After a break for reading week, Journalism Technologies has resumed at the University of Huddersfield with a lecture and workshops about sharing video online, with a particular focus on the giddy rise of YouTube. As with many of the platforms we’ve looked at in this module, such is the impact of it on our lives it’s easy to forget it was created as recently as 2005.
Not that everything’s universally rosy for YouTube. A Times investigation earlier in the year that revealed how Google Ads for various blue chip, high-profile companies were being served alongside extremist videos, led to a bump in the road as many took their advertising cash away, at least for a time. A bit of a follow up came more recently, with questions about how some significant YouTubers who have developed large followings for videos of their children are actually treating their kids. This related warning by James Bridle written – where else – on Medium, got plenty of traction online.
YouTube has taken some steps in this area. The YouTube kids app offers a much safer environment for younger children, and seems to do a solid job at filtering out anything that is potentially dodgy – no easy task when so many of the videos concerned bear a lot of similarities to the more benign child-friendly content (toy unboxings, dolls talking to each other, and so on). But as more of these stories come along and hurt YouTube in the pocket, it’s going to have to work longer and harder on making the platform safer for both advertisers and viewers.
In the workshops this week we’re getting students to upload a basic video to YouTube, then do some of the more straightforward annotations, such as subtitles and adding ‘cards’ – which is those little links and such which appear at the top corner of YouTube videos. Surprisingly few of the students had ever actually uploaded anything to YouTube themselves before, despite all being avid viewers. The trend of this generation towards lurking online rather than being active content creators is something I’m seeing more and more as the years go by, and part of my job when teaching first year journalism and media students, is to gently get to them embrace being more confident in making and posting material for themselves.
It was Caroline’s turn to give the lecture in our Journalism Technologies module at the University of Huddersfield this week, on the subject of how we share photos online, from Flickr to Instagram and all points in between.
None of the students in the room – and there are 100 or so doing the module this time – have a Flickr account. It’s a bit of a shame because it wasn’t so long ago that Flickr was really setting the standard in photo sharing and online communities. It’s still a useful resource, though, with about 300 million Creative Commons images, often of high quality, available for anyone to use in, say, blogposts or whatever.
Flickr remains a key part of the story though, and it was central to Clay Shirky’s initial formulations of concepts such as ‘mass amateurisation’ and ‘mass democratisation’ which he helped popularise a decade and more ago. As a reading we got students to watch this 2005 TED talk of his, which remains eerily prescient, and still well worth watching.
We were talking Twitter for week six of Journalism Technologies at the University of Huddersfield. I first taught at a university in Leeds back in 2011, and I remember prefacing one of my early sessions by saying something to the effect of: ‘Twitter may not be the most important online tool for journalists forever, but it is right now, and that’s why I’m going to show you how to use it’. Then I sort of imagined it would have slipped from favour by now, but despite all kinds of headwinds, it remains as central to the day-to-day work of media professionals as it ever was.
The lecture took students through some of those headwinds, something which has been an almost constant feature of Twitter’s history, dating back to the in-fighting between the four co-founders and technical challenges which marked its early years. To be honest, Twitter became huge almost in spite of everything, and its utility as the best place on the internet for live, instant communication, remains its unique, and just about only, selling point.
One of Twitter’s thorniest issues is: what, if anything, it should do about Donald Trump. Having tweeted his way to the presidency, he spends his early mornings firing off all kinds of messages as these things take his fancy. Overnight, a Twitter employee, apparently on their last day, deactivated the account for 11 minutes, to widespread amusement. Not everyone within Twitter is happy to let the President keep on tweeting.
Meanwhile, I once again ran a contest to see who could come up with the best tweet on the #journotech hashtag during the lecture. As I was hobbling about with a dead leg after falling over on Saturday, the winner was undoubtedly this from Josh Lees.