Multimedia Update

This is the second in a series of articles on Multimedia. Last month we asked "Will multimedia be taught?" We introduced the Community Multimedia Group which is "fascinated, not with technology, but with its use." Scouts for the CMG have been checking out the possibilities of "a radical improvement in the quality of multimedia education" in the Ukiah valley and the region. In this article, we attempt to define the term multimedia and to reveal its significance to the college and society at large.

The article ends with a challenge directed to every department of the college and to other educational institutions to cooperate together in providing multimedia education for our community.

By King Collins

If you went to school in the 50s, the chances are that, for you, multimedia means something like a slide presentation and lecture in your high school biology class. If you are under 30, it probably means an interactive video game. If you teach or work in the field of multimedia, you're probably reading everything that comes your way to trying to come up with a definition, yourself.

What is multimedia?

Multimedia is a slippery term. It includes a lot of things happening at the same time. It includes every kind of media from the newspaper you're reading to the CD-ROM you use to learn how to doÉalmost anything. It includes the fact that the same item, a newspaper for example, can be printed on paper and it can also be uploaded (sent) directly to your home computer or to a web site on the Internet. And, no matter whether you read your newspaper on traditional newsprint or from the monitor of your computer, chances are it has been created and stored in "digital" form.

Once an idea or an image is digitized (reduced to electronic blips) it can be transformed in almost any way; it can be sent to Japan via satellite as easily as it can be saved on a floppy disk; it can be turned into a multilink web site even easier (and cheaper) than it can be printed in a newspaper or magazine.

The Multimedia Industry

Another way to get a handle on multimedia is to consider the rapidly growing industry that is associated with it. According to the Bay Area Multimedia Partnership, the multimedia industry is the "integration and fusion of several different industries, including design, software, publishing, computers, telecommunications, mass media and consumer electronics." (Think about that for awhile!)

This new industry brings together creators, producers and distributors of software and hardware who integrate video, sound, text and graphics to produce interactive information and communications, products and services.

Mass Media Sells Products and Ideology

In the 40s and 50s, radio and television unleashed the awesome power of mass information. It was used very effectively to sell products and ideology (communism, fascism, liberalism) but this new medium was not well suited to communication, which requires the ability of the user to send as well as receive information, in other words, the ability to dialog.

Mass Dialog: The New Paradigm:

In the 90s, multimedia introduces interactive information exchange. No longer is information a one-way affair. Now, for the first time in history, dialog is possible on a massive scale between any two or more points, anywhere in the world. As this amazing capability is installed around us, we begin to use it for anything and everything we do in our daily lives.

The mass media industry can no longer count on the monopoly it has enjoyed for so long.

"Something new is happening in the world of mass media. Having the capital for large-scale production and distribution no longer means having (exclusive) power. Today a hyper media publication (web page) can be created on a desktop and distributed instantly around the globe for the cost of server space.

Realizing this, universities, schools, small publishers, and individuals have flocked to the Net in droves. The major corporate player in print and television are only now getting their feet wet, and although they might not believe it, they will never have the dominance of global audiences that they once enjoyed. Now the premium is on content, and all it really takes to be heard is having something interesting to say."

Gary Weltz
Internet World, March 1995

For over 20 years, scientists and technicians in major universities and research institutions have used this amazing communication tool to develop their projects. All of our great technical accomplishments were accelerated by the ongoing dialog among the scientists who created them.

As we, the general public, begin to engage in this new process, we realize that we are participating in nothing less than the emergence of a new paradigm, a whole new way of dealing with the world, a whole new way of making decisions about what to do to change it. There can be no doubt that the new paradigm will have profound effects on education, as it will have on every other aspect of our life.

What does this sudden increase in the power to communicate mean to education?

1) This new power puts us in a much better position to do something worthwhile for our community.

2) By taking advantage of distance learning we can provide a much broader curriculum, bringing in images and text from all around the world offering students the possibility of classes and even degree programs from other colleges and universities.

3) Within and between our college campuses, students, faculty and staff can become what the university was meant to be: a community of scholars in an ongoing discussion about our world and how we can make it better.

4) As a community college we can and should be a courageous force in favor of unmediated decision making in all areas of public policy and government:

"Democracy is founded on the concept of informed consent. This means that you, as a citizen, have a right and responsibility to exercise your franchise based on the best possible information. While the history of politics is the history of disputes about which information is right or moral, an underlying understanding is that information is necessary for informed consent, and informed consent is necessary for democracy.

In the United States, the founding fathers did not provide a direct democracy at the national level because no communications infrastructure of the eighteenth century could support such a proposition. However, at the local level in New England and other colonies, towns governed themselves directly through a system of town meetings in which all the citizenry could play a role. Many still do....

This can be done with what we have now and with what we are developing."

John R. Vacca
"The Outer Limits"
Internet World, March 1995

Are there jobs in multimedia?

Multimedia is one of the healthiest developing job markets. The next decade will see a geometric progression in the need for trained people in this field. Both education and business will increasingly utilize interactive training for students and employees. The Internet's explosion of web sites and its use as an information transfer medium fuels the demand for programmers and designers.

The advertising, television and entertainment industries are financing the leading edge of multimedia development because the impact it has on their businesses is worth large sums of money to them. The booming computer games industry is based on the products of multimedia. 3D and virtual reality constructions are now used in every area of engineering, research, architecture and designing, from landscapes to space stations, fashion to medical imaging to music videos."

Our investigations indicate that a student who is trained in any of the areas of multimedia can find work. When the technical skills are combined with creativity and experience, it greatly enhances the student's chances of succeeding setting his/her independent career or business.

Most people with reasonable desktop publishing skills can find work at $7.50/hr, starting pay. (However for someone who is just getting into the trade, it is wise to take a job at minimum wage if necessary in order to get hands-on experience. If you have an aptitude for the work, you will soon be worth more. $15-$25/ hr are now being paid to a person who can design and layout reasonably good commercial work. The more design skill you have the better your chances of finding a job with good pay.

According to Internet World (March, 1995), "The skill of HTML programming (which is used for the creation of web pages) now sells for $35 to $200 per hour depending on speed, layout "eye," knowledge of supporting software (like Photoshop) and understanding of programs that create interactive forms and clickable maps"

Anyone with an aptitude for art, photography, film, video, audio or writing, who also has computer graphic skills is in demand. If these are combined with commercial design it should be possible to find work at $25 - $50/hr in the Bay Area. This is the range of pay for free-lance designers in this area. Jobs range from illustration for the print media to 3-D animation for interactive video and movies. Once again, be warned that these numbers may not appear instantly. If you are inexperienced, go ahead and take the ridiculously low paying job, as long as you get some good hands-on experience. Nothing beats the real thing.

Where we're at

In our initial stage, a well-formed proposal set the tone for our efforts. The proposal, written by Harold Vietti, a truly civic minded individual, is for a downtown Learning Center.

The following excerpts from Vietti's proposal provide the key critieria for the proposed learning center:

1) The Learning Center must be "...a community partnership (our emphasis) incorporating private business, school districts, public training agencies, Mendocino College and other state colleges and universities who would like to provide learning opportunities to the residents of the Ukiah community."

2) The learning center should use "...the current technology (computers, interactive video, internet access and multimedia capabilites) as an instructional tool, students will be able to learn and to develop their skills at a pace and time of the day that is convenient to them."

3) The ambiance "...will be more like a comfortable, well equipped home/studio than a classroom.

4) The location " ...must be at a site that is accessible to all ages, has good parking facilities, is around places which serve food, is accessible by bus, and most importantly in a safe environment which is patrolled regularly.

5. "In addition, (the learning center) will provide a forum for people in the community to research new ideas and work with others sharing the same goals. A learning center of this type will provide a forum for people to be retrained in an open entry, open exit environment."

The scouts for the Community Multimedia Group have been looking into the available places and organizations where a multimedia learning center could be established. We have seen just about every existing site where a such a center might be located. Our findings:

1. There are several places/organizations that have some of the essential hardware, software and personnel.

2. The places that are closest to the idea at this time are:

How about Cooperation?

We have had informal discussions with the major players in the educational field in this area. We now feel that the missing ingredient in our educational community is not hardware, not software, and not expertise. All these things exist or can be gotten. No, the missing ingredient is cooperation, the simple, genuine, wholehearted effort to work together across departmental, institutional and political (City/County) borders to create qualitatively better learning situations for the students and for our community.

To encourage this gentle art of cooperation, the Community Multimedia Group will soon present a proposal to all of the major educational and related institutions (Mendocino College, Ukiah High School, Mendocino County Office of Education/Region Occupation Program, Private Industry Council and the Employment Development Department) challenging them to work together in contributing to and implementing a pilot project in multimedia training.

Stay tuned.

* * *

First published in the Mendocino College Eagle, March 1996.
Permission granted to use articles if source is cited


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Last Update: 3/23/96