Archive for November, 2007

Collaboration

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Science has changed in the last century. One reason is that the frontiers mostly have footprints in them now. There just aren’t that many places one can set out for with a machete or snow shoes and discover something. Oh you can certainly go places that are remote and discover something new. But these days you have to be able to bring a lot more than you can carry on your back. Take ice cores for example. It takes some production to get the machinery to bore into a mile of ice in Antarctica, pull out the ancient ice, and then get it to a stable protected environment where you can analyze the physical matter in a way that reveals something we don’t already know. Imagine that you have the vision to ice core mountain glaciers, something Lonnie Thompson did starting a few decades back. You would have to figure out how to get there with the gear, get it funded, and then bring the ice back. He did, and today he is curator of the world’s most interesting ice library. And it takes a lot of people and money to keep that going.

Many of the sources for this project cited the key skill in today’s science environment as team building and collaboration. The growing social relevance of climate science has demanded of scientists storytelling and public relations skills that were often absent from the previous generation. Virtually all of what the world knows about climate over the last thirty years is the result of the US Government’s Climate Change Research Program, itself an unprecedented collaboration between what is now thirteen separate federal agencies. Given how bureaucracies work, that such a program exists after several decades, much less continues to pump out results, is a dramatic and remarkable story all by itself. That the subject has been politicized and under torque spin in multiple directions over those decades is another facet of how science is more integrated into our society than ever before.

All of this is highlighted this month by my own experience of working on the project. A month ago, I engaged in a week long intensive collaboration to produce a three and a half minute promo ( you can see it on YouTube here) to illustrate the quality and tone that I want to have 90 minutes of. Such quality requires collaboration. In the constant discussion that the effort required, the ideas and how to execute them were constantly in flux, and each and every value in each and every frame received scrutiny from multiple minds. It is how motion pictures are made today. How one gets the intense richness of today’s feature film is the result of multiple skilled people pushing the content through a deep and technical set of crafts.

The desktop digital video revolution promises that an individual can do all these things themselves. And for the month since that collaboration, I have been working in this manner- on a digital desktop, alone with my source material; my two years of background in the subject, editing and shaping the story lines that make up this remarkable progression into a subject that looms larger everyday in our society.

As a person who has been a part of some pretty great projects that have made it to the broad public through the channel of the motion picture theater, I have to report that the digital desktop experience feels like whittling with a pen knife compared to the buzz of an high quality woodshop that the collaboration was. It is why I spend a bit of each day seeking the resources to put this project back in that environment.

Just as the science is best served today by many minds and hands lifting all the complex aspects of the subject, so too is this story best served by applying the best practices of the communication industry. Consider this an invitation to participate if you have any insight or interest is seeing this product get the best practice application.