After a full on week of doping controversies with the Fancy Bears website hacks, I gave a talk at Future Fest this weekend on the future of sport and the use of human enhancement.
There's a major problem about to explode with the Therapeutic Use Exemption and this could change a lot about how we make sense of the distinction between therapy and enhancement. As always, sport is at the forefront of figuring out crucial bioethical problems that will confront our radical transhuman future.
TEDx talk for University of York, looks at the many ways in which drones are being developed and utliized for a range of social goods.
As my 10th Olympic Games, Rio 2016 was a long time coming, having seen it through from bid stag to completion and, in recent years, working more closely with the media operations team at the International Olympic Committee.
While here, I shot around 100gb of photographs, attended around 20 sports, wrote 4 articles for the news, interviewed for around 20 different outlets, re-designed and wrote for a magazine, and continued by longitudinal research into media change at the Olympics, this time focused on social media and new forms of broadcasting. Articles to follow.
I also made a film about life in one of Rio's favela, and even managed to publish a two page spread in the Times Higher Education about social media (unrelated to the Games!). It has been an epic fortnight, my most productive Games yet and it is possible thanks especially to the University of Salford, Manchester , which continues to support me tremendously in all my endeavours.
Two days before the the Rio 2016 Olympic Games opening ceremony, I took a trip to Rocinha, to get an insight into what life is like inside the favelas. The tour was led by Obi Wan, 20, who is an extraordinary role model for the community, and incredibly eloquent in his reflections on the situation of the favela community in Rio. I dedicated the film to him, its star. If ever you visit Rio, stay at his guest house. Here's the film....
New article out with The Conversation, focuses on the amazing community of photographers at the Games. Here it is...
Incredible images from Rio 2016, as photographers rise to meet social media challengesAndy Miah, University of Salford
More than 1,500 of the world’s best photographers flocked to Rio for the Olympic Games, capturing inspiring and surprising images of the world’s biggest sporting event. From Reuters to National Geographic, the games draw professional photographers of all stripes – not just ones that cover sport.
Mario Tama (mariotama), Getty Images photographer. Currently based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by way of New York City.
Everyone’s a pro
But with the rise of digital and mobile photography, capturing the landmark moments of the Olympics is a much harder gig today than it used to be. Countless people inside the venues have their own high-quality cameras – and what they don’t manage to capture, they can find online from someone else in the audience, simply by following a hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.
This army of amateurs – which includes the athletes themselves – can even publish their photographs online without worrying about getting in trouble from the International Olympic Committee – provided they don’t use the images for commercial purposes.
Jessica Ennis-Hill (jessicaennishill) takes a selfie with Usain Bolt.
As a result, today’s professional photographers have to be more creative and more innovative than their predecessors. They have to develop a unique sense of what makes a photograph historically important. And even then, there’s a chance that someone will have the same idea; remember that iconic photograph of Usain Bolt smiling over his shoulder during the 100 metre heat? Well, there are actually two of these.
Cameron Spencer (cjspencois), Sydney based Getty Images staff photographer.
So, to set themselves apart from the crowd, professional photographers are having to use technology more creatively. There are some remarkable gadgets on show at Rio; from cameras which can go in the water and fly through the air, to rigs which can take 360° footage.
Bob Martin (bubblesontour), photographer and grandfather.
Working for free
Photographers are also having to share more of their work for free, in the hope that this exposure will help them to secure new commissions. Platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Flickr are key destinations for photographers to showcase their latest snaps.
Gary Hershorn (garyhershorn), NYC based photographer and photo editor. Former Reuters, now contributing to SilverHub Media and Getty Images.
The challenge here is that controlling one’s images online is not so easy, as people repost, copy, and distribute often without seeking permission, paying royalties, or even attributing properly. One of the leading photo agencies, Getty, dealt with this recently by allowing people to use a certain number of photos online for free, using a simple embed code, which links the image back to their website.
Adam Pretty (adampretty).
Newspapers still want to illustrate their front pages with the iconic image of any given sports event: the photo that everyone expects to see. New platforms attract millions of users, with reports already indicating that most social traffic comes from the photo and video sharing platform Instagram. Social media also creates a simple way of measuring images' popularity through “likes” or “favourites”. So the mainstream media has good cause to sit up and pay attention.
Fun social media stories are also a big hit at the games, as was true of US athlete Ben Kanute, who staged his own opening ceremony, when he couldn’t make the official one.
Mark Reis (mark.reis).
Avant garde artists
With the rise of citizen generated media, the photographer’s future may be in jeopardy: Instagram likes don’t always pay the bills. But challenges like these are often a catalyst for major shifts in how avant garde artists make new work. Consider Gerald Andel – one of the first Olympic Artists in Residence – who is using Twitter’s six-second video app Vine to make unusual work.
A new age
Photography is no exception and to get a glimpse of this transformation in the sports genre, take a look at the work of these extraordinary artists whose work may prove to be indicative of sport photography’s new golden age, where photographers have now become videographers, animators, and much more.
Nick Didlick Nikon Ambassador, professional photographer/videographer and digital imaging pioneer. Exploring and loving the intensely visual world we live in.
Donald Miralle (donaldmiralle), Photographer, Waterman, Husband, Father.“
David Burnett (davidburnettfoto), freelance photographer for National Geographic.
David Ramos (davidramosgetty) staff photographer with Getty Images in Barcelona.
Lucy Nicholson (lucynic) Reuters senior staff photographer. Born in London; based in LA, covering news, sport and features.
Jed Jacobsohn (jedjacobsohn).
Anthony Edgar (anthonyedgar888).
Al Bello (albello55), Sports photographer at Getty Images”
Christophe Simon (christophesimonafp).
John Lehmann (johnlehmann), staff photojournalist with the Globe and Mail based in Vancouver, Canada.
Over the last year, I've been following the IOC Agenda 2020 recommendation actions around creating an Olympic Channel, which launches on 21st August, straight after the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Here's the article I wrote about it for The Conversation.
New Olympic Channel will change the way we watch sport forever – here's howAndy Miah, University of Salford
As the Rio 2016 games draw to an end, the Olympic Channel begins its life. Following its launch at the closing ceremony of the games, the channel will completely change how we consume television in the future. This new digital platform will operate 24/7 to fill the gap in between games with local, national, and international sporting events. The Olympic Channel is a world first in broadcast history, and may be the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) most strategic move for a decade.
As things stand, the Olympic movement is almost entirely financed by the exclusive sale of broadcast rights. About 74% of the IOC’s total income is derived from this source; the largest chunk of which comes from American broadcaster NBC. For years, critics have said that this leaves the Olympic Games very much in the pockets of television executives – so much so that events are reportedly rescheduled to suit television audiences, rather than athletes.
Yet we live now in a digital era, and television has changed dramatically since the IOC started these contractual arrangements in the 1980s. Today, television sits alongside social media, as more broadcasters produce content for platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.
Twitter is making deals to livestream full Olympic matches within its platform, and the IOC even has its own YouTube channel, which it has been using as an archive of Olympic footage since Beijing 2008. It recently started to upload full match episodes from previous games, which are gathering the lion’s share of the channel’s views.
With such developments proceeding apace, the future of television is uncertain; which makes NBC’s recent decision to pay an unprecedented amount for the US rights to the Olympics until 2032 a significant gamble. By this time, televisions will just be screens onto which we push content from our mobiles. The IOC knows that the days of the television as an operating system are over – and its new Olympic Channel reflects this.
Olympics every day?
It might seem odd to have an Olympic Channel when the games are not on, but in fact it could well offer users a service they didn’t know they needed: that is, a way of connecting with the athletes they care about, in between the games. The channel also wants to own the hyper-local sports experience, which is currently under-resourced by most international and national sports federations. It wants people to log in and follow their sport, and it wants local clubs to broadcast their events.
The channel will start off as a facility to fill the gap between the games. But it won’t make sense to ask followers to tune out once the Olympics begin simply to satisfy broadcasters who have paid to cover them. Instead, it’s likely that those broadcasters will use the platform, and become a big part of it going forward.
The channel also has third-party integration, to make the most of the mobile experience. You can follow Spotify playlists by your favourite athletes, so that you can train to the same music. You can share your data and track your progress using Samsung’s S Health application (Samsung is an Olympic partner). And you can play interactive games during sports events, so that you don’t switch off from the content and spread your attention elsewhere.
The long game
The IOC is playing the long game, and their initiative could become the Facebook of the sports world. Once the platform has a loyal following, the IOC will be able to monetise this in unimaginable ways – perhaps it could even renegotiate its relationship with television broadcasters and sell advertising directly. But it’s likely that some crucial deals will be struck before this situation arises.
For now, the channel will deliver exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage of the games, which will extend viewer interests well past the closing ceremony and into the next Olympic cycle. For a long time, the IOC has emphasised that it is not a content creator for the Olympic Games. But while the channel is not yet covering the games, the fact that it comes out of the Olympic Broadcasting Services (the organisation which shoots all the sport content at the Olympics) means that there will be increasing overlaps between the two.
The challenge will be to ensure that this adds value to the broadcast offer – rather than detracts from it – so that the IOC remains affluent. That said, if the Olympic Channel can run its own advertising and sponsor campaigns, then it can cut out the television middle-man and do exactly what social media does today.
For a century, the Olympic Games have been a litmus test for media change, with slow motion replay, 3D television and virtual reality all being pioneered at the games. This year, organisers have boasted about how Rio 2016 is the first games to be consumed on mobile first and televisions second. Looking at the state of the media today – where companies like CNN are showing a median viewer age of 61 – it’s hard to see much future for television, as we presently know it. But one thing’s for sure – you’ll still be able to watch the Olympics.
Accompanying my A-Z of Social Media for Academia re-launch, in partnership with the Times Higher Education, I published a 2 page article on the value of social media. I will also have monthly updates on social media for the magazine, so keep an eye out for that!
Today, I re-launch the A-Z of Social Media in partnership with Times Higher Education. We have produced a double page feature in the print magazine, and I'm going to be working on a monthly column for inclusion, which will have updates.
The online version within their website will still have the list in full, with any updates, and we are working on a dynamic function within it, to make it more engaging and useful. This is a great way for the list to reach out even further and I'm really excited to be working on something more regularly for THE!
For citation purposes, please use
Miah, A. (2016) The A-Z of Social Media for Academia, Times Higher Education, Available: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/a-z-social-media [Available Online]
One of the slightly more unusual stories I've interviewed here, while in Rio, but I have been very aware of the occurrence. Here's the BBC piece on why fans are booing and what it tells you about Brazil.
This week, I interviewed for the new publishing platform, The Ringer, on a piece about neurodoping. Some interesting stuff about how much more could be done by athletes to enhance performance, and a good example of something that does not yet engage the anti-doping authorities. Should it? Probably not, but it might, so who knows what will happen next.
This week, Gizmodo wrote a piece which really sets out why the anti-doping problem is far greater than authorities imagine and why they cannot begin to tackle the extent of it with a mediocre budget available to the World Anti-Doping Agency. The piece does not get too focused on the ethics, but the wider culture of human enhancement that surrounds sport. Take a look here.
For the next 17 days, I'll be working at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This will be my 10th Olympic Games, including Winter, Summer, and Youth, since Sydney 2000. At every Olympic Games, I have multiple roles and agendas.
Since London 2012, I have been working with the IOC Young Reporters' Programme, led by Anthony Edgar, who is the IOC's Head of Media Operations. Understanding how the media work is one part of this work and it's really ethnographic, as I work among the journalists. I also use the opportunity to develop my own practice as a journalist, but I'm not nearly in the same category of those people who work on assignment after assignment, day after day. Over the years, I have got to know quite a few of the best journalists that come to the Games and they have an extraordinary work ethic.
Most accredited people at the Games - if not everybody - has a very specific role to play and often only see a fraction of what happens around an Olympic city. Part of what I try to do in my research, is obtain a holistic sense of the operation, which means going to sports, press conferences, local neighbourhoods, and understanding how the city runs the Games.
I'll also give a talk at a conference while here, and interview a lot for the media. It's a full on fortnight. The last 8 Olympic Games are being written up in my next book, Sport 2.0, coming out with MIT Press next year. It's the end of an era - the first decade of social media - and it's fantastic to be at yet another Olympic city. This will be my third book to write about the Olympic Games, but it goes much broader than that, into all things digital, from social media to virtual reality.
There's no better way to get to know a city and its community than to examine it through the lens of the Olympic Games and I look forward to leaving Rio a little more of a Carioca than before I came. Show time.
My Photographs from the Games
Here's the latest doping article I was involved with, produced by VICE magazine. It's a pretty thoughtful and unusual piece, doing a lot of interesting historical work. I wasn't aware that my colleague Dr Paul Dimeo lost his role on US Cycling anti-doping due to speaking out. It's an unfortunate situation in the world of sport, that it only utiizes like-minded people to hold such roles. Imagine a democracy where everyone thought the same thing. Societies progress by setting up tensions between competing views. Very little can progress on the anti-doping issue, without some agitators calling into question the effectiveness of the mission, every step of the way.
This week, I interviewed for BBC Newshour Extra on the state of the Olympic movement. We covered everything from the role of arts in the Olympics, the rise of e-sport, the importance of nationalism and, of course, the doping debate. It is a really fun programme, with some pretty serious issues covered. Take a listen here
Over the last year, I've been involved with organizing the European Science Open Forum, through my role on the European City of Science programme. We've produced events all over the region, from performances, to talks, and installations. One programme I have been particularly proud of is our Young Reporters programme. We've had students from Salford and Manchester universities, along with A-level students from UTC Bolton, reporting activity around the conference.
Our students have had an amazing time, meeting Nobel laureates, leading science editors, and covering content from graphene to e-doctors. It's been a fantastic week and such a great experience for all. Here's one of their videos:
This weekend, I had the chance to speak at the BlueDot Festival, an amazing science, art, and music festival at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. My talk was part of a programme of events curated by Josh McNorton at FutureFest and I focused on the era of human enhancement and how it's playing out in the world of sport.
This week, I took part in the Great Science Share, an event that formed part of the European City of Science in Greater Manchester this year. It was essentially a scientific conference for and by kids. Schools came from all over the region and showed what they had been doing in science.
I took along Ethan who helped me give a short talk to children about my journey through science. It was a wonderful day and such an amazing experience for all involved, a real highlight of my year.
Last night, I was at the British Library taking part in a panel on doping in sport. Doping seems to be in the news all of the time at the moment, with revelations about Russian involvement and is made worse by the allegations of corruption in sports federations.
I have spoken in so many debates about doping and, inevitably, i tend to be the one who, now let me get this right, people love to hate. Yes, that's the way round I think. I argue for doping in sport. I argue that the present anti-doping system is out of sync with our emerging culture of human enhancement. I argue that we need to re-think everything.
I have been saying this for 15 years and nothing has changed. Officials still claim unbelievably low levels of doping in sport. Athletes claim it is much higher. Athletes keep getting abused, but still bear the brunt of the sanctions.
I don't have a solution to the problem, but neither does anti-doping. In my system, the world of sport takes on more responsibility for steering athletes to safe forms of performance enhancement, invests into helping them make performance gains, ensures an appropriate relationship between athletes and their advisors - including physicians.
I am told that my system is too onerous on the sports world, that it is inconceivable to ensure a high quality of care in a developing country which lacks even the infrastructure to develop sport. I am told there are not enough resources and yet NBC paid $8b for the next 16 years of Olympic coverage. The lack of resource in anti-doping undermines its credibility and it cannot attend to its duty of care to athletes more widely without approaching this from a public health perspective. Yet, in the wake of the Beijing 2008 test results, the IOC wants federations to figure it out. I don't understand this at all, but suspect it will not go very far to solving the problem.
In my world, athletes are under medically supervised doping. they will still be at risk, but they will know more about those risks and be better equipped to diminish their impact on health. This alone is reason to make doping legal, but there is an even stronger claim to be made in relation to what we ask athletes to do, which is transcend human limits. They can't do this without technology. Doping is one means by which an athlete can do this, but there are others.
Here's an article which I published 10 years ago, setting out the case for a different model and here's the final video
Yesterday, I was interviewed on live Russian tv, following the IOC anti-doping Summit, which took place in Lausanne. The outcome of the summit was as good as it was likely to get for Russia - the Olympic team is ok to compete, but a blanket ban on track and field athletes, with the right for individuals to prove their innocence. The means by which they do this is still a bit unclear, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport will be the key legal vehicle through which to do this.
My view is really simple, the Russian situation is a symptom of a broken system and there have been and will be others that will fall foul to similar circumstances. I am completely against state sponsored doping as it was previously known, but supportive processes to allow athletes to enhance their performance through supervised and safer means is a better way to protect athletes and a level playing field. It will be a different kind of equality to that which we have now, but it will be more transparent, fairer for all, and ensure we no longer look upon sports performances with suspicion.