March – and it’s time for Lizzie Jackson to visit Austin, Texas in the South West of the US. March is also when the SXSW Festival (South by South West) is on. Affectionately known as ‘South By’, by the locals.
It’s easy to see this is a digital tech city. 75,000 people arrive for SXSW which is a festival of component parts – for music, interactive services and content, gaming, film, and education. It’s also a time when the city can take stock of how it’s doing. The Mayors of Texas were having their annual convention when I was there. The Mayors of Nashville, Houston and Austin therefore made an appearance at 'South By’ to give their opinions on the new Administration in Washington. They are going to run things ‘our way’ locally, was the consensus.
Austin is a centre for the incubation of startups and to support the growth of scaleups. The presence of IBM, Google and banks from Silicon Valley is palpable. There is cheaper office space here and new talent drawn to the city by its cosmopolitan nature and Democrat leanings. According to Dr Elsie Echeverri-Carroll the clustering of high technology businesses has a ‘spiral’ effect. The movement of talented innovators out of the more mature and larger companies spawns new high technology businesses that stay in the area and prosper. The presence of incubators and accelerators also has a strong effect on growth.
At Capital Factory in the Downtown area the entrance lobby shows a logo board of companies who have been associated with the variety of programmes they host on a weekly basis. When I visited Capital Factory had organised several rooms on one floor dedicated to showcasing VR companies and their films and games. Incubators such as Techstars were attempting to continue with their development programmes for successful startups, however the wall of events inevitably included events at SXSW and showcases within the festival.
Austin proved to provide rich data for the project including interviews with industry leaders, innovators, academics, CEOs, and the public service media. It was clear the links between each of these foster innovation and change. What was also clear was the function of the University of Texas at Austin as a central point of knowledge exchange for the city.
We now need to begin coding the interviews, photos, and observations…but that’s to come, after we have visited Detroit, Warsaw, and London.
Two weeks ago I visited Copenhagen to do a series of semi-structured interviews and observations with public service media, local municipalities, co-working spaces, creative hubs, and so on. Copenhagen was windy and cold but humming with activity and people.
DR – the Danish Broadcasting Corporation – was revealed as having a good model for mixed media newsrooms. They have relocated the previously separated radio and TV departments and moved them to work together in a modern building – DR-Byen. I walked through the whole area and got a chance to see the facilities from the inside. One of the interviewees showed me the production halls, the newsroom, as well as the cafes, library and even a gym that’s been opened for the staff. The centre has easy access to transportation and the IT University of Copenhagen. This proximity will be a key driver of collaboration.
The capital city of Demark is well-known for a wide range of co-working spaces for entrepreneurs and the startup community. SOHO is a co-working space located in the old Meatpacking District. It’s now vibrant and full of galleries, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The area is also a community with private flats and other homes. Khora VR is based there. Khora is a production house, one of the first world’s Virtual Reality store, and also a hub for digital innovators. I had a chance to observe the work of their creative team in the VR Lab and also tried two VR demos.
A number of other interviews and observations took place in Republikken and Rainmaking Loft. Walks in the Christianshavn area led on to explorations of Freetown Christiania where an experimental community has been occupying and building small houses in the old dockland. Interviews at City Hall showed an openness to experimentation generally in Copenhagen which encourages mixed media working and multiculturalism. The streets of Nørrebro and beyond to Superkilen Park are filled with plants and objects from over 50 countries around the world. Bikes are everywhere; it seems that despite the snow Danes like to use pedal power.
We are excited that the project started to get attention from leaders in the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as well as journalists writing Media Power Monitor and academics in the Global PSM Experts Network.
We met again in Warsaw January 6–8, 2017 for a project meeting. During the two days in the Polish capital we firstly discussed book chapters we have submitted for a Peter Lang’s collection titled “Public Service Media Renewal and Digital Network Challenges”. Our chapters will present the first findings from our study; I have written about the successful and innovative high technology clusters in capital of Estonia and Lizzie about predictive analytics and behavioural targeting as a potential way of nuancing the delivery of public service content.
We discussed plans and milestones for the project to do with data analysis, future events such as European Media Management Association conference in Ghent (May 2017) as well as preparations for the field trips to Copenhagen (February 2017), Austin (March 2017) and Detroit (April 2017).
Next we conducted field work observations of winter festival “Otwarta Ząbkowska” (Open Ząbkowska) – an open air street event involving animators, artists, clubs, NGOs, municipalities and theatres in the Praga district of Warsaw. The weather was extremely cold, - 13 Degrees, cold enough for ice sculpturing.
The Praga district is a good example of creative initiatives growing in the Polish capital. Later in the Spring we will conduct interviews in Warsaw and London and this will end the period of data gathering.
Finally, we have made first preparations for the ‘MAKER’ event which will be organized at OMEARA – venue set up by the lead singer of the band Mumford & Sons (June 2017). The event is to construct models for public service media for and by Generation Z.
The MaRS Innovation District in Downtown Toronto is one of the oldest high technology clusters with the exception of Silicon Valley in the US.
MaRS is also one of the largest and highest concentrated clusters with many small to medium-sized businesses. In common with the clusters we have visited In Cambridge/Boston US, they are focused on generating social impact as much as wealth. They say they bring together "educators, researchers, social scientists, entrepreneurs and business experts under one roof”. I visited other innovation centres and co-working spaces, but MaRS certainly was one of the most ‘corporate’ looking with it’s sleek glass-sided high rise towers.
Last September (2016) I interviewed the George Spezza, who is Head of Business Growth Services for the City of Toronto as part of our trips collecting data in North America and Europe for the project. He believes Canada needs to expand its ‘traditional’ business links with America to include Europe.
The city of Toronto is interested in worked with the city of London in the UK to build links as there are common interests and a trade delegation from London had been visiting that week, to see the MaRS Innovation District, and to make links. FCAD, Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communication and Design has a new partnership with London South Bank University’s School of Arts and The Creative Industries. The two universities are undertaking joint research into - for example - virtual reality and hyper-local news–gathering. Partnership working, and particularly trans-atlantic partnerships where there is a five hour time difference requires new kinds of communication techniques. We are finding this works when there is a common work culture. As we work through the data the specific elements of what that is should emerge.