Today, John Coster and I were very fourtunate to spend the day with Dr Pat Kotchapakdee from Khon Kaen University in Thailand. John and Pat were able to sit down and discuss how Pat approaches his documentary work, and what he thinks is the use of telling stories through photography, film and social media platforms.
Eric and I arrived at the Khon Kaen University campus this morning, just before 9am. The weather was cooler than it had been of late, but still ready for another hot day. I’ve not missed the cold and snow in the UK, but I do feel a tinge of guilt that I’m not sharing it with my colleagues. There is a funny, dissonant sense of change that occasionally overtakes me, particularly when I walk from an air-conditioned room into a warm corridor and wonder who has left the heating on, only to realise that it is the cold room that is artificial.
Anyhow, we drove through the Khon Kaen campus, which occupies over 900 hectares, dodging between the agricultural vehicles and students on their scooters, arriving at the International College in time to meet with Dean Yupin and her team at 9am. Dr Yupin is formidable and very welcoming, As a stranger to KKU I was made to feel instantly welcome and comfortable by her team. After the exchange of business cards we talked about how KKU and DMU are looking to work in the future, and I was invited to give an overview of how my work with DemonFM would fit with the long-standing work of KKU Radio.
Whether it is the climate or the attitude of Thai people, but there was a very easy-going rapport in the meeting, made stronger by a very active sense and healthy sense of self-deprecation. Being the Liverpool this resonated with me, and the courtesy and hospitality of our hosts certainly put the hosting talents of people in the UK to shame.
Being looked after by Pat Kotchapakdee was very fortunate because we had a lot in common, both through our interest in photography, and our interest in how radio plays a role in guiding and ‘curating’ young people to new music. Pat’s PhD research has real resonance with the work that I’m attempting to undertake with DemonFM, in that he is studying the pathways to engagement with media in Asia that is being transformed by social media. We discussed enthusiastically our thoughts on the resulting transformation of expectations by communities who might otherwise be bypassed by the major music and media publishers, and how media producers must ‘think locally, but act globally’.
My talk about DemonFM and the way that we encourage social media collaboration was well received. Being able to work on the presentation through the week has improved it. I have a stronger sense of what the Thai student audience needs to hear. Putting in the references to English Premiership football teams has made a big difference to the way that I make some relevant connection between the students and myself. Having lived under the shadow of English football for most of my life, and having a keen disregard for the sport, it is almost a shock to see how popular the English Premiership is in Asia and particularly Thailand. So throwing in a couple of slides about soccer seemed to make sense and help to ground the presentation in something real.
My presentation explored the way that DemonFM has deployed social media production techniques to enable the underpinning of a cohesive sense of identity for the station as a student-led enterprise. I talked about how the students who run the station work together to produce programmes that fit-in with the UK mainstream radio network by adopting many of the same presentation techniques that professional stations in the UK work toward. It was particularly effective when I was able to show the DemonFM live sessions. The combination of video and live music performance recorded in the studios really helped to get across the idea that in terms of media, at DemonFM ‘you are what you make’.
Afterwards I was invited to lunch by Dean Yupin and her team, and we went to a traditional Isan restaurant, and shared a meal between us. The roast chicken was excellent, and the ‘strip club’ desert was something of a sup rise, especially as it was introduced and explained to us by our host. I’be become rather partial to sticky rice, which is a great accompaniment to any meal, the only problem is that you instantly want to fall asleep after eating even a moderate amount.
After lunch we drove back to the campus and Pat took me over to the radio station, where I met with Benjamapoon Mamook, who is the station manager of KKU Radio, and I was given a tour of the radio and television studios. The service that KKU Radio provides is very similar to DemonFM, except that this station has a footprint of over 80km. The play-out system that they use at the station is definitely something that we can help to upgrade. At present the station uses Winamp to organise and manage the programming and the music and speech output of the station. We talked about how we had sued Linux at DemonFM and had become expert at the implementation of Rivendell as our preferred play-out system. As Rivendell is a free, Open Source application, it may be possible to upgrade the station’s play out capability, depending if Thai language packs are available or can be developed.
We also discussed how our respective students might be able to collaborate and work toward producing programming content that can be shared and re-broadcast on DemonFM. We talked through some ideas about the potential for explaining how DMU students are able to access new music that is strongly associated with Leicester. The aim would be to work with KKU students to produce a radio programme that demonstrates how KKU students find out about new Thai music. Pat and I discussed with Benjamapon how we might share the production process and at what point the programme might be broadcast.
Working in English is essential for DemonFM, but we ought to be able to include some Thai students who are based in Leicester into the process of putting this programme together. I can clearly see my second year radio production students putting this programme together, and producing and coordinating the content. How we manage the link between Thailand and KKU Radio will need to be worked out, but there is clearly a lot of cross-over in the way that we produce material that is aimed at students who also have to serve a defined geographic area and community associated with a university.
Obviously there is a lot of potential collaboration opportunities that can be built into the development of the new Leicester Media School, and our international partners are going to be an essential building block to promoting a sustainable international outlook. As we work to establish our reputation internationally, it is going to be essential that we host and support these links.