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What I Got From My One Day at “Learn Do Share”

I usually say that crosspollination is the key to today’s creative landscape: film and digital media, storytelling and coding, multi-platform worlds and social innovation, smart cities and interactive stories, gaming technologies and journalism.

I couldn’t then resist when I heard that Learn Do Share was coming to London for a free two-day conference packed with keynotes, labs and workshops at Ravensbourne, on 5 and 6 September. Unfortunately I could only attend one out of two dates, but even so it was one of those not-to-be-missed events.


Since one of my academic research areas covers how digital media is reshaping the way we produce and consume audiovisual content, I was particularly interested in the projects developed by BBC and presented by Chris Sizemore, Executive Editor of the BBC’s Knowledge and Learning product. His overview included the participative film Britain in a Day (a localised version of Life in a Day) and the combat drama series Our World War.

After Alex Fleetwood’s overview of today’s digital economy and free-to-play games (have you heard of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood?), we switched to the topic of web docs from the point of view of one of the best media outlets for the genre, The Guardian. Francesca Panetta, who is their multimedia special projects editor, is one of those keynote speakers that you really need to listen to when it comes to interactive documentaries, given that the online version of the newspaper is working hard to build cutting edge projects.

During her talk on “Interactive Stories in Newsrooms” she introduced the audience to some of the rich media developed on their platforms. The Shirt on Your Back traces the human cost of the Bangladeshi garment industry; First World War is an interactive guide to the global conflict; and London panorama is a 360-degree augmented reality view of the city from the Shard’s public observation deck.

The beginning of Chapter 2 of the interactive documentary “The Shirt on Your Back”.
The beginning of Chapter 2 of the interactive documentary “The Shirt on Your Back”.

Given that technology plays such an important role in today’s way of telling stories, I was expecting some case studies involving the hottest piece of tech out there. This is what Matt Ratcliffe from Masters of Pie provided as he focused on the endless applications of Oculus Rift platform in gaming, architecture visualisation, medical training, heritage and film. According to him, virtual reality is finally reaching the most exciting part of the Gartner Hype Cycle, which means the stage between the “Slope of Enlightenment” and the “Plateau of Productivity” (see the image below).

The Gartner hype cycle.
The Gartner Hype Cycle.

As another of my research topics involves the business models related to creative content, the holy grail in media industries, in the afternoon I took part in the “Funding Your Digital Media Project” workshop run by Jason DaPonte from The Swarm. So for the next three hours we went through sources of funding, monetisation options and hybrid business models divided in start-up and post-launch funding, as well as in-kind support options.

As a final thought I’d like to leave you with some of the tips that Lance Weiler shared with us at the end of his presentation on collaborative design. Co-founder of Reboot Stories and recognised as one of the finest specialists in mixing storytelling and technology, Weiler gave an overview of My Sky Is Falling’s immersive storyworld and updates on the Lyka’s Adventure project (if you were at Power to the Pixel last year you might remember the latter). This photo is a summary of the critical aspects you need to check while designing stories, products and services. Definitely, not bad at all for a warm Saturday of September.

Lance Weiler's final tips at Learn Do Share, 6 September 2014. Photo credits: Nicolò Gallio.
Lance Weiler’s final tips at Learn Do Share, 6 September 2014. Photo credits: Nicolò Gallio.