Sunday, May 17, 2009

From Virtual Information Hoover to Revelling Reader (and back again)

A personal counter-cultural trend has accelerated this week catalysed by a week of working from home. Whilst I sucked up and spat out a barrage of information snippets, data points and piano-playing cats via email, friendfeed, text and tweet, I also found myself on a complementary novel-reading jag in my non-working hours.

At the end of days spent staring at screens, tapping into keyboards and instantly responding to vibrating devices, I finally finished John FowlesThe Magus then polished off the week with a quick sojourn to Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac. I revelled in the blissful escape via stories that twisted and turned in less frenzied alternative worlds, tempted in by the slow strip tease as characters and details were revealed to me with no more effort than eyes tracing along lines and the turn of a page.

So I was struck by this sentence towards the end of an article in yesterday’s Guardian about the decreasing popularity of non-fiction books,
“many publishers think the noise and immediacy of the web will make slow, quiet immersion in a book seem more, not less, appealing.”
Because this week it's certainly felt that way for me, although I confess I’ve always been a reader, from the most embarrassing of my letters to Father Christmas, containing the should-be-lisped phrase “books, books and more books!” to my current membership of readers' social network Goodreads*.

But I genuinely hope that as gigs and festivals have risen in popularity and importance alongside the file-swapped and mashed-up world of music, and the slow food movement emerged amidst our pre-packaged, fast-food nations, so there will be a trend (who knows? maybe Kindle-driven), in support of the mental nourishment and resuscitation a good book can offer.

With this in mind, please find the following recommendations meant for particular types of my virtual and media-saturated friends. As a break from our networked worlds full of fast, shallow, aggregated knowledge I believe we could all benefit from the occasional slow, deep wallow in words.
  1. ARG and Lost fansThe Magus
    Bear with it, you’ll gasp more than you did when The Others popped up.
  2. Peep Show and In-betweeners self lovers/loathers Portnoy’s Complaint
    A culturally specific and self-revelatory journey with some great masturbatory anecdotes.
  3. Twitter addicts Consider the Lobster and Other Essays
    In your quest for information and your constant need for innovation, the pace, wit, style and sheer ingenuity should suit.
  4. Virtual World Inhabitants and Hardcore gamers - A Clockwork Orange
    Learn about societal trends and tribes via this imagined violent world, with real pleasure to be gained from cracking the language.
  5. Guilty Grazia readers - Hotel du Lac
    Learn about love through an array of fabulously dressed female characters more interesting than Madonna.
Disagree? Too obvious? Add your own recommendations as you see fit.

*Apologies for the distraction, but there’s a great article I received via @zeroinfluencer’s friendfeed about the benefits of asymmetric friending on Twitter vs. Goodreads (I know, I can’t help myself.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reminder: Britain's Forgotten Children

Apologies for another work promo from me, but Channel 4's season on adoption and the care system this week, "Britain's Forgotten Children" is without doubt one to watch and interact with. The season explores the issue of the "hard to place" children that can get stuck in the care system or shuttled between different foster families that could be helped by more people considering adoption and especially adopting older children, siblings or kids with disabilities.

Find Me a Family, a three-part documentary following three potential families and their path to adoption, really started off the thinking behind the season and has been a long time in the making (the challenges of which are described in an interesting post by Commissioning Editor Dominique Walker). It does a great job of dispelling myths around who can adopt (yes, single women and gay couples can!) and expanding thinking about the kids that are available for adoption as well as demonstrating the processes involved.

Alongside the tv programmes, we have also developed a website, Adoption Experience (commissioned by Adam, built by Mint), to complement the programmes by enabling deeper exploration of the issues around, and experiences of, adoption. So if you have any experience of adoption please help answer the questions that are on the website (or pose your own) and consider sharing your own experience alongside those we've filmed and highlighted.

There are some criticisms of a much beleaguered care system within some of the programmes, but I hope if you watch last night's Dispatches programme, Lost in Care, you'll see there are also pointers to where the care system can and has had a positive role to play (there are some really interesting comments on the programme page, some not agreeing with my conclusion).

I haven't seen Sunday's Samantha Morton-directed drama, The Unloved, yet but have been promised it's powerful, absorbing and thought provoking; based on her personal experience of being in care and her directorial debut, it's hard to imagine it could be anything else. There are some fascinating insights into how the project really started in this interview with her where Morton explains her motivations and experience of making the film.

As you can see, we have involved lots of different people with many different perspectives in both the development of the programmes and the website and associated content, but the issue can only be better highlighted and our content improved upon by more interaction and feedback, which I hope we've allowed ample opportunity for, through the comments, blog posts and websites we've built.

And, finally, if you are interested in adopting, then please read about the children that need homes who have been featured in the programmes and promotions and consider expressing your interest. If we were to help find a family for just one of them it would have made a worthwhile season invaluable.

Later note 17/05: Feeling terribly remiss for not including the extraordinary Cutting Edge film The Homecoming (27 days left to watch it on 4oD catch-up), an extremely moving and interesting film about two girls revisiting fellow care home members that featured in an old photo years after they themselves were successfully adopted. Plus Adam's written an interesting blog post about the thinking behind the Adoption Experience website.