According to the Alliance for Community Media website, the Alliance was founded in 1976 and “represents over 3,000 Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) access organizations and community media center throughout the country.  The ACM works to protect the interests of these access centers and those who use PEG facilities and equipment to advance their causes through cable television and the Internet.”  In addition to PEG organizations, they also represent local community groups, public schools, religious institutions, colleges and universities, government officials, second language communities, and national institutions such as NASA, the US Department of Education, and the US Army!  Each year, they hold a National Conference with a unique theme in a different city which features interactive workshops, insightful presentations, group discussions, community-building events, and an exhibitors hall filled with a variety of media vendors and product demonstrations.  For the first time in ten years, the conference was held in Boston from Thursday, August 18, through Saturday, August 20, 2016, and the NCTV staff had the pleasure of attending.  This year’s theme was “Our Town.”

As a result of attending the conference, the staff had a multitude of takeaways in the form of new ideas for learning opportunities and summer programs that we could offer, inspiration to engage the youth on a more frequent and involved level, recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion on all levels of community engagement, and discussions regarding adjusting our policies, procedures, and professional relationships to better serve the needs of the Norfolk community.  One of the activities we would like to implement for members and citizens of all ages is digital storytelling.  Digital storytelling consists of using a variety of sounds and images to tell short form, ‘snapshot’ stories which capture moments in time or the feeling(s) of an action or experience in someone’s life or the world at large.  Unlike classic film and television, digital storytelling strays away from just using straightforward video to tell a story and encourages visual artists to choose different types of images (e.g. a picture of a single tree on a hill to represent the idea of loneliness in place of showing a person alone in a room) and sound bytes (e.g. an audio track of faint laughter while someone is recalling a fond memory of childhood) to emotionally connect with audiences and attempt to visually recreate an experience.  This style is also much more accessible for the average person than the process of heavy editing and creating elaborate visual effects, and we are excited about the possibilities it could bring to both the station and its channels.

Another exciting prospect for the future is the use and incorporation of virtual reality tools and interactive 3D video and animation.  In Massachusetts, the Brookline Interactive Group and Northampton Community TV have partnered together to create the Public VR Lab to “launch accessibility and literacy initiatives in VR at their community media centers” in “a collaborative effort to facilitate a public dialogue around new VR-related technologies, and support the community creation of 360, virtual and augmented content, access to tools and headsets, and socially-relevant and locally-focused VR experiences.”  The use of VR will massively open up possibilities in community media and beyond.  The other incredible tool that was demoed at the conference was the VRDoodler which, as the website states, is “a browser-based 3D drawing platform that can render in virtual reality, and into 3D printable objects. Haven is a crowd-sourced audio-visual storytelling VR platform to be built on top of VRDoodler.”  Anyone can visit their site and use their software to create 3D drawings which can be imported and exported into other forms of media such as video and 360-degree photos!  NCTV is excited to explore how these tools could fit in with our own missions, goals, and productions.

Our last vital takeaway from the conference was the decision to create a more formal and ongoing youth program in the somewhat near future.  The staff attended a number of informative workshops about what it takes to create, maintain, oversee, and gain support for a robust youth program(s) as well as tips for how to better engage with and incorporate youth in general.  While this idea is still in the development stage, we look forward to the day that we can announce our plan(s) to provide new opportunities for young people around Norfolk to engage with the community and the world around them through visual and auditory media.

If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or ideas for anything you would like to see happen in and around the station, please feel free to contact us at any time.  We absolutely welcome and encourage your feedback!

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