SAM_0745

The Southwest, steps towards #media2012 (and a thoughts on ‘archiving’ and digital memory)

On Wednesday we were in Bristol for the third ‘official’ meeting of regional representatives the #media2012 network (is that the best way to describe it?) to talk about what those who have got involved have been up, to hear what those who would like to be involved are up to and discussing the vision of the directions we would like to take the network. There are no set rules about how we are going to go about coordinating a national citizen media network for the Olympics – each hub, if there is to be a hub at all, may or may not be autonomous, may be located in a physical space (such as a cultural venue like FACT, Cornerhouse, Watershed or the Phoenix) could be linked to cultural, art and social debates around 2012, could be a source of documentation, could be used as an educational ‘resource’, could exist without a physical location- the possibilities are endless. Which makes this an exciting, yet challenging position to be in in terms of coordinating and facilitating a movement on this ‘type’ and scale.

We discussed what happened in Vancouver and their social media/community driven reporting – and their spaces and places that were used and re -appropriated during games time. What can we learn from Vancouver – especially when it comes to organisation of programmes/events, expectations and goals, the physical requirements (provision of wifi and powersockets, a quiet spot and some coffee) and the infrastructure to support a citizen media network – something that is not just a virtual aim, but a physical one – shared space can provide access to people, to conversations and activities that might not be had prior to the digital infrastructure. These are things that are often missed upon reflection – and could be the backbone behind each regional hub.
(There are more to be said here, especially around who owns/provides the spaces versus the community that wishes to occupy a place – and some of the issues we are encountering in the East Midlands at least.)
Afterwards, I attended Andy’s lecture on #media2012 for the University of Bristol Drama Department - and it was great to catch up with Dr Angela Piccini (who I had met whilst in Vancouver) and was presenting a paper on the research she conducted out there around materiality and screens.
It really got me thinking about memory and the digital experience – especially when we associate the digital with a form of archiving and documenting. The discussions after the two papers were around constructing histories, memory, digital architecture and media archaeology – provoked partly by the Vancouver Olympic Resistance Network Facebook page becoming “vandalised” by Acai berry spam, wiping out the original messages of the group and their supporters. Of course, we could take steps back to February 2010, and we could read back over the comments, but the contextual element – the experience of living through those pieces of data – are gone.
It is not only the citizen “artefact” that has been abandoned/overgrown – the IOC and the organising committees are not well versed in digital archiving, despite being concerned with documenting and constructing their own histories through the Olympic charter, Olympic Studies Centre and various Olympic museums. There is a paradox between knowing they must do something but not knowing exactly what they should be doing. It’s relatively easy to deal with the sport, it is is covered and handed over by accredited media – however- the website is part of the host city organising committee, an entity that is disbanded shortly after games time. There are definitely plans for a (debatable) social media presence from the London Organising Committee, building on some of the “breakthroughs” in Vancouver (@2010tweets, official flickr groups) and now incorporating the notion of “digital” volunteers to monitor content on their behalf.
So far, so good – however – like the Vancouver Resistance Network – the London 2012 online presence will be subjected to the same disintegration, the same abandonment, once the games have been and gone, It will be as if it never happened (especially if they go ahead and dismantle the stadium immediately afterwards). The focus on the activity being on the immediate, a reaction to the spectacle, providing messages during the optimum profiteering time – during the sport. If we are to consider a “legacy” (to borrow an overdrawn expression) as an alternative movement, as a citizen media network and facilitator, we need to consider our role and our responsibly are data producers. It can all go the same way, no matter how many data journalists we have producing critique free visuals, how many social media tools exist to collect taxonomy, we need to find ways in which to not only archive and collect data produced from the games, but also use this data to inform future cities, ‘produce’ histories and continue to hijack the Olympic narrative that they would wish for London to maintain.
This doesn’t just apply to the Olympics – far from it. It still takes interpretation to make sense of data, I fear that we may rely on the protocol of the web and not trust our own insight into experiences. There is a reason why I spent 200 dollars to bring back 40kg of leaflets back from Canada – only so that a year on I can only begin to make sense about what the hell happened over there.
Although I am required to be critical of how new media technologies are being cheerleaded, there is something definetely at foot. To know what this is, is going to clash with the sense of immediacy required with the environment – but there is something that is being provided, something that is growing through connections that they could only wish that they could control and claim as their own ‘big society’…
On that note, I think Ben Seymour’s Olympicfield parody is worth a watch for a Friday night:

Posted via email from Jennifer Jones’ PhD Notebook

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The Southwest, steps towards #media2012 (and a thoughts on ‘archiving’ and digital memory)

Sam_0745

On Wednesday we were in Bristol for the third ‘official’ meeting of regional representatives the #media2012 network (is that the best way to describe it?) to talk about what those who have got involved have been up, to hear what those who would like to be involved are up to and discussing the vision of the directions we would like to take the network. There are no set rules about how we are going to go about coordinating a national citizen media network for the Olympics – each hub, if there is to be a hub at all, may or may not be autonomous, may be located in a physical space (such as a cultural venue like FACT, Cornerhouse, Watershed or the Phoenix) could be linked to cultural, art and social debates around 2012, could be a source of documentation, could be used as an educational ‘resource’, could exist without a physical location- the possibilities are endless. Which makes this an exciting, yet challenging position to be in in terms of coordinating and facilitating a movement on this ‘type’ and scale. 

We discussed what happened in Vancouver and their social media/community driven reporting – and their spaces and places that were used and re -appropriated during games time. What can we learn from Vancouver – especially when it comes to organisation of programmes/events, expectations and goals, the physical requirements (provision of wifi and powersockets, a quiet spot and some coffee) and the infrastructure to support a citizen media network – something that is not just a virtual aim, but a physical one – shared space can provide access to people, to conversations and activities that might not be had prior to the digital infrastructure. These are things that are often missed upon reflection – and could be the backbone behind each regional hub. 

(There are more to be said here, especially around who owns/provides the spaces versus the community that wishes to occupy a place – and some of the issues we are encountering in the East Midlands at least.)

Afterwards, I attended Andy’s lecture on #media2012 for the University of Bristol Drama Department - and it was great to catch up with Dr Angela Piccini (who I had met whilst in Vancouver) and was presenting a paper on the research she conducted out there around materiality and screens. 

It really got me thinking about memory and the digital experience – especially when we associate the digital with a form of archiving and documenting. The discussions after the two papers were around constructing histories, memory, digital architecture and media archaeology – provoked partly by the Vancouver Olympic Resistance Network Facebook page becoming “vandalised” by Acai berry spam, wiping out the original messages of the group and their supporters. Of course, we could take steps back to February 2010, and we could read back over the comments, but the contextual element – the experience of living through those pieces of data – are gone. 

It is not only the citizen “artefact” that has been abandoned/overgrown – the IOC and the organising committees are not well versed in digital archiving, despite being concerned with documenting and constructing their own histories through the Olympic charter, Olympic Studies Centre and various Olympic museums. There is a paradox between knowing they must do something but not knowing exactly what they should be doing. It’s relatively easy to deal with the sport, it is is covered and handed over by accredited media – however- the website is part of the host city organising committee, an entity that is disbanded shortly after games time. There are definitely plans for a (debatable) social media presence from the London Organising Committee, building on some of the “breakthroughs” in Vancouver (@2010tweets, official flickr groups) and now incorporating the notion of “digital” volunteers to monitor content on their behalf. 

So far, so good – however – like the Vancouver Resistance Network – the London 2012 online presence will be subjected to the same disintegration, the same abandonment, once the games have been and gone, It will be as if it never happened (especially if they go ahead and dismantle the stadium immediately afterwards). The focus on the activity being on the immediate, a reaction to the spectacle, providing messages during the optimum profiteering time – during the sport. If we are to consider a “legacy” (to borrow an overdrawn expression) as an alternative movement, as a citizen media network and facilitator, we need to consider our role and our responsibly are data producers. It can all go the same way, no matter how many data journalists we have producing critique free visuals, how many social media tools exist to collect taxonomy, we need to find ways in which to not only archive and collect data produced from the games, but also use this data to inform future cities, ‘produce’ histories and continue to hijack the Olympic narrative that they would wish for London to maintain. 

This doesn’t just apply to the Olympics – far from it. It still takes interpretation to make sense of data, I fear that we may rely on the protocol of the web and not trust our own insight into experiences. There is a reason why I spent 200 dollars to bring back 40kg of leaflets back from Canada – only so that a year on I can only begin to make sense about what the hell happened over there.
Although I am required to be critical of how new media technologies are being cheerleaded, there is something definetely at foot. To know what this is, is going to clash with the sense of immediacy required with the environment – but there is something that is being provided, something that is growing through connections that they could only wish that they could control and claim as their own ‘big society’…

On that note, I think Ben Seymour’s Olympicfield parody is worth a watch for a Friday night:

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media_httpfarm6static_vHxaa.jpg.scaled500

Additions to my PhD toolbox (for writing and planning)


(Melvin the dog, my faithful research assistant)

Self imposed deadlines are fun. I’ve got one at the end of the month for the first proper chapter of my PhD thesis (between 15,000-20,000 words – but only 10000 will be chapter-like, the rest will be structural and toward chapter 2) I’m at the stage where I have quite a lot of notes from reading and a range of bits of writing scattered between my “PhD Year 1″ and my “PhD Year 2″ folder (and a little bit left over from “PhD year -1″ and quite a lot online as well) that I’m looking to pull together to begin structuring the thesis. I’m already aware of what my draft chapter headlines will be – splitting my literature review into manageable 4-5 sections at the moment, all of which could be seen as a separate, but connected papers at the this stage – but now I’m looking to prepare the actual content for each section. So far so good.

Since starting back after the Christmas break, I’ve been exploring particular tools to help me with large documents and generally encouraging me to write everyday, even when I think I’m too busy (such as when I’m teaching, travelling or working on more hands-on activities sans laptop) Funny enough, if I force myself to make time, it doesn’t take long to jot down some thoughts from that day, or snatch a bit of time to write up notes and citations from books (that often takes much more time that annotating a .pdf or using the kindle) I’ve really had to force myself to become quite strict, and even then, I’m unsure how much exactly I’ll be able to formalise by the end of the month – nevertheless, I’m already finding these techniques useful and figured it was better to share as a blog post than repeating myself on twitter.

So on top on Mendeley for desktop referencing database (to which I store articles by chapter and topic at this stage) and Pages/Keynote as a replacement for Open Office (a birthday gift), I’ve also started using 750words.com and Scrivener everyday (slowly taking over my life, can’t wait for payday until I can purchase a full license) of which I’m going to talk a bit about both just now.

750words.com

I first came across this website back in August via Barbara Clark (@drjavafox) on twitter, who was talking about how useful it was helping her write the final chapters of her PhD thesis. I diligently bookmarked it and forgot about it until recently when I was clearing out my Facebook applications and I saw that its app box was ticked. Knowing that I was about to embark on the epic process of writing and organising my thoughts, I figured that 750words.com might be the tool that I was looking for in order to force myself to write everyday. It’s not as if I wasn’t writing, but unless I was working on a specific project, there were no real rhythm in what I was doing. It was fragmented and a reaction to whatever else was going on in my day.

750words encourages you to write 3 ‘morning pages’ each day and describes these as follows:

“Morning pages are three pages of writing done every day, typically encouraged to be in “long hand”, typically done in the morning, that can be about anything and everything that comes into your head. It’s about getting it all out of your head, and is not supposed to be edited or censored in any way. The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day. Unlike many of the other exercises in that book, I found that this one actually worked and was really really useful.” (750words.com)

So the idea is to encourage its users to write 750 days, everyday, about anything they want – usually as a device to clear and warm up the brain before the ‘real’ writing begins. The site is deliberately stripped back of ‘social’ features such as sharing content or adding metadata (although there is an option to embed influences, such as amount of coffee drunk or the writer’s mood, within the text) but the idea is to make it uncomplicated enough to brain dump without worrying about an audience, about expectations or to commit to anything you do end up writing. I think it is this simplistic nature that makes it so confusing to other PhD students who asked me about it – yes, really, there is nothing to it apart from writing for yourself and only yourself. It’s not blogging, it’s just a process to help you write.

The really powerful thing is the nature in which consistency kicks in – after you do it twice, you start developing a streak (earning badges eventually)- and the longer you go, the better you feel about committing to the process. When you think about it, writing 750 words a day is not much – especially when those words may not connect directly to your work processes nor have an immediate return on investment (be it time, thought space or audience gratification – through hits or comments or trackbacks) – what it does do those is puts your writing activity into context. I’ve now got a streak of 8 days, that’s 6000 words I would had not been aware that I had written if I was to try similar in a notebook or a text document. Furthermore, just f-ing doing it has its benefits, you can sit around being precious about what you write (such is the nature of academic writing) so to just crack on and produce something in its long-hand form is great for breaking that block that we often encounter when working on long-term projects such as a PhD or even just producing an abstract for a journal article.) It may be purely psychological – and I get that – and writing your thoughts done doesn’t maketh a final report, but neither does trying to get it write first time- through writing, we articulate things and it makes the ‘real’ writing but easier to cope with.

So if you are interested in doing 750words.com, do it for you, you don’t need to follow anybody nor feel that you need to tell people what you are getting up to – it doesn’t matter, just get those words done and as quickly as possible, and get on with the more important things like finishing a draft or submitting an abstract – let the tool become invisible.

For more details of 750words.com, check out their FAQ here.

Scrivener

When the Thesis Whisperer brought Scrivener to my attention this week (through this fantastically detailed how-to-and-why post), I could believe that I hadn’t heard of this amazing program before (it’s been around since 2006 for the Mac, and only recently on the PC) On the first browse, it looks much like a cross between a word-processor and the desktop Evernote application – but after I watched the introductory video (a must view before you get started) – scriverner brings to writing, what Prezi brought to presentation software. A non-linear form. Instead of writing like you would write on a typewriter (much of what office packages are realiant on you being conditioned for)

Scrivener really excels in managing numerous ideas and the patterns of generating those ideas structures. It allows you to start at the beginning, bugger off in the middle and switch to the end, all while keeping your document in sections and synopisis, rather than just chunks of text – it allows you to write the bits you know right now, position then and fill in the gaps later. You can write with two windows open, allowing to you to review ideas as you write (which is really useful considering the amount of word documents I have dedicated to notes and citations) and there is a dedicated folder for ‘research’ (reminds me of evernote, a place to tag and list your notes in raw form, pulling them together when you need them all in one place.)

There are also templates for different forms of writing, as well essay templates and research proposals, it also works too if you are a scriptwriter or writing a novel, all done in little chunks, pulling together media and letting you for your ideas in the best way that comes to you (which isn’t always linear.) When you are ready with your draft, you can download it as a .doc and put the final touches together on Word/Pages/OO (which means you don’t need to worry too much about compatability with the final product.)

I just used to pull together a 400 word abstract for a conference I’m looking to submit to. It was a seamless process, using a number of documents I’ve already written, reviewing some of the notes I had made last year, as well as having the orginal call for papers to hand within the project file. When I had to redraft the abstract after showing my supervisor, I copied in his comments on it and saved a snapshot before I made changes. It builds up a nice record of what you needed to make that project – and if I get accepted and go on to write the paper, I will use the scrivener file as a starting point for the full piece of work.

Additionally, as 750words is exportable, I’m already downloading the stuff I’m writing online and storing it on Scrivener for when I need it – I also need a bit of time to convert my writing format from linear to scrivener, as eventually I’ll be dealing with paragraphs, not one bitgdocument. When I found and tried this software, it couldn’t have came at a better time – and hearing from the people I follow on twitter who use it, the $45 fee for the full version is well worth it.

You can download a trial of Scrivener here (it’s a 30 day trial, but only when you activate each day – so there is no ticking clock from the moment when you access it.)

These two tools are definetely helped kickstart my writing in 2011, I hope they are helpful to you also- let me know what you think or in you recommend any other goodies I should check out.

Posted via email from Jennifer Jones’ PhD Notebook

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Additions to my PhD toolbox (for writing and planning) #phdchat

Media_httpfarm6static_vhxaa

(Melvin the dog, my faithful research assistant) 

Self imposed deadlines are fun. I’ve got one at the end of the month for the first proper chapter of my PhD thesis (between 15,000-20,000 words – but only 10000 will be chapter-like, the rest will be structural and toward chapter 2) I’m at the stage where I have quite a lot of notes from reading and a range of bits of writing scattered between my “PhD Year 1″ and my “PhD Year 2″ folder (and a little bit left over from “PhD year -1″ and quite a lot online as well) that I’m looking to pull together to begin structuring the thesis. I’m already aware of what my draft chapter headlines will be – splitting my literature review into manageable 4-5 sections at the moment, all of which could be seen as a separate, but connected papers at the this stage – but now I’m looking to prepare the actual content for each section. So far so good. 

Since starting back after the Christmas break, I’ve been exploring particular tools to help me with large documents and generally encouraging me to write everyday, even when I think I’m too busy (such as when I’m teaching, travelling or working on more hands-on activities sans laptop) Funny enough, if I force myself to make time, it doesn’t take long to jot down some thoughts from that day, or snatch a bit of time to write up notes and citations from books (that often takes much more time that annotating a .pdf or using the kindle) I’ve really had to force myself to become quite strict, and even then, I’m unsure how much exactly I’ll be able to formalise by the end of the month – nevertheless, I’m already finding these techniques useful and figured it was better to share as a blog post than repeating myself on twitter.

So on top on Mendeley for desktop referencing database (to which I store articles by chapter and topic at this stage) and Pages/Keynote as a replacement for Open Office (a birthday gift), I’ve also started using 750words.com and Scrivener everyday (slowly taking over my life, can’t wait for payday until I can purchase a full license) of which I’m going to talk a bit about both just now.

750words.com

I first came across this website back in August via Barbara Clark (@drjavafox) on twitter, who was talking about how useful it was helping her write the final chapters of her PhD thesis. I diligently bookmarked it and forgot about it until recently when I was clearing out my Facebook applications and I saw that its app box was ticked. Knowing that I was about to embark on the epic process of writing and organising my thoughts, I figured that 750words.com might be the tool that I was looking for in order to force myself to write everyday. It’s not as if I wasn’t writing, but unless I was working on a specific project, there were no real rhythm in what I was doing. It was fragmented and a reaction to whatever else was going on in my day. 

750words encourages you to write 3 ‘morning pages’ each day and describes these as follows:

“Morning pages are three pages of writing done every day, typically encouraged to be in “long hand”, typically done in the morning, that can be about anything and everything that comes into your head. It’s about getting it all out of your head, and is not supposed to be edited or censored in any way. The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day. Unlike many of the other exercises in that book, I found that this one actually worked and was really really useful.” (750words.com)

So the idea is to encourage its users to write 750 days, everyday, about anything they want – usually as a device to clear and warm up the brain before the ‘real’ writing begins. The site is deliberately stripped back of ‘social’ features such as sharing content or adding metadata (although there is an option to embed influences, such as amount of coffee drunk or the writer’s mood, within the text) but the idea is to make it uncomplicated enough to brain dump without worrying about an audience, about expectations or to commit to anything you do end up writing. I think it is this simplistic nature that makes it so confusing to other PhD students who asked me about it – yes, really, there is nothing to it apart from writing for yourself and only yourself. It’s not blogging, it’s just a process to help you write.

The really powerful thing is the nature in which consistency kicks in – after you do it twice, you start developing a streak (earning badges eventually)- and the longer you go, the better you feel about committing to the process. When you think about it, writing 750 words a day is not much – especially when those words may not connect directly to your work processes nor have an immediate return on investment (be it time, thought space or audience gratification – through hits or comments or trackbacks) – what it does do those is puts your writing activity into context. I’ve now got a streak of 8 days, that’s 6000 words I would had not been aware that I had written if I was to try similar in a notebook or a text document. Furthermore, just f-ing doing it has its benefits, you can sit around being precious about what you write (such is the nature of academic writing) so to just crack on and produce something in its long-hand form is great for breaking that block that we often encounter when working on long-term projects such as a PhD or even just producing an abstract for a journal article.) It may be purely psychological – and I get that – and writing your thoughts done doesn’t maketh a final report, but neither does trying to get it write first time- through writing, we articulate things and it makes the ‘real’ writing but easier to cope with. 

So if you are interested in doing 750words.com, do it for you, you don’t need to follow anybody nor feel that you need to tell people what you are getting up to – it doesn’t matter, just get those words done and as quickly as possible, and get on with the more important things like finishing a draft or submitting an abstract – let the tool become invisible.

For more details of 750words.com, check out their FAQ here.

Scrivener

When the Thesis Whisperer brought Scrivener to my attention this week (through this fantastically detailed how-to-and-why post), I could believe that I hadn’t heard of this amazing program before (it’s been around since 2006 for the Mac, and only recently on the PC) On the first browse, it looks much like a cross between a word-processor and the desktop Evernote application – but after I watched the introductory video (a must view before you get started) – scriverner brings to writing, what Prezi brought to presentation software. A non-linear form. Instead of writing like you would write on a typewriter (much of what office packages are realiant on you being conditioned for)

Scrivener really excels in managing numerous ideas and the patterns of generating those ideas structures. It allows you to start at the beginning, bugger off in the middle and switch to the end, all while keeping your document in sections and synopisis, rather than just chunks of text – it allows you to write the bits you know right now, position then and fill in the gaps later. You can write with two windows open, allowing to you to review ideas as you write (which is really useful considering the amount of word documents I have dedicated to notes and citations) and there is a dedicated folder for ‘research’ (reminds me of evernote, a place to tag and list your notes in raw form, pulling them together when you need them all in one place.)

There are also templates for different forms of writing, as well essay templates and research proposals, it also works too if you are a scriptwriter or writing a novel, all done in little chunks, pulling together media and letting you for your ideas in the best way that comes to you (which isn’t always linear.) When you are ready with your draft, you can download it as a .doc and put the final touches together on Word/Pages/OO (which means you don’t need to worry too much about compatability with the final product.)

I just used to pull together a 400 word abstract for a conference I’m looking to submit to. It was a seamless process, using a number of documents I’ve already written, reviewing some of the notes I had made last year, as well as having the orginal call for papers to hand within the project file. When I had to redraft the abstract after showing my supervisor, I copied in his comments on it and saved a snapshot before I made changes. It builds up a nice record of what you needed to make that project – and if I get accepted and go on to write the paper, I will use the scrivener file as a starting point for the full piece of work.

Additionally, as 750words is exportable, I’m already downloading the stuff I’m writing online and storing it on Scrivener for when I need it – I also need a bit of time to convert my writing format from linear to scrivener, as eventually I’ll be dealing with paragraphs, not one bitgdocument. When I found and tried this software, it couldn’t have came at a better time – and hearing from the people I follow on twitter who use it, the $45 fee for the full version is well worth it.

You can download a trial of Scrivener here (it’s a 30 day trial, but only when you activate each day – so there is no ticking clock from the moment when you access it.)

These two tools are definetely helped kickstart my writing in 2011, I hope they are helpful to you also- let me know what you think or in you recommend any other goodies I should check out.

 

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Meta-blogging #ds106 for the love of context

I’ve started another blog. “Oh no, not another one,” I hear you groan. This one is for #ds106 – the ‘massively open online course’ in Digital Storytelling I wrote about before the Christmas break. I wanted to/needed to take it back onto my server (using wordpress) for the nature of the course – which makes it easy to aggregate with the course’s RSS firehose (this one won’t – and will give me the space to elaborate). I don’t intend to double post onto this notebook often, as much of the course is designed as a self-discovery/network between other participants – however I feel that in the context of recent posts, it would make sense to include my first post here. They’ll be assignments, I might set assignments – but it is is essentially an experiment in online, open and playful course delivery. I figured that we can talk about these things forever, taking part in something that is already happening makes a good start. The end of 2010 spelled sadness for the University, the start of 2011 may be our opportunity to grow and transform something new out of the shit.

I’ll be blogging my contributions to #ds106 at http://ds106.jennifermjones.net – some of it will be silly, some of it will be technical and some of it might just inform some of the things I’ll be up to in the coming months.

“So Jim Groom’s Digital Storytelling (ds106) MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) begins today – hooray! – therefore I’m adding to the surge of new posts declaring hullo to the world and bit of context as to why I’m looking forward to taking part (I even set it up it’s own special wordpress for the process.)

The course aims and ‘learning outcomes’ (for those not registered and might be reading this via twitter):

*Develop skills in using technology as a tool for networking, sharing, narrating, and creative self-expression * Frame a digital identity wherein you become both a practitioner in and interrogator of various new modes of networking * Critically examine the digital landscape of communication technologies as emergent narrative forms and genres

These are pretty straight forward – but are not things that can be ticked off regimentally like traditional assessment criteria. They are skills which are difficult to be “taught” and come through practise, even play. From following the feed for the weeks on the run up to the course, I’ve been entertained by animated gifs, movie mashups and some interesting takes on existing media (like swapping lyrics and images – and playing with the boundaries of what we already know and assume) – only now it is my turn to try out some of the crowdsourced assessments and exercises.

I’ve recently blogged and stated an interest in running my own open course (working with an existing module at the university where I work part time) in correlation with my PhD research into new media and the Olympic Games. The course would correspond to the citizen media network being ‘set up’ on the run up to the London Games – and would be offered up as a open training/context exercise around the possibilities of the internet alongside existing media events. Essentially, the assignment (and the outcomes of the modules) are to produce a social object that is connected to the wider #media2012 network but is working with a local context (could be community media cafe, could be an internet radio station, could be a simple website – but the focus is on the people involved, not just building a website that becomes redundant once the course is finished – an exercise in thinking creatively but critically.)

What I would love to take away from these next 15 weeks is the experiences of being a student on an open course (learning and engaging in this way around the topics and skills of digital storytelling), where some of the participants are actually taking it as a ‘real life’ module, earning credit as part of their degree course at UMW. So it’s kinda meta why I’m here – I’m interested as a person who spent the best part of her student days winding up people on the Internet using animated gifs and swapping heads/bodies on a cracked copy of photoshop, and as somebody who is developing a real research interest into new and exciting (potentially radical) methods of course production and course delivery.

Look forward to getting started!”

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7 Thoughts after three weeks with the Kindle (from the perspective of a PhD student) #phdchat

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I’m not one to blog about “tech” however, like a few other people I know, I got a Kindle for my Christmas. I’ve not really been drawn to devices such e-readers (or even tablets such as the jesus pad) before. I’ve mostly been put off by the price (most are over 200 pounds) and the feeling that I was surviving perfectly fine with my trusty 4 year old mac book pro and HTC Desire combo. I must admit, even though I knew I was getting a Kindle, I was skeptical about how it would improve my life and be much different from managing reading from my desktop or even through those old school portable things called “books.”

After 3 weeks using the Kindle (I didn’t get the 3G one as I have a mifi) there are a number of things that I want to note about the experience:

1. When you read a lot as part of your daily routine, it is very comfortable experience.

I love to read. But most of my reading at the moment is around my PhD work – and even then, I’m struggling to manage the sheer volume of literature I need to get through and manage at this half way point of my research. It’s soft on the eyes (but doesn’t work so well in the dark ;-)) It’s really hard to explain (and perhaps considered as a complete random luxury) but being able to hold a book with one hand and write with the other is genius. Even just having the text next to my laptop, without having to balance the pages down with a weighted object down in order to extract quotes and write up notes is making my life a lot easier.

2. Can read more, for longer.

I have found myself being able to read for longer, more concentrated periods of time. Normally I boot up a few .pdfs to get through on my computer, and find myself getting distracted by emails, tweets and other niggling communication matters. Even though it has been the holidays, I’ve travelled a little bit on trains and already I’m finding it much easier to switch off and concentrate for most of the journey (although, I do admit I have a very short attention span if I’m given the chance to be distracted.)

3. You can carry portions of your library around with you without breaking your back.

Again, from the perspective of a PhD student, this is great. Normally on my commute between Leicestershire and Birmingham, I’m packing two or three books – depending on what I may be trying to work on that day. Now I’ve started to arrange my literature by chapter/priority and it’s really straight forward to swap between them. I’m a big fan of dropbox for this reason (when I’m working between home or an office – and on different machines) but this more personal, and again, more comfortable to do as a ‘pure’ reading experience.

4. Annotations and notes

Through working on the #tagginganna project during the summer, I’ve now became obsessed with tagging and annotation of documents used in education. The Kindle lets you mark, annotate and note quite easily (although you do expect a touch screen through using smart phones) – I’m quite bad for scribbling all over books and being a bit slap happy with the old post it notes. The Kindle organises your notes and highlights for you on a separate page so you can work smarter with potential citations. It takes a lot of time to read, properly understand and note down points of interest from academic literature – the Kindle allows to cut out most of that and focus on just reading and note smarter (making the process relatively seamless) – What would be nice if there was a way to sync this with the annotation and notes from software such as Mendeley (which has a lovely highlighting and post-it notting process) but again, I don’t expect that to happen, although anything is possible.

5. Access to literature

I think it was assumed that the Kindle was entirely reliant on what was available on Amazon (which looks to be mainly mainstream fiction – rather designed for an academic audience) This can be a problem as I see it more as a tool for work than one for leisure (although, there are a huge selection of free classics to work through) HOWEVER the fact you can drag and drop files into it – this changes everything. I’m not sure how many actual e-books I’ll actually buy, but if there was a move towards a wider catalogue (with reasonable pricing – i.e. the e-book is cheaper than the physical book) I just know I’ll end up spending some money on it. Furthermore, I’ve been notified that my university have access to e-books now – I wonder how many are compatible with e-readers and the like.

6. The ‘social’

I haven’t got round to sharing anything on the kindle yet. There are options to tweet/facebook notes and quotes – but I’ve not yet seen the use of that yet. I’m not really one to be that ‘social’ with my literature (at least in an open forum) – what I do need to find out is if I can email a marked up .pdf to a colleague- and they can access in that form with relative ease. I think that is the social function that is required if the Kindle (and other readers) are to be used in this way.

7. Multiple Devices

The power of accessing and updating your Kindle account across platforms (from the desktop and smartphone apps) is also very useful – especially when the keyboard is deliberately wee and bitty (which I like, less temptation to tweet) – arrange library, fix stuff and sync with the device. Also, when I don’t have it with me, I can still read the books I’ve downloaded on my computer or phone.

Conclusions:

So far so good – although I’m only just getting on top of the work load after the holiday break. Where I think it will come into its own is when I am travelling and commuting. For example, I’ve just been asked to review some submissions for a conference, and this is ideal opportunity to put the Kindle to its test as a work tool (that must be compatible with what everyone else is doing.) Furthermore, reading takes time (no sh*t) – it’s not like an ipod where you load up tracks and skip through the variety. Taking a step back, using it as a ubiquitous tool where the words in which you encounter are stronger than the technology that you are reading it off (like a paperback) will make or break how I use it. Nevertheless, I’m impressed with Kindle and look forward to trying new things with it.

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