Mini in a bush

A PhD in greyhounds riding a tall ship #oneyearon

This morning I had a notification from Linkedin that I had a work anniversary. It’s not only a year since the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games opened but it has been 4 years since I started working at UWS as a …  I don’t know, captain zero hour multi-project wrangler, making it over 3 years since I moved back to Glasgow and nearly a year in this flat – which also makes it nearly a year since I officially became a red-headed greyhound adopter. Yay, greyhounds!

Professional greyhound whisperer NVQ 3
Professional greyhound whisperer NVQ 3

These sort of time stamped anniversaries offer a kick up the arse when it comes to reflecting on where you are at, what you have achieved and where you want to be – and to blog about it, naturally. I’ve not wrote anything since May, but it is not to say I haven’t been writing. In fact, I’ve been hibernating from a social life for the last 3 months, growing my hair and eating 85% dark chocolate, writing (and reading, lots of stuff)- and when I bump into people, they ask me things like…

“How you getting on with the PhD?”

Rather than quivering and deflecting the question… Well – On May 31st, I submitted 40000 words of my PhD. A symbolic submission, I’m sure – I still have a long way to go – and only a short period of time, part time, to finish it whilst keeping the money flowing in. But 40k was a big deal for me. 3 years I stopped. Dead. 2 years ago, I wasn’t registered, I couldn’t even open the document and I was sans supervision team. Now I’ve went from nae words I’d want anybody read, to submitting drafts of 7(!) chapters and now at a stage where I’m reforming those words, learning my theorists and getting my research design and data modelling tight. I feel like I’ve definitely over that hump of “will I ever finish?” and now at the stage where it is just a question of when.

When? Well, I’ve been saying I want a full 80k draft by September, but I’m going to aim for the end of the year – because I’m at that stage where writing “insert reference here” won’t do, and I need to actually go and put that damn reference in, and I need to know why that reference, not that reference and what is all that reference is about. My endnote database is looking bang tidy.

Between now and September the 10th, I need to be working on refining what I’ve written based on the feedback I’ve received from my supervisor. It’s a big task, but now I’ve established that it is a case study, rather than an ethnography, I feel it just fits better and everyone (well, me) is happy.

The on September the 10th, I am going to Japan with my supervisor Rowena Murray and her other PhD student, Alison McEntee.

We are visiting Osaka University to take part in an intensive week of academic study skills with their graduate school – as well as delivering a presentation on our work. I’m delivering a short session on social media and academic literacies. Whilst I’m there, I’m planning on visiting Tokyo when I’m out there to make connections with some of the alternative media communities ahead Tokyo 2020 Olympics/Paralympics that can connect with what I’ve been looking at PhD-wise.

So yeah, exciting!

I’m looking forward to writing retreat beginning again in September, I’ve been missing my monthly trip to Gartmore.

“What are you working on at the moment?”

As always, my occupation has been rather flexible, made up a number of short term contracts and freelance work – that’s ranged from research assistant, film making, digital media tutor, community media training and project management.

I’m currently working on a small piece of research for my school (Media, Culture and Society) at UWS, looking to develop and recommend a social media strategy to support research and impact activity within the school. It’s been a really interesting process so far, especially exploring the different forms of social media strategies within an academic context. This will be wrapped by the first week in August.

At at the same time, I’ve been a research assistant on the ongoing research project ‘Leveraging ParaSport Events for Community Participation’, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for Canada and Sport Canada. This will conclude in August with a series of focus groups speaking with host city volunteers from Glasgow 2014.

My role as the project coordinator for Digital Commonwealth is sadly coming to an close at the end of this month. I’d been working part-time on concluding the project since January, which has involved taking part in a number of presentations (such as being part of a keynote for Education Scotland in March), running and taking part in a community media archiving symposium and working on completing the final outputs for the project. This included coordinating and taking part in the filming and production of the Digital Commonwealth documentary that was produced by Peter Murray from the Media Trust. The last bit of work on the project involves putting together a physical memory box to send out to those who took part, containing the documentary, a copy of the Digital Storytelling handbook, the creative writing anthology and a CD of song produced by those who participated in the community songwriting workshop.

 

It’s been a real pleasure to see a project like Digital Commonwealth from idea to delivery to completion – and I’m glad I was able to stay on the project until the end. I’m hoping to continue working in project management, especially with an academic focus, as it not only allows me to take part in a whole variety of different things, but I also enjoy writing and disseminating work about the process through journals and conferences.

As a project team we already have one article accepted for publication by the Leisure Studies journal for a special issue on youth and digital cultures, entitled “Digital Commonwealth: Young people, digital media making and critical digital citizenship.” 

‘Eh, did I not see you posting about being on a tall ship?”

Yeah, that was … random.  I have been working as a sessional Digital Media tutor within Z1 Girvan Youth Bar as part of the Ayrshire Youth Arts Network, to increase opportunities for 11-19 year olds to participate in arts and creative media within their local community (and there is a separate blog post to follow about that…) … and thanks to my PVG, I happened to be in the right place at the right time when the opportunity came up to sail with the Jubilee Sailing Trust as a buddy for two young people from trust.

HNC in being a pirate boat captain
HNC in being a pirate boat captain

I’m still in the process of editing together a short film I made whilst we were on board –  so I’ll update again once I’ve got through my editing queue. It was such an amazing experience, even though I had the ‘sea boak’ (and proceeded to write about it for the ship’s (b)log here), I also created a record of the trip for z1 using the hashtag #z1tallships. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a journey that warrants its own hashtag.

“What’s next then?”
Yeah, still hibernating – got a number of projects that I need to wrap up, get off my desk and move on from. I’m hoping this will be the final push for the PhD, it has been over half a decade of my life and I’m ready to complete now. I’m also looking to apply for my senior fellowship at the Higher Education Academy, and get a few more academic publications under my belt. I’d like to begin working on a few new things, in particular work related to digital literacies, both in and outside of the university – and connecting the dots between projects – so things are a little bit more joined up in approaches. I’m looking forward to speaking about digital storytelling in Belfast in August (more details to follow) and attending the What’s next for Community Journalism? symposium in Cardiff in September – with the premise of working on a solo article for publication.
Running late for my next workshop, so best finish how I started with a picture of a greyhound being daft.
Mini in a bush
Mini in a bush

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Event report: Keynote for Education Scotland Social Studies Digital Learning Day #digilearnscot

As part of the outputs from the Digital Commonwealth project, David and I were invited to deliver one of the keynote’s for Education Scotland‘s Social Studies Digital Learning Day (#digilearnscot)

The event was broadcast live on Glow Scotland (the virtual learning environment for schools in Scotland) but we were asked to record the talk again so it could be embedded in other places too. The below video gives an overview of the project and key learnings/challenges from the perspective of the schools programme. It also gives wider insights in terms of delivering a similar digital literacy project of this scale.

The schools programme promoted digital media literacy skills through a series of in school training workshops, using readily available technology to help pupils tell their own stories through blogs, video, audio and social media. As part of their participation schools received learning materials (the digital storytelling handbook) enabling schools to built upon for future school projects and creating a legacy.  The materials including topics such as e-safety, copyright, active citizenship and media ethics which help pupils use their imagination and knowledge to produce creative, appropriate and engaging content.

 

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dove centre fire

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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PhD writing

What I need to write about during January 2014

First post of 2014, a particularly important year for me as I’m working full time on a project with “Glasgow 2014″ in the job description. Eek. Secondly, 4 years after I initially collected my data from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics (after a year out in 2013!) I am returning to my PhD (part time) to complete the write up and get it off my desk for good.

Just two more days (a weekend!) until I am back to work, readdressing my swelling inbox and trying not to think about just how many workshops, events and training days and materials I need to coordinate before the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Until then, I am using my precious me time to set a-side some public writing goals to help me work through the PhD deadlines (evenings and weekends only) alongside preparation for writing retreats and days of focus.

I intend to do one of these posts every month, ticking of what I managed, what I intend to do next and how much I need to do until I have finished the bloody thesis.

A reminder of my PhD focus:

I updated my PhD abstract at the last writer’s retreat, I will probably have another bash at it by the end of the month but for those who need reminding, this is what the main focus on my PhD is about:

From Vancouver 2010 to Glasgow 2014: Major events as a catalyst for community-led media production

The thesis seeks to identify and evaluate the catalytic effect of mega events on community-led media generation and citizen journalism in host city and nation environments. Major events such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games allow us to track the rise and maturity of new media platforms as institutions and organising committees adapt and react to profound changes to the media ecosystem where audiences become co-producers of the media experience. Since the growth and maturity of social media platforms and emergence of easier to access mobile and digital tools for networking and self-publication, granular narratives can emerge through alternative communication channels out-width established platforms such as newspapers, television and accredited broadcasters.

The thesis tracks these forms of independent or alternative narratives across 3 major events; the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, the Olympic Torch Relay for London 2012 and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and will demonstrate the catalytic effect of major events can have on independent/interactive/citizen-led forms of media. 

But having spent 8 hours reorganising my primary data for Vancouver 2010 (and the writing retreat was the first time I touched my PhD in a year – after 18 months intense work on the London 2012 Summer Olympics and now onto Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games). I might just still to one case study – this is a decision I need to make in the next few weeks, the xmas holidays have been brilliant for giving me some distance to actually think.

Anyway…

Personal Writing Tasks for January 2014: 

Ethics Form -> Methods Chapter:

My main focus this month is to draft a departmental ethics form for my PhD research. As it was an ethnography, I should have completed this before I went to Vancouver in 2010, however, this did not happen – and I don’t want to dwell (and I’m not sure this particular form existed or was even required when I started my PhD) – and instead I am looking to develop a strategy to complete a series of interviews with key participants who I encountered during my 6 weeks of Games time. I have collected most of my research diary, social media outputs (tweets, photos, blog posts, video) (which I guess I can call “live field notes” now, thanks by this fantastic blog post from Tricia Wang at Ethnography Matters), pdf archives from blogs and news sites, favourites and lists of videos and photographs and emails sent and received during the time I was in Vancouver – 1st of Feb to 7th of March 2010 – and inserted them into Evernote, with some basic tagging and notes to accompany them. This will form the basis of a timeline of activity, made up of media content, social media content and focused around my own experience during the Vancouver Games, with a particular focus on alternative media outlets and social media as a source for citizen generated news stories. Therefore, the interviews I will be requesting ethical approval for will be used to triangulate my primary data, giving people involved the opportunity to reflect on the experience, what were their motivations for becoming a citizen journalism and what came next?  I will be using the writer’s retreat I am attending on the 17th-19th Jan to work on this form and to develop my methods chapter some more.

#LegallyHigh

My second focus is to prepare an abstract for the Leisure Studies 2014 conference in July 2014 – which is being hosted at UWS (I’m on the organising committee). I’m working with Kieran (my partner – who is an alcohol and drugs policy researcher) to develop a paper on legal highs and mapping perceptions on social media. We collected the social data last year during a Channel 4 programme called “Legally High” and we are now about to begin the analysis. I will be coming from the methodological angle, particularly inspired by the ESRC Research Social Media Conference I had the privilege of speaking at last November. I’m into doing something with a relatively small data set, which isn’t attached to a mega event and allows me to explore some of those critical issues associated with Twitter research. The deadline for the abstract submission is at the end of the month so we’d like to have submitted pretty soon.

Work Writing Tasks for January 2014

As I blogged before Christmas, I have been working on developing educational resources for the Digital Commonwealth project, with a particular focus on how we can use Open Badges during the process. Amongst other things, my main writing task for work this month is to draft an outline for a Handbook of Digital Storytelling that focuses on social media, blogging, video and audio that our recruited trainers can use to help teach digital literacies skills to participants on the project. This needs to be outlined ahead of a Digital Storytelling Symposium that we are organising at the Big Lottery HQ on the 24th of January.

Phew.

Anyway, I’m sick as a dug and full of the cold from excessive chilling so I am going to enjoy my final two days off (after 16 full days off from work, first time since I left secondary school!) and then get cracking. Cheerio.

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