Learning taken to virtual world in project

The benefits of using virtual world technology for learning are to be studied in a research project at Birmingham City University.

The Learning in Virtual Environments, LiVE, project will see students undertake film production exercises, using the internet-based virtual world Second Life.

The study is led by Birmingham City University’s Technology Innovation Centre (TIC), together with the University’s Learning Technology Development Unit and technology partner, Daden Ltd, a leading specialist in virtual environments. The project is funded by the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands, through its interactive digital media initiative, which promotes the use of new digital technology.

For more see Birmingham City University. 

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Online goes offline in future

The message of this year’s world new media festival at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, is that online will move into the real world of offline, according to one delegate.

Digital media consultant Stef Lewandoski, from Birmingham, attended the festival as part of a group of delegates from the West Midlands to bring back the latest in new media to the region. 

He reckons the next five years will see things like social networking moving into the realms of social responsibility and the real world offline.

Stef Lewandoski at SXSW

Birmingham drives digital revolution

Birmingham drives digital revolution as Screen WM announces £10m fund backed by Advantage West Midlands 

Regional Screen Agency, Screen WM, has today announced a £10 million digital media fund, developed through an innovative partnership with Channel 4, and supported by Advantage West Midlands.

Birmingham has been confirmed as the UK commissioning hub for England and Wales of Channel 4’s new Four Innovation for the Public fund (4IP) announced by Channel 4 today, which will kick start a wave of new investment in public service digital media content for audiences around Britain.

The £10 million fund includes a £5 million investment from Channel 4, matched with £5 million from Advantage West Midlands.

Managed through Screen WM, with Channel 4 providing high-level support and establishing a commissioning executive team located at the screen agency’s offices in central Birmingham. A 4IP steering group will be chaired by Channel 4 chief executive, Andy Duncan.

4IP is planned for launch in July, and its editorial focus will be on working with the best talent, both individually and within digital production companies, to deliver publicly valuable content and services on digital media platforms- such as made for mobile content, social networking sites like Facebook and online drama series.

The fund will run for at least two years, and West Midlands’ companies will be able to apply for investment of between £20,000 and £1.5 million. Profits made by Screen WM from their investments will be reinvested into the fund. 

Suzie Norton, chief executive of Screen WM said :Securing a major broadcaster like Channel 4 to base their commissioning hub for 4IP in England and Wales in Birmingham is a major coup for the region, and positions us at the cutting edge of digital media production in the UK.

“The fund will provide fantastic opportunities for screen media companies across the West Midlands to lead innovations in areas such as online drama, interactive education and games development. In addition, the fund will work to attract major investment from international blue chip companies such as Google, Microsoft and Bebo, along with public sector partners like the NHS and Arts Council.

“Screen WM is committed to ensuring that our region’s strong media production industry reaps the rewards of the digital revolution. The 4IP fund forms part of our continuing strategy to lead the way in digital, which has seen the extension of our £600,000 Advantage Development Fund to support the digital media, and the agency playing a leading role in the development of Birmingham’s first Digital Film and Media Event, to take place in October this year.”

Mick Laverty, chief executive of AWM said: “Today’s announcement underlines the West Midlands’ position as a leading player in the digital media world. The region is home to over 20% of the UK’s games developers nationwide, the national centre-of-gravity for serious games, Channel 4’s largest Indie producers and an embryonic but growing interactive media company base.

The new fund will not only support development amongst our home grown talent, but will encourage further investment from major digital media companies outside of the West Midlands through commissions and collaboration.”

Liam Byrne MP, minister for the West Midlands, said: “At my first culture summit with James Purnell last year, I said the West Midlands could become Britain’s digital media capital. Today’s announcement is proof we were right. Our combination of creativity and science puts us in the lead of what is fast becoming a huge job market for the future.”

Leader of Birmingham City Council, councillor Mike Whitby said: “This is fantastic news for Birmingham and positions this youthful and diverse city at the cutting edge of digital media content creation in the UK. Birmingham City Council and Screen WM have a strong partnership in supporting the screen media industry in the city, with our new international digital event as a perfect showcase for this exciting new initiative.”

Andy Duncan, chief executive of Channel 4 said: “Media consumers are changing rapidly and Channel 4 must find imaginative new ways of communicating with them. We have to work with the most creative and dynamic companies and many of them are based in the West Midlands, which is why we are delighted to be working with Screen West Midlands on 4IP.”

Blogger’s view from South by Southwest

In a video blog from the South by Southwest new media festival in Austin, Texas, Birmingham’s only professional blogger Pete Ashton explains what he’s hoping to pick up from the world’s biggest digital media gathering.

South by Southwest brings together people from across every aspect of new media from around the world to share the latest technological developments.

 Pete Ashton says he has already picked ideas that will help businesses back in the West Midlands.

Pete Ashton video blog

The face of Facebook

The billionaire chief executive of networking site Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, talked about how his company is valued at more than just its $15bn price tag in making a keynote speech at one of the world’s biggest new media festivals, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

He is just one of a series of top names at the festival which brings together people from around the world from all spheres of new media to learn about the latest technologies and trends.

A group of six from the West Midlands is in Austin to hear about what is new in new media to bring it back to the region.

Public relations consultant Ruth Ward and Maverick Television’s new media producer Nick Lockey from Birmingham were there to hear what the head of Facebook had to say.

Facebook ehief executive Mark Zuckerberg