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Slides: Libraries, Mobile Devices and Digital Participation (or a wee social media #peptalk) #digiscot

I was invited by East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust to deliver a short social media #peptalk ahead of their Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) funded digital skills training course to support front line librarians in being able to support the users’ use of mobile devices and other hardware skill support. This came at a timely period as we are in the process of preparing a couple of papers from Digital Commonwealth on the themes of event-led digital participation and supporting information literacy and developing digital skills- and the SLIC training is featured in the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Spreading the Benefits of Digital Participation report from April 2014.

The Scottish Library and Information Council is piloting a national training programme, that aims to enhance the digital skills of frontline library staff. The scheme covers a range of hardware to ensure that staff are equipped to support users of mobile devices. The programme, funded by the Scottish Government’s Public Library Improvement Fund, has been successfully implemented in Inverclyde and North Ayrshire libraries and will now be rolled out nationally. (Spreading the Benefits of Digital Participation, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2014: 50)

The community activist in me loves doing talks like this – especially as it is about ensuring the value of libraries in terms of wellbeing and development remain at the heart of the community, supporting people with their digital tools rather than being replaced by them – for instance, if you stick your postcode into  the SCVO’s fancy new Digital Scotland “Let’s Get it On” site, you will no doubt get a library as your nearest centre. As a sub note (ok, a bug bear!) I think it also worth noting and continuing emphasising the importance in finding space and contexts for people to use the internet and access digital environments in a way that isn’t just to fill out the unsavable, non-refundable universal credit applications that take longer than the allocated time allowed on most public access computers – it grinds my gears.. so anywhere we can make digital participation mean more than filling out forms, the better.

Anyway…

My slides from the talk are below –

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#DigitalAngus – Citizen Journalism and the Commonwealth Games

Last Saturday, I awoke at a time where most of Glasgow was going to sleep (5am!) to catch the first train to Dundee to meet my lift to Forfar for the Digital Angus conference being organised by Third Sector Lab and Angus Council around the themes of social media for community engagement.

As Angus was one of our areas where we were missing a cluster application for the Digital Commonwealth Schools’ programme, this was also an opportunity to come up and actually speak to people face to face to try and see if we could find a set of schools who would be up for joining the process.

Although the Commonwealth Games are based in Glasgow this year, there are also sporting events happening across Scotland; for instance the diving is in Edinburgh at the Commonwealth pool and the shooting is in Carnoustie (which is part of Angus) and has a lot of activity planned for around Games time – from sporting, volunteering, baton relay and educational perspective. Following on from my talk at Digital Agile CLD in Stirling earlier in the week, the fact that Angus was going to be teaming with events and activity on the run up to and during the Commonwealth Games, this would be a great opportunity to catalyse on the power of major events to encourage people to try citizen journalism or digital storytelling for the first time.

Just to change the direction of this post slightly – when I started to write it this morning, I got a tweet from Andy Dickinson about my previous blog post and we had a wee chat about the differences between citizen journalism and digital storytelling in this event context – so I pulled in a few of the tweets below as they got me thinking as I finish editing this post.


Anyway, these tweets plus writing about #digitalangus got me thinking more about the distinctions between citizen journalism (so how we defined Citizen Relay as a project, how we recruited and the type of training that we offered prior to the torch relay) and Digital Storytelling – something is used frequently that can cover quite a lot but we’ve had to nail down quite quickly in terms of producing materials, resources and recruiting volunteers for the project – Blogging, Video, Audio and Social Media as the 4 technical areas, with thematic areas and the ability to embed a community of practice within the process.

The notion of moving from formally training people to become a ‘citizen journalist’ to capture and report on what you see and/or already understand to be -so a major event is great for this as there is a lot of activity and people to capture – to actually developing a course of learning that will provide a set of skills where somebody can not only report on and be a citizen journalist during a particularly that can be used critically and ask questions about things beyond the major event itself – it is a catalyst for signing up and getting involved but what and how they learn will differ in the sense that it should last longer than the major event itself & encourage them to join a ever evolving and growing community of practice online. Building capacity in this way is an attempt to help people connect digitally using a context beyond instrumental function of say, changing to welfare system or using library computers to make a CV.

Anyway, I got a little distracted there – and it is getting late.

My session was a very quick introduction to the Digital Commonwealth project, what we have done so far and what we intend to do into the next 6 months (way!). I then did some simple introduction to making audio and video on your smartphone, focussing on some of the learning we’ve had with working with the Media Trust’s Local 360 project, Citizen’s Eye and  my own involvement with the Wester Hailes Digital Sentinel.

I even got my lovely lift Alison to volunteer to be an interviewee :-)

I managed to stay for the rest of the event, which was great – there is a Storify from the day here and there is an excellent blog post from the final speaker Kenny McDonald that summarises the day. My slides are available here.

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Presentation: Digital Storytelling & Major Events at Digitally Agile CLD Working Group

Last week I was invited by Martin Dewar from Youthlink Scotland to deliver the opening presentation at the Digitally Agile working group who were developing a set of standards for considering social media and digital literacies in a community learning development (CLD) setting in Scotland.

The talk argued that we should look to major events as something beyond the sport, culture and tourism opportunities and instead use them as paradigmatic  benchmark for how (mobile/digital) technology evolves and how community settings can be catalyzed for looking at alternative reporting, narratives and storytelling. It discussed some of the key learning from Citizen Relay in 2012 as a pilot for delivering a national citizen journalism initiative around a major event and moves towards the activity we have planned for the Digital Commonwealth project across the schools, community media and creative voices programmes towards the 6 week (much longer than a 7 day) baton relay across Scotland.
Thanks to the support of the rest of the project team (David, Alison and Gayle) this was also a good opportunity to talk about some of the great projects that have already been submitted and agreed on, a real move from a project that we have been pitching to actual reality that we are going to have schools on Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna researching into other Commonwealth islands and exploring the challenges of training for sporting contests on small islands or producing an online radio documentary about the John Muir trail in Kirkintilloch.
With a particular focus on discussing and critiquing the draft set of National Standards in this area of digital, the event provided the  opportunity to explore how we deliver resources, training and follow up around the 4 areas of digital storytelling that we are looking at (blogging, video, audio and social media), as well as how we motive and accredit these forms of learning through strategies such as Mozilla’s Webmaker and Open Badges.
I got to stay for the rest of the event where we got to discuss the 10 proposed standards (which include practice, policy, inclusion, literacy, evaluation, professional development, co-production, investment, ethics, resources ) in depth, looking at language, approach and how they might sit within our own practice, how they might suit future changes and what might be missing from the descriptions. It was useful from both a perspective of somebody who is part of a team producing educational resources (a handbook of digital storytelling if you may) but also to get an idea where the sector would *like* to head, that across different organisations and authority areas that we suffer from similar challenges (IT governing access for instance!) and what we could do collectively to try and influence change in this area.
For more information about the consultation, the CLD Standards people have pulled together a Storify of the content produced on the #DACLD hashtag

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#rsmconf13

Conference, Researching Social Media (Keynote): Curating a Digital Commonwealth

As part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, this one-day conference on Researching Social Media was aimed at policy makers, the business community, third sector and academic researchers and paid specific attention to methods and analytical approaches.

The conference was held on Monday 4 November 2013 at The Workstation in Sheffield and hosted by the University of Sheffield.

The conference included a keynote panel of leading social science, policy and industry researchers:

  • Francesco D’Orazio (Face Research)
  • Jennifer Jones (University of the West of Scotland, freelance creative practitioner)
  • Gareth Morrell (NatCen, lead on New Social Media, New Social Science? (NSMNSS) Network)
  • Katrin Weller (Information Scientist, GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)

The conference also included three skills labs:

  1. A comprehensive review of different tools available for social media research (led by Farida Vis, University of Sheffield);
  2. Overview of quantitative approaches (led by Mike Thelwall, University of Wolverhampton);
  3. An overview of qualitative approaches (led by Gareth Morrell and Eve Stirling, University of Sheffield).

The conference offers a timely and important overview of different critical methodological and analytical approaches for dealing with social media data in social scientific, reliable ways.

Slides from  my keynote:


Abstract:

This paper focuses on the use of social, citizen and community media as a means of opening up channels of debate and discussion and offering new spaces for critique around major sporting and cultural events.  The paper draws on a case study of a participatory arts and media project #citizenrelay, which formed a strong community of local reporters and utilised everyday digital tools and techniques to cover the arrival of the Olympic Torch Relay in Scotland in the summer of 2012. Over recent years, citizen media movements have used ubiquitous mobile devices, freely available and shareable web platforms and a do-it-yourself ethos to subvert established representations in the mainstream media. Though disparate at times, individuals and collectives are now using hybrid media environments to mobilise, organise and discuss issues pertaining to restricted media frames around mega events, and beyond into other spheres of civic importance. They have, with varying degree of success, exploited the fact that “digital infrastructures offer citizens new channels for speaking and acting together and thus lower the threshold for involvement” (Bakardjieva et al, 2012. pi). The paper will explore how these abstract ambitions and aspirations were translated into practice in the #citizenrelay project. They emphasise the importance of immediacy (of content generation and upload), connectedness (physically and virtually), locality (the origin of stories), empowerment (to become media makers) and participation (the ethos of accessibility) as features of successful citizen journalism initiatives. The paper will conclude with an introduction to the Big Lottery funded Digital Commonwealth project  that focuses on using the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games as a catalyst for enhancing digital literacies and explores the challenges of visualising, amplifying and archiving a project/dataset of this scale.

The Digital Commonwealth Vision:

The ambition of the Digital Commonwealth project is to enhance the capacity of individuals and groups to use freely available mobile digital (and social) media tools and techniques to ensure their voice(s) is heard in a saturated (and often commercially) motivated media landscape.  The Digital Commonwealth project focuses on lowering the threshold for involvement for individuals and groups so that they can be empowered to exploit creative tools and technologies to tell their stories, digitally. The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games provides a unique opportunity to enable (and support) individuals and communities to explore and articulate their own stories. The Games bring attention to issues of global citizenship and identity as a focal point at this important point in Scotland’s history and the project provides a space for a conversation to take place (and be recorded) that includes individuals and communities less well represented in mainstream media narratives. The project activities delivered will develop the foundational skills, capabilities and confidence in the ‘unvoiced’ to ensure they can make a digital media contribution in the lead up to, during, and after the Games.

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Token slides shot.

Presentation: CILIPS 2013 Annual Conference: Social Media for Community Engagement

After their annual gathering in October 2012, I was invited to return and speak to delegates at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals Scotland (CILIPS) Annual Conference in Dundee on the 3rd and 4th of June. I’ve had a good working relationship with CILIPS over the last year, working closely (and enjoying cakes.. whilst plotting hard of course) with Cathy, their director – doing several social media workshops for them at events and taking over some of the web work in the office before they hired their new web and policy officer, Sean McNamara.

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Dundee at 5am from my hotel room.

This time I was asked to speak to a larger audience at their annual conference (I expected a workshop of 20 odd in October, and ended up with standing room only and librarians sitting crossed legged at my feet :-) ) and to focus on practical case studies where I have used social media for elements of community engagement – such as citizen journalism projects, peer-to-peer support and digital inclusion projects.

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Speaking in the ‘big room’.

It was the largest room I’ve presented to in a very long time, certainly since I took time out from my PhD, so it was good to get flung back into the deep-end in terms of presenting work to larger audiences. It was also good to be able to use the presentation as an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between library and information services and the projects I’ve been working on in the last year since #citizenrelay.

As I’ve done something around social media before, I was keen not only to review some of the underlying principles that I had discussed previously in the libraries conference context – but also to ensure that I had time to talk about some of the living, breathing examples that were happening at the moment. I’m often introduced as the person who is going to talk about the new fangle technologies, like social media and the internet is a new thing that needs to be considered – which is ironic really when the first group of people I followed when I started using twitter “properly” in 2008 (been a user since Jan 2007) were librarians.

Similarly, pretty much all of the speakers at this year’s event had online and social media activity embedded as part of what they were talking about, rather than an optional extra tacked on at the end. Therefore, I took time to emphasis the evolution of the online environment and the empheral nature of online services as tools become more ubiquitous, get bought up, chewed up and re-appropriated. We just need to think about the fact that O’Reilly’s (often over-used) definition of “Web 2.0″ is approaching its 10th anniversary!

With reference to social media surgeries, citizen journalism, community new channels and projects such as Our Digital Planet, I emphasised that some of the best projects that incorporate the use of social media as those which focus on developing a critical practice around the tools, especially when they challenge existing ways of working and that often social media as a community engagement tool tends to amplify existing activity – be in an event, an organisation or peer-to-peer learning activity – rather than starting from scratch, or isolating it within a vacuum.

I’ve embedded the prezi from the presentation below for more information:

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Presentation: Stories and Streams at the University of the West of Scotland Learning & Teaching Conference.

Stories and Streams was a project that I have blogged a lot about last semester whilst at Birmingham City University, where I have taught new media theory, alternative media and web production for the last 3 years. We (Jon Hickman, Paul Bradshaw and myself) were funded by the centre of excellent in learning and teaching within BCU to evaluate and transform the pedagogy of teaching media practice modules (such as online journalism, alternative media and web production) and to develop modules that reflect on the nature of the topic, rather than replicating traditional learning structures of classrooms, lectures and workshops. We also managed to hire some student research assistants to blog and capture the classroom activity. That’s the bit I particularly like.

Here is a (nitty gritty urban) video of me chatting about the project with David McGillivray:

Last week I was drafted in to the University of the West of Scotland Annual Learning and Teaching Conference to talk about this project. It has already toured to Winchester University’s Exploring Collaborative Approaches in Media Studies event in April with more outputs to be produced in the coming months for the Higher Education Academy and Media Education publications. Already, we are plotting the next year’s activity, where I am now living in Glasgow (and not able to work in Birmingham anymore) so we are giving up my teaching fee to be managed and spent by the students. Because as they say, students are customers and they obviously know more about what they think they need to know about media practice than me right?

I jest.

but I think it is important to think about what is going to happen in September with the fee regime changing and we are talking serious money/debt to do a degree. And the purpose and point of a university in this space. And all of that in the context of Scottish HE as well now. More to follow.

More on Stories and Streams:

Slides from UWS.
Link to project website
Audioboo with Cameron King about the presentation at UWS

Media2012 West Midlands, 29th-30th June (event born from Luke Seager (a student on the program) assessment brief)

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