School’s (almost) out for summer.

No Comments

At the end of last semester I moved one step closer to finishing up my graduate studies — huzzah! — by completing all the coursework requirements. The two courses that I took were exceedingly different from each other but, for me, also showed off the value of such a multidisciplinary program.

I took a second Schulich MBA course, Communications Policy taught by Peter Grant of McCarthy Tétrault. Much like my previous MBA course, I was able to contribute a lot of technical understanding about communications systems. I was also pleasantly surprised just how much of the various media industries I already had a strong knowledge about — some days it felt like the class was my RSS feed come to life. It was a great opportunity to debate various issues on a regular basis with others interested in the topics.

Peter brought many critical moments in Canadian communication policy to life through first-hand experience with key licensing processes and landmark cultural components of international treaties. A wide-range of speakers from various communication industries shared an interesting blend of broad perspectives (industry associations) and detailed operations (company executives). Finally, readings primarily consisted of policy documents and industry reports, a nice break from theory. McCarthy Tétrault provided each student with the various regulatory reference books they put together for the Canadian industry. Due to my research focus, I was lucky enough to also receive a copy of the 2012 Canadian Telecommunications Regulatory Handbook, which added to my growing reference collection.

My final project for the course examined territorial rights in the internet age, and related problems and prospects for rightsowners. It’s a thorny issue, with (mainstream video) content becoming more and more expensive to produce combined with relative declines in traditional advertising revenues on the producer side but the dreaded ‘this video can’t be shown in your country’ message angering audiences, especially when it’s a promotional or free (to the viewer) clip. I’d like to see a business model that creates a clearinghouse to make payments to rightsholders if the content hasn’t been licensed in a jurisdiction, along with more secondary cross-licensing and revenue sharing when the rights have been purchased but one licensee isn’t fully exploiting them. I think Google would make the obvious choice to tackle this, working in conjunction with industry associations, with their YouTube embed-tool. If they white-labelled the digital on-screen graphic, hosting more content for producers to licensees could be another/increased revenue stream for them.

The other course I took was Advanced Communication Technology, a foundational course for my minor stream (Technology in Practice). The readings tended to be more theoretical and abstract, challenging for a policy wonk with their modern art focus. The beginning of the course grounded it within the Toronto School of communication, with an emphasis on McLuhan — both his works and how they influenced other scholars. I did the inevitable course presentation on my good friend Innis and communication systems early on in the term, and then cruised with learning about more avant grade communication aspects of various audio and visual technologies.

For my final project, I put together a video using Go Animate — a tool for DIY animation videos. It was a pretty fun project, getting to share my knowledge about spectrum policy in a humourous tone that is not normally an option for academic and industry presentations and papers. Like many of my classmates, I entered into the project with some trepidation since I’m not an “artist”. But after some discussions with the prof, Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof, I felt more comfortable with the objective of making. Critically reflecting on the topic and production was the goal, and I really enjoyed being able to present spectrum policy issues how I might to a group of friends over coffee. It was also great to see what all the varied projects my fellow classmates produced — a group of talented and cracking smart people.

As with most of the students, my ambitious goals were scaled down to the realities of course deadlines when learning new technologies. I’m in the process of refining the first video and will also produce Part II this summer, then post to YouTube and add another piece to the ol’ employment portfolio.

While I’m working on the video(s), I’m getting into the writing of my Major Research Paper. With a little luck, I’ll be able to complete the draft and revision process before the summer is out!