On Tuesday this week I was invited by Stuart Hepburn to speak to his 3rd year Contemporary Screen Acting class at UWS’s Ayr campus, about using the internet to help collaborate, promote and encourage creativity as part of their future assignment and careers. As a graduate of the school (and from Ayr originally), it was strange (but exciting) being back in the classroom, this time as a teacher rather than a student.
The class became with a quick introduction to social web infrastructure (tracking the history from geocities to posterous), moving into reasons why it might be useful for those interested in becoming an actor to use the web as part of their career plans. Using case studies, such as Limmy.com, the discussion moved into some suggestions towards building multimedia content to promote themselves as individuals and for managing campaigns for future clients (part of their assignment of the course they need to build a notional concept where they work with real commercial clients in order to apply their acting to promotion artefacts.)
It was nice to see that from beginning the course five weeks ago, some who had never thought to use the web in this way where already uploading content to youtube and documenting their progression through the course – from this, we worked towards building each student a posterous blog as a front facing website in order to build their online presence. This exercise lasted about an hour and by the end of the session they had all managed to create, design and upload content to the web.
We then decided to experiment with google documents in order to create collaborative documents for group work and preparing their assignments. This was one by creating one giant public document where they shared details on their new posterous blog and attempted to edit the same document at the same time.
The benefits of using google documents as a class were three-fold. Firstly, they offered a free alternative to traditional word processing, which secondly, meant that whenever you want to access your files, they are stored online and available anywhere. Lastly, there was the potential to share and edit document between multiple users, making the idea of blackboard’s “behind a password” wiki collaboration a tad redundant (but I would say that).
By the end of the session, they had all set up blogs, posted to those blogs and worked with tools to help them collaborate as a group in the coming weeks. The next stage will involve mobile video editing and uploading material based on their earlier client ideas. As somebody who is not anywhere near an actress, it was really enlightening to approach my work from this angle. I genuinely look forward to seeing what they come up with in the coming weeks – especially now I’m following all their work online. It’s great to feel part of my University, even when I can’t always be around to take part in things.
Earlier this week I was in Scotland to give two workshops at the University of the West of Scotland where I did my undergraduate (and now my PhD) degree. The first workshop was for PhD students as part of a series of training on social media delivered by myself and Ana Adi on a range of discussion around social media, teaching and research. The first session, “Academia 2.0″, really a broad introduction to social media and research, was designed to get PhD students to think about ways in which they can use free tools online to help investigate, promote and collaborate within different areas of their research practise.
The workshop was open to any level of PhD and from any department, which meant that there was a broad range across the disciplines from Chemistry, Business studies and Computer Science present at the session – with experience ranging from those who have never taken their laptop outside of the house right up to those who are building platforms of their own. The session began by reflecting on the historical context of social media, as well as making some predictions for the future that might be useful for PhD researchers. It then went on to show a number of ways in which the Internet can be used to compliment research and encourage collaboration through promoting work to wider audiences and networking with those from different disciplines – as well as demonstrating the different levels of engagement with tools (as in, you don’t need to jump straight into content making or adding people to social networks) There were also some case studies where social media can go wrong and where social media can be used within activities such as literature reviews or presentations. It concluded with a workshop exercise in order to encourage PhD students to begin their own blog to document their research online. This was a take away exercise on how to set up and write their first blog post on posterous.
Their were some initial questions which emerged around the use of social media as part of the PhD process, namely around the usefulness of trying new things outside traditional academic contexts – as well as the lack of critique around the subject, both of which could be expanded through further sessions which were more specifically based on academic rigour, rather than a training workshop. There was also a request for literature review specific workshops, where tools such as mendeley and cite-u-like can be introduced in more detail (in a similar format to existing endnote sessions) – the fact that these tools are not only free, but offer a new route to discovering related literature, as well as shaving time off citations, was a positive effect.
The next sessions will be by Ana on the 17th of November who will be looking at “Web 2.0 Research Tools” and “Social Media and the Classroom” more specifically. I will be holding a session on Amplifed Conferences and Events on the 9th of December.
This 3 hour session will broadly explore the role of new media within academia from a research, teaching and promotional perspective. It will track the ongoing history of social online technologies, unpick the common myths associated with web 2.0 platforms and discuss the cycle of activity required in order to create and maintain an academic profile online. This workshop will provide you with an opportunity to brainstorm strategies surrounding the use of social media for promoting independent and group work.
This is recommended for all levels and is a trans-disciplinary activity, placing innovation and collaboration at the centre of the discussion. There will also be time dedicated to 1-2-1 clinics on specific technical tools for the final hour of the timetabled workshop.
Outcomes: 1. Provide a broad historical contexts of, and issues concerning, the development of new media in the context of academia. 2. Explore and examine the forms, methods of delivery, levels of engagement and technical specifics of emerging Internet technologies (such as blogging, content making and communication devices) for the purpose of a research career. 3. Work towards building strategies and exploring online tools for short, medium and long term profile management.
Bring your laptops and an open mind!
2. Social Media Tools for Research
This 3 (?) hour session will focus on how social media tools can be used to collect, analyse and visualise data, whilst examining social routes to collaboration with other researcher – both in your field and between disciplines. It will debate the relevance of online data in the context of existing methodological approaches and how this new form can be used to supplement and transform existing results. There will be particular attention spent raising questions about ethics in the online world and how data can be protected and made sense of in a wider context.
Outcomes: 1. Provide an overview for tools (both free and paid for) currently available for online data collection, with a particular focus on how to assess and seek value in the ongoing emergence of these platforms. 2. Examine how online data can be used to support your existing research methods. 3. Explore online data collection in the context of existing methodologies – specifically looking at data protection, ethics and research context.
3. Social Media in the Classroom This 3 (?) hour session will focus on two aspects: a)teaching about new media; b) teaching with new media to enhance students experience and ensure reach of learning outcomes. The first area will ask questions surrounding the practice of new media and explore whenever it should be integrated into courses, or to be taught as a separate module – using examples from business, communication and journalism studies. The second section will demonstrate tools and techniques that can be used to increase class participation, expand learning borders, increase student to student and student to lecturer interaction and methods to make information available beyond the classroom.
Outcomes: 1. Provide an overview of tools and techniques for teaching with social media through use of twitter, blogs, guest lectures and video streaming, collaborative platforms and personal learning environments (recording sessions, podcasts, screencasts) 2. Discussion around challenges, advantages and disadvantages of using new media in a university/education context 3. Explore case studies for developing social media policy for a classroom.
4. Amplified Events: Beyond the Academic Conference
This 3 hour session will focus on the realm of the academic conference – from the view point of an amplified participant, speaker and moving towards the process of organising an amplified event, where social media is used to increase online participation around the topic.) The workshop shall explore the concept of an event “back channel” using tools such as Smartphones, Twitter and CoveritLive. It will then move on to look at techniques for speakers to project their presentation beyond the conference room, using tools such as blogging, slide sharing and live-streaming video and audio. It will conclude by looking at considerations event organisers can explore when looking to facilitate an event using social media – from providing the tools to following up with archiving and research.
Outcomes: 1.Provide an overview of tools and techniques for using social media as a conference participant – focusing on the back-channel and mobile capturing. 2.Discussion around challenges, advantages and disadvantages of using social media within and beyond conference presentations 3. Explore case studies for developing social media policy around conference organising, before, during and after the event.
On the 20th of July, I was invited to host a workshop at theBirmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD) Research Summer School about using Social Media to promote research. As promised, I’m sticking the presentation online so that those who were there can get a little bit more information based on the discussions that were had during and after the session.
The workshop’s abstract was as follows:
This 90 minute session will explore the use of social media tools for promoting creative practice. It will track the ongoing history of social online technologies, unpick the common myths associated with web 2.0 platforms and discuss the cycle of activity required in order to maintain a creative profile online. This workshop will provide you with an opportunity to brainstorm strategies surrounding the use of social media for promoting independent and group creative work.
My PhD colleague Ana Adi, a PR and new media specialist, has many detailed resources about web 2.0 promoting, social media tools for research and data collection tools for social sciences and humanities research. These range from social timeline software for arranging historical texts to using social media in music promotion. A rich resource for exploring ways to integrate social media into your research practise.
Some visuals which explains different tools and different statistics which relate to the growth of the social web. A nice way to look at some of the emerging discussions and challenges relating to social media.
http://www.citizenseye.org (A Leicester citizen media hub – an excellent example of how local, citizen journalism has been taken up in my local area of Leicestershire – I will be working closely with them during the run up and during Games time)
On the 19th of July, Birmingham City University hosted a seminar on “Measuring the Unmeasurable” – a discussion led event to explore the meaning and the measurement of digital participation, focusing on the areas of reach, breadth and depth set out by the Digital Britain report. The event was targeted towards academics from broad “digital” media and cultural studies and policy makers, activists, community media workers and social media advisers.
Alongside presentations from Paul Watson (Director, Digital Economy Hub for Inclusion through the Digital Economy), Catherine Bunting (Director of Research, Arts Council England), Alison Preston (Senior Research Associate, Ofcom) there was also a panel discussion including Nick Booth (PodNosh) and Vishalakshi Roy (Senior Business Develop Manager, Audiences Central).
The afternoon session included a workshop breakout session which allowed participants to discuss the measurement of reach, breadth and depth further. This was a broad and open-ended session – which is reflected in the terminology around the digital participation plan itself. I was asked to facilitate the workshop on Depth, which is defined in the Digital Participation Plan were as follows:
Depth of use refers to using social networks and content creation and sharing, including user-generated content and self-publishing.
Depth of use will be monitored through levels of confidence, understanding of types of content, perceptions of personal benefits both economic and social, and knowledge of risks and how to mitigate them.
The Depth workshop turned out to be the most popular of the three terms (which makes for interesting discussion within its own right) – and as the session was so busy, it was quite difficult in the time allowed to have a focused discussion with larger numbers. Instead, the group of 30+ was split into smaller groups to discuss the group proposed issues of motivation, accessibility, funding and attendance.
After 20-30 minutes of discussion, groups were asked to then write down on post it notes measurement of successes and measurement of challenges relating to their chosen topic. Unsurprisingly, there were few measurements of successes – with much of the focus being made towards the challenges of measuring the depth of digital participation through solely looking at user generated content and social networking.
As there was so much to be discussed, in a rather short period of time, what can be said is that there is a definite pull towards “depth” research. I’d associated this particular type of research as being majorly qualitative (or as one speaker referred to as being “informal” research) where much of the questions and challenges posed were incapable of being answered using statistics or survey data. We were referring to case studies relating to our own separate industries, with many cross overs between personal reflections and conversations with those who are affected with the issues suggested. From this, I personally enjoyed seeing the indirect request for more qualitative research (but I am interested in ethnographic practice (;) – and the links between being innovative with funds and resources to avoid being sucked in the box ticking trap. The larger goal of getting different sectors to talk and work together was reinforced across the group.
What I did promise was to share the notes and scribbles from the session so that those who attended the depth session could unpick my handwriting and use it within their own reflections. I’ve added them below as part of a flickr slideshow for this purpose:
So last night we (me and Tom) joined the cast of Interactive Cultures and Amplified to take part in the social meejaising of UB40′s Rainbow Roof fundraiser in Birmingham. The event itself was great fun and we managed to get a real feel for what the Brummie live music “movement” was about – despite having to head home not much longer after UB40 took the stage (either survive on Red Bull or miss work in the morning..) With the choice of Rhubarb Radio’s immaculate live stream of the gig, and the post-mortem collection of photos, videos, audio boos and tweets from the band – we didn’t need to worry too much about not being able to catch up with it later on.
For me, Two things struck me about last night:
1) In the pub before, we were chatting about the Music as Culture theme with Jez – and it got me thinking about my own experiences with gigs and the like. I’ve rarely went to a gig in Leicester (lived here 2.5 years)- and certainly haven’t been to nearly the same amount of gigs that I used to when I lived in/near Glasgow. It’s just not in my focus anymore – when even just a few years ago I would spend quite a bit of money on cds and gig tickets – and at a peak, it would be 2-3 gigs a week (at least one a month). I’m aware that Leicester has some what of a music scene (Summer Sundae, few little venues and more recently Twesta promotions) – but with the demise of the Charlotte (which I found out today has had plans filed for its demolish in favour of new student flats (meh), less than 3 months after it reopened again) – it’s another knock to a city with a rather confusing social scene. It’s not as if people don’t want it, it just doesn’t smack you in the face when you arrive.
@brian_condon, me and @discombob (via @benjaminellis)
I’m no expert here – but I was a consumer, a fan, someone who was genuinely interested in a local music scene and Glasgow was my city, gigs were something to do, something to look forward to and bring friends together- and now I’m not and I don’t even know where to begin in Leicestershire. I wonder what happened there and after last night, I would like to, at least, try and rectify that. Certainly, community drives the involvement – and for the first time in ages, I actually left feeling like I wanted more. So, in this case, Birmingham is certainly doing something right – and to mess with the smaller city centre venues – in favour of yet more empty carcasses of new build flats, occupied by people who knew what they were getting when they decided to live in the centre of the 2nd biggest city in the UK – would be a bad thing.
The audience members I interviewed were saying the same thing. Can watch them here and here.
Turning the camera back on to the media (from Benjamin Ellis)
2) The second point probably relates more to my research interests – and perhaps reinstalled my original enjoyment for using new media to subvert traditions. Alongside coverage from national and local news channels – there was also journalists from the Independent, the BBC and a man with a rather large tv camera – all hanging around, looking for a story. I was approached, twice, by journalists – and both times wasn’t allowed to be interviewed because I was there for meeja stuff myself. Of course, Tom wasn’t – he was coming along for the gig, so poor Tom got asked a bunch of questions about stuff he didn’t really know nor care about – to which he answered “yes” “no” “it’s a good thing” “uh hum” – taken down in short-hand and had this picture taken for a voxpop. Riveting. (sorry Tom ;-))
Of course, the real interesting story is the fact that the community media (the band, the university, the radio station and gig venue) were all working together to increase the visibility of the cause (the purpose of the gig) and to help give the audience a voice – and on top of that, if they liked it or not – the audience were watching the gig through the screens of digital cameras, mobile phones and some even had their own techy-looking kit to capture the event- to share with their network, be it online or off.
A couple of crafted voxpops were trumped by a room full of people, doing their own thing. That’s pretty damn awesome. Birmingham, bring it on!
I thought I would write a quick blog post as I’ve had a few people ask me if I’m moving back to Scotland (or given up the PhD) and I think it is about time I clarify what is going on (plus, I lost my voice over the weekend after chatting loads about this stuff at the Birmingham Social Media Cafe on Friday).
Yes, the rumours are true. I have left the University of Leicester (both as a phd student and as a tutor) – it just wasn’t working out and it hadn’t been for a long time. As much as people say that PhDs can be done part time, it’s another thing where you are struggling to either a) find time to dedicate to the work, because you are working loads to support the rest of your life and/or b)you take time off to study and you end up to spending most your time looking for small jobs to tide you over. It wasn’t fun- and I don’t think since Uses and Abuses (in June) I’ve been able to seriously dedicate time to the topic I was guided to work on. There are clear, conflicting distinctions in the topics and the methods of research in the department, with what I’m interested in and wanting to achieve, and I think for my own sanity, I would be better placed somewhere else. I’ve learnt a lot in the last 10 months – and most of it is probably how NOT to do a PhD.
But it ain’t all bleak. In July, I was offered to the chance to apply for funding for phd studentship at my old University (was Paisley, now the University of the West of Scotland) – and thanks to Andy Miah’s encouragement (and persistence) – I found out last week that I got it!
So finally, I can work on my PhD full time (with Andy as my supervisor) – which I am so looking forward to. The chance to finally get cracking with a topic of my choosing, and be able to visit Scotland more is fantastic opportunity. In fact, I’m heading to Scotland after work tonight to spend a few days at the University, sorting my stuff out.
Speaking of work, a few weeks ago, I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to be in Birmingham to meet my sister off the train, and asked if anyone fancied a coffee in the morning. Jon Hickman, from Birmingham Media School at BCU (who we’d been chatting bob about social media for a while) said he was free, and after an awesome face to face chat about a number of geeky things, he got back to me about a job going at the University.
And today is my first day as a Visiting Lecturer, teaching the first years media theory workshop and working on a preparing a research project for the department. I visited the department last Monday (nice to be in a place where you feel you aren’t a distraction), and by Friday I was a two social media events in Birmingham (BSMC, mentioned previously and BCCDIY – a hack day for a community generated council website, down at the Moseley Exchange – fantastic idea!) – and I got to meet a good fair few of the new MA Social Media and MA Online Journalism guys in the process.
So there you go, still living in Leicestershire, PhD is based in Scotland (which I’ll write more about the topic and scope later) and I work in Birmingham. Can I just say that the last two weeks have been nuts – and I’m quite happy to let that continue. Thank goodness I like trains!