Inventions guru and writer Steve Johnson, presenter of BBC2 series How We Got To Now, introduces us to six men who changed our lives:
Who are the people who really shaped the modern world? Is it the likes of Stalin and Chairman Mao? No, says inventions guru and writer Steven Johnson, who plumps for six men you’ve probably never heard of. They’re all responsible for low-tech breakthroughs from refrigeration to drinkable water. While historians tend to construct timelines of social and political upheavals, Johnson thinks an alien studying us would look at basic technology to map our species’ progress. Mankind’s journey is “as influenced by the invention of the refrigerator as it is Magna Carta. But we tend to teach Magna Carta,” he says.
Johnson’s book How we Got to Now is a companion piece to his BBC2 series and covers much of the same territory. Its author is a 46-year-old based in California, who’s amassed 1.5 million Twitter followers and who, in 2005’s Everything Bad Is Good for You, argued that TV and video games are making humans smarter. Think Malcolm Gladwell with a more rigorous historical bent.
When we switch on a lamp, or safely drink tap water, says Johnson, we forget the ingenuity that was required to do those things for the first time. He debunks the idea of a eureka moment: “People coming up with something new are always supported by the building blocks of ideas coming immediately before them.”
Australia the Story of Us begins on Channel 7, Australia this Sunday, 15th February. Following on from the formats original “America The Story of Us” the Eight part series is an extraordinary narrative about the people, places and events that have shaped Australia from the first footprints to the present day.
Nutopia CEO, Jane Root, recently spoke to C21 about all things factual.You can read the full article below or on the C21 website
Jane Root, former president of Discovery Channel in the US, has said the network’s move away from ‘fake’ documentaries is part of a shift towards more authentic unscripted programming.
Discovery Channel’s new president Rich Ross said this month that the US channel would be abandoning shows such as Mermaids: The New Evidence. He left his position as Shine America CEO to succeed Eileen O’Neil at the end of last year.
Root, who was president of Discovery from 2004 to 2007 and previously controller of BBC2, told C21 the new strategy is part of a growing trend as the unscripted industry attempts to tackle the “creative crisis” outlined at numerous TV conferences last year.
Root, who launched factual prodco Nutopia in 2009, said: “Casted reality shows haven’t been having much success recently. It was a huge roller coaster for a while but broadcasters are looking for new kinds of content. We’re being asked for big event series and drama-docs that combine real knowledge with audience-friendly perspective.
“There’s renewed enthusiasm for authentic content. The comments from Rich Ross at Discovery show they’re turning much more into our territory, having played in a different space.
“There’s a burgeoning documentary world in the US and internationally. Docs are coming into cable in the US that are more authentic, have stronger points of view and are less formulaic. There is definitely a shift away from shows the audience perhaps felt were becoming a bit predictable.”
Root credited online platforms such as Vice Media and Netflix for giving hard-hitting factual programmes a platform and said the change in mindset will play right into the hands of companies like Nutopia.
The prodco is about to launch Australia: The Story of Us on Seven Network, a local adaptation of the prodco’s America: The Story of Us and Britain: The Story of Us. Root said advanced discussions are underway for adaptations for the same format in other territories.
It is also working on six-part Jesus Code for CNN, which examines artefacts said to have links to Jesus Christ, as well as projects for US cablenets Esquire and Smithsonian.
“The rise of docs and their availability on Netflix, as well as Vice, are important. You got the sense that younger audiences want things immediately that are entertaining but don’t draw a strict line between entertaining and factual content. Those silos we got used to thinking in – it’s either entertainment or it’s got information – are breaking down and we’re dealing with different content in different ways,” she said.
We are very excited to announce that Nutopia is currently producing a documentary series called MY Million Dollar Invention for the Smithsonian network.
“Executive vice president David Royle said that Smithsonian wanted to become a significant player in the international co-production business and worked closely with UK and Canadian broadcasters. “We play well in the sandbox with others,” he added.”
Nutopia’s “House That Made Me” has won a number of prestigious awards for its format in India “Har Ghar Kuch kehta Hai”
Indian Television Academy Awards: Best Talk Show
Emvies: Gold – Best Innovation TV and Silver – Best Branded Content
Abbys: Silver – Best Branded Content
Read more about the awards here:
The New York Times published a wonderful review of How We Got to Now, Steven Johnson’s book of the same name as the PBS show that aired in Autumn 2014.
By the time you reach the end of Steven Johnson’s latest book on innovation, you’re apt to find yourself exhilarated and a little bit fatigued. It’s a case of literary jet lag. You’ve been with Johnson to secret chambers within the pyramids of Giza and foul trenches in the sewers of old Chicago; you’ve looked through telescopes on Mauna Kea and peered into microscopes with 19th-century bacteriologists. You’ve had to move around space and time to do this, but more crucially, you’ve had to wander back and forth through passageways that connect technological history with politics, economics and culture. Have you ever wondered why flash photography led to antipoverty programs at the turn of the 20th century? Or how the invention of the laser contributed to the decline of mom-and-pop stores? Of course you haven’t, because you didn’t really stop to think — wait, check that; I didn’t really stop to think — how the invention of flash photography finally allowed Jacob Riis to capture the images of dismal tenement life on New York’s Lower East Side that he had already been writing about, with little impact, for years. Or how the laser begat the bar code that, in turn, gave an efficiency advantage to stores like Target and Walmart. “How We Got to Now” is full of nifty connections like these — stories that illustrate obscure chains of causality that shaped the modern world. We’ve gone from making cave paintings to using slender slabs of powerful technology like the iPhone 6. But it’s hardly been a linear path. Johnson shows the meandering process by which we’ve made this journey, and what sort of cultural waves ripple outward as we move ahead.
To read the full article click here http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/12/28/books/review/how-we-got-to-now-by-steven-johnson.html?referrer=&_r=1
New Travel Channel Series starts 4th Sunday January 2015 with 2 episodes!
In Travel Channel’s new series Metropolis, each stunning episode explores 1 important world city, uncovering rich historical secrets behind its extraordinary location, timeless architecture and magnetic culture.
Episode 1: Manhattan, 9pm EST
Episode 2: San Francisco, 10pm EST