platform for Homeland videos and SlumTV demonstrates what is possible when a clear framework is provided up front! SlumTV make no bones about what they do. They teach kids in slums how to make videos and screen them.

The next step was to ensure we could get a website up and running quickly – a site that would be easy to use, a site that supported not only the Karen’s vision, but a collaborative environment from which videos can be produced from. I showed them through WordPress and got their lead web person, Friday, to set up a free WordPress blog and Karen TV was born! It is but a humble beginning…

By the end of the workshop we had everyone signed up as contributors. We covered some basic publishing techniques in WordPress, found a design template everyone was happy with and put together a small production team to re-design a header image.

It was a terrific outcome.

We have momentum!

I left the Melbourne Multicultural Hub, wandered up to a Korean grocery store, picked up some supplies for dinner and walked home in the rain. 

Photo: A Karen child from the village of Pilokkhi in Thailand near the Myanmar border. By Brian Adler, Public Domain, Wikipedia.


Open production on the commons

April 24th, 2009 1 comment

I am in the midst of juggling several productions again. We have a series of mirco-docs on the go and about to enter a second production and post-production phase, live performances that draw in part from the micro-docs series, further development of a touring exhibition / installation series, a couple of short films simmering on the horizon, a requiem and another album of sorts.

Managing all these projects remotely presents one with significant challenges. For one, I can’t carry a white board with me nor can I draw on a production assistant with ready access to all the resources, networks and services I require.

Additionaly, all these projects are low budget and therefore entirely reliant on good will support, where possible, and a suite of free and open software from which to manage and drive these projects with.

Project management tools are often cumbersome, come with features that one may never use and require far too much time to maintain. In some instances, you need a project manager just to keep these tools fed! It defeats the purpose. You want tools that are easy to use, ensure efficiency of one’s projects, provide scope for shared access to them and interoperable with portable devices and platforms. 

Now-a-days I’m using a combination of:

  • Openoffice (spreadsheets, script templates, etc.)
  • Google documents
  • dotProject
  • MediaWiki

All great tools, but neither designed specifically for media arts, video / film production. Hence, I am now looking at the media production software, Celtx. The desktop application, available for all platforms, is free. The online studio, in where all resources can be shared, is subscription based charged monthly or annualy.

I’ve yet to make a decision to throw myself into this… my basic concerns are around asset and production management. I’m yet to be convinced Celtx can offer this. Besides, it’s not FOSS, but it’s affordable and appears to be created by media producers for media producers.

Perhaps my old fashioned production tracker spreadsheets will suffice in tandem with what appears to be a very sophisticated application.

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