It’s been some week for travelling. I’m writing this from the research student room at the Graduate School of Osaka University’s Human Sciences department in Japan. We arrived last night after 28 hours of travelling. I’m drinking some hot that I think is a milky chocolate tea and eating Green Tea kit-kats (verdict: amaze!) and settling down to warm up for PhD writing by writing up the last week of things over two posts – mainly to serve my own memory correctly more than anything else. I’ve lost track of what day it is. But that might be the jet-lag kicking in.
I started the week on home turf – Scotland. After returning from a writing retreat in Aberfoyle (with its lovely ruralness and 3G/wifi less focus, a bit of calm in the utter mania of the last month) where I had been working the start of a solo paper for publication as part of my research group, I then immediately had to prepare for a workshop in Lochgilphead for Monday.
The journey from Lochgilphead from Glasgow is a very scenic, signalness (not even FM radio) trek through some of the most beautiful parts of the west coast of Scotland. I had the pleasure to sail through some of it when I was on the tall ship back in June, which put into further context how wonderful a wee country Scotland – and in particular, the places you can get to from Glasgow in just over 2 hours.
The workshop was part of a skills day arranged for those in receipt of Stalled Space Scotland funding, an initiative managed by Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS) and funded from the Scottish Government as a methodology to support communities to reboot disused spaces within the area that they live. Initially a Commonwealth Games Legacy project, working in Glasgow to revive 75 spaces (I think the most recognisable one is the Barrowlands Park – mainly because it was such a success that city residents are campaigning to keep it permanently), the funding has now been rolled out to 7 local authorities across Scotland: Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dumbartonshire, Fife, North Ayrshire, Angus and Argyll & Bute.
A&DS had asked me on board to help provide a introduction, overview and support for the projects funded in Argyll and Bute with relation to digital media and storytelling. Not only did I get the opportunity to take a day trip to the hills, I also got the chance to work quite closely with the groups and participate in the full day – which included a workshop/storytelling session from Lorn Community Growers and a tour of the reclaimed Blarbuie Woodland that are situated on the grounds of the old Argyll & Bute Hospital.
Both are an example of where the Scottish community empowerment and land reform bills relating to under-used assets (in this case an abandoned bowling green and football/shinty pitch owned by the NHS) are providing the affordable growing space for the whole area. Nevertheless, things are complicated – and the purpose of Stalled Spaces is to inject some income into kickstarting or supporting existing attempts to reclaim space for the common good.
When it comes to digital storytelling, there are plenty of interesting things that can be made to happen, especially when the subject area is so topical, the community involvement is so active – and the pictures are so pretty.
The funding calls for Stalled Spaces Scotland are still open across many of the local authorities involved. More details are available of A&DS’s website.
On Tuesday, I was up early for the first train leaving Glasgow down south to Doncaster. I’d been invited to facilitate two digital storytelling workshops for Premiership Rugby Community Conference for coaches and other staff with community engagement within the job remit.
As there was only an hour for each session, I focused my workshop around case studies of how we’ve used major sporting events as a catalyst for community storytelling & demonstrated a practical example of how to film a short no-edit video interview on a mobile device.
For me, it was an interesting position to be in where normally I am working with community groups using a major event as a catalyst for beginning to use digital media – rather than working with sports management professionals who work within a context of supporting major sponsors and maintaining exclusivity through television rights and other media guidelines.
Nevertheless, the coaches work very closely with different community groups and young people and often are asked to report and document the work that they do to support them. Digital storytelling provides a method of capturing those experiences from the perspective of those who have benefited directly – or can be used as evidence for evaluation, rather than simply providing a piece of corporate copy from a marketing department.
Both workshops gave me the chance to hand out copies of the Digital Commonwealth Digital Storytelling Handbook that we’ve developed as an output of that project. It has been helpful to have a resource to hand, especially with every group that you encounter – understandings, expectations and perspectives of how digital media can be used within their work can be vastly different and often you only have a very short period of time to establish where people are at, what they want, what they think they are getting and how you can help.
Moving forward, through working on my HEA Senior Fellowship application I’d like to be able to develop some of this work within an academic context and contribute to a course of learning where you are not simply expecting to cover everything within a short workshop. Of course, these sessions are a good starting point for getting people enthused, but to carry on supporting their own development, there always needs to be a wider strategy in place that allows people time to develop confidence in their approach. It is all down to setting the expectations.
Furthermore, this often needs to be supplemented with one to one mentoring i.e. when people email me asking for a coffee and to show them ‘the basics’ of social media, you often need to spend a bit of time establishing what part of the basics they mean and how they might use it within their specific context that they wish to work within – this takes time, and I believe it is worthwhile – it is just making sure that this time spend is time spend with value and not just seen as something done in a bitty-adhoc basis. I guess as always it is about building a case for its value and ensuring that when things happen, they are followed up in the same way as any other subject area or form of practice.
My next workshop is going to be here in Japan this Monday “Social Media for Early Career Researchers and Higher Education: Communicating your Research to International Audience” as part of an academic skills training week (which includes the writing retreat I am currently participating in). I’m planning on repeating the same session back at UWS in November for PhD student’s in our Graduate School. I’ll write up about these both later in the week.