Greetings from the brand new Media Factory headquarters

This year has started with a little bit different focus than the last one. In our five-point action plan we emphasize more gatherings with our different stakeholders as well as the visibility of media education and research within Aalto university.

We have had two seminars in February, one in co-operation with the Canadian embassy and one in co-operation with Grafia ry. We enjoyed both networking with Dr. Gerri Sinclair from the Digital Media Center in Vancouver as well as hearing the Grafia seminar panelists discuss the future of research and education within graphic design. Some twitters from the events: Sinclair: Where is the money? Answer Baby-boomers. Grafia seminar: What is the core of graphic design in year 2015? Is it information design? For getting a glimpse of these events please find the videos on our video channel.

Finnish Game Jam

The Global Game Jam 2010 was an event organised on January 29-31 in a multitude of locations worldwide. In Finland the event took place in four locations. Media Factory took part in organizing and documenting the Helsinki Event in Media Centre Lume. A video documentary is currently being edited and will soon appear on our video channel.

What is a Game Jam? It’s an event and competition where participants innovate computer games from scratch in a single weekend. The assignment is given in Friday evening and the completed games are evaluated in Sunday afternoon. This year’s theme was “deception”, something that all completed games were expected to deal with. To learn more and actually to play the winning games visit Finnish Game Jam’s website: http://finnishgamejam.fi/

Mobile App Developer Network

There is a growing demand for collaboration in the area of mobile application development (i.e. programming and content creation for mobile devices such as mobile phones) within Aalto University. Therefore, Media Factory has initiated a multi-disciplinary network where people interested in this topic can meet regularly and plan joint activities. The network is intended for both staff (researchers, lecturers) and students of Aalto University, with visitors from media industry. Continue reading

5-point action plan for 2010

The Aalto Media Factory is a spearhead project of the new Aalto University, a platform for collaboration in the broad area of ‘media’ within Aalto. It is also intended as an instrument for facilitating collaboration with media-related industry and other stakeholders in the field. The factory’s operations started officially in early 2009 and have been subject to review and development as the new Aalto University launches into its first year of existence, starting 1st January 2010.

The Media Factory’s office is based in the School of Art and Design (TaiK) at Arabianranta in Helsinki, but its operations are spread throughout the three Aalto campuses. The factory’s director, since November 2009, is Prof. Philip Dean, who is also head of the Department of Media at TaiK. The factory currently has three full-time employees.

The factory’s programme of operations for 2010 is made up of five main elements:

Research
Research collaboration activities include the support of projects born from the first year of operations as well as efforts to extend the media research networks in Aalto and to foster debate and joint development of new project proposals. The Media Factory has been able to provide seed funding for proposal development. A media researchers’ forum has also been created as well as a network of media-related research labs.

Education
The second line of operations is development of media-related education between departments of the three schools. Short courses and minor subject modules are being developed as well as more informal education based on a variety of topical themes. These are realized as workshops or ‘club activities’ and it is intended that innovators from Aalto and industry are involved in the development and running of these efforts.

Aalto Media Factory services
The third line of operations being developed is Aalto Media Factory media services. A small production team can be mobilized to provide video streaming and other new media services for the broadcast and documentation of media-related events including seminars, workshops, conferences, guest lectures, presentations and happenings etc. In these efforts the factory works in close collaboration with the Media Centre LUME at TaiK. Continue reading

Some Remarks on Twitter

From a researcher’s perspective, there isn’t a better way to keep in touch with what’s going on “right now” in the world than Twitter.  It is a medium that allows consumers to create small utterances about their daily lives and thus serves as a never-ending survey data feed for a myriad of different research questions. For example, search for any brand name on Twitter and you will get a whole variety of “tweets” from gushing fandom to service disappointments (something that companies are struggling to get feedback or data on). Twitter (along with Facebook) is quietly transforming how businesses interact with consumers. From a researcher’s perspective, it’s both an invaluable tool and a very interesting research subject in itself.

But amongst all the hype surrounding Twitter, we seem to forget that no new technology is neutral, nor are all technology exclusively positive in their effects. If Marshall McLuhan has taught us anything, it’s that studying the medium itself is more interesting than its content. Media are never “just” technologies; they are also social and cultural systems with their in-built codes, idioms and practices. Right now it seems that Twitter is having an effect on society at large, redefining how we evaluate information and even how we read the news, among others.

For example, take what sports journalist Bill Simmons had this to say about Twitter and how it’s affecting his profession:

What’s the biggest story the media has missed this year?

The potential of Twitter. Old-school media doesn’t get Twitter at all. A lot of people still think it’s a fad and it’s totally not a fad. […] Now reporters are posting scoops on Twitter before they send the finished stories into their employers. People are not seeing what is happening here. Facebook is a social network; Twitter is a media/marketing vehicle disguised as a social network. Continue reading

Reflections of Media Factory 2009

What did we want to achieve in Media Factory in 2009? Our main interest was to create an ambitious research driven collaboration platform for Aalto University in the field of media. None of us in the Media Factory board or research and education groups thought that it would be an easy or fast project with lots of visibility before years of work.

For me the year from September 2008 to this December has been an important one as a chair of Media Factory Board. I have seen why and how much people in three universities have worked to create new openings in research and education, many of us – including me – on the top of our previous duties.

Why have we been so enthusiastic? I think because of the benefits we saw in the multi- and interdisciplinary approach. In practice this has meant co-operation between three universities at the ground level of university work, in classrooms, seminars and research groups. The most promising new openings in research and teaching are found in interdisciplinary networks, which in my understanding are the whole point of existence of the Aalto University.

An interdisciplinary attitude is even more needed because of the turbulent times in the media field. To grasp the changes, it is often better to use multidisciplinary lenses than stay frozen in narrow fields of previous expertise.

The Media Factory is and should be a part of Aalto University and its strategy. The Aalto strategy puts in the moment strong emphasis on research in faculties. The Media Factory strategy was created in 2008 and 2009 and it aimed to open the narrow faculty-based division of labor. The main tool was to give start-up funding up to two years for the preliminary phase and consolidation of new interdisciplinary research and research groups in the media field. This kind of funding is very difficult to get otherwise, but it creates new research openings and wider theoretical horizons – the basis for exemplary research.

At the beginning of this year we started two research tracks that were based on our interest and competencies. The other one is named Doing Cross Media and the other one Enactive Social Media and Gaming. Continue reading

Notes from Media Factory’s research seminar

Media Factory research seminar on 30th of November started with a general presentation of Helsinki Institute of Technology where the seminar took place (http://www.hiit.fi/).

Professor Maija Töyry presented the Media factory research project “Doing Cross Media” and put forward those problems that the project aims to solve. The main case is a larger printmedia company and the study interviews have been going on since spring 2009. The following issues are addressed and problematized: Content, metadata, organizational structures, audience knowledge and business models. The last issue is the most challenging at the moment.

Professor Teemu Leinonen from Media Lab (TaiK) presented new upcoming entities that have been partly developed within the Media Factory context. As part of the MA in New Media programme a new multidisciplinary major study programme called “Game Design and Production” will start  in the year 2010. The plan is to accept 8-10 students to the programme per year. The masters programme is done in co-operation with other media-related institutions within Aalto. A larger co-operative global research network project is also planned, where issues of innovative technologies for an engaging classroom are in focus.

Doctoral researcher Henri Weijo (HSE) from the Doing Cross Media project focused on transmedia storytelling in Integrated marketing communications, and how consumers creating content are changing planning of advertising. One of his major research questions is to find out how transmedia and branding are interrelated.

Research director Niklas Ravaja from CKIR presented the social neuroscience approach, in other words how social cues and enactive fetaures in social media/gaming applications influence people’s emotional and cognitive presence.

Doctoral researcher Jan Kallenbach (TKK) is studying subjective interaction quality, or in other words, people´s interaction experience with cross media. The presentation evoked a vivid discussion about how media and technology affect the experience and how it affects content. Another question that was posed was how we should study the way people are changing their everyday practices beacause of new media solutions.

This was the first seminar where researchers from the two research tracks of Media Factory were discussing their ideas and finding out initial mutual understanding. Although the two research research tracks have somewhat different focus (implementation and new development) there exists knowlegde that is an inspiring source for further cross-fertilization. We are looking forward on how our researchers find new ways of addressing research problems in the near future.

Transmedia Storytelling and Branding?

In 2006, Henry Jenkins published a book called “Convergence Culture” which shows in great detail how contemporary consumers interact with one-another and cultural franchises they are fans of in online environments. Prior to the book, Jenkins had done a whole body of research on fan communities, participatory consumption and online consumer cultures, but this book compiles all of it into one. The book is already a modern classic and a highly recommended read.

One of the key concepts of the book was transmedia storytelling, which Jenkins argues is a new way of telling stories using multiple media channels in combination with consumer participation. In transmedia storytelling, the “content” of a cultural franchise (Star Wars, for example) is modified to fit the medium, allowing the medium to do “what it does best”. All extensions to new media channels work as individual works, but collectively they form an overarching storyline, which Jenkins calls “world building”. Hollywood has already firmly adopted transmedia storytelling, continuously expanding its cultural franchises into new media channels and keeping consumers engaged with unanswered questions and riddles that will keep them engaged with the story.

From all the conceptualizations of crossmedia storytelling forms, transmedia is probably the most developed and sophisticated (see e.g. Dena 2004 for a catalogue of different concepts that are close to transmedia storytelling). Transmedia takes a clearer stance on how content should be created for multimodal environments and how consumer engagement is achieved. For example, Long (2007) did an excellent conceptualization of how consumers navigate between different media works within the same cultural franchises using different navigational cues, and what kind of hooks in the story keep people engaged with it and what makes them yearn for answers. Jenkins currently teaches a course on transmedia storytelling and the entertainment industry. He has also compiled some key readings on transmedia storytelling into a “101” blog post, if you want to read more on the subject. Continue reading

New ways to explore magazine journalism research!

A brand new, free-for-all database on magazine journalism research was recently opened on our Services-page. Numerous studies on magazines have been conducted in a Finnish academic context. The new database includes for example information on over one thousand Finnish Masters’ Theses, 21 Licentiate Theses and 39 Doctoral Theses. The database also contains references to basic research and to other Finnish and international literature.

“Magazine journalism research typically does not have a joint theoretic background nor established research topics. However by gathering together the research conducted on different subject areas, a versatile and comprehensive insight on magazine press can be formed,” states professor Maija Töyry, the leader of the database project (and also the head of the Media Factory board).

Magazines are very multifaceted: they combine for example journalism, visual design, economy and marketing. They provide excellent research subjects and data for all research disciplines.

“In different academic institutions magazines have been studied from different perspectives, starting from the efficiency of telemarketing to the dustiness of magazine paper, and from online reportages to moral values in comics ” says Nanna Särkkä M. Sc. (Pol.), who works as a research assistant in the database project.

The magazine journalism studies’ database project is funded by the Finnish Cultural Fund. The technical implementation is created by the library of Helsinki University of Technology and Media Factory.

Wikimedia – the public media of the Internet-era?

In a couple of years Wikipedia has become the largest and most popular reference media on the Internet. Besides an encyclopedic reference work, Wikipedia has become a popular news resource where articles about recent events are quickly and frequently updated. It is already fair to say that Wikipedia is no more *just* an online encyclopedic. All the processes and things around it are making it its own media or media network.

Wikipedia is a community and volunteer-driven project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. The Foundation is funded primarily through donations by tens of thousands of individuals and several grants and gifts. Probably most of the donations come from the readers of the Wikipedia. Still, also the same volunteers who are donating their time to write articles are also donating money in it. Wikipedia is not only encyclopedic or media – it is a social movement.

In addition to Wikipedia, the Wikimedia-community has started several sister projects that are aiming to fulfill its’ mission “to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content“. These are, for instance: Wiktionary -project creating a multilingual free content dictionary in every language; Wikimedia Commons –project building repository for free photographs, diagrams, maps, videos, animations, music, sounds, spoken texts, and other free media; and Wikiquote –project creating a repository of quotations taken from famous people, books, speeches, films or any intellectually interesting materials. All the projects are collaboratively developed by volunteers.

Wikimedia –project have many characteristics of a public broadcasters, though formulated from the beginning to utilize the possibilities the Internet provides for media. Just like in public broadcasting Wikimedia’s aim is to be free from vested interest and governments. There is a serious concern for community and minorities. Special interest is made on cultural heritage, and all in all the investments are made to activities with are expected to have high social benefits. Continue reading

Space where innovativeness takes place

According to geographer Doreen Massey (2008), space is the product of the simultaneous existence and interrelations of people. In his forthcoming doctoral thesis, Mikko Villi adapts this notion of space to the communicative space, where the interrelations do not occur between co-present people but rather between people connected via different communication media. By contrast, Villi considers place as very simply the physical location. Thus, people reside in a physical place, but at the same time they act in a communicative space, e.g. on the web or speaking on a phone.

In Media Factory we have discussed how we should define the factory concept. Is the factory a mode of operation or is it a physical place? One view is that a factory should be a physical meeting place or some kind of showroom, in other words a concrete building where different target groups of the Aalto University are able to meet. It is important to feel the presence of others, and perhaps also innovations are born more easily in a face-to-face dialogue.

But is it only the physical location that enables co-operation? How important is it to have one physical place, or could a communicative space be as efficient? Are innovative solutions not found in a state of spontaneity and euphoria and often spiced with humour? Could this state be achieved even better in an online environment? Maybe we should, then, design a combination of place and space, where the interrelations between people materialize in the most productive way.

Massey, Doreen (2008) Samanaikainen tila (eds. Lehtonen, Mikko, Rantanen, Pekka & Valkonen, Jarno, transl. Rovio, Janne). Tampere: Vastapaino.

Villi, Mikko. Visual mobile communication. Camera phone photographs as photo messages. Unpublished manuscript for a doctoral thesis.

Our common denominator 'media'

by Mika Elo

During the last year Media Factory has established itself as a network. The competences of the network participants complement each other in a multi-faceted way. There is a real interest in cooperation and new forms of collaboration are actively searched for. The starting point is promising, to say the least.

However, as the network organized its first public seminar in Chydenia in August 2008, the theoretical foundations of the network turned out to be anything but clear. Especially, in regard to the key notion ‘media’ no consensus was found. The points of departure of the various actors in the network were too far apart.

Heterogeneity of the theoretical ground isn’t a problem per se. It can even be seen as a necessary precondition for the development of an innovative interdisciplinary research culture that the Media Factory network has identified as one of its objectives. On the other hand, lack of a common ground makes the search for a productive focus and scope of joint research activities into a difficult task. Interdisciplinary research culture has to be built up step by step. Continue reading