Landmark Women: Daryl Karp
Daryl Karp, Director, Museum of Australian Democracy (MOAD), 27 September 2013
CARISSA FLANAGAN: Hi everyone, and thanks for coming again to Landmark Women. Before we get started I wanted to announce a few things. We have a few changes to our Friends team in the Museum now. We have a lovely lady named Kathi Zarka, who is our new members assistant. Often if you are going to be ringing the members, you will be talking to Kathi. We also have Kate McClean, whose married name now is Kate Sui and who has just come back from maternity leave. A lot of you will remember Kate when she was working with us towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year. You might be talking to Kate in the members lounge as well. I wanted to remind everyone when we have questions afterwards that if you could wait to have the mike come to you before you ask your question, we are audio recording Daryl’s talk today and that helps us make sure we have all the audio playing. That’s it from me. Please join us down in the Friends Lounge after the talk.
SANDY FORBES: Good morning. For those who don’t know me, I am Sandy Forbes and I am Vice President of the Friends of the National Museum. Today we have in store a very exciting speaker Daryl Karp. She is the newly arrived director of the Museum of Australian Democracy (MOAD). When I say ‘newly arrived’, I think she came in April.
Daryl’s background is broadcast and I think you will see some evidence of that this morning when she speaks. She has worked as a senior executive in broadcasting, digital and the cultural industries for over 20 years, including as chief executive of Film Australia and head of factual programming for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Born in South Africa, she attended film school in Israel before coming to Australia in 1982 where she soon landed a job at the ABC.
She is an internationally recognised award-winning executive with a passion for science media and has provided consulting services to broadcasters and producers internationally. She is a director of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), the Jewish Museum in Sydney and the Children’s Television Foundation. Interviewed by the Canberra Times after one week in her current job, she said, ‘I think there’s a real opportunity to have a role in shaping what I think has the potential to be, and should be, a really dynamic cultural institution for the whole of Australia but especially for Canberra.’ Perhaps some of you queued up to vote at Old Parliament House on election day. I see at least one of my friends who did. Perhaps today we will learn about more about her plans for the Museum of Australian Democracy and what she has done already. So please join me in welcoming Daryl Karp. [applause]
DARYL KARP: Thank you, Sandy, and thank you all for this wonderful opportunity to share some ideas with you. As you heard, my name is Daryl Karp and I am the director of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. I would first like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting today and to pay my respects to their elders past and present.
It is a real privilege to be here sharing my stories with you. Until today I had never really stopped to consider my life as a whole outside a CV or a job application. Sandy certainly hit a couple of the significant points, and I hope I can flesh out a few more of those today. When I started to think about what I should say, I started where most people in the new millennium begin looking - I looked at Facebook and LinkedIn.
The picture of how I define myself to the outside world on LinkedIn is really interesting. As you have already heard, I am the director of MOAD, an executive manager with a focus on strategy and creativity; CEO of Film Australia; head of factual programs at the ABC; co-founder of the World Congress of Science Producers; consultant and manager in the public and private sector; a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors; graduate of Wharton School of Business advanced management program; non-executive director for SBS; and a number of not-for-profit boards, et cetera. Certainly this is part of the picture, but it’s not all of it.
If these are the sequential facts of my professional life, what are the values that inform that life and continue to inform and shape me? I wanted to start today by working towards a second list, not from LinkedIn but a list that captures my life experiences and that has, for me, felt rich in ideas and creativity, in friendships and family, in community and curiosity and, most of all, in enjoyment. I think it is fair to say I don’t ever recall, except for a couple of small moments, not loving what I do or the people that I do it with. That has been one of the hallmarks of the wonderful opportunities that I have had.
I thought I would start by setting the scene with a clip from the ABC TV series that I worked on a number of years ago. You have probably seen it. It was hugely successful. It was a major series on happiness produced by Heiress Films for the ABC. Of the hundreds of films that I have worked on, this is one of those that I am especially proud of. It wasn’t because it was the most awarded film - it certainly wasn’t that - but it encapsulated those things that I really believe in and that I have tried to take with me as I have gone through life: integrity, relevance, excellence and, most importantly, making a difference. Let’s have a look at the first clip.
[Film clip played of Making Australia happy]
DARYL KARP: That was a documentary that screened over three weeks on the ABC. We could have taken the big brother approach and left it at that. But we felt it was really significant and important and was touching on some research that was coming out based on science, so we built it with a companion website and a book. It certainly did touch a core with Australians. The website, with its Happiness Action Plan, was so successful that we had over 200,000 attempts in the first five minutes after the show for people to go online and see how happy they were, and it crashed the ABC servers. I have to say only at the ABC is that a good thing. Anywhere else they were really worried about it. Not only did it make brilliant TV but also our eight participants got significantly happier. When we checked on them a couple of years after the show went to air, they were still in a really good space. So we were able to take the science and show that it had something to do to change the way people feel.
We did a second series looking at couples last year, which had a similar impact. Four brave couples shared their stories of relationship breakdown to allow Australia and Australians to learn from them. Again, the personal and public response was extraordinary. While I was working with Dr Tony Grant from Sydney University, whom you saw in the clip, and Alison Leigh on the book of the first series outlining the key steps in the Making Australia Happy wellbeing program – the book was called Eight steps to happiness - I realised that the core components that science says leads to increased fulfilment and wellbeing were also the things that I was practising in my life.
The eight key areas are: values and goals, kindness, mindfulness, strength and solutions, gratitude, forgiveness, community, and the usual time to reflect, review and then renew what you’re going to do. Maybe my personal approach wasn’t the scientific and clear way that the book lays out, but through trial and error I had somehow arrived at and incorporated, or tried to incorporate, most of these elements into my life. That list of values is, if anything, more important to me than that LinkedIn CV that I summarised earlier because without one I would not be and could not be the other.
Let’s go back to the beginning. As Sandy said, I was born in South Africa, a privileged white kid from an English-speaking background, the eldest of four by ten minutes. I am a twin, and that ten minutes is quite significant in our family. I am also the least talented in a very sporting family. For those of you who have grown up in really sporting families, I am sure you can sympathise and empathise with my pain. Needless to say I threw myself into the academic side of things. I did physics, chemistry, biology, Latin and English for my South African equivalent of the HSC with the expectation of being a doctor.
Then in 1976 South Africa got television, and its arrival changed my world. It actually also, I believe, changed South Africa because the highly influential censorship department didn’t fully appreciate the extraordinary impact that visual moving television, those images that they could control in terms of the print media and the words that they could control in radio - they didn’t really appreciate the impact that television would have. But that’s a separate story.
Once I saw television, I absolutely knew that this was the area I wanted to work in. I don’t think my folks were that impressed. At that stage I was 17, and my parents decided that I couldn’t go as a teenager to New York or London to study, but Israel was OK – go figure. So in 1977, with absolutely no Hebrew, a secretarial course under my belt – in those days women needed other skills - and one key contact, a friend of my parents, I arrived in Israel to study television.
In addition to television, my eyes were sharply opened. There were some extraordinary moments that today still strike a chord with me. I was shocked to learn that the history that I had been taught at school in South Africa differed significantly from the material I found in the public library. I became acutely aware of the injustices that I had previously been oblivious to. I developed – this is the fun bit - my own voice away from my parents and discovered the wonderful word ‘chutzpah’ or ‘audacity’. I learnt not to be afraid to ask for the impossible because the worst they could say was no and, as my daughter will tell you, you are no worse off.
I learnt that my name was unusual. In South Africa, Daryl is a girls’ name; in Australia, Daryl is a boys’ name. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had: ‘Dear Mr Karp, I would like to apply for a job as a researcher. I am really attentive to detail. I always check my facts.’ But the name story that I think most resonates with people is when I arrived in Israel. My Mum came with me and she spoke a small amount of Hebrew. When we landed at the airport, we had the choice of filling in the immigration card in English or in Hebrew. Being the naturally cautious 17-year-old I went for the English, but my Mum decided she was going to write it in Hebrew. With this great big flourish there was my name in Hebrew. I couldn’t have told you whether it was right or wrong. But I discovered it was wrong when I got to university. In my first lecture with 200 people, I am sitting in a theatre about three times the size of this, maybe understanding maybe one word in four. There are extraordinary names Mada, Nile, Elod and Doron, and they ask you to put your hand up as your name gets called. We get to the name ‘Saril Crap’, and I thought: ‘Wow, that’s the best name I have heard so far, I wonder who that is.’ I look around to see and guess what! There is no-one who acknowledges that name. I get to the end of the session and they say, ‘Whose name hasn’t been called out?’ As I put my hand up I looked around, I realised that in fact Saril Crap was me. This was in the days where they hard-coded computers, and I was really concerned that I would graduate as Saril Crap. But, needless to say luck intervened, or maybe it was persistence or chutzpah, my name got changed and I landed in Australia as Daryl Karp in 1982 to rejoin my family.
I came with that youthful belief in ability and two key contacts. Again, it was a classic example of being in the right place at the right time. 1982 was also the year of the Falklands War. It was the year that Israel invaded Lebanon and handed back the Sinai to Egypt. It was the year Brezhnev died, and the first CD player was sold and Time magazine announced Man of the Year as the computer.
It was also the year that ABC TV’s program Behind the News was looking for a researcher who was young - tick - and aware of international issues - tick. It’s not to say that I walked into my first job, although when I see what young people go through today, it does feel a bit like that. But it was a good opportunity. It was a period that was marked by the extraordinary generosity of people starting with those two key contacts I had. They included me in their networks, who opened their doors to me, who shared their wisdom and knowledge and who were really generous with their time. It is something I try to do now for others.
I stayed at the ABC for 12 years for the first time - 16 years in all - starting as a researcher on Behind the News, graduating to a director and a producer on a series of edgy youth programs for the then education department, then a stint in rural on Countrywide, a brief detour through drama where I met my husband, and I finally ended up in the science unit on Quantum. I had found my home.
Alvin Toffler wrote that in the 21st century the illiterate will not be those that can’t read and write but those that cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. The late 1980s and 1990s when I ended up in the science unit was a time of extraordinary technological change and opportunity. The science unit was being re-formed following the loss of Towards 2000 to the commercial networks. It was the end of the typewriter and the start of computers. I can still remember sitting there at the typewriter in one of those little offices - the information age was emerging but the impact wasn’t fully realised. Those were the days – it wasn’t quite the days; they said this in the 1940s - when IBM had said that we would need in total maybe five computers for the whole world. As a producer on Quantum, I got to travel the country, and indeed the world, talking to the most interesting and original thinkers about stuff that really mattered, that I really cared about and, best of all, I was being paid for it.
An opportunity came up to be the series producer and then the executive producer on the show. Once again, I was in the right place at the right time with the right skills - if not the right experience. This is something I later learnt to be very valuable. If you have to choose between ability and somebody with experience but you’re not sure whether they have anything beyond that having done it once before, choose someone with the ability to learn and grow because what you get will really surprise you.
Back in the unit I had a chance to really shape things. I wrote the first science policy for ABC TV, which led to us being shortlisted alongside the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) and the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service of America) in an international festival. The science unit created the first website that would later become abc.net.au. We rescued Eric the pliosaur, which was an opalised fossil in danger of being sent overseas with the Australian Museum. We raised $350,000 - which back then was significant dollars - in the early equivalent of a kick-starter to keep Eric in Australia and to give him a permanent home at the Australian Museum. If ever you are in Sydney and want to have a look at Eric, he’s there.
We set out to explain the huge shifts in science that were taking place: cloning, HIV/AIDS, genetically engineered crops, dark matter and blackholes, to name a few. It was an extraordinary period. We produced the first environment series and the first technology series in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We fought for science journalism to be a recognised speciality alongside news on television. We lobbied to ensure that science television was a main and regular offering on the network. We joined forces with ABC Radio, the Australian Museum and Text Media to create the Eureka Awards. We expanded our content offerings across the whole year and took Australian science to the world through award-winning co-productions with Channel Four and the BBC in the UK, NHK in Japan and CBC in Canada.
The benefits you get sometimes are quite unexpected. For me one of the unexpected benefits of all of that, outside some fabulous friendships and working with some exceptionally talented people, came from the World Congress of Science Producers, which was an organisation that I set up with a Canadian colleague Wally Longul and that I have been involved with for 20 years. In fact, I resigned as a director last year. From that I got the most extraordinary connection of friendships, networks, intellectual excitement and rewards that I couldn’t begin to quantify from what had started as a loose collective of public broadcasters who shared ideas and programming and is now the pre-eminent science and factual conference in the world. We have hosted it twice in Australia, and our stories, Australian stories, are regularly showcased in an increasingly interconnected world. This is a theme that I have been quite passionate about and care about.
During this time, I became head of the newly-merged departments of documentaries and features and later science and features department, at the ABC which gave me a taste of senior management: restructures, mergers, budgets, content, politics - and my other great love, strategy. My job at that stage covered all the non-fiction areas aside from news in the TV arena including science and natural history, documentaries and history, consumer programs like The Investigators, ‘how to’ programs like Gardening Australia, the Indigenous unit, religious programs and more. It was a six-year period of change. Videotape replaced film. The Internet was growing in its impact. Pay TV came along. We had restructures and more restructures, budget cuts, process changes, new managing directors and new prime ministers. The millennium was definitely approaching. I met outstandingly generous thinkers from different disciplines who shared their knowledge freely and helped me to flourish. As I said earlier, they are very much still friends today.
When I left the ABC, there’s a phrase from Thomas Edison that is particularly resonant to me. He says: ‘If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.’ This is the cue for the next bit. I left the ABC in the middle of the dot com boom when start-ups were sprouting like mushrooms. The excitement was contagious. So I jumped into the dot com start-up boom with I thought was a brilliant idea to provide downloadable content to professionals who have mandatory ongoing education requirements - engineers, accountants, lawyers et cetera. I am sad to say it was not a success. We were undercapitalised, we were too early to market, and the technology wasn’t there to support us. It would have been fabulous five years later.
It wasn’t until I was in the US working with the Public Broadcasting Service in America that I learnt that failure is not a bad thing and that the VCs, venture capitalists, are distrustful of people who haven’t failed, because it is in failure that you actually test your mettle and make key learning observations. Even as I went into work yesterday I was listening to Radio National, and they were covering this in an interview. I had originally scratched it out and thought I wouldn’t talk about; and then I thought no actually it is something I should talk about. They were talking about the impact of failing and the importance of failing. I do believe that. I think failing, provided that it becomes an opportunity for learning, is an important part of growth. I learnt some good lessons from this: about the loyalty of family and friends, about partnerships, about first mover disadvantage and that we will all fail from time to time. The trick, to quote Wharton Business School, is to ‘fail quickly and fail cheap’ or, as they say, ‘control the downside and get out fast’. That was the really big lesson.
Then I came to Film Australia. I thought I had had the dream job at the ABC until I became CEO of Film Australia in 2004. There you have a budget of $10 million a year, the opportunity to make hundreds of documentaries recording Australia’s narrative, what could be better? This was a dream come true. It was an extraordinary collection of very capable people. We set ourselves the target of becoming leaders in Australian documentary. We created a new editorial framework that focused specifically on the key areas of history, science, arts, Indigenous stories, and social and contemporary issues. We expanded the range of narrative styles from just observational documentaries and essay-type documentaries to include feature-length documentaries, short-form documentaries, animations, docu-dramas, digital programs - anything we thought would convey Australia’s factual story to an audience that we believed was receptive to different kinds of storytelling. We included digital learning programs for teachers based on the curriculum. So I thought I might give you a little clip of some of the material that we did at Film Australia.
[Clip played of 60 years of documentaries]
DARYL KARP: As you can see from that clip, some pretty extraordinary documentaries and I had the privilege of working with some pretty extraordinary film-makers on programs as varied as Mr Patterns, which was about the emerging dot art painting of the Papunya Tula tribe, or Who killed Dr Bogle and Mrs Chandler, or the remarkable story of the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and, as you saw there, the first series of Who do you think you are. The audiences responded really well to that. We more than doubled our audiences exceeded 11 million viewers for our 20 or so programs each year.
In 2007, when we launched our big history initiative with additional funding from the federal government, we gathered 15 million viewers in that year. It was proof that our audience wanted our stories, our history and our experiences, which up until now because history had been so costly to finance hadn’t really been told in the bold and ambitious way that the British documentaries were doing.
We were twice recognised by the factual journal RealScreen as one of the leading international documentary production companies in its annual global survey. Our programs were recognised an extraordinary 580 times in competition or festival screenings, including two Logies, three AFIs, seven ATOM awards, three Film Critics Circle of Australia award, three AWGIE awards and one Walkley. The message for me coming out of that was - I certainly would not take credit for doing that at all – is that if you surround yourself with talented people and you help them to realise their potential, great things can happen.
After Film Australia I worked as a consultant in strategy and governance, sitting on a number of boards as a non-executive director including at SBS, the Jewish Museum, the Children’s Television Foundation, Westmead Medical Research Foundation, and, of course, the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers. I continued to mentor emerging film-makers and produced key documentaries that struck a chord. I was always looking for those strong narratives that had great research behind it, whether it was science or history, that would trigger conversations or build communities or make a difference.
One of the films that I made in this period is a film called The Lost Diggers of Fromelles. One of the reasons I got involved with this was when I was overseas at a conference I heard about the film, which was a film about some scientific research that was trying to identify a series of bones and bodies from World War I war graves. What was quite extraordinary to me was that this was being done in the UK. There wasn’t an Australian partner at that stage. It just seemed strange to me that an important story like this - Fromelles is such a significant part of our war history narrative - wasn’t actually being done in Australia.
This is a clip from that documentary made by the wonderful Janine Hosking for Channel Seven in Australia and with Channel Four in the UK. It was done with Darlow Smithson, a highly successful UK production company. I believe it’s a truly significant science and history story for Australia. Let’s have a look at that.
[Film clip of Lost Diggers shown]
DARYL KARP: Which brings me to the Museum of Australian Democracy. I came across a review by a futurist that I had worked in the past, Ross Dawson, that was undertaken for the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. In it he likened museums to media companies: curating content, engaging audiences, sharing experiences and developing partnerships, building communities of interest, and supporting learning and education - all the things that you know and do as part of this Museum’s work. This struck a chord with me because, like media companies, museums are in the process of re-inventing themselves. They are no longer the passive repositories of collections but, according to the Museums and Libraries Archive in the UK, they are – and I love this description - ‘catalysts of a new economic and creative age … building knowledge, supporting learning, inspiring creativity and celebrating identity’. This was an exciting challenge and a wonderful opportunity.
My first six months at the museum have been exciting, and you can tell I use that word quite a bit. We have implemented a new strategic plan which positions the museum and Old Parliament House as a new kind of town square built around the democratic principles of equality, freedom, justice and representation. We believe that, in a country made up of hundreds of nationalities, the museum provides a space not just to celebrate our democratic traditions but also to truly collaborate with our audience and stakeholders through exhibitions, talks, festivals, celebrations, artists, memorials and more.
Here is the big question: What could a democratised space look like? Not just us deciding the exhibitions on democracy but what would true democratisation of the museum should look like? We don’t yet have the answer but we believe it’s a place where we can have bold conversations that empower and engage communities, that deliver an authentic and welcoming meeting space, and that enable our staff to be courageous, democratic, nimble and efficient.
It may sound bold and big, but we already had significant successes that I think is best embodied by our Election Festival where we combined provocative theatre performances in the House of Representatives Chamber with a comedy performance with the Senate Ball Drop. [image shown] That’s the Senate ball drop working out who is going to be on the Senate list. This was a live program with ABC 666, The People’s Parliament. And then that spectacular experience, if you were there, of the super booth where over 6,000 people came through the building in one day. It was really remarkable for us because people were prepared to stand in line and wait for over an hour. I walked down the lines and said, ‘It’s going to be an hour by the time you get to the stairs,’ and people just said, ‘That’s fine.’ I think there is something in the building and in the museum that we are able to reconnect with in a different way.
The way we are looking at it at the moment - I don’t know if any of you have had a chance to look at our Floriade exhibition – is that we are looking at doing things differently. Yes, we have our big, ambitious exhibitions. But equally we have smaller pop-up exhibitions such as our response to Floriade with a series of themed events and activities such as the Silver Service silverware exhibition, the House and Garden exhibition and, of course, high tea. You couldn’t talk floral arrangements without having the capacity to sit and enjoy a high tea.
Next month we launch the exhibition Insurgence from the Indigenous Queensland collective ProppaNow around theme of art as a weapon. As Richard Bell, one of the key artists in it, says, ‘There is no better platform for politics than art. That way I do get arrested.’
It’s very much our intention that every time you come to our museum, there is something new to see, something new to do, something new to engage with and, next year, a place for you to add your voice to the conversation. When I say from next year, we already have Twitter, Facebook and all the rest, but we are in the process of developing a far more bold ambitious and significant way to encapture and engage with Australian thought around the issues of significance to all of us.
One of my favourite series, and one that I nurtured in its research phase when I was at the ABC, is called The Life Series. This shows how long things take in television. If you think it takes long in museums, television takes longer. I nurtured the research when I was at the ABC as head of department; we financed it when I was at Film Australia; and then I was executive producer after I left. With this documentary series The Life Series, this is year nine that we have been filming under the extraordinarily talented, watchful eye of producer Jennifer Cummins of the production company Heiress Films.
The Life Series is derived from a longitudinal study of Australian kids which looks at what does it take to raise a child in Australia: is it nature or is it nurture? We followed 11 families for nine years specifically to explore this. In that context of what does it take to raise a child, science has many ideas. The series, strongly based on contemporary research into science and development, draws very much from the outcomes of the longitudinal study which has 11,000 kids. We run the year after it and we explore some of the themes that are addressed in that particular study. But in response to what does it take to raise a child, I like the Hilary Clinton comment that says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Like the kids in The Life series, there were and are a veritable village of people who gave me insights advice and support that enabled me to become the manager, the person and I hope the leader that I am today.
I have had the privilege of working with creative talented men and women who challenged, questioned, supported and believed in me: my lecturer in Israel who gave me my first job; the director of ABC Television who saw potential ahead of experience; the chairman of the board who shared so much of his knowledge and experience; and without doubt my wonderful and capable co-workers and fabulous friends who created a dynamic, honest and trusting environment for growth, reflection and support. I was once asked what I was most proud of, and a decade ago I probably would have nominated a TV program or an exhibition or something that you could actually look at and go ‘wow’. Today I would have to say I am most proud of my husband and my kids. They are bold, strong, passionate people who stand up for what they believe in. They have been, and continue to go, on this journey with me. Thank you. [applause]
I have realised that I have one more quote that I would like to read to you. It’s a quote from John W Gardner that pulls together all of the elements of what it is that I believe in. He is a former US diplomat and also is now a guru on leadership. John W Gardner says this, which I think gets to the heart of what I was trying to say:
Thank you. [applause] The things you will do to get two claps.
SANDY FORBES: Perhaps you can get another one. What a dynamo, what a fantastic career, what a fantastic thing for our fellow museum across the lake. It has been an absolute pleasure to listen to you, Daryl, and to see some of your achievements in television. Please join me again in giving her a third clap. [applause] Depending on how she answers the questions, she may get more. Are there any questions from the floor?
QUESTION: I wanted to ask a question in relation to getting the work-family balance and how that was for you as you worked through your career clearly the mother of children, running a home and wanting to work. Did you work full time or part time? How did you do your work balance and family?
DARYL KARP: I think for a woman work balance is an incredibly difficult thing. I spent my entire career feeling incredibly guilty. I was very fortunate that I had a fabulously supportive husband. Yes, I did work full time but I don’t think you can do the sort of job that I do, and that many women do, without incredibly supportive husbands and family. My parents have been wonderful, Brendon’s parents have been terrific. I cannot begin to describe how worried I was that the kids would be affected by my not being there. I went back to work when Mickey our eldest was three months and I was back at work when Elliott was six weeks old. That is not something I would ever recommend nor choose; there was just a series of circumstances around that.
I think the answer is that I had very supportive people around me. There was a level of flexibility that allowed me to work from home when necessary. I had a fabulous husband and family around me. I am delighted to say that, no matter how much I feel I didn’t do them the sort of justice I think they deserve, my kids don’t see that and they are the most wonderful kids. I am really proud of them for how they have turned out. It’s a really interesting question because I don’t think there is one answer. It depends so much on the person that you are, on your expectations, on your support networks and on the kind of kids that you have.
QUESTION: Thanks, Daryl, it was a fantastic talk. I work as a voluntary educator here at the museum and also at the High Court and I am talking to school groups a lot about all of this stuff. Social media, you guys are doing it really well. I wanted your views on what you perceive are the learning issues around social media. Obviously it’s here to stay for this generation. It’s interesting the generational gap on social media that exists and any views you might have on it.
DARYL KARP: Boy, that’s a tough question because I have been involved in media and digital media at the cutting edge all the way through. As I said, we were involved in the very early ABC website. We had the first Internet program where we tried a very crude engagement with online through a program called http:// which back then nobody knew what it meant, and today everybody knows it. We have had programs that have had interactivity, we have had social media et cetera.
I think there is a genuine generation gap between our expectations on this side of the divide of say 45 plus and that side of the divide say under 25. There are a number of issues in the context of social media. I will break them up into three areas. The first is that always on call, you are always talking to people, you are always connected, you are sending text messages everywhere. There was a survey I was looking at called ‘how millennial are you’. One of the criteria to determine how millennial you are – that is, you were born between 1982 and 2002 - was whether you did more than 100 text messages a day. Those were one of the characteristics in it. It’s a different way of communicating.
In another piece of research when I was at Film Australia and we were talking to Relationships Australia on a regular survey that they do in terms of the flash points of relationship breakdown, they said up until that particular period it was always about time, that people didn’t have sufficient time to put into a relationship. But they were really concerned about how we communicate and the capacity of people to have many shallow rather than the long deep sort of relationship conversations, so that was something they were going to track.
In the context of being always on call and never having time off, I think that’s just something that is, that we have to go with. They said the same thing when the telephone came along that it was going to change the way we communicate, the way things happen and we needed to watch out about how we used it. In the context of the risks associated with it, which is this notion of everything is public, everything is out there, this is a generation that feels - I talk about it generationally as opposed to technology because it is not about the technology, it is about how you use the technology - quite differently about information and privacy to how we might actually feel about it. I think it’s an unfolding experience. I know that Baroness Susan Greenfield – she was Adelaide’s resident genius - does a lot of work in neurology and she is doing some research at the moment having a look at what happens to the brain and changes in the brain in a highly reactive space.
In answer to your question, I think there are extraordinary educational opportunities in that space. But in answer to the other side of your question, what are the potential impacts in it - I think it’s a watch and see and adapt because, as when any new technology comes along, we will learn new things about it, we will adapt our practices around it and we will move forward to it. I am sorry to be so vague and long winded in that conversation.
QUESTION: Do you see that you have any role in directing the conversation of electoral reform of things like Senate papers that you can’t fit in the booth, and those sorts of things? Do you see any role in that?
DARYL KARP: I think our role is to provoke a conversation. How we approach it is to say: What are the stories that we need to be told? What are the conversations that need to be had? In the context of should we be pushing for electoral reform, I don’t think that is the role of the museum. Should we be exploring some of the issues that people are encountering in being active, democratic citizens, and what does that mean? Absolutely.
SANDY FORBES: This has been so exciting but I think probably Daryl needs a cuppa -w e all do. We will go down to the Friends Lounge now where I am sure you can have a bit more of a conversation with Daryl.
Next month, this is à propos given some of the discussions about women in cabinet and various other women’s issues, on 18 October we will have Elizabeth Reid to speak to us. In 1973 Elizabeth Reid became the first adviser on women’s affairs to a head of state, being appointed in this capacity by Gough Whitlam. She went on to work as an adviser, administrator, consultant, educator and researcher in an international setting on issues of women and development, health and population. She is currently a visiting fellow at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University. I am sure you will want to come back next month and hear Elizabeth. Once more - thanks a lot, Daryl. We will all come down and have a cuppa with you in the Friends Lounge.
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Date published: 4 October 2013