Christopher picks up some good points from the first unlecture. Organic, yes. Let’s be blunt here. Some thrive in this sort of experience. Some struggle. Most find their way. I thrive. This is a problem, and a serious one. Because it means I tend to teach to my own cognitive strengths (I’m an associative thinker, no one had to teach me the ‘network’ I got it from day one) which means while I get that others don’t get it, I often miss the big and small things that help others join what to me is already very obviously connected. Not good, for a teacher. (For instance I taught Integrated Media One, a second year subject, last semester. All work produced is documentary and is a very creative engagement with new forms of personal documentary. This was obvious to me, but I never actually said so to the class. So I was sort of surprised to read a blog post from a student this semester in the next subject excited that now they’re working in documentary!)

So one reason for the unlecture is for others, including my teaching peers, to pick my brains, to make me join the bits and pieces. Often things flash together so quickly that they seem to live together, but when slowed down to talk through the connections, they might not be so close after all. Or they are. But the ‘why’ of the connection is left hanging and so one role of the unlecture is to return to and insist on that ‘why’.

Now, Christopher thinks about why he’s studying, and one reason is the piece of paper. Two things. Anecdotal industry evidence is that no recent employee in the film, tv, radio industries has not had a degree in the field (heard this at the recent Australian Screen Production and Education Research Assocation – aka ASPERA – conference). The other thing is that most in industry do not employee you on the basis of that piece of paper. The paper says you might know what to do, but they will rely on word of mouth (reputation), for instance from your teachers, as well as what you’ve done, to judge your worth. And then, the final proof of the pudding, is your ability to do the job. Here, knowing how to be (a media practitioner) trumps specific technical skills. For example, knowing how to edit does not equal knowing how to use Final Cut, and does not equal knowing how to just cut bits of video together. It’s a craft, just as knowing how to make a table is not equal to being able to saw timber and swing a hammer.

Anyway, back to Christopher’s observation of it being an organic learning style. It is organic to the extent it is very orientated to helping you all grow into being active critical thinker makers. Thinkermakers. The organism, if you like, is about growing. Old skool that.

When I Was a Media Student

People smoked in class.

In the first unlecture Adrian touched on the some of the changes in media since he was a student (in the pre-digital dark ages of the mid 1980s). One of the things mentioned was how the video camera was large, very expensive, and that the format was U-Matic (Betacam was broadcast quality, U-Matic was sort of next best). The edit suite needed two separate large video players, one as source the other as destination, and you had to load, fast forward, rewind, to the clips you wanted. Each tape held 30 minutes of video, so if you’d shot several takes you might have 4 or more tapes that would need constant loading, unloading, fast forwarding and so on. Since you edited from one tape to another and tape is linear, you nearly always did butt edits, as an insert edit meant putting video over the top of what was already there and so erasing whatever was ‘under’ it. This often meant re-editing everything from that point onwards, again, so you really only did it if it was so important that it just absolutely had to be done.

So things are, obviously, much smaller, and an order of magnitude faster and easier to do. However, the other thing is that because you dubbed from one tape to another, and it was analogue media, the edited copy would, by definition, not be as good as the original. In analogue media every copy introduces noise and so is less good than the original. Once you’d edited, then made a VHS quality from the original tape, the decline in quality was already noticeable if you looked hard enough. This meant the original tape was treated as something to be guarded, protected, and only used sparingly, as even watching it caused damage (which you would have to admit was taking things a bit far, you can watch a tape 100s of times before the video player heads – which are rapidly spinning metal drums – would wear out the tape) and you never paused it because the tape might have been stopped but the drums were still spinning madly!

So, first enormous now forgotten-take-for-granted of digital media. Infinite reproducibility with no loss of quality. You can copy a video file 1, 10, 100, 1,000,000 million times, and it is the same. Always. This means there is no essential quality or attribute given to the ‘original’ in digital media, since each version, being identical, is the same. (This second point is seriously radical if you think – speculate – about it, we have a culture that privileges the first as what matters, first place, first at something, first in line, first in the class, first film that did x, and in media this continued so the original copy mattered because it was the master that had to be preserved so future copies could be made. There is no longer any privilege, in the artefact – the object – in being ‘first’, does that mean the idea of first as best or better will slowly erode, or change?)

To see the difference, the YouTube clip above illustrates just how much quality is lost each time a VHS video tape is copied.

Second Cab

Don’t worry, we get worn out by this pretty quickly. James enjoyed the bluntness. I too, am interested in what might happen in next week’s unlecture. Unlecture is not a vague term, by the way, it is inspired by the unconference movement, with the main thing we are working on is erasing the ‘top down’ model of the lecture. Brian, Elliot, Jasmine, and Adrian (that comma after Jasmine, that’s called the “Oxford comma“) know a lot, differently. So pick our brains. Please.

First Cab Off The…

Gold star, elephant stamp, and congratulations to Edward Wong for first official blog post about the first unofficial unlecture.

Edward notes that when I was blogging in 2000 he was starting primary school. Not sure if that freaks him out but it does me. I started blogging I think in 1998, only stuck at from 2000. On the other hand I started video blogging in 2000 (on a good day, depending on the wiki editors, I even get mentioned in the wikipedia history of videoblogging). BTW I think chocolate before a 2:30pm lecture is just a bloody good idea (seriously). Your blood sugars are getting low then, meaning concentration is harder, and a decent sweet something will and does make a difference. (It was an iPhone 4s, btw.)

The ‘Take Away Idea’

For the classes, and maybe too the unlecture, let’s introduce the concept of the ‘take away idea’. Each of the readings, even where they seem to cover a lot of ideas, theories, arguments, and so on, are written around a basic idea, concept, or problem (that is three ways of describing the same sort of thing). They are writing directly to something that the author feels the need to think about and think through.

(Think of the readings not as explanations of something, but as people using writing to think about an idea. This is a much more productive way of approaching essays and chapters and other material than thinking their role as writing is merely to explain something to, or for, you. Their role, in the first instance, is to let the author think out something. Approach them in the same way, and they become invitations to think along with them, rather than road maps detailing what is already known.)

So, the ‘take away idea’. Each of the readings can be thought to revolve around and respond to some kernel that matters. The take away idea is, to begin with, not you figuring out what this might be (but by all means go for it), but is your take away idea. What is the one key thing that matters to you from what you read, or hear? Why?

00 Readings – to be done in Class One – What is Networked Media (the subject)

This is a speculative curriculum. We encourage speculative writing and media making, critical writing that plays with fiction and voice. The passage below is the reading for the first class.

This is networked media, at least while sitting at a cafe on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon in mid July.

Something a bit unkempt, even dishevelled. Smart, a lot – too many – of ideas. A sea indeed of ideas. An ocean of ideas. And there’s networked media. A boat. Certainly not a big one. Doesn’t really have a sail but there is some sort of mast to pin something on, against, to. Or a motor. Not adrift. It bobs, floats, weaves. Seeks and follows eddies of the breeze, currents, a wave. Sometimes it gets blown and washed around, other times darting along with deliberate intent revelling in its boat knowledge of breeze, current, wave. There is no shore. Not at least to be seen. Anywhere. All ocean, and because it is all water one place is as well as close enough, or further away, than any other. Each wave is different. Different enough to have a difference, a difference that matters. This gives this ocean contour, currents, eddies and tides. You dip an oar, seeking something over there, enjoying the whirl and whorl of water around the oar.

Some Possible Questions
What sort of experience might it be to be on this boat? What might you need to know to get by? Is this is a metaphor of the network? Why? How? Why not? If this is a description of this subject (it is) then what does it suggest, for you, about what is going to happen here? What are the things that have knowledge, that ‘know’ in the speculative, imaginary, description? What does it even suggest, that things know? What isn’t in this description, as a subject?

Classes, Enrolling, Changing Classes

By the official numbers that RMIT has there are 143 people listed to do Networked Media, and 133 have actually enrolled in a class. For the remaining 10, then there is plenty of room in the Friday 1:30 and 3:30 classes, and the Thursday 3:30 classes. Please do not magically appear at some other class hoping to elbow your way in. Those actually enrolled in the class are in those classes. At a minimum you need to ask the teacher of that class.

01 Readings (to be done by Class Two)

Your call. All three = best. If you need a soft option then either do the required only, or in lieu of that, both the recommended ones.


Smith, M. K. (2001) ‘Chris Argyris: theories of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning’, the encyclopedia of informal education, Last update: May 29, 2012. (PDF copy)

Recommended (and easier)

Miles, Adrian. “Blogs in Media Education: A Beginning.” Australian Screen Ed 41 (2006): 66–9. Print. ( (PDF copy)

Mason, John. Researching Your Own Practice: The Discipline of Noticing. London: Routledge, 2002. Print. (PDF copy)