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Summer Camp for Public Media

by Jasmine Bulin, Director of Interactive at PBS SoCal

What will the future of fundraising look like in this climate of Kickstarter and digital downloads? Is social media like trying to talk to someone in a crowded noisy room? What is the future of online video sharing and public media consumption? What is this “transmedia”?

This year’s PubCamp West 2012 was an exciting collaboration between public media stations PBS SoCaL, KPBS, KQED, KPCC, KCRW and the community. If you have never been to a PubCamp before, PubCamps are informal opportunities for NPR and PBS staff to get together with public media enthusiasts, community organizers, citizen journalists, bloggers, and students and develop projects together.

PBS SoCaL has found this grassroots effort to be a great way to have an intimate conversation with community members and fellow PubMedia Staffers. It is also a great way to hack projects together. This year a Hackathon precluded the camp where a dedicated contingent of developers worked on the Mozilla Open Badges project, a way to recognize skills and achievement that happens outside the traditional classroom.

Leading up to this year’s PubCamp, the community pitched their ideas for discussion topics online and voted for their favorites. First thing Saturday morning, after enjoying the donated coffee from True Beans and scones from Shortnin’ Bread at WE Labs (a new innovative creative co-working space), PubCampers voted the final discussion topics down to what would be discussed that day.

While free food is great, there is no force more powerful than free t-shirts. PubCampers enjoyed participating in the arts and crafts live t-shirt printing throughout the afternoon. Everyone had the opportunity to pick out his or her size and see some hands-on t-shirt printing. Many PubCampers put on the shirts and wore them the rest of the day. What a great display of PubCamp pride!

OVEE was the top topic of the day, so Dennis Palmieri of ITVS showed off OVEE, the free social screening platform for PBS videos where viewers can interact with the video content using chat, polls, quizzes and more. PubCampers participated by joining the video screening and trying out the features for themselves.

“It was so great to show OVEE to such a diverse group of pubmedia folks,” said Dennis. “We had people from TV, radio, and digital outlets, along with content makers and even a few enthusiasts. I think OVEE really emerged as a centerpiece that helped frame discussions throughout the day. We'd love to do another of these!"

Camp Counselor Jennifer MacArthur from NCME led the discussion on “Transmedia and the Digital Convergence.” This was Jennifer’s first time at PubCamp.

“I found it was a rare opportunity for practitioners and mid-career professionals to come together and imagine the future of public media. I saw the next generation of leadership – digitally savvy, diverse, collaborative – grappling with the new media landscape, not with fear, but with a genuine sense of excitement about how public media can reinvent itself.”

While campers could not come to a consensus on the definition of transmedia, it was agreed that it is an important component in reaching funders and something to keep thinking about when developing any kind of project. While campers collaborated on free, low-cost, and easy online tools to use, there was no “one-size-fits-all” approach to transmedia for public media.

Campers also kept returning to the importance of outreaching to organizations and the community. “You don’t just want to meet someone once and take their information,” a camper said. An effective metaphor brought up conveying this point: are you dating who you are reaching out to on social media or is it a “booty call?” Playing into the level of trust between the community and organizations, one PubCamper described how Sweden hands over its country’s Twitter account to various citizens to post tweets.  Now that’s a high level of trust with their public!

In the evening, campers gathered together for the PubCampFire where Nova Spivack led a discussion on “Augmenting the Collective Consciousness,” concluding the camp. Nova is a technology futurist and one of the leading voices on the next-generation of search, social media, and the web. While his topic may sound very technical, he simplified it by explaining the social media “Sharepocalypse.” The “Sharepocalypse” is used to describe the massive overload of social media networks and notifications vying for your time. For social media, much like the crowded noisy room example, the more shouting there is, the louder other people have to shout to be heard. Campers collectively commiserated with this idea.

Nova’s solution: filtering out the less important information with tools and curating the best content to the top. He demonstrated Bottlenose and showed how it can track trending real-time topics across social media streams, including how topics are connected through visual data representation. For public media, Nova described how social media should be a two-way conversation, not a one-way deluge of information. How do we accomplish this with our current infrastructures? Well, PubCampers couldn’t solve it all in one day. Nova will encore his presentation from PubCamp at a future NCME webinar, so be on the lookout.

PubCamp organizer Jasmine Bulin, Director of Interactive at PBS SoCaL, was extremely pleased with the event and can’t wait to share the PubCamp badge, created by the hackers, with everyone.

“We are excited PubCamp West was louder, larger, and more interactive than ever this year. Community members enjoyed the ability to connect with public media and share their insights. PBS SoCaL got a lot out of connecting with our PubMedia friends and the community. It’s opportunities like these that help us to innovate and I can’t wait for next year!”