Tag Archives: 2012

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Never mind the 2012(tm) bollocks. 2013. Bring it on!

The closest I got to London 2012 in the end.

Only 4 days late, but at least the year hasn’t quite been broken in yet!

After re-reading my ‘End of Year‘ 2011 post, I started to draft this post on the 27th of December. It’s only been now I’ve been able to return to it after moving house during the holidays and hibernating through the usual obligations of the festive period. I’ve been re-reading a lot of things I’ve written online over the last 3 years, especially in the run-up and during the actual suspension of my PhD at the end of October. The benefit of keeping a blog, even if it doesn’t strictly feel like ‘PhD’ or research related chat or reflects an academic or work-related self-promotional tone, has been a real confidence boost (when I’ve really needed it) and a way of reminding myself of the things I have done or the frame of mind I was at a particular period in my life. Even if I didn’t want to admit it or even recognise it at the time. So, a personal reflection of 2012? Why not.

Don’t get me wrong, suspending the PhD – it was a big decision, and I guess I would like to think it was a decision that defined the year. But it wasn’t. It was pragmatic. And it wouldn’t be a reflection of 2012 if I didn’t write about that first.

It was partly financial, but not because I was skint or lacking in relevant work contracts but when funding runs out, it is a case of deciding to go part-time and attempting to less work that pays more (ha! lucky for some) or suspending until into a better situation with accommodation, debt repayments and gaining a steadier income comes my way. Having moved back to Glasgow quite hastily in May and found myself living under a friend’s stairs up until a few days ago, it’s only been now that we are in a new flat that I’ve been able to dig out paperwork and begin to assess the real financial damage of the events of 2012. With this in mind, it has not been a good time to let the precious clock of PhD time tick away when I know there was a particular hierarchy of need that had to be addressed before I could return to the luxury of being able to focus on a task such as completing the write up of a PhD.

It was partly subject related, having got too personally involved in the public critique of the Olympic Games through the torch relay and the #citizenrelay and moving far away from my initial research interests of alternative media, new media and citizen journalism and how specific communities engage socially and politically online. So less about the Olympics and Olympic Studies (a bizarre space that I do want to engage in any further at this stage in time – thank god 2012(tm) is over), more about mega events (or even events in general) can be used as a catalyst for community engagement using citizen-led media and the emerging research methods (using social media) to measure value and impact of this. However, in short, I am a person who loves reading. Who loves writing. And when I’m not reading and I’m not writing – and feeling guilty because I am not doing either. We have a problem. Furthermore, the first day I went to the Mitchell Library after suspending my PhD, I inhaled the first two books I picked up in one go. Story books. The stuff you feel guilty reading because it isn’t something relating to PhD research. Being registered on a PhD, without any passion or spirit to read or write is simply a ticking time-bomb to fail in the long term. I have no regrets as I am picking my reading speed up again through library books and reclaiming my attention span which was at the stage where a 10 minute youtube video required too much concentration.

And finally, what I am realising now, that I am so far removed from the initial PhD project about Vancouver 2010, with such a filmsy and unloved background of literature and absolutely no passion or enthusiasm to correct it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a lot of ‘stuff’ written in various folders and documents labelled PhD. I have 4 folders of organised work, reading notes and annotated bibliographies, but to attempt and rewrite a backdated version of my life wouldn’t work. I went to Vancouver without a body of literature or a detailed methodology. Now, with a couple of research projects under my belt, I can’t think how I can cram that mess into a document that would resemble (and pass as) a PhD – however, there has been plenty of bang of its buck in terms of how that trip influenced projects between 2010 and now. It cannot be separated - but it itself isn’t the PhD. I know in myself, if I have to backdate and rewrite work from that time, there are a few things and learning outcomes that would be much easier to write about and be a PhD that I would want to spend two years part-time writing up. Things change, people change – and I could argue that I’ve been staring the wrong dataset in the face for so long that I’ve missed the point of a PhD being an exam I have to pass and defend. It’s not as if I want to rip it all up and start again in a entirely new field, I have a lot of writing and research that I can work with, I just need to shift the focus back into what interests and gets me excited and fits into my current work practices. I know that I can do this – and I won’t be any means starting from scratch – but it will hopefully be a project that will not only be something I will enjoy doing, but can be situated within a research area I feel part of and want to contribute to.

So, with that said, a lot of good things have happened in the last few months (moved into a new flat which is probably the nicest place I’ve ever stayed ever and new opportunities emerging from existing projects) the PhD is back on my whiteboard in the form of produced an updated PhD proposal to be submitted alongside a new restart date of January 2014. This not only gives me a year off the clock to sort out finances and concentrate on my career, but also the chance to refocus without the pressure of things like the REF and other administration processes that would have became more important that the research I would have to write up in the first place.

And as much as I said that the PhD suspension shouldn’t define the outcome of 2012 – it was and had became the main focus of my life and the decisions I was making, much of which I talked about the original blog post. A lot went on, I had to keep going and things had to give or be let slip. I achieved a lot of things in 2012, but I also let a lot people down and had to selfishly say ‘no’ to things that I would have properly managed to achieve if I was working to the same levels and intensity that I was at the start of the year. What I have learned this year is about expectations. I know that I am capable of being a workaholic to the point that the first weekend I gave myself off when I moved back to Glasgow, I made myself sick with the anxiety of just downing tools in favour of night out. I also know that when left to my own devices & with sole ownership of my own income, I can be a terrible jake-bag that could find myself on a different night out, with different friends, every night of the week in a city like Glasgow – and I have been good at justifying this, especially related to the amount of time spent over the last 5 years simply not having close friends near me or having little access to the money I was earning myself. But it’s time to reign that in again.

It’s early days now – but with the new flat (which we kind of symbolically moved into on Hogmanay of all days) and being somewhere where I actually want to spend time in, to live in, as a home rather than use a place to crash between work and play, will make a huge difference. 2012′s lesson has been about the importance of having a base – especially if you intend to work in a transient, multi-locational and contextual environment. I spent the first 6 months of 2012 travelling for work. It was getting to the stage that in one week I was in Leicester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Birmingham and London – working on projects whilst I was on the trains into between and sleeping in a different city every night. Now, that level and intensity of travelling still excites me, and I need to go further than the UK – but I had reached the point where I didn’t know what end of the country I was living at. I always wanted to move back to Scotland when I could. But with the people around you conditioning you with the idea that moving back to your hometown was a ‘good’ idea to save money and ‘do the PhD’, it wasn’t long before I was going to implode. It is very clear in my mind now that I could never go back to live in Ayr, no matter the circumstances, because it is just not where I belong and in all honesty? I’m not afraid of offending people when I say that I hate the place.

That’s why this flat is important. It is a base, pure and simple. But it is more than a place to store things, it is a home and it will be a home for as long as we need it to be or until the next adventure. Unlike at the end of 2011, where I was looking towards of future of completing the PhD and getting onto the next stage or level of my career, the conclusion of 2012 has got me thinking a lot more about the smaller things. It doesn’t matter how seemingly productive I appear or the extent in which I jeopardise my own health or mindset in order to pursue a career in existing academia, or even the process of self-medication to cope with the pressures of such, when projects become obligations and the fear of not keeping up with yourself are greater than your love of what your doing. To be honest, I could list a million things I’ve managed to achieve this year, but I also almost ran right off the treadmill, and I was very close to cracking up – and would have done if I didn’t scream ‘stop’ and found myself back in Glasgow, surrounded by people I really needed at the time.

So yeah, 2013?

With the philosophy of doing less things better, I have 12 months to 1) fall back in love with my PhD and hone down the new topic, 2) develop my self-employed career to the stage it has a coherent identity and set of services that I can confidently offer, manage and deliver (and who knows, perhaps be able to employ people as well) as well as delivering on the current contracts I have at the moment, writing them up as case studies (perhaps even forming the basis of academic research project) 3), work closely with academics at UWS and others on projects relating to social media, information management and a community media project towards Glasgow 2014 – and publish at least 2 academic journal articles, 4) sort out finances & think more carefully about what I spend my money on and, importantly, 5) to go on holiday, somewhere abroad – for longer than a weekend (at LEAST 2 weeks) and eventually find a way to travel, for leisure preferably but wouldn’t turn down opportunity to work at the same time.

And with that said, with basic levels of need in place and with the Olympic circus finally out of town, I can now get my head back into being more politically active, especially in Scottish politics and staying more on top of things going on in general. If anything, 2012 has been about surviving more than anything else for me. Social Media has been important, of course, but I’ve thought a lot about how its use has changed for me. And with that, and practice for writing a long document (such as a PhD ;-)), I intend to attempt to write a social media-y ‘how-to’ book this year. Not for any other reason than somebody convinced me that I could do it – and I think it would be fun but challenging thing to do. Why the hell not?

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Week 9: I’m not going to class tomorrow, and I’m the teacher…

I’m in Scotland at the moment for other-work-related things. Which means I can’t be in class for teaching commitments tomorrow. But taking a page out of the Jon Hickman school of teaching, I am not going to be around either. Which should be bad, I should arrange something for the 2nd years in the same way I am for the 1st years, who are getting one of those online classroom discussions via our VLE, moodle. All the technological sophistication of a chatroom in the early 1990s. But that’s e-learning for you. But it’s 10.50pm on a Monday night (at the time of writing) and I’m still working, working on preparing teaching that I won’t even be around to witness. Who said teaching ever had to be in a classroom?

So, here is a sneak peak of my teaching brief for tomorrow, that Paul Bradshaw will hand out to the alternative media students at the start of the class (which they share with his online journalists) – they are going to do something that pulls together *everything* we have talked about and experienced through a 3rd party in the last 9 weeks. Look forward to receiving the invitation.

Welcome to Week 9

We are going to hold an event.

And you are going to plan it. And then host it after Easter.

But don’t be worried, I’ll help you.

So far, every #media2012 hub (there are 6, maybe 7 now across the country) has held an event, reflected in the style and the approaches of the partners involved – usually an educational, arts and community partner involved. Some are high profile, like the launch event in Manchester in October 2010 as part of the Abandon Normal Devices Festival, others have been low-key, but important networking opportunities, like the first meeting in the South West at the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol – and some are part of larger, community events, showcasing local talent like the Citizen’s Eye Olympic-inspired launch during Community Media week 2011. Some events have budgets, budgets (and audiences) connected to the Cultural Olympiad, others have none, working with partnerships instead to provide space to debate and discuss related issues (such as the recent launch of the #citizenrelay project in Scotland, funded by Creative Scotland but part of a no-budget festival called @UWSInteractive) But they are all connected to each other through the #media2012 network, and allow important opportunities for people who would usually connect online using social media, to meet face to face and discuss the opportunities and challenges of running a citizen-media network for an event as big as the Olympic Games.

Your task this week is to research, plan and pitch an event idea that you will go on to organise over Easter and deliver in the weeks when we return. You will find a venue (using partners such as somewhereto.com or the University), invite core partners and design the content and approach to the intervention. You are the event organisers, you dictate the process. You will not have a budget, but you do have my network and contacts through other projects that are occurring as part of #media2012 – you just have to identify them.

By the end of tomorrow, I would like you to decide what you will be doing, delegate roles and responsibilities and to pitch the idea as a short youtube video that can be shared to the #media2012 network as an invitation to the West Midlands. You will also be expected to carry on with your existing roles in the group (so there is also a workshop to be delivered tomorrow and content to be found and uploaded), working to your strengths and promoting the production and the delivery of the event online. I will be available online @jennifermjones or can be called 07738865651 (between 11-1) to advise on specific points.

The video pitch/invitation needs to be uploaded to by end of tomorrow (5pm).

Tips:

  • Have a look at unconference formats, here is a post to get you started.
  • Think about your objectives, you are in the position where you are curating and forming a network that needs to be in place for during games time – beyond the timescale of the assignment. Who do you need to be there? Stakeholders? Potential Volunteers? Partners? Other hub members?
  • Look at other projects which are part of #media2012, what are they doing and how are they doing it?
  • Can you involve others from the class in return for skill sharing?
  • Will your event allow for you to generate online alternative media content? This could be a good opportunity to move from attending and covering other peoples event to getting others to cover yours.
  • Is there possibilities to find funding/sponsorship either internally/externally? It is always worth looking at funding streams but also pitching the importance of your event to the right people. Funding doesn’t always come directly as spending money, sometimes you can gain support through people’s time, useful partnerships and collaboration. Can you provide a platform for others in return for getting the tea and coffee paid for?

Look forward to seeing what you come up with.

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Presentation: Reflecting on Portfolio Careers for Early Career Researchers

Introduction

I was invited by the Oxford University Careers Service to give a presentation on a panel about portfolio careers and academia. I was asked because of the work I have been doing during my PhD and how I have been managing the process as an early careers researcher.

The slides are below, but I’ve also included some of the notes I used during the presentation.

I’ve tend to write quite personally and publicly about my experiences in the past but not so much now as I use my blog for professional context, but I was going through a hard time and gave myself a bit of an emotional battering when I moved to Leicester back in 2007 and I feel that the last few years have been a real turning point in terms of allowing myself to be myself. I say this as it is always in my focus to look after myself and keep myself in a position that keeps myself safe, a major motivation behind how and what I work on.

Context/History

When I began my PhD journey, although there were mumurings, I was not in the position to qualify for a funded place. Due to a number of factors out with my control, and feeling a little coerced into signing up to a PhD at the institution that I studied for my Masters, I started a PhD program part time, without funding and with a teaching assistant job (that I fought for post-MA to keep myself connected to the university) that barely paid for my rent, let alone my fees. I was partly in awe of being considered ‘smart’ enough to be considered for a PhD program, and partly in fear of being flung back into a world that I working hard to leave (at the time I was working in a bar and finding myself slip back into old habits and old expectations.)

I don’t regret it. The position of having to fend for yourself and find solutions to circumstances, quickly, along with watching funded PhD students bask in, what seems like a ‘luxury’ position of knowing where your next pay check was coming in for the next 3 years, only forced me into working harder and to be more creative in how I saw an academic career unfolding.

Through connections that I had made online, I was offered my first research assistant short term contract – alongside a full time 3 month post in new media development within the alumni department of the university – that provided me the funds to pay for my PhD, but not the time to actually do it part time.

When I was offered funding to transfer my PhD to UWS and to undertake it full time, I didn’t think twice about moving but the need to work flexibly alongside my PhD was very important to me. It still is, for a different reason, looking at the way that universities and academic jobs have been threatened by government policy and how phd labour is used to plug the gaps is also another reason to consider a portfolio career. Autonomy is something to be appreciated and to be valued – much like developing a voice through having academic courage to not only develop your thesis, but to challenge the dominant ideas of what an academic career should be. Understanding the value of yourself and how you can play to your strengths is as equally important, although I feel that in the same way that others inspired me to feel as if I can belong in academia, I have a responsibility to be there to encourage others. You take, you give – and there are real rewards in teaching in all sorts of contexts.

What does it entail?

The jobs that I have found myself doing have ranged from the “traditional” phd student roles such as a teaching and/or research assistantship -to more freelance research projects or consultancy. I have built several websites for larger academic research projects and my skills in this area has been one of the reasons that I’ve managed to find myself on larger projects. Recently I’ve been undertaking professional live blogging and capturing services at events, something that I was doing *anyway* through my attendance of things I was interested in, and finding my own way to articulate my own feelings about *ideas* and *stuff* without necessarily putting my hand up and saying it.

My research background is media studies, with a academic focus on new media and the Internet (only when I found out that I could bring my skills in web development into my education, rather than a hobby, during my final year of my undergraduate). When I moved my PhD to UWS, I began working on case studies around the Olympic Games (which has been timely also in terms of finding work) and after completing a PGCert in Higher Education through my part time teaching role, I’ve collaborated on several learning and teaching projects in this area. I tend to keep all the work that I decide to take on linked to one or two of these themes to keep the work that I do relevant to my larger aims of completing my PhD and establishing my self as a researcher beyond that. I am keen to balance between research (preparing publications for the REF), teaching (both research and establishing new methods of teaching), public engagement and practice and development through my interest in the web.

I’ve found myself often working multiple contracts within the same university, at different universities, freelance, consultancy and project based contributions. It is definitely reliant on a change of mindset, but I’ve worked a part time job since I left school at 16 so I’ve kind of conditioned myself to rebel against doing things that feel exploitative (I’ve done all sorts!) and/or treat me as nothing more that a number of a salaried manager’s HR spreadsheet. Worst employee ever.

Managing:

Due to the nature of the work that I do and having a PhD registered in Scotland and living in England, I have found myself travelling quite extensively in the last 3 years. I work a lot on trains and between places, rather than in a static place like a PhD office. It’s a lifestyle that I’ve became accustomed to and I often to prefer to do that instead of being trapped in one place.

I work almost entirely online, trying to avoid paper work and buying stamps (doesn’t always work with universities however) I use the web and social media to stay in touch with people, information, topics and news. I live out of my laptop and my mobile phone – and work abnormal hours and ‘shift’ patterns, rather than trying to pretend that it is a 9-5, Monday -Friday lifestyle. Sounds scary, but it does mean I can take the days off that I want, not the days that everyone else has. I can answer most emails quickly because I don’t have an office to be out of.

Pros and Cons

The biggest attraction of a ‘portfolio career’ is the autonomy that it allows from existing within the cracks of the system. At some stages, I have had a contract at four different universities at the same time – being able to see and compare how different systems operated is an interesting and unique position to be in.

There also can more flexibility than a permanent role. You work with different people on a regular basis and customise your approach as a researcher, rather than an employee of an institution. The flexibility to experiment will always be stronger during the time of the PhD, it is even more so if you are contributing to research as short-term contractual help. Over time, you can build on those relationships and work with the people that you want to, rather than those who happen to share an office with you. It’s a more natural process of collaboration. You can also recommend others if you don’t fit the bill, and I try and find opportunities for people that I know who might fit it better than I could.

This can lead on to collaboration on quite radical and unpredictable projects, which can be much more exciting than data entry or stacking books. Being able to bring your research skills and interests into other people’s projects, often from a different discipline or research area, can transform a piece of work and attempt to break down silos and week as transforming and changing your perceptions in the process.

The downside of a portfolio career is definitely the administration processes. The more institutions and the more work contexts that you take on, the more and differing paperwork appears in your to-do list. If you are working for less than 30 days on a project, contracts are often very different from part time/project specific ones. If you are a crack in the system, it can be often difficult for that system to find you, and more importantly pay you. It is hard for them to understand when they are working in the 9-5 space, including lunch breaks, rather than something that is more ad hoc or on demand. My pet peeve is only being considered to be working when I am physically in a space like a classroom or an office. The association with power, control and physical space is very strong. You need to be ‘seen’ to be working rather than showing and delivering a project over a period of time.

Another potential problem of a portfolio career within an academic context is the seemingly lack of progression. A permanent role have markers and expectations to progress through the system, through research publications, teaching and administrative roles. The portfolio worker have to manage their own expectations of progression in a sense, in order to recognise their own value on projects and tasks. Without knowing what the measurements are, it isn’t always straight forward to tell if you are heading in the right direction. Especially as an early careers researcher, it is difficult to apply for funding, or to publish, without a home institution, so being able to keep a foot in a few doors does help.

Conclusions

Being proactive, seeing opportunities and not waiting for opportunities to appear. I would have a much harder time to to apply for a short term or part time contract coldly through jobs.ac.uk, against others on paper or by interview. I wonder if it is worth the effort, considering it is a fixed term post that may or may not result in more work beyond it.

For me, having heard the way that part time labour is spoken in terms ‘buying in’ support, I find it much more useful, and ‘right’ for me in terms of how I work, to step forward and make myself indispensable and not being scared to present ideas as an equal and get to grips with understanding my own value to a project, and to act as somebody who can have further input on further research, that also needs to be there for the project to work.

If I could imagine myself writing about myself in this way, even 18 months ago, I would be laughing. Having the courage, especially after making mistakes along the way in terms of trust and agreeing boundaries of contract, have had a big influence in this. I can’t say if I would always want to be in this position, but for now, it’s working for me in a range of different ways – ways that I couldn’t have achieved if I had just stayed at my desk throughout the PhD process.

Academic, not public engagement.

Project: Help Me Investigate the Olympics #media2012

Through the work that I have been doing at Birmingham City University and collaboration with Paul Bradshaw on the Online Journalism and Alternative Media module, we have launched a new Help Me Investigate site focusing on the Olympic Games, to provide support, help and resources for people exploring critical aspects of the mega events. Along with Paul, I’ll be curating submissions and adding posts relating to documents, data, links, questions and other information relating to all aspects of the Olympic Games, beyond the remit of sport.

More details about Help Me Investigate is available on Paul’s website, the online journalism blog.

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Countering the Olympics: Reflections from Saturday’s meeting.

One of the winner’s from the Anti-Olympics Poster Competition

Preamble: Before I begin, I’ve written quite a lot about the use of citizen media as a activism tool around the Games – and published a paper on alternatives (including critiques of those alternatives) to the mainstream media for the International Olympic Academy – this is essence of my PhD thesis, that I’m hoping to ‘give back’ to those communities that I’ve taken from over the past 2.5 years through active participation towards facilitating an ‘recognised’ national citizen media network during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. My role as an early-career academic who needs to complete such a project in line with the current rhetoric of higher education and research is in tension between my role as somebody who who has personally become quite outspoken and publically critical of the Olympic movement in a personal capacity. How these roles fit together, I don’t know, but I feel that it is worth declaring agendas before I offer suggestions for potential mobilisation is important for me and allows for others to decide on my position. Regardless, if I say I love or hate the Olympic Games, I can’t help but feel as if I am somewhat moving into a space where I know too much about it to ignore it in an objective, non-political way that some instances of PhD research encourages.

With 6 months to go until the London 2012 Olympic Games begin, Saturday spelled a crucial stage in organising a coherent resistance towards the forthcoming Olympiad. With over 100 people present, ranging from local communities who have been devastated by the impact of the Games on their doorstep over the last 6.5 years to professional NGOs who’s stance is not to be ‘anti-olympic’ but instead using the media awareness and role of the corporate sponsors to draw attention to wider issues at stake. For some, this was the first time that they had met others who were critiquing the games as well. For me, it was a case of putting names to faces of those who I have been following on twitter, or engaging with via email or networked sites. It was clear to me, that through the presentation of ideas and themes, as well as individual campaigns directly or indirectly associated with the Olympic industry, that this was a useful and targeted space to understand what has been done already and what still needs to be achieved in the next 200 days.

Having spent time in Vancouver in 2010, this meeting brought back a lot of memories. Albeit, I wasn’t there in the planning stages – when those who put together the plans for alternative and independent media spaces originally had the idea to work in the realms of citizen journalism to cover alternative narratives of the games. However, it can be tracked in some cases through documentaries such as With Glowing Hearts, blog posts and youtube videos on the run up to 2010. Vancouver was the first Olympic Games to have pre-arranged independent media space(s) ahead of the games beginning – and was situated right in the blip where the IOC weren’t au fait with the notion of widely adopted social media platforms such as twitter and facebook, because up until that point, they felt as if they possessed the control to internet monitor and squash any radical intervention at play. The official twwitter facebook and flickr page was set up DURING the Vancouver Games – now you couldn’t imagine a brand such as the 5 rings ever not having a social media presence.

With 2012, the IOC and LOCOG are all over it. There has been heavy investment to make sure that they at least try to ‘get’ social media, which is evident with their social media for games maker policy (lulz.) But, seriously, the online media will play a big part in the narrative of the games – especially when you have accredited media such as the BBC encouraging recruitment for their own ‘community reporter‘ programs, corporate sponsors such as BT supporting their own team of ‘storytellers‘ and many cultural olympiad programs (including partly #media2012 the project I’m coordinating, in a way) rolling with the citizen journalism angle. There is a reason why citizen media will be ‘sexy’ during the Olympics, as we’ve now reached the point where the act of using social media is far from radical, can be coerced back into the system and radical media alternatives will remain radical and therefore unattractive to the mainstream media.

Kevin Blowe’s account of this weekend hit this concern and theme right on the head, and emphasises the importance of working with and as media in order to try and not only to use the Olympics as a tool to raise awareness of causes, but also to prevent and fight for causes and against the effects of the Olympic shock doctrine on how it transforms bylaws, public space and the rhetoric and acceptance of private security which coming thick and fast in the aftermath of the shock eviction of critical spaces such as the Bank of Ideas early this morning.

So what do we do?

Well, in my capacity of #media2012 coordinator, I know that we are working hard to find and secure a physical space to host an independent media centre during the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games. It will probably be in partnership with somebody else already doing something in this area – as it will take more than providing a space to get it up and running. We are trying to do this across the country, across the ‘official’ 13 olympic region (according to LOCOG) such as in spaces like Weymouth which is a venue city and suffering from the same privatisation as London – but also in arts and cultural spaces who tend to be a good space to provide facilities such as power, computer access and food/drink. I would hope that such spaces could provide a facility to cover, report and engage with activists and ‘mainstream media’ a like.

I’m also aware that there are other politics involved, it is partly an academic project (hence my involvement), some spaces are funded directly by cultural olympiad, the arts council, legacy trusts, NGOs etc. This will not be ideal for some, many, but I’m all for the principle of in, against and beyond and ensuring that as many voices are heard, not sanitized, accepted approaches. In my personal capacity, I want to help and actively seek out a space where these stories of resistance have a chance to be heard by others, that we can help other cities who might be in discussion about hosting the games to reject them, or to pass on the legacy of protest to the next Olympic site – or even other mega event sites such as the Commonwealth Games, happening back home for me.

This is going to be an ongoing discussion for me – but if you are interested in a critique of the Olympic Games and not aware of sites such as GamesMonitor, then that is the first place I would recommend as not only a resource but a place to contribute and add to as a ongoing documentation of the next 6 months and beyond.

Importantly, we should be capturing as much of these conversations as we can. Below is a playlist of videos that I recorded during Saturday’s event (apology for the bad sound, mobile phone quality) and follow this link for a

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Review of the year: If 2012 is about the Olympics, then let 2011 be all about the croquet!

“haw pal, if your no playing get aff the pitch!”

So it is that time of year again – and I can’t believe that we are approaching 2012. It’s always felt so far away. Far away, in the sense that it was the year that i aim to complete my PhD (so therefore my 18 month academic diary is deliberately empty to try and make the writing magic happen) – but also it is the unavoidable year that the UK host the Olympics. I remember the moment when we found out that we had “won” them – long before imagining I would ever be writing a thesis, or attending Olympic-themed events as part of the PhD – and remaining indifferent to it. As in, this event was never going to be for me.

Nor, could I imagine the extent that an Olympic games would take over and dominate the political, economical and social decisions over the last 6 and a half years – especially in the doublespeak way that it is used in the media and government policy. With just over 6 months to go until the event actually happens, it is just going to be ramped up x million on the run up to the Games, until the point where the fireworks of the opening ceremony are lit and the world’s media helps us forget how we got there. I can’t believe how I got here – especially thinking back even several years ago and wondering if I would even get anywhere near London during the games time. It felt like an age away – and now it is here.

This is a bit of a sport-related end of year post – even though I’ve always said that I would avoid writing about sport or anything that reaks of olympic cliches – so consider this a bronze-medal attempt (ew. sorry. can’t do it.) at crappy puns. For instance, if you would have told me at the start of this year that I would be running regularly, I would have came up with some excuse relating to asthma or always being crap at it at school so why bother – and you’d be right, I do have quite bad asthma that kicks me in the lungs when I forget to take my preventer and I was bloody shocking at school, especially at P.E. and organised team sport that involves competition and being the best at something.

See, it sticks with you. Even to the point when you finally feel confident to run a ‘fun’ 5k on boxing day and bottle it completely when you see the same old faces that used to thrive on the competition. You don’t get over it – you find a way around it. There isn’t a winning formula that is going to make you *finally* be that amazing athlete, much to the disappointment of those who campaign for ‘sports for all’ or see things like the Olympics as their giant advertising for a global lifestyle.

Excuse my obsession for actually caring about this dialogue now, if you weren’t paying attention, I travelled to Greece and went to the International Olympic Academy in September- which although was genuinely an experience of a lifetime, was probably the most intimidating thing that I’ve ever experienced. I really wanted to enjoy it- just like I really wanted to fit in, but I just couldn’t bring myself to accept some of the things being said or being taught – and I *really* didn’t want to exercise with other people (the reason to take up running, of course). Not that I felt that I knew better, but when questions were batted away and ideas were left unchallenged in favour of group solidarity – I found myself moving swiftly away from indifference to general disgust   at the notion of an ‘olympic movement’. It made me feel like shit – but I had much to thank for, as what I lost in belief, I gained in confidence in terms of my thesis argument, how I articulate critique and to not be scared to ask questions. It took being pushed to the edge, to be immersed in situations of great discomfort, to be able to truly understand (and reject) some of the writings that I had documenting for my literature review. Contextually, I could accept why people invest in these ideas of ‘olympism’ – and how they become dominant in general media discourse, but I could also see why it is important to be in that space, even if it makes you feel isolated and uneasy.

Twitter (and this blog) was my comrade whilst I was there – almost to the point where I risked offline relationships in order to keep myself sane, too many thoughts that you can’t keep to yourself but don’t have anybody you trust to confide in. Why not publicly confide in 2000+ people? Yeah, at the time, potentially stupid, but now, I don’t know how else I would have go through without it. Was so shellshocked when I got back, it took me about 3 weeks to used to actually hearing myself speak out loud. I had spent an entire month trapped in my own head. I’m allergic to the positive effects of sport and olympism. And that’s ok with me.

The positive side is that such experiences really make you appreciate the spaces where you feel safe, you feel like you can be yourself and don’t feel too guilty about creating echo chambers. And 2011 has provided me with many. I’ve met new friends – and did some cool things. I’ve reconnected with friends back home, people that I’ve not seen since I moved to Leicester and it’s great to be in better places than we were when we last saw each other. I’ve spent time with people who have been proper good friends this year and I’m glad that we know each other. I’ve worked and wrote with people who are just a breeze to get things done with – and that’s been amazing to create your own world, rather than having to accept that things have to be a particular way. It’s been good – and I can see it continuing, great energy – love working on ad-hoc community media projects and thinking critically about what a ‘third university’ might look like.

I got my first article on the guardian website - Angry Young Academics - that I co-wrote withMartin Eve, another PhD student at University of Sussex. I was recently named one of the top ten posts of the year on the higher education network – and I can’t believe that response that we got from it in June – and then again this month as it has been doing the rounds again. Like last year, the assault on education has been particularly close to me, and I’ve found myself speaking and writing about it in relation to my own PhD work.

Done a bit of live-blogging work as well – was asked by Podium, the higher education unit for London 2012 to cover their education conference in February at the EXCEL centre. In October, I joined a team from littlestar to capture the British Council’s Cultural Leadership program in Istanbul – that was pretty nuts, but met so many lovely people from all round the world who are doing amazing things in terms of culture and activism. Wrote some guest posts too:ScraperWikiFUSMIPodium and the British Library (due out in the new year) to name a few. Strangest thing that people actually want to write things for them!

Teaching-wise – I’m now a qualified one (whatever that means?) having completed my PGCert in Higher Education and can now be trusted in front of paying customers (I jest. Only in England.) and to celebrate, I wrote and delivered my own module full of my own ideas and stuff. That was awesome. So was the multitude of guest lectures I’ve delivered this year, with each one making me think about the hows and whys of education – and the best way to do something that is more than a piece of paper and a power point. My favourite was probably the Research Practices 2.0 event at Nottingham University, where I enjoyed letting other PhD students rip my online profile apart for the lols. Don’t want to get too complacent now.

The best thing I’ve done this year has got to be at the Tent City University, that was epic – and hilarious when the Glasgow Evening Times picked up on it as actual news. Spoke about occupying the olympics and used it as a lovely excuse to get cathartic about my Olympic school experiences – including the team GB tracksuit that I now possess. That’s pretty good hacking.

Finally, the year ended with a total of 9 round trips from Loughborough to Scotland in 8 weeks. I have been working on a project in the South of Scotland to deliver social media surgeries to small businesses in the various areas. I’ve been to places I could never image (like New Galloway!) and got to play my own game of “4 in a bed” visiting an array of lovely B&Bs. But really, it was a fantastic experience – namely because we designed and delivered it and it was successful. We had excellent feedback, good connections for the university and felt like something that could be rolled out else where. Plus, the team David McGillivray and Margaret Scott where fantastic to work with! The second part of the project begins in the new year – so they’ll be more to follow.

Phew – I’ve done so bloody much this year than I can’t possibly keep writing, the rest of it is documented on my website (which is great because otherwise I wouldn’t remember it) I’m going to leave you with a list of stuff that I will be doing in 2012. 2013 is pencilled in for sleeping.

As it is the Olympic year, here are just some of my Olympic-related plans for the first 3 months of the year as the #media2012 coordinator and other internet-related stuff.

In January, I am going to become an auntie (which my sister would kill me if I didn’t put that bit first ;-)) Got several research projects to deliver next week (ouch)- the first is an alumni search for graduates working in creative and cultural industries and presenting the results from@UWSDigital work. I’m also live blogging an event in Scotland at the CCA in Glasgow on Creative conversations around higher education – along with setting up several discussion groups around IT and social media in the classroom. Phew. Also working on rewriting my module from last year as it will be incorporated into a larger experiment with Paul Bradshaw’s online journalists. It’s going to be epic – stay tuned for more on that. January ends with theCitizen Eye 2nd Documentary Film Festival, where Richard HallNathan Human and myself are going to try run an entire university in empty spaces of Leicester and film it all in 3 days. Should be good. Join us. This kicks off the alternative olympic program that citizen eye have planned for the entire 2012.

In February, travelling to Aberdeen to see Jo and spend a few days up there. Also start teaching again, where I’ve been invited to join the panel for the 1st year production event at BCU which is themed around the Olympics. After a day of workshops, I’ll get to return in June to see what they come up with. Will also be writing a ton, as I’m determined to get my PhD finished before the funding runs out in September.

In March (5th onwards) will be doing a tour of UWS’s 4 campuses and Glasgow with citizen eye and somewhereto_ to run workshops on citizen journalism and host a pop up dogwoof documentary film cinema. Working on the plans for this just now – as soon as everyone else involves get back from their holidays and turn their out-of-offices off.

So, 2012 – lots to look forward to. With a little bit of running (no croquet, given up croquet), but not really anything to do with actually winning things. And more focus on stuff that is better than sport. And less distracting. I hope we get to meet (again) through the year. Because I haven’t really got a plan past next December. I didn’t think we’d get this far to be honest. Have a good one.