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Workshop: Social Media for ASBCI Student/University Network (on behalf of @SkillsetSSC)

Through my recent work as part of the UWS Skillset Media Academy, I was recommended by Skillset Scotland to Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) to lead workshops on Social Media to their student and College / University Network at the University of Huddersfield and De Montfort University. Today (8th Feb) I spoke at Huddersfield.

 The overall aim of the sessions are to give an introduction to social media in the context of fashion and textiles industry, by demonstrating forms and practices through the use of free (and easy to use) online platforms. Rather than focusing on tools and the how to use tools, I used a range of ideas, contexts and case studies to explore the use of social media platforms that would be currently used as a personal space and more them towards a network-based professional environment. Rather than telling students “not” to do something, instead I encourage them to think about being searchable, contactable and letting their legacy of their online behavior reflect what would like to achieve in their chosen career.

The slides from the session are below and can be used in various contexts (beyond fashion and textiles) as the focus is less on the industry and more on creating personalised professional environments online.

I will be delivering similar workshops for the Fashion and Textiles department at De Montfort University in Leicester on the 22nd February.

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Why I went on strike yesterday. #ucustrike

(photocredit from UCU Action Live)

Yesterday I was on the University and Colleges Union (UCU) picket-line at DMU from 8-12, protesting in solidarity with other institutions around issues of pay and pensions. Up until last week, I didn’t know I could be part of the UCU due to the nature of my sessionality (I work part time, in different roles, at several institutions) and the fact that I only get paid hourly (limited support for holidays, limited support for sickness – I just go without a wage in January) – I’m also a “funded” PhD student (on a half bursary which certainly doesn’t increase with the cost of living) so essentially could define myself as a ‘freelance’ lecturer/researcher. In fact, somebody once suggested that I register as a contracter and deal with universities as if I was an outsider, billing them for my time and outputs (not a route that I wished to go down) – a cash-in hand academic. 

I am a student and a part time lecturer and exactly the type of person who (when I finish my PhD) be expected to work in an academic institution where the students will be carrying a burden of debt larger than I could ever imagine taking on myself (even if when I was 16 I had an idea what higher education actually might be), where my subject area and research interests will be considered unprofitable by the ‘market’ and all these bonkers, and frankly transformative experiences which have made me who I am during my PhD will be considered as disruptive and out-of-place as any other commerial, private business I’ve worked for in the past. My postgraduate survey asks me (on behalf of the position that my university will suffer in the ranks if I do not fill it out) if I my institution’s postgraduate degree has (finally) prepared me for the world of the work system. Tick a box. Agree or disagree. Nothing else. This is before I even get into the issue of what I get paid, what I prepare for the future and what rights I’ll have in this new world.

But with support from my colleagues, I found out that not only could I join the union, but also UCU offered a wide range of support and action around people like myself who exist between the cracks of the institution (which is not always a bad thing – I get a lot of ‘freedom’ to explore things that I wouldn’t get to do if I was tied to just one place) – union support is just not built into the literature that comes with a monthly time-sheet where I am expected to quantify the amount of time I spent thinking about stuff that I deliver in the classroom into 3 or 4 hour chunks. I guess it is also worth noting that none of my family have been in unions (all but a small minority have worked in the private sector) and my involvement in Scottish student politics got as far as a NHS woman’s conference where I didn’t feel like I identified with enough -isms to contribute to the (same old?) organisational structure of the event.  

Not only did I feel like it was my duty to strike, to withdraw myself from the labour market for the day (although what does an academic do when it is on strike?) I felt that it was my duty to make explicit my concerns about the future of the university and higher education. Or society in general. Who knows? As I said before, I have no experience of striking, nobody in my family ever has (so I can’t ask them), I had no idea what to expect nor what to do – and reached my decision on my own consensus based on the thoughts I’ve been having for a long time (yet possible struggled to articulate) Working through my PhD research which was orginially framed in the context of transformative work practices of creative industry workers (thanks to digital technology) and the conflicting nature of mega media events have on the transformation and privatisation of space under the guise of ‘solidarity’ and (potentially) psuedo-philosophical concepts has led me here (and should help me finally articulate my first chapter – I’m obsessed with the purpose of the university in the whole of this madness. Embedded research, removed from institution, crossing between environments, shutters coming down, technology as an enabler – it frames the whole thesis, it is to even be a considered a hardback beyond the viva anyway..)

So strike I did – and I listened to the excuses and the apoligises for the people who decided to cross the picket line. Some were like me, and identified as freelancers – who had travelled miles to teach one class a week, others didn’t agree with what we were doing (but didn’t articulate exactly why – they didn’t have to), some had arranged ‘guest speakers’ who could only speak on the same day as national union action (did you really need the university building spread your message, probably), some thought it was a selfish act, some didn’t agree because they had essays or lectures or work they needed to be doing – they wanted their university education. The line was symbolic – but gave me an idea that the world that I was feared might come has always been here – just I didn’t feel so alone in it. My pocket was buzzing from support towards the third university, many other universities were tweeting about their solidarity, students were occupying and for once the physicality of the environment did not matter. It did not matter if people felt they had to take an important phone call as they passed us – avoiding eye contact, it did not matter when a young girl shouted at us for handing her a leaflet about the strikes or when others blogged about why they weren’t striking (using terms like selfish and dissapointing towards the action of the UCU)  as or many years we’ve expected to put up and shut up around the situations which are local to, that we are phsyically attached to, the person we live and work beside – and if they don’t agree, then it is time to quieten down and accept that things have to change in the way that is dominant. We have instruments such as the mainstream media to provide us with those community experiences and group concenseus on topics, with the news focusing on football and celebrities before social unease (unless it involves “troublemakers”) – the media is an educational tool and anybody that questions that purpose is participating in an act of soft pointlessness. 

So why did I strike really? When I called my mum on the drive up to Scotland last night, I said I did it because I want to show that I appreciate the help and support they’ve given me to allow me to be in the position I am in order to make decisions about my position in the system (where there struggles may have been around different contexts) and that I want to stand beside anybody who believes that the privatisation of spaces which exist for transformative good is intrinsicly wrong. I’m also about alternatives and how we can use what is available to us in order to achieve great things – so perhaps the symbolic nature of protecting the building in which the university is housed is not the right action (although powerful in its device to communicate unease) From now on, I will be there without question – regardless of how much stuff I need to catch up on.

Under my watch, I want to pass on whatever the hell somebody passed on to me to make me feel this way about the world (not what I think about the world – there are no experts), something I’ve always felt uncomfortable with in the past but now beginning to accept is part of who I am. You have to be a particular type of crazy to reject the system as it stands, but I like it.


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#media2012: Citizen Media and the Olympic Games (Presentation for DMU, 9th Feb)

On the 9th of February, I was invited to give a paper as part of the open research seminar series at De Montfort University’s Media and Communications department. It’s been a timely week to speak some more about #media2012 (following our involvement with the Podium Olympics, HE and FE conference on the 8th – more to follow) – and I was really excited to present to and (finally) meet with some of the other people from my department (I work a couple of hours a week at DMU, but I rarely get the chance to participate in school activities…)

I gave a brief introduction to the range of non-sporting themes that we can look at when assessing the Olympic Games as a topic of research. I also touched on using the games as a lens in which to assess media technological change, using ethnographic case studies from Vancouver to illustrate some of the work I intend to look at on the run up to London and in my role as a researcher and as the coordinator of media2012.

There were some interesting (and very helpful) questions from a range of perspectives – such as how we consider a media event in the digital age, as if the activities of #media2012 could be considered as a reversal of the centralised construction of Dayan and Katz’s (1994) seminal text of media events, the activities and the participation within a decentralised network is sparked by the Olympic Games as a media, but are not necessary constructed a shared narrative for a shared audience. Secondly, there were discussions around how a potential typology for those who are considered to be “citizen journalists’ – it is evidently that there is no clear definition between the ‘pure’ citizen media maker, the media activist and the role of the professional journalist. There are many shades of grey in between, especially those who may consider themselves to be professional media makers anyway. Atton’s (2002) Lastly, there was questions around methodological approach -something I tend to be encountering more frequently but I’m tackling and exploring over time.

There is an element of participate observation, but not in a convential sense as my position as a researcher moves between online and offline, is native depending on my environment and requires me to be a great deal active in the facilitation of what might happen during games time. Games time is also a key factor, where the really interesting and orginal research is being conducted at this intense, almost surreal time of city transformation. When I had to go to Vancouver, I was only 3 months into my PhD, I did not follow convention time structures and plans before I conducted my initial data collection – instead it was a process of collecting as MUCH as I could. It was a messy, fulfilling and structureless process – I let the city and the Olympics experience guide me – and I kept that process in a diary, through photos and my engagement with the communities. Sure, it was my games experience – but something I needed to do in order to put the large amounts of digital data I collected from social media into a reasonable context. On that note, much as the recent activities in Egypt (and around research into resistance, social media and activism) it is very difficult to explore and research such engagement from a distance – so would be interesting to find out who is doing something around this in this ’embedded’ nature.

Anyway, it’s going to be fun to explore some of these ideas in #mc539 over the coming weeks – the slides from yesterday are below!


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