Off the back of the Guardian Voice Lab project, as well as doing some development work on a forthcoming series due in the autumn, I had the opportunity to produce Politics Weekly for the month of May.
Here are a couple of highlight episodes for me, from the four-week stint:
This episode was recorded as the Gavin Williamson drama was onfolding, so the script shifted considerably between being written on the Wednesday, and the recording on the Thursday.
And this episode was hosted by Jonathan Freedland, and he displayed a masterful ability to host and steer the debate.
We launched our second project at The Guardian Voice Lab this week!
It’s a flash briefing that combined human and synthetic voice, which was a lot of fun work on. Working with SSML was a new experience for me, and although working in code was daunting initially, it’s incredibly satisfying to work on something that programmatically builds itself every day.
Give it a try.
Hey Google, speak to Guardian Briefing.
For more information on the project, check Jeremy’s blog announcement.
One of our responsibilities on The Voice Lab has been to write weekly blog posts about our progress. As Editorial Lead within the team, my posts have approached the meeting point that exists in voice between software developers and editorial/content creators, from the perspective of the producer.
Click on the photos below to read the full articles.
As previously discussed in an early blog post, in late October I began a 6 month contract at The Guardian’s Voice Lab, fulfilling the role of editorial lead/audio producer within a 4-person software-focused team (alongside a product lead, a programmer and an UX designer).
Being the final member of the team to arrive, from the day I began we had 8 weeks to devise, create, test and deliver our first product! I’m delighted that right on cue, on December 22nd, ‘Year In Review’, a gamified podcast discovery action for Google Home and Google Assistant launched!
Play Year In Review by saying to Google Home or Assistant, “Hey Google, talk to Year In Review”.
Check out Jeremy Pennycook’s blog post which goes into more detail around the hypothesis behind the project and what we intend to learn from it.
For me personally, being new to voice, it was a rewarding project to work on as I learned a huge amount in a short time, and it didn’t all end in tears! The scale of the project was ambitious and challenging, involving a considerable level of organisational complexity due to the fact we recorded 8 hours of scripts and created over 90 minutes of final audio across 140+ audio files. Considering the production phase began in earnest during the final 3 weeks, I’m delighted we managed to hit the deadline.
Here’s a gif of the final deliverables in my Ableton sequence. The locator/marker function has never been more important! Although not designed for this kind of work, Ableton was a delight to use throughout.
I’ve learned a great deal about how writing and producing content for voice differs from radio and podcast production, and I look forward to applying the lessons learned from the discoveries we made on Year In Review, to our next Voice Lab projects.
Beyond the audio production work, it’s also been fascinating working within a software-focused team where each member brings their own unique set of skills and perspectives. I’ve also really enjoyed the rigor and transparency that comes with the agile design sprints and methodology. Plus, being in the building at The Guardian and getting to understand a little about how the organisation works has been fascinating. As a long time reader of the paper, it’s been a thrill to witness some of the action from the inside!
If you want to learn more about producing content for voice, check out the weekly Voice Lab blog.
At the end of October I was offered a role working on a new initiative from The Guardian developing audio content for Google’s Home smart speaker and Google Assistant.
Guardian News & Media is pleased to announce the launch of Guardian Voice Lab – an in-house team dedicated to experimenting with storytelling and delivering journalism through smart speakers and interactive audio.
A small multidisciplinary team will work closely with the wider Guardian newsroom and product teams to create and test innovative ways to deliver ground-breaking audio journalism from The Guardian, using the Google Assistant platform.
Guardian Voice Lab will explore ways to deliver quality journalism through engaging and unique audio experiences on a smart speaker device. The project is scheduled to run for six months with funding from Google.
Building on previous innovation initiatives – including Guardian VR (supported by Google) and the Mobile Innovation Lab (supported by the Knight Foundation) – the project will strengthen internal capabilities and understanding of best journalistic practices on new and developing technologies. The team will document their progress and learnings with readers and the wider media industry through a blog.
HERE’S the full press release.
Our first product delivery is due before Christmas so it’s going to be a busy 6 weeks!
Back in August I started freelancing with the gang over at Atomized Studios (part of Freuds PR).
They’d begun producing a podcast series for EY entitled The Better Question, which looks to ‘answer the better questions that will help CEOs and other senior executives lead their business through this transformative age’.
With interviews for 4 episodes already recorded, and another 2 episodes having to be made from scratch, I remained at Atomized until October, working on the podcast project alongside other EY video productions.
The Better Question was an interesting project to work on, with a bunch of fascinating themes being discussed in each epiode. My favourite is probably the forthcoming Megatrends episode, which explores both the reasons for and the implication of populism. The episode which focuses on a company’s ‘Purpose’ was also fascinating to piece together. Really, with each episode featuring EY staff alongside entrepreneurs and business leaders, I learned plenty from every one.
The series is now going live, every fortnight until the end of the year.
Thanks to Zad and Stevie for the opportunity, and to Kate at EY, and the host Juliette, for being a pleasure to work with.
I first met Matthew Plummer Fernandez a few years ago, when I was playing some records as a warm-up for my friend Dan Moss’ band, Dems, at Corsica Studios. As I attempted to not offend the crowd with my selections, Matthew was producing some extraordinary visuals from his laptop. It turned out he was using a piece of software he had built himself! It was then I realised he wasn’t one to mess about.
Having enjoyed listening to him talk about his passion for computer-generated visual art that evening, I signed up to his Algo-pop blog, which studies “the appearance of algorithms in popular culture and everyday life”. Over the following months, I really grew to like the way Matthew and his cohort playfully pull at the fabric of our online lives, revealing the mechanisms and distortions that go unseen much of the time, and yet undeniably shape our experiences.
For example, it was through Algopop that I first came across the ‘Love Machine’.
Matthew Plummer Fernandez is a British/Colombian artist based in London. Through his innovative work, he creates sculpture, software, online interventions and installations, often reflecting on our contemporary socio-technical entanglements with software automation. He runs the popular blog Algopop which explores the role of algorithms in every day life. His work has been presented extensively, including solo shows at iMal in collaboration with JODI, and Nome Gallery in Berlin. His works have been acquired by the Pompidou in Paris, and commissioned by the V&A in London, as well as AND Festival, Manchester. Matthew is currently an invited resident at Somerset House Studios, and later this year he’ll exhibit a new series of large-scale 3D printed sculptures as part of York Mediale Festival.In his Strrr episode, Matthew explores the role that algorithms play in everyday life and culture. From their beginnings in the simple animations of the 1970s and 80s, through to the cutting edge neural networks and artificial intelligence of today, Matthew reveals the various ways in which algorithms are playing an increasing central role in our lives.
From February through to the end of May, I produced a six-part podcast series for The Telegraph newspaper, as part of their Technology Intelligence initiative. Working with journalist Harry De Quetteville as host, the series explores the future of technology across six different sectors:
In each episode, we interviewed three entrepreneurs to hear how they are introducing innovative technology to their industry, and how that’s disrupting traditional practices, as well as to hear where they think technology might lead the sector in the future. In each episode, these at times enthusiastic views are then underpinned with those of an academic who specialises in the development of that particular field, to both provide history context and remind us of the ethical or environmental considerations which can be overlooked.
It was fascinating to hear insights from various leading entrepreneurs and innovators including:
- Anne Boden of Starling Bank
- Paul Newman of Oxbotica
- Ali Parsa of Babylon Health
- Prof Tony Young of NHS
- Werner Vogels of Amazon Web Services
- Paul Clarke of Ocado
We were delighted to top the Apple Podcasts Technology Charts in May.
And to reach no 24 in the overall chart!
It will be interesting to see how the series develops, as moving forward, there might be a couple ways to develop the series. Firstly, to continue with the current structure of three entrepreneurs and an academic allows for many contributors, which ensures each episode is informative and packed full of many ideas and views. Each episode acts almost as an audio report, allowing the listener to learn about both the broad tech innovation developments within a sector as well as occasional case-studies on very specific areas.
A second option would be to adopt a structure which is perhaps less ambitious in terms of the amount of content covered per episode, but allows for more storytelling elements, shifting the focus from an overview of a sector, and instead focuses in on a specific innovation, or development, identifying what the story at its core is, and then sourcing contributors to tell the various sides of that story, allowing time and space to build tension, introduce jeopardy, reveal the personal stories and emotions that are/were integral to the tech story itself.
Many thanks to Harry De Quetteville as host,Rob Owers and Andy McKenzie on exec’ing the series, Alex Wotton as researcher, and David McGuire for the initial introduction.
You can listen to all episodes of Technology Intelligence Podcast series one here.
I first met Nelly back in 2016 whilst Worldwide FM was broadcasting from LA, for WeTransfer’s ‘How We Do LA’ event. The day I was due to fly home to London, I spent a fun couple hours wandering around The Museum of Contemporary Art with her and WT Creative Director Laszlito Kovacs. So, when I began with Strrr TV a year later, Nelly’s was one of the first names that popped into my mind as potential future hosts, so it’s a delight to have got her involved in the Strrr project. I learned a great deal from her episode which has led me to explore a load of her selections, so I’d recommend you give it a watch here.
Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun is a formidable creative force in the world of experiential design. Using interdisciplinary approaches, Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios create wildly diverse events and experiences, collaborating with organisations such as NASA, The European Space Agency and The SETI Institute. Nelly is the author and director of two feature length movies, and fulfils a plethora of roles working with and consulting for organisations such as the UN, XL Recordings, Lego and Mattel. Most recently, Nelly has teamed up with the Sandberg Instituut and WeTransfer to launch the University of the Underground, a free postgraduate university supporting unconventional research practices. In her episode of Strrr TV, Nelly picks videos featuring her most inspirational directors, artists, dance moves, and more.
Nelly is currently running The University of the Underground, which is a a fascinatingly ambitious project. Check it out.
Next episode I produced for Strrr TV is Lewisham’s finest, Novelist.
I’m currently producing the Technology Intelligence podcast series for The Telegraph. I’m making 6 episodes, with delivery deadlines every fortnight. For each episode we focus on a different sector which is being disrupted by technology, and speak with 3 entrepreneurs and an academic. By the end of the episode, the aim is for the audience to get an idea of how we got to where we are today, what innovations are steering today’s industry, and where all this might lead in the future.
It’s been fascinating to learn more about how this 100 year old industry is adjusting (or not) to change, whether that’s reticence to move away from the internal combustion engine (and towards renewal energy sources such as batteries and super-capacitors) or the established companies’ willingness to embrace alternative models of ownership. As in recent years we’ve become more accustomed to renting/subscribing to services and thus less willing to make upfront investments, many start ups are looking to develop the Netfix or Spotify model, but for your transportation needs. This could be seen as threatening the fundamental assumption of the auto industry; that cars need to be bought, and built-in obsolescence etc allows the industry to keep on selling and selling!
And of course, we also look at one of the most fundamental disrupters impacting the industry right now, the arrive of driverless cars/autonomous vehicles.
Thanks very much to all our contributors:
Jim Heathcote – Superdielectrics (supercapacitors)
Hugo Spowers – Riversimple (Hydrogen)
Felix Leuschner – Drover (Mobility As a Service)
Paul Newman – Oxbotica (Autonomous Vehicles)
Glenn Lyons – Mott MacDonald Professor of Future Mobility
Beate Kubitz – TravelSpirit Foundation Director of Policy and Communications
Episode 3 looks at the future of work.