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Posted by Diane Gayeski at 9:53AM   |  Add a comment

It was 1979, and a 25 year old brand-new professor of communications at Ithaca College was looking for some interesting new content for her corporate and instructional video class.  Reading through a copy of Educational and Instructional TV, she happened to see a tiny ad on the back page for something called "interactive video" which was purported to be the marriage of television with computer-assisted instruction. And the company was in Rochester. Hmmm... sounds like this company might be a good source for a guest speaker! So she wrote to them -- on a typewriter -- (there was no email in those days) and they responded and invited her to see a demo.

Well, that young prof was me, and little did I know that seeing this company's groundbreaking interactive program on job interviewing created for deaf students would quite literally change my life.  Seeing the possibilities of this new medium, I boldly launched a conference here in Ithaca to gather the folks who were experimenting with interactive video.  It was the first university conference on interactive media on the planet and thus began our classes and experiments with "new media" -- back in 1980. 

If you want a laugh -- and evidence that I was once young, check out this clip!

I started speaking at conferences and writing articles on the impact of interactivity -- and creating programs for my students and for corporate clients.  The challenges were many: we were working with circuit boards literally soldered in electric frying pans to connect early Apple II computers with VCRs.   But the biggest challenge wasn't technical -- it was conceptual:

What happens when the audience becomes the producer??

I wrote an article with that title in 1981.  Fast forward some 30 years later, and we're still asking that question. 

Earlier this month, I hosted the first of our first Alumni Roundtables on Media Innovation.  Held at the Park School's Pendleton Center in Los Angeles, we had stimulating discussions and demonstrations from alums who are working with James Cameron on 3-D movies using computer-generated characters, developing a new animated web series for Playtone (Tom Hank's company), producing new interactive forms of movie trailers and marketing, and researching the next generation of consumer electronics.  The head of Disney Imagineering, Bruce Vaughn, talked with us about engineering the consumer experience - from theme parks to toys to TV to games to movies. The consistent theme: we need to understand more about user control and the user interface.   

This past Tuesday night, we launched our new sPark course, designed to 'ignite' the fire of intellectual curiosity and careers of our students.  We Skyped in alums who create political blogs, corporate video, and educational games.  Jeff Cohen, the director of the Park Center for Independent Media talked about the decline of corporate journalism and the rise of independent media.  The crux of the conversation: we are moving quickly to user generated content and experiences - and the term "audience" is really obsolete.

When the audience becomes the producer, what's the role of the communications professional?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Each person who reads this blog will probably experience it in a slightly different way.  Did you visit any of the links?  Did you open a new browser window and google some term or name?  Are you reading your email or updating your FaceBook status as you read this?  Are you reading this on your phone?  

And most importantly -- how do we shape the educational experience of our students who will be leading this new media landscape?  Talk to me....


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