It’s Shnit 2017!


Date: Saturday 28 October 2017
Time: 7.00pm
Place: Immaculate Conception Church Hall, Portswood Road, Southampton, SO17 3SB (Map).
Ticket Price: FREE
Event Information: Recommended 15+
The venue is accessible to disabled guests.

Get free tickets at Eventbrite

This year the best of international short film comes to Southampton courtesy of Shnit – a film festival that’s held in people’s houses and alternative venues around the globe – from Luanda to Bogota, from St Petersburg to Seattle – and at the Immaculate Conception Church Hall, Southampton. ‘Shnit’ means “funky, freaky, and full of style; something shnitty is unique and extraordinary in any positive way” – and this years’ award-winning film selection certainly lives up to this description.

Those who recall last years’ screenings are in for a treat as this years’ screening presents a unique 90 minute selection – none of which are available to view online.

We haven’t settled on a running order, but the following  are in the programme:

Second to None

Frederick has always been runner-up to his twin brother Herman. When Herman, the older by a mere minute, becomes the world’s oldest man, Frederick sees an opportunity to be first place.

Vincent Gallagher, Ireland, 2016
Winner – Irish Film & TV Academy Best Animated Film, 2017

16 year-old Andrea leaves her neighbourhood in the hills of Medellin to attend a downtown casting call for an adult pornographic movie.

Simón Mesa Soto, Sweden/Colombia, 2016
Nominee for Best Short Film, Cannes, 2016
L’odeur après la pluie (The Scent of Rain)

Claire, a recently retired widow, shares her suburban house with her sister Gisele. On a scorching summer day, Julien, an old flame, shows up unexpectedly with the intention of winning Claire back.

Sara Bourdeau,Canada/US, 2016
Winner – Le Train Bleu Award, 2017

A single woman lives with a lifelike newborn doll. Her feelings of motherhood appear to be as real as the baby is lifeless.

Ludwig Löckinger, Austria, 2016
Nominee – Louis le Prince International Short Film 2016
Dzien babci (Grandma’s Day)

Tomek is working a ‘grandparent scam’. Everything’s going fine until an elderly woman suddenly exposes him and locks him in her apartment.

Miłosz Sakowski, Poland, 2015
Winner – Best Short Film – Warsaw Film Festival, 2015
Et ta prostate, ça va? (How’s Your Prostate?)

A prostate operation provides the occasion for a surprisingly frank conversation between father and daughter.

Cécile Rousset, Jeanne Paturle, France, 2016
Nominee – Grand Jury Prize – Sundance Film Festival, 2017
Posted in couch fest, festival, shnit, short films

Web Science TV

Prep for WebSci@10

Going through the WebSci@10 running order/Web Science Trust ©2016

At the end of last year, I directed a major 10th anniversary project for the Web Science Trust – the WebSci@10 Live TV Channel – and played an important role in the small team designing and organising the event. My contribution involved working with a range of people; key industry innovators, Internet pioneers, and leading researchers, as well as fellow professionals, event venue staff, and research lab colleagues, to produce 10­hours of engaging content.

I recorded interviews, both face-to-face and via VoIP, with more than 20 contributors, including Martha Lane-Fox, Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Professor Daniel Weitzner, and Lohan Presencer. I also communicated directly with academic colleagues around the globe (from Seoul and Singapore, to Berlin and Chicago) commissioning content from the WST Network of Labs, edited many hours of content, and planned the schedule for down to the last second. In addition, I recruited, trained and managed a student production crew to assist with the broadcast and promote the event via our social media channels.

Cutting the Web Science cake

Cutting the Web Science cake/Web Science Trust ©2016

The event took place in the course of one day at the offices of Norton, Rose, Fulbright in central London. Having previously worked with the venues’ staff over the preceding three months to obtain suitable space, on the day of the event I co-ordinated the setting up of a mini-TV studio on their premises. I then directed the professional TV crew commissioned to broadcast the pre-produced and live content throughout the day via our YouTube channel. Our side of the broadcast ended after 7 hours when I handed over to colleagues at Northwestern University in Chicago in the late afternoon. WebSci@10 content can be seen below and on the Web Science Trust site.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee WebSci@10 message What now for Web Science? Web Science at Southampton

WebSci@10 brought together the extensive range of skills I have developed over the course of a long career in broadcast and educational TV production. As well as calling on my extensive practical experience in media production, I was engaged in many varied tasks in the lead-up to the event. These involved nurturing contacts with world-renowned leaders in the field of Web Science; recruiting, training and leading a team of students to assist with a variety of production and social media roles; maintaining mutually beneficial working relationships with the Web Science Trust team, venue staff, and a professional TV crew; guiding culturally diverse contributors towards established, shared objectives (in writing and via VoIP); and negotiating and setting achievable deadlines both face-to-face, and at a distance.

This event came about through my freelance project officer role at the Web Science Trust, which I undertake while working on the full-time PhD programme in Web Science at the University of Southampton. My time as a PhD research student is coming to an end, and I am currently writing up my final thesis which documents and reflects on the Learning Analytics research projects I have undertaken over the past three years. The primary aim of my research is to explore the potential for reliably identifying the presence of learners’ critical thinking within MOOC comment forums, as a possible aid to facilitators, who are often overwhelmed by the large volume of comments observed in many MOOCs. By undertaking research at a high level, my knowledge of the critical debates surrounding online learning has deepened, and has contributed to my understanding of the importance of digital media in this environment.

Posted in Events, video production, web content

Shnit Short Film Festival Returns to Southampton

Still from 'The Bathtub', Germany/Austria, 2015 - Shnit Film Festival 2016

The Bathtub‘, Germany/Austria, 2015


Date: Saturday 15 October 2016
Time: 7.00pm
Place: Immaculate Conception Church Hall, Portswood Road, Southampton, SO17 3SB (Map).
Ticket Price: FREE
Event Information: Recommended 15+
The venue is accessible to disabled guests.

Get tickets for this years’ Shnit Southampton at EventbriteFacebook

This year the best of international short film comes to Southampton courtesy of Shnit – a film festival that’s held in people’s houses and alternative venues around the globe – from Luanda to Bogota, from St Petersburg to Seattle – and at the Immaculate Conception Church Hall, Southampton. According to Urban Dictionary ‘shnit’ means “funky, freaky, and full of style; something shnitty is unique and extraordinary in any positive way” – and this years’ award-winning film selection certainly lives up to this description.

Those who recall last years’ screenings are in for a treat as this years’ screening at our new venue in Portswood presents a unique 90 minute selection – none of which are available to view online.

We haven’t settled on a running order, but the following  are in the programme:

The Bathtub One Bathtub – Three Brothers – Many Splashes! Three brothers try to dive back into their childhood through an old family picture in the bathtub. fiction | live action Tim Ellrich, Germany/Austria, 2015

Clermond-Ferrand International Special Jury Prize

Bon Voyage During a cruise on the mediterranean sea, Swiss holiday sailors encounter a sinking refugee boat. fiction | live action Marc Wilkins, Switzerland, 2016

Palm Springs International Short Film Festival – Best Live Action Short

Ellis A young father is forced to share custody of his daughters with his ex-wife, whose new boyfriend has a history of sexual assault. fiction | live action Nolan Cubero, US, 2016

Official selection at LA Shorts Fest

El Corredor (The Runner) 5 years ago the boss closed the company and fired 300 workers. The first day that he goes out to run he meets one of them. fiction | live action José Luis Montesinos, Spain, 2014

Best European Short Film – Valladolid Film Festival

Drôle d’oiseau (Strange Bird) The film is a portrait of a man with bipolar disorder painted through the eyes of his 11 year old daughter. The picture turns into a bittersweet adventure with two un-conventional heroes on a path of innocence and crude behavior. fiction | live action Anouk Fortunier, Belgium, 2015

Best Debut -Internationaal Kortfilmfestival Leuven

A very lonely cock It is a hard day for the very lonely cock. Perhaps tomorrow it’ll be better. Who knows? Anyway, it can’t get any worse. Or can it? Not only is the production of eggs at stake for the very lonely cock, in this strange world everything is getting stranger by the minute. fiction | animated Leonid Smelkov, Russia, 2015

Best Animated Short – Children’s Film Festival Seattle, 2016

Posted in couch fest, festival, shnit, short films

‘Tiger’, who came for chi

Much as I dislike obscure/punning blog post titles,  I’m afraid I couldn’t resist this one. ‘Tiger’ refers to children’s TV legend Debbie Russ, who played this role in the popular 70’s Saturday morning sitcom Here Come the Double Deckers!. And ‘chi’ is, of course, the “natural life force”, or “energy flow” that is “…the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine…” (thank you, Wikipedia). The two came together last year when Debbie (who currently works as a news presenter for Radio Jackie) agreed to ‘get on board’ a series of videos I’d been commissioned to produce for Dr Felicity Bishop at the University of Southampton’s School of Psychology. The plan was to produce the videos for a research project aimed at measuring changing attitudes to acupuncture treatment and placebo. The script I devised with Dr Bishop and her team required an acupuncture expert, a patient with back pain, some animation and an experienced presenter who was willing to be ‘needled’ in the cause of progress – cue Debbie.

Filming, at the University of Southampton’s School of Health Sciences, went very smoothly. It was a real pleasure to work with Debbie, who brought her considerable experience in front of the camera to the project. I then spent several days producing animated infographics, which were finished by Rob Hull at Block and Ball Films (who also worked as cameraman on the shoot). Once my initial edits were agreed with the client team, the final voice over was recorded by Debbie at a morning session with Dubmaster in Alton, the edit was finalised, and then encoded for distribution via the LifeGuide research interface.

Now, after a year-long embargo (while the research was undertaken), I can publish the videos. I hope you like them:

Posted in video production Tagged with: , , ,

New website for SEPnet

I have recently been working with University of Southampton postgraduate student, Sylvian Patrick, to produce a new design for the main South East Physics Network (SEPnet) website. The project came about as the result of a request from James West, SEPnet Executive Director, who was looking for help developing his organisations’ social media and web channels.

SEPnet plays an important part of the UK’s response to the shortage of STEM graduates. It works to cultivate links between education and business, and pioneer new approaches to collaboration, teaching and research in physics. As it receives significant support from HEFCE and nine UK universities, it was essential that we delivered a site that could help them achieve their objectives.

SEPnet website before.The SEPnet site as it wasAfter carrying out a review of the SEPnet site, I produced a report that suggested the foregrounding of SEPnets’ social channels, using more images, and moving the site to a responsive WordPress theme. At the initial meeting with James, Sylvian and I pitched the idea of adopting the i-transform WordPress theme. This theme has many features of a typical blog site, but also facilitated the creation of a style that would appeal to SEPnet’s many corporate and academic users.

SEPnet website as it was.With a deadline set for the start of the new academic year, Sylvian and I started work in what turned out to be the relatively glitch-free process of migrating content from the old site – editing it, and adapting it to the new design. Initially we used Zemedia’s web server for the development stage, but as we got closer to finishing we moved this to SEPnet’s host at the University of Portsmouth.

We kept James up to date with progress through all stages of our work, and he is very happy with the finished site:

“We are pleased with the new SEPnet website that Tim and Sylvian designed for us. It’s now in production and we’re getting good feedback. We now have the capability for producing better content with stronger integration with social media and have more of my team able to safely produce the content.” Dr E James W West, Executive Director, South East Physics Network.

You can see the new site for yourself, and compare it with the old version (at the Internet Archive). Please let me know what you think.

Posted in web development

Shnit Film Festival comes to Southampton

Still from 'Herman the German', Germany, 2015

Herman the German‘, Germany, 2015

Date: Saturday 10 October 2015
Time: 7.00pm
Place: Bitterne Park Baptist Church Hall, Wellington Road, Southampton, SO18 1PH (Map).
Ticket Price: FREE
Event Information: Recommended 18+

Get tickets for Shnit Southampton at EventbriteFacebook

This year the best of international short film comes to Southampton courtesy of Shnit – a film festival with a difference. Based in Berne, Switzerland it’s held in people’s houses and alternative venues around the globe – from Luanda to Bogota, from St Petersburg to Seattle – and at Bitterne Park Baptist Church Hall in Southampton. According to Urban Dictionary ‘shnit’ means “funky, freaky, and full of style; something shnitty is unique and extraordinary in any positive way” – and this years’ award-winning film selection certainly lives up to this description.

Those who recall previous years’ screenings are in for a treat as Couch Fest has this year teamed up with Shnit to produce an outstanding selection of films. The screening at Bitterne Park presents a unique 90 minute selection, including, from Germany, Herman the German, winner of the Best Short Film Audience Award at the Max Ophüls Prize Film Festival 2015; from Tunisia, Pére, winner of Best Short Film at the recent Arab World International Film Festival and Contrapelo, winner of Best Mexican Short Film at this years’ Monterrey International Film Festival, as well as many other brilliant international short films – none of which are available to view online.

Please note that street parking is limited. We’re just a few steps away from the Wellington Road stop on the no. 7 bus route linking Southampton city centre to Townhill Park. The venue is accessible to disabled guests.

Posted in festival, short films

MOOC Data Visualisation Hackthon

Daily comment count.

Tableaux: Daily comment count.

Exploring and presenting research data in a readily understandable visual form is an important aspect of communicating my work – which is why I organised an inaugural MOOC Data Visualisation Hackthon for members of the Web Observatory team and the Web and Internet Science research group at the University of Southampton. Last week got together for the first of I hope many occasions, to share and develop d3 skills, explore new datasets, and make meaningful visualisations.

Dendro visualistion of responses to comments.

d3: Dendro visualistion of responses to comments.

Datasets containing comment data from the University of Southampton’s Archaeology of Portus FutureLearn MOOC were made available on the day. Highlights of the event included Max Van Kleek‘s interactive Dendro visualisations, Paul Booth‘s Tableaux timeline, and Chris Gutteridge – Wikipedia‘s visualisation of domain-specific word occurrence. Many of the participants were new to d3 and spent much of the afternoon following Max’s useful guidelines and exploring the resulting visualisations.

We look forward to showcasing these and other outputs a Web Science Institute event at London’s Digital Catapult showcase next week.

Posted in Hackathon, MOOC Observatory

Outreach with the Hampshire Cultural Trust

Earlier this year the University of Southampton was approached by Lorna Franklin from the Hampshire Cultural Trust. The Trust had received Heritage Lottery funding to engage teenagers in developing an exhibition on how technology has impacted our lives since the 1970s. Managed by the Ashcroft Arts Centre, the exhibition is to be staged at Westbury Manor Museum, Fareham in August, and Lorna was looking for someone to run relevant lectures and workshops to help get them thinking about how they might tackle the topic.

I was put in touch with Lorna and developed a 90 minute session on ‘The rise of the Web’. I wanted to give them a broad of how the World Wide Web is developing and explore how we use the technology in our everyday lives. We covered significant milestones including the pre-Web network that was the Mundaneum, the Arpanet, Tim Berners-Lee’s influential paper: ‘Information Management: a Proposal‘, the significance of interactive games, as well as the importance of openness, relevant search and sharing knowledge. On the way we looked at Moore’s Law, the rise of Google, Wikipedia, and how the Web acts as a form of ‘social machine’ enabling people to use Web technology to improve resources (as in the current Open Street Map project aimed at improving post-earthquake relief efforts in Nepal).

I ran sessions at Fareham College, Barton Peveril College and the Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham and, I hope, sparked some interest in not just how technology shapes us, but also how we shape technology. I left all three groups with a task to create a timeline that highlights developments which they see as significant to the Web we have today – and I very much look forward to seeing the finished exhibition later this year.

Posted in Events' Coverage, Workshops

Technology-Enhanced Learning Conference 2015

A conference highlight/Hannah Talbot © 2015

A conference highlight/Hannah Talbot © 2015/cc by-nc-2.0

Today’s beautifully organised Technology Enhanced Learning Conference set a benchmark for future technology enhanced conferences. The event, organised by Fiona Harvey and the team at the Institute for Learning Innovation and Development (ILIaD) employed many established and emerging digital tools, all of which worked well – demonstrating the strong role innovation plays in supporting teaching and learning, as well as providing unambiguous signifiers of the conference theme.

The media was very much the message: the highly effective Whova event app, the excellent livestream of the event, the very useful collaborative Google doc and the lively Twitter commentary that accompanied the presentations and debates made this the most engaging conference I’ve attended, at any institution.

Twitter word cloud - midday.

Twitter word cloud – midday.

Twitter word clouds (derived from Tweet Archivist) give a flavour of how the conference progressed. By lunchtime, presentations on developing digital literate and responsible learners and the effective use of online archives gave rise to considerations of how our response to changes in technology affects our approach to teaching and learning. After lunch the focus shifted to a strongly argued debate on the ‘revolution’ in learning brought about by Learning Management Systems in general and Blackboard in particular.

Twitter word cloud - 4pm

Twitter word cloud – 4pm

A perennial bug-bear in some circles, Blackboard was presented as a clear indicator of the radical change in learning that has occurred over the past 20 years by the pro camp, and a poorly designed irrelevance by those arguing against it’s use. I’m not getting into the debate here (you can watch it yourself), only to say that I take the middle ground – a robust (if dull) ‘home’ for learning is very useful, but it doesn’t stop you using anything else (either on or off line) that works for you.

Later in the afternoon I attended inspiring talks on using instructional videos provided by to support programmes of learning, DIY video production for learning and an excellent presentation by Rachel Jones on tools for digital pedagogy (nice to see SOLO taxonomy getting a mention).

This event, the first of its kind for ILIaD, is likely to be the catalyst for many new engagements with TEL, and bodes well for conferences to come.

Posted in Events' Coverage

Open Data: are local councils getting the message?

Liam Maxwell GaaP Seminar 5 February 2015/Tim O'Riordan ©2015/cc-by-sa 3.0

Liam Maxwell GaaP Seminar 5 February 2015/Tim O’Riordan ©2015/cc-by-sa 3.0

I attended a highly inspirational talk at the Ordnance Survey last Thursday. The key speaker, Chief Technology Officer at the UK Government’s Cabinet Office, Liam Maxwell, spoke on “Government as a Platform” (GaaP) under the auspices of the Southern Policy Centre to a distinguished group including local and national politicians, academics, CEO’s and researchers. Maxwell is in charge of streamlining the online provision of government services and has overseen the move from the old service to – promoting their key message that they are providing “[d]igital services so good people prefer to use them”. How successfully this is happening can be observed by exploring’s performance data.

So what is GaaP and should we mind it?

The driving force behind GaaP is the Web and how it enables governments, local and national, to have a better understanding our needs, and enables us to oversee, interrogate, and participate in our government in new and potentially more effective ways. In addition to “building digital services that are simpler, clearer and faster to use”, at the heart of GaaP is shared information. Although managed by different Cabinet Office team, open data plays a significant part in lifting the lid on the workings of government. Data that was once squirreled away in Whitehall filing cabinets and town hall basements are now being made available on the Web in an unprecedented move towards greater transparency and openness in government.

In this new arrangement, government, as a source of data, becomes the ‘guide on the side’ – an enabler rather than the leader of civic participation – and as active, Web-connected citizens we now have the tools to find solutions to problems that affect us. As assert in their ‘8 government open data principles’: “[o]pen data promotes increased civil discourse, improved public welfare, and a more efficient use of public resources.” At a time of increasing constraints on public spending, the benefits of open data, open standards and open source tools (like the Government Data Service open source platform) have the potential to effective positive change in how we use government services.

There are some substantial barriers to overcome. Real concerns exist about the effective and secure management of data, as have surfaced in the debate on the government’s project. Can we sure that those publishing data do so without inadvertently releasing our personal information? This requires very clear understanding of the dangers of re-identifying anonymised public data, and effective controls on how data are released for publication.

In addition, there is a lack of public awareness about, and the necessary skills and knowledge to use open data effectively. This will come, with the bedding-in of new Computer Science curriculum, and through interventions like those run by the Ordnance Survey, but there is still a great deal to do before we start to see tangible benefits in the delivery of government services.

Close to home, local government are starting to adopt more transparent practice, but progress is slow. My local authority, Southampton City Council, has released some financial data – some of which could be considered as ‘3 star’, and anyone with time and motivation to find their way around MS Excel (with the NodeXL template), or Tableau software will find something of interest. Cambridge City Council have published a considerable amount of data (some 4 star), and across the country there’s a patchy, but growing amount of local government data available for all of us to interrogate.

This is no small undertaking, council budgets are being squeezed at an unprecedented level, and doing something new and with uncertain outcomes is a difficult sell at the best of times. Creating exemplars of good practice is important, and the body local government looks to for advice and direction on website development, the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM) has created an ‘Innovation Platform‘ that promote the open government data agenda and help local councils translate policy into action.

The gap between our current local government services, and how they could be better designed and managed in future, is important to us all. There are already inspiring developments – as well as the SOCITM initiative, the Local Government Association’s open data repository, the work of the Open Data Institute, and the Government Digital Service are supporting the move to more open government. The key message is that open data, open standards and open tools provide us with opportunities to develop modern, responsive public services, and to participate in improving our local economies.

Posted in Events, Open data Tagged with: ,
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