#SubtitleIt: Subtitles for On-Demand content

Recently, whilst I have been on Twitter, I’ve noticed a couple of tweets from Deafie Blogger (who runs a great blog – check it out!) and Action on Hearing Loss. In particular, it is about subtitling on-demand content.

Today, I thought I would talk about the importance of subtitles for me. For those who don’t know, I’m mildly deaf/hard of hearing and use hearing aids. In terms of subtitles, I often have to put them on in a loud environment or when it’s an American drama (actors on The Walking Dead – for example – do tend to mumble).

Speaking of The Walking Dead, when the show was broadcast on Channel 5, it was without subtitles. I felt lost – I would only understand the story which was being told visually (i.e. someone being killed by a zombie), not through dialogue which would add extra detail to the story. In turn, I miss out on the while experience of watching the show.

Another show which doesn’t have subtitles is Gogglebox. Whilst I am fortunate to hear the dialogue OK without them, I know a few fellow deafies that want to watch it but can’t. With shows like Gogglebox, which is very comedic, subtitles enable us to be involved with the jokes just like everyone else. Otherwise, we are left confused as to what everyone else is laughing at and that isn’t too great.

But in terms of online subtitling (which is what Action on Hearing Loss’ campaign is about), I think broadcasters still haven’t mastered it, or they don’t use it at all.

BBC iPlayer has always done a fantastic job, in my opinion, but it’s services like ITV Player and All 4 (formerly 4 OD) which are lacking.

For example, a while back there was a show on ITV called Safe House. I can’t remember the exact details but either the live broadcast or on-demand version didn’t have subtitles. Either way, that is a large audience of deaf people who are missing out.

In fact, with most on-demand services, it’s become a battle to watch the live version with subtitles or risk watching the online version with none at all. It’s not exactly fair.

Another example is when I was watching Channel 4’s Hunted on catch-up. Yes, the subtitles were there, but along with the ‘play bar’ at the bottom, it was covering up w lot of the screen, it’s fair to say that work needs to be done when it comes to subtitles on on-demand services.

On a similar note, I thought I would discuss closed captions (subtitles) on YouTube. At the moment, I really enjoy watching Rikki Poynter‘s videos about her campaign to get more YouTubers to CC their videos.

But also, two great vloggers who CC their content are Maeve (a really good blogger friend of mine) and TomSka. I actually met Tom yesterday at a book signing and I talked to him about closed captioning, thanking him for it and he was so kind about it all. He makes comedy videos online and it’s fair to say that without those closed captions, some jokes may be missed by a deaf viewer.

For me, that’s why subtitles – on any content – is so important. It stops us from missing out on key information, jokes and more.

So lastly, I wanted to talk about a campaign which is being run by Action on Hearing Loss called #SubtitleIt. They are asking for people to contact their local MP asking them to support a new bill which will greatly improve online subtitles.

Find out more information and send an email to your MP about the campaign here.

How important are subtitles to you? Comment below!

Liam

‘To Sleep, to Dream’: Can we imagine a movie with only sound?

A unique theatrical experience in the form of EarFilm’s To Sleep, To Dream took place yesterday at Lincoln’s Drill Hall. The show was part of this year’s Frequency Festival.

In terms of the plot. the film is about a world in which dreaming is illegal and revolves around a man named Jack. Whilst I won’t give the story away (no spoilers – it’s something that you should experience yourself so I’d hate to ruin it!), I will talk about thoughts I had during the show as well as what I imagined…

So, the show itself combined narration from the story’s creator (Daniel Marcus Clark) alongside sound effects and audio from actors. Whilst this audio was clear, I personally struggled to hear Clark’s narration.

Despite feeling a bit lost throughout  the film, the sound effects and voices helped me to keep up with the plot. Some sections in particular were particularly strong in terms of my imagination – which was rather humorous and intriguing.

In my interpretation of the story, I found that my imagination came up with both unique descriptions for characters as well as using famous actors. For example, for the character of Jack, his appearance shifted from a large, bald man to a brown-haired and bearded man, then finally – and rathe bizarrely – Liam Neeson.

But at the same time, there were descriptions which were completely unique. Scenes of waves were completely original, so that was interesting for someone who wants to be a writer and needs to have an original imagination!

On a final, the ability to dream a film purely from audio can happen. By having a blindfold on, my mind was tricked into being awake but dreaming at the same time (somewhat like lucid dreaming). Also, in the Q&A in the end, it was interesting to see from fellow audience members – and in the exhibition – what other people imagined.

This is what makes EarFilms such an excellent concept. The film explores the beauty of imagination, and how this can differ from person to person.

To Sleep, To Dream is a thought-provoking show which I would thoroughly recommend.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Liam

Writing Update: A Realisation

I’ve been rather busy here at university, with two journalism assignments being due very soon. With the course and it’s deadlines demanding my attention, I’ve realised that I probably won’t have time to write for a while. Furthermore, it looks unlikely that I will finish the book by my deadline of the end of the year.

As a previous Weekly Update has mentioned, I’ve even struggled to find the time to read. So, for that reason, writing and reading will have to take a back-seat for a while, and I’ll have to find ways of getting short amounts of writing done in my spare time.

Sorry, but I’m afraid there won’t be another Writing Update for a while!

How do you find time to write? Comment below!

Liam

Musical Discovery: ‘Talk to Me’ by Kopecky

Last weekend, I had a list of songs that I was going to listen to in detail in the hope of finding this week’s Musical Discovery. I had a shortlist, but none of them were good enough for review. As I listened to the final track, I noticed whilst it wasn’t my cup of tea, another song which happened to have the same. Talk to Me by Kopecky grew on me and is this week’s Musical Discovery.

Admittedly, the song does have a mellow start, with smooth bass and electric guitar riffs. However, this develops throughout the track, with the drum beat becoming more upbeat drum beat and the vocals changing from a soft, relaxed tone to a soulful and vibrant feel. This then paves the way to a equally colourful chorus.

One of the main things which grabs a listener’s attention in the chorus is the experimental drum beat, with the drummer creating driving tom fills. Alongside this, the sharp, pronounced guitar melody emphasises the emotive and catchy vocals in the chorus. It definitely creates a euphoric and feel-good tone for the listener.

After an interesting, quiet verse, the song makes an abrupt but satisfying ending, leaving the listener on a high.

What do you think of this track? Comment below!

Liam

Musical Discovery: ‘Hello’ by Adele

I was unfortunate to miss the teaser during last week’s X Factor, but it turns out the short clip was a section of her new track, Hello:

Hello/It’s me/I was wondering/if after all these years/you’d like to meet/to go over/everything/they say that time’s supposed to heal ya/but I ain’t done much healing”

On Friday, the music video was released and the song was available to download. Naturally, Hello – from Adele’s eagerly anticipated new album 25 – is this week’s Musical Discovery.

Whilst the song in the music video takes over one minute to begin, obviously the track starts instantly when listening to the iTunes version. Hello commences with soft, minor piano chords and light vocals from Adele which work well together. In terms of melodies, the predictable, fluttering tune in the verses is relaxing and creates an intriguing rhythm for the song. The lyrics are also creative, with the metaphor of a phone call to another person (whom the identity is unknown) being very clever and offering interesting lyrics.

The first verse also sees Adele’s soul develop as the track develops into the chorus. Immediately I noticed that the first chorus lacked drums, which was disappointing. However, this is likely to bring the listener’s attention to Adele’s vocals – especially when the song is more of a ballad similar to that of Rolling in the Deep and Set Fire to the Rain.

But that is not to say that there are no drums at all in the track. Later on, a relaxed but muffled drum beat can be heard underneath beautiful harmonies and backing vocals. It’s these harmonies in the interlude which bring the listener’s attention to the final chorus, ending the song on a high.

What do you think of Adele’s return? Did Hello meet your expectations? Comment below!

Liam

Frequency Festival: What are our digital rights?

Yesterday the first night of Lincoln’s Frequency Festival opened with an interesting discussion into our digital rights and freedom. With the city celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta this year, the festival’s first event asked: what would the digital Magna Carta would look like?

Speakers at the debate included Professor Raul Espejo (Director-General of the World Organisation of Systems and Cybernetics), Wendy Grossman (a writer, folksinger and journalist) and Richard Barbrook (senior lecturer at the University of Westminster). The event also saw contributions from the audience.

Admittedly, I was under the impression that the event would be a debate, when it was more a series of three lectures from the main speakers. All three of them – Professor Espejo, Dr Barbrook and Ms Grossman – all presented different views on the proposed digital bill of rights. Whilst it was interesting to see three different perspectives, I was particularly interested in Professor Espejo’s talk about Cyberfolk and Algedonic Meters.

Basically, the discussion was around a data loop between the people and the state. The meter itself was for an ‘inclusive democracy’ and enabled the public to “[respond] to what policy makers were doing” (Espejo, 2015). In particular, this would be the public saying that they liked a particular debate or proposal.

At the same time, government discussions were being broadcast to the masses. However, at the top of this loop (or dichotomy, if you will), the state are overwhelmed with public data and are unable to handle the data correctly or ethically. According to Espejo (2015), the “extreme proliferation of data today is misunderstood” and proposed that “digital abuses of freedom and privacy […] need to be replaced by a society and individually fair ‘variety engineering” – the term variety referring to Ashby’s law of requisite variety.

This abuse of freedom and privacy at the top is something which I discussed previously in my post about the Channel 4 series, Hunted. After writing this post, one of the key questions I raised, which I wanted to explore further, was whether we as individuals have the right to complain about breaches of privacy when – through social media sites for example – we publicly and freely volunteer that information?

It’s a question I still don’t think that I have the answer to. But, having said that, one of the points raised about this issue was the fact that, alongside the state not knowing how to handle the mass amounts of data, the individual does not know how to properly volunteer data. In particular, someone does not know how that data could be used to benefit themselves, or others in the future. An example which Wendy Grossman gave was the first college-goers at Harvard who used the early version of Facebook, without knowing that what they post may one day be available on Google.

In that respect, I think we, as individuals, need to learn about digital footprints in detail. But in terms of a Digital Bill of Rights, perhaps it would be wise to place regulations on the individual to prevent them from volunteering certain data. If not that, then we should be made aware of what that data could mean in the future, or where it could be made available (like a Harvard student’s Facebook post being visible on Google, for instance – as mentioned above).

Once again, it comes back to the line between public and private in terms of technology. If a Digital Bill of Rights were to be drafted, then it’s likely that the main defence for an accusation of a privacy breach would be that the data in question is readily available to the public. An interesting example of this is a piece of work by Liz Sterry called ‘Kay’s Blog’. This, which was part of a Furtherfield exhibition entitled ‘Being Social’, was a project which saw Sterry reconstruct the bedroom of a blogger (named Kay) – with the information being obtained solely from her blog posts.

Admittedly, I myself would find this a rather large invasion of privacy, especially when it goes on to appear in a public exhibition. But as mentioned beforehand, if this information has been made public, then there is no defence. To be honest, should the terms and conditions of social media platforms not cover this already, then a Digital Bill of Rights should include an agreement. This agreement would state that as much as an individual would consider information published online as private, everyone who uses the Internet today knows that it is a public hub for creativity and information. For that reason, the Digital Bill should remind individuals that information obtained about them from social media cannot be seen as a breach of privacy. However, I do think that there are some exceptions when it comes to state surveillance (see my Hunted post for more information).

Similarly, this can be an issue when it comes to copyright and intellectual property. Yes, whilst most cases are easily identified and breaches of copyright can often be dealt with, it’s a piece of legislation which tries cover as much of the ever-expanding Internet as possible.

In a somewhat similar example, the music industry has been impacted by illegal downloading for a while now. Admittedly, the problem has escalated to the point that enforcing a legislation would simply not work, but that just demonstrates how hard it is to place laws on a rapidly changing entity such as the Internet. In terms of intellectual property, how can we stop the majority from breaching copyright, rather than the few?

Finally, if we were to consider the web as being this massive creative pool for the public, then who owns the Internet? This was a question raised by an audience member and it certainly was an interesting one. In the past, control over the Internet has turned into a bizarre free-for-all, with companies and the government both being eager to regulate or control aspects of technology. For example, a recent campaign to promote net neutrality talked about stopping Internet Service Providers from restricting Internet access to certain sites or content. A more recent example is Home Secretary Theresa May’s Draft Communications Data Bill (dubbed ‘the snooper’s charter’), where the government plans to gain more powers in terms of investigation and surveillance.

However, what we don’t have is rules or laws put in place by the public. If a Digital Bill of Rights was to be introduced, then how could it be made law? Who would enforce it? How could it be maintained, updated and enforced on every single online citizen?

Whilst governments and companies may be trying to control certain aspects of technology and the web, the Internet will always belong to ‘the people’. In a sense, the Internet is a Marxist hub. If we are to call it that, then of course one of the main issues is that the promotion of Marxism is contradictory – in order to enforce Marxism you need a leader.

So, in that case, how can a Digital Bill of Rights for the digital citizen and ‘the people’ be enforced – and by whom? How could the bill be maintained and updated?

Liam

The University Atmosphere: Encouraging Detailed Thinking


One of the many things I love about studying at university is how it encourages debate and discussion on important issues from those with expertise or a big interest in the topic itself.

Over the next few weeks, I will be attending a lot of guest lectures and debates at the University of Lincoln – including talks by professional journalists, YouTubers (in particular Thomas ‘TomSka’ Ridgewell) and discussions about digital rights and the criminal justice system.

I love analysing and thinking about current affairs and issues. As regular readers of this blog will know, I wrote a three-page essay all about the rise of artificial intelligence to coincide with the TV show Humans. I also recently wrote an article about surveillance to tie in with ‘the snooper’s charter’ and Hunted on Channel 4.

I love this style of writing and something I want to do more of on this blog.

I first set up The Life of a Thinker as a place to practice my journalism. It has since evolved into a lifestyle blog, but I hope to have more of a balance in the future.

Mondays will continue to be Musical Discovery posts, Fridays will always be journalistic articles and Sundays will either be writing or life updates. As for Wednesdays, they will probably be journalistic articles too to get a greater balance.

What do you think? Would you like to see more journalistic and analytical articles on the blog? Comment below and let me know!

Liam