Friday, 26 January 2007

2012 Olympia Media Centre

Early in 2007, I became involved with shaping the specification for the 2012 Olypmic Media Centre. An interesting challenge! The short text below was part of my contribution and reflects quite well (i thought!) the challenge that such a Media centre faces, bearing in mind that 2012 is 5 years away.

You might also care to reflect on the economics of all this - where media is so far into a model of perfect competiton that, effectively, sporting video srreams are a free good, where does this leave the finance model for 2012 (or the Premier league for that matter) relying heavily as they do on the revenue from a monopoly video stream.When everyone is a public-service broadcaster, who pays the Chelsea salaries, or the Olympic bills?

A media revolution has begun which will have far reaching effects on the whole 2012 experience and on the way that experience is shared with people all around the world. New technology has brought a symmetry to media that was predictable, but that has been unepectedly rapid. There is no reason to suggest that the pace of change will diminish, indeed history and experience suggest that it will increase. 2012 is half a decade away and in new media terms that is a lifetime. Half a decade back, there was no podcasting, no youTube, phones did not offer video, there was little digital TV, no timeshifting for viewers, no watching on PC, no 3G, and so on. It is not unreasonable to expect that some of the major media developments, looking back from 2012, will have occurred in the next five years, between 2007 and 2012. For example we might assume that anyone with a mobilephone will be able to broadcast live to their blog (or whatever) the images that they are currently watching. A kayak entusiast is probably more likely to view the Olympic kayaking though the empassioned live-video-blogs of fellow enthusiast scattered around the white water run, than to rely on a major broadcaster to offer impersonal coverage. Designing a media centre for this new world requires soem fresh, and original, thinking. of course, it needs to work for the old world of traditional global news media too.

The emerging technology might hold surprises, but the underpinning media trends are predictable. Fundamentally there has been a democratisation of broadcast technoloy, which is moving away from a few supplying to many into a world where also many supply to many, and indeed where all supply to some.

Fortunitously this is fair square in line with the philosophy of the 2012 bid. In the Olympic bid for London 2012 Nelson Mandela was quoted as saying:
"I can't think of a better place than London to hold an event that unites the world. London will inspire young people around the world and ensure that the Olympic Games remains the dream for future generations."

...and children around that world were shown watching media images, and thus inspired to take part in the sport. To inspire young peole around the world in the 21st century we have not only to provide them with inspirational media, but to hear their voices and narratives too, through the new media that so many have access too, even in the poorset nations. If the media centre is to be faithful to the bid it needs to be metaphorically a huge lens focussing the world on the quality of sport happening there, but also looking around the world for inspiring narrative that it can maginfy by providing audience and interpretation. The children of 2012 will not be inspired by watching, they will be inspired by hearing these myriad authentic stories, and by contributing some too. As the bid made clear, to make an Olympic athlete requires hundreds of national champions, thousands of athletes, and millions of children. To make great media needs that same broad base of contribution and participation. The media centre, above all else, needs to focus that contribution and participation into inspiration.

So the Media Centre needs to produce inspirational and compelling professional content, of course. But it also needs to be the place where the narratives, the videos, the blogs and pictures from the millions worldwide already seeking selection can be nurtured and exchanged. A YouTube of sporting excellence, an eBay of sporting advice, an MSN of sporting conversations, a Wikipedia of sporting wisdom - there is no reason, of course, why those things can't all exist elsewhere, the Media Centre needs to be a kind of glue that joins them, and addsvalue through narrative, annotation, threads and focus. It can develop and capture this role comfortably ahead of the first brick being laid for the new building. And the new building needs to provide a home to the media contributions from millions around the world. What a future and growing resource that will be for the new London Olympic Institute, as seasoned commentators build threads of interpretation through the narratives of so many.

We can't be certain of the technolgy unperpinning our media lives by 2012, but we can be absolutely sure of one thing: in the 21st century people who are inspired, don't just watch, they do. We can be sure that this means media too, because the world's children, at the heart of London's bid, are already actively doing it. We have a duty to reach beyond our own time and borders. With new media, we can start to deliver on that right now.

© Prof Stephen Heppell 2007