It’s very interesting to see how Peter Jackson is using technology as an integral part of the film making process. Watch the last part of this production diary to see how hand-held camera is combined with virtual environments.
It’s very interesting to see how Peter Jackson is using technology as an integral part of the film making process. Watch the last part of this production diary to see how hand-held camera is combined with virtual environments.
So Boris Johnson has caused a kerfuffle with his jibe “The harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.” According to The Guardian “Johnson mocked the 16% ‘of our species’ with an IQ below 85 as he called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130.” Johnson’s intention, according to The Independent was a call to “a new generation of Brits to embrace greed and snobbery as a ‘valuable spur to economic activity’ during a speech where the London Mayor paid tribute to Thatcherism.”
In Johnson’s rambunctious manner, not only did he put his finger on the direction of future political schisms in terms of ideology, but he also set the battle-lines for a geographic tussle that could split the nation along a north-south divide, or more specifically a South East and the rest-of-us-divide. Big stuff, you might say, but then an antagonistic case has to be made as an alternative to Boris’ essentialisation of inequality and the moral and geographic determinism on which it is founded. The Telegraph quotes Johnson as saying “I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses and so on that it is a valuable spur to economic activity.”
Let me point to a couple of features of this discussion that might lend them to the response that needs to be articulated in opposing this latest salvo of the ideology of muscular liberalism that Johnson represents. The Spirit Level argument is one notable starting point, based as it is on the proposition that the more unequal a society is, the worse it does in terms of economic performance. The recent OECD report into levels of literacy in the developed world, highlights the correlation between degraded levels of equality and the reduced levels of performance in basic skills. Put bluntly, the more unequal the resources of society are shared, the less likely that people will achieve the requisite levels of capability that will enable them to play a role in an economically dynamic economy, thus making us all poorer.
Johnson’s belief is founded on a moral fundamentalism that sits at the heart of muscular liberal thinking. It was expressed bluntly by Boris, and runs along the lines that it is each individual’s strength of aspiration and the extent to which they are willing to strive in the marketplace which justifies the rewards that they receive. This is an a priori worldview in which the moral virtue of the striver goes without challenge. The wealth creators get where they do, not because of luck, privilege, bias and the platform that was put in place from which they can operate, but instead because they are de facto morally superior and therefore deserve the rewards they get. The winners in our society get the wealth they have because they are due the reward for being better people than the rest, is the argument. They are, as Johnson describes, the ‘cornflakes’ who are capable of rising to the top of the box, and they deserve to be there.
What this argument ignores, though, is the fact that the cornflakes box is riddled with bias, hurdles and barriers that keep the lower cornflakes in their place, and enable the cornflakes that start off from a higher vantage point to maintain their differential place. The undeserving cornflakes, by contrast, can only expect to remain in the lower part of the box because they are accordingly held to be morally inferior. In Johnson view those at the bottom of the cornflakes box lack the ambition and the moral drive that the strivers possess, and so they must know their relatively subordinate place and keep within the segregated layers that suit their status in life. All the lower cornflakes can do is watch with envy as the morally superior cornflakes enjoy the rewards and opulence that comes with their inherent moral value.
Except, the conditions in which the cornflakes that rise to the top are not so clear-cut. As a philosophical mind-game I can see the sense in arguing that those who are capable of rising to the top are able to do so, but only if those who are at the top are equally capable of losing their foothold and falling to the bottom. This would be a virtuous cycle of replenishment based on merit, but I don’t think Boris is actually arguing for that to happen, is he? How radically Thatcherite it would be if Johnson argued for a dismantling of the mechanisms of wealth perpetuation? If Johnson was arguing that we should take apart the infrastructure of privilege and pre-selection that is inherent in the British social and economic system, then I might be willing to accept his argument as a worthy challenge to the prevailing social order. One that many other radicals could support.
Rather than calling for the expansion of the selection process in education and the widespread return of the grammar school system, Johnson would instead, if he was genuinely Thatcherite, argue for the removal of all forms of selection based on social bias. He would introduce lotteries and the redistribution of resources so that those with the innate IQ (if such a thing is possible), wherever they are found, could realise their potential based on an equal ability to compete based on merit. This is not a world in which who your parents are would make any difference. Nor would the connections your family have in the professions make any difference. Nor would your ability to pay for additional tutoring, or to go to private schools, or to receive any financial and status benefits that the state offers in terms of tax breaks above those of the average. Without sounding like a communist, Johnson’s moral economic radicalism would call into question the structural protection of property rights and the reinforcement of inheritance regimes.
But Johnson is calling for none of these things. Instead he is pandering to the South East mind-set in which those people who live in one part of the country that have benefited from the post-war, mid-twentieth century, geo-political realignment. Johnson is their champion and wants them to continue to benefit. Before World War Two the wealth of the UK was created in its Northern and Western industrial regions. Coal mining, steel, textiles, wool, manufacturing and shipping, was focussed on Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Cardiff, Liverpool. The South East was essentially an agrarian bread-basket. London was a port and a centre of banking. The latter half of the Twentieth Century saw a reversal of these fortunes, with London primed as a service industry hotspot by Thatcher and Blair. The shift in geo-political power was due to the closer integration of Europe and the development of information based technology services. The rest of the United Kingdom was left to fend for itself. Industrial policies were restricted. Regional policies were emasculated. The independence of our once mighty northern cities was curtailed. No wonder the Scots are voting for independence!
If you owned land or property in the South East of England its value increased in the post-war period purely by a coincidence of geography and economic realignment. This increase in value had nothing to do with the individual appetite of people to strive, or the moral virtues held by the people who had ownership of these lucky assets. It was a lottery win. Purely a chance win in the lottery of life. Being in the right place at the right time. But Boris Johnson doesn’t want you to think about this. In Boris’ world the wealth was created by people who wanted it more, and who would do anything to maintain their relative differential with fellow citizens. This political and economic difference could be magically wished away, because they could more readily be reduced to a moral justification that maintained the relative structural differentials whatever the cost.
This greed is good mentality is based on ensuring that other people can’t compete,being cut off from a fair distribution (pre- and post-) of resources. Usually taking the form of admonishment, people are berated for not pulling their socks-up, getting on their bikes or being skivers, despite the fact that relative effort does not receive a proportional outcome. Employment displaced people aside, many people under this system are able to work less and still receive more, regardless of the the relative moral status of their claim.
The legions of Borisbots who invest in the South East of England do so because the tax breaks are generous. The Council Tax remains unreformed, despite the gross unfairness of the ratings system and the fact that there hasn’t been a market re-evaluation since it was introduced in 1992. As a property tax this scandalously takes money and demand away from the diminished north and further pump-primes the south-east. Likewise inheritance tax remains unchallenged and is shot-full with so many loopholes that money cascades from one generation to another with barely a murmur. Our judiciary and senior positions in the civil service remain full of people drawn from private schools. The elite universities continue to be stuffed with people from privileged backgrounds. You can see where I am going.
Yet if you are bright and from a modest background, your chances are squeezed. Paying for tuition fees, the removal of Educational Maintenance Allowances, the Bed Room Tax, hikes in public transport costs, the increase in under-employment, temporary contracts, a hire-and-fire attitude with no protection and little access to law and redress. Credit has fuelled the feel-good factor. Property speculation is being driven up to further boost economic activity in the South East. The Bank of England is slamming on the breaks in the hope of stopping the bubble bursting. Michael White of The Guardian warns Watch out, Boris. You are playing with fire – fire that may be tempted to burn down Eton just to prove it’s on the people’s side.”
So less of the lectures about the moral virtue of greed please Boris. If you really want to be a radical you will have to challenge the sacred-cows of conservative England, and the perpetuation and retention of wealth and opportunity by a diminishing super-elite. The level of inequality that we have in the United Kingdom is unsustainable and will lead to the social bonds being stretched to the point of no return. This is not a way to build a sustainable economy and it is not the way to justify what are otherwise morally reprehensible, deterministic and borderline fascistic comments about the individual capabilities of our fellow citizens. No doubt Boris can relate this to ancient Greece or Rome better than I can, all I would say is that we must be beware polybian demagogues!
[Update] Andrew Rawnsley has followed this story in his column in The Observer, in which he points out that Boris is repeating a well established trope – one played out in Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World. Rawnsley points out that “the real problem here is with the implied conclusion that the poor are poor because they are born stupid, the rich are rich because they spring from the womb destined to be that way, and there’s nothing much anyone can do about it except to urge the wealthy not to be too “heartless” and let a few of the talented poor into the elite.”
Last night I attended the recording of the BBC Leicester debate ‘What’s Next for Leicester?’ after its bid to become the UK Capital of Culture 2017 failed. As a structured debate the BBC are expert at bringing people together to consider a controversial subject in-depth. This should have been a vibrant and dynamic discussion about the cultural activities that matter, not only to ordinary citizens and residents, but also to people who want to push ahead and take a lead in arts and culture in the city. Instead, this debate was sterile and had about as much passion as a group of accountants trying to settle a bill at a business development seminar.
The panel included Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester’s mayor; Cllr Nick Rushton, the leader of Leicestershire County Council; Fiona Allen, chief executive of Curve theatre. Aminata Kimara, Artistic Director of Unidentified Drama theatre company, and James Bowen, MD of the Belmont Hotel. The recording was tucked away on the top floor of Curve, in one of the private seminar rooms, with an audience that was brought together by invitation only, based on a carefully controlled list of attendees. Perhaps this is representative of the wider issues of cultural and economic debate in Leicester?
There was no strong creative voice expressed on the panel, and no testimony by grassroots creative practitioners to relate this debate to the experiences of creative artists and activists who struggle to get by in Leicester. The debate and discussion focussed, instead, on the problems of booking hotel rooms and planning a ‘brand’ for the city. Important as these things are, I can’t help but think that this is putting the cart before the horse. Where is the creative leadership? Where are the artists, and writers and producers and developers of creative content, performers, activists and events planners? Surely an ethos of creative ambition and intention – dare I say a manifesto – needs to be articulated before the debate is turned to models of organisation, business planning and marketing?
There was no mention during the discussion of what actually takes place in Leicester. Look at Pedestrian, Off The Fence, Leicester Peoples Photographic Gallery, Handmade Festival, among many other groups. Then there is FD2D, The Monograph, Arts in Leicestershire, and [the bizarrely titled] Leicester: It’s Not Shit, who are telling the story of how Leicester’s arts and creative communities work and what makes them interesting – and have been doing so for a long time. Did any of these groups get given any acknowledgement or recognition in the official debate? If I was being unkind, I’d say that the expectation is that the community arts and grassroots creative champions are expected merely to sit in the audience and listen to the executive managers devise a strategy on their behalf, and then they are expected to act as ‘brand ambassadors‘ for something that they don’t feel they belong to, didn’t help form, and yet are still expected to be grateful for, even when it doesn’t work in their interest.
Would the debate be stronger if it brought together people who practice art and creative performance in the city? Would it have been a stronger debate if the people who administer and manage the infrastructure had taken seats in the audience instead? Who is empowered to speak in this debate is as important as what they speak about? Where are the young people? Where are the voices that are marginalised? Where is the challenge to the people who hold the purse strings and make the spending decisions?
I wonder, though, that Leicester has missed the boat when it comes to the creative economy debate? Does there need to be a de-coupling of the economic and the cultural regeneration debate in the city? Would Leicester be better served by cutting its arts and culture free from the professional management organisations and allowing them to find their own feet? Would the regeneration money be better spent on technology infrastructure, on transport infrastructure, on environmental development? The point was made well on Jim Davis’ BBC Leicester phone-in this morning: ‘If people don’t have cash in their pockets to spend, they can’t be going to events and theatre?’ If you can’t get a cheap bus into the city then you are cut-off from what’s on offer. Perhaps solving these problems is less attractive and brings less glamour, but its a whole lot more important.
Realistically, Leicester has to face up to the fact that other cities are doing the creative economy thing better, and have stolen a march by building infrastructure and networks that have more pull and a stronger sense of identity. Investing in challenging creative activities is not just about spending money on prestige buildings, it is about creating space for people to share and experiment. Other cities, though, have put massive amounts of money, time and expert investment into their infrastructure, buildings, services and communication networks. Leicester doesn’t have an independent contemporary gallery? Perhaps this tells us something about the nature of the debate and gives us a sense of why the next steps for Leicester have to be founded on more than a sense of optimism and blind hope. While Leicester is Forever Steadfast, it isn’t a city of dreams, and ironically, that’s the strength that being missed.
“We were particularly impressed with Hull’s evidence of community and creative engagement”. These are the words of the selecting committee for the UK Capital of Culture that was announced on Wednesday and reported in the Leicester Mercury. Hull’s successful bid to be the next host city emphasised the down-to-earth nature of the city, with the campaign video, according to The Telegraph, emphasising the city’s ‘Golden Rules’:
“Don’t go thinking you’re something you’re not; don’t go thinking that you’re better than anybody else, or that anybody else is better than you, and don’t shout about it, get on with it.”
As Leicester takes stock and thinks about why it’s own bid didn’t succeed, it might be worth looking at Hull’s golden rules and asking what can be learnt from this ethos and applying them in Leicester?
If you start modestly, and don’t go unnecessarily claiming to be a world-class city, as Hull suggested it restrains itself from doing, then what implications does this approach have that would benefit arts and culture in Leicester? If the judges where impressed with the level of ‘community and creative engagement’ in Hull’s bid, why did Leicester not represent itself well on this score? Would Leicester benefit from having an extended period of ‘just getting on with things’, rather than thinking that it has to be flag waving to get noticed?
If we take Hull’s advice and stop shouting and get on with things, what are the things that would want to get done? How would these things be done with the support of the grassroots communities in Leicester? Who’s voices and stories would we validate and recognise? How can Leicester develop a mindset that pulls together and blends the diverse range of life stories associated with the city at a time of considerable social and cultural challenge?
Lets not forget, however, that funding for local authorities across the region is about to be cut considerably again. Economic regeneration for Leicester can’t be pinned on a lack-lustre creative enterprise dream when the reality has been that demand for creative services has been sucked out of the economy since the collapse of the banks in 2008. If Leicester is to be realistic, it has to do more than just pin its hopes on the bones of a dead king bringing in a few quid here and there.
Perhaps its time to think about how alternative types of civic, cultural and sustainable commercial engagement can be valued? Forms of engagement that give voice to the unique and vibrant ideas and opinions that are crying-out to be heard in Leicester? Fostering a diverse community-led culture that generates stories and connections between people of all ages, races, classes and backgrounds won’t happen by itself. This needs to be supported – and let’s be honest – without spending even modest amounts of cash, because there are other priorities crying out to be fixed first (pavements, roads, playgrounds, care homes, and more).
The questions that I’ve always had about the challenge of Leicester’s city of culture bid are pretty obvious:
There are alternative ways of thinking about community approaches to culture in Leicester. Approaches that offer a different vision to the corporate, tick-box mentality that permeates much of our civic and working lives. This culture would need to offer the chance, at the very least, of being an alternative to the centralised and top-down approach that dominates, and would be one that is built, instead, as Henry Jenkins and others suggest, on “technical affordances that encourage iterative approaches to tasks, fluid roles and a lack of hierarchy, shared rather than owned material, and granular approaches to problem solving, network society encourages collaboration on projects by a ‘hive’ community. This community creates through an ‘on-going, perpetually unfinished, iterative and evolutionary process of gradual development of the informational resources shared by the community’” (Jenkins et al., 2013, p. 183).
Rather than thinking about Leicester’s cultural identity as something that can be branded and marketed in a temporary slogan, the emphasis has to be on the opportunities that people have to live, share and express their sense of identity through the things that they participate in. We aren’t drones who follow a pre-determined and centralised cultural message, so instead, lets trust people to invest in their own sense of expression and their own sense of identity, and build Leicester’s cultural confidence from the ground up. Remember, reputations are built and not bought.
Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J. (2013). Spreadable Media. New York: New York University Press.
How easy is it to start blogging? What’s it like to make the move from being a personal consumer of media to a personal producer of media? I’ve just sent feedback to my first year social media production students covering their first steps in the world of blogging.
There’s been a good mix of work, with some excellent examples of blogs beginning to filter into the Future Media blog site. There are a good number of bloggers studying on the module, who are making interesting comments about the media that they are passionate about.
The point it to try to develop the skills for this from the ground up, rather than imposing a rigid hierarchy of expectations from the top down. It’s about trying to find the small ideas that will give these budding bloggers a sense of validation about their posts, and to encourage them to keep blogging, and include lots of different types of media.
I’m hoping to see and share some useful experiments in media production, with self-produced videos, podcasts and photographs being shared on the blogs. We each have our own unique point of view on the world and what is happening in it. Blogs are a great way of sharing that view and encouraging other people to have empathy and sensitivity to those points of view.
I’m also keen to explore how this content becomes spreadable and generates a sense of social impact. Does a blog have to have impact? Not really. It might just be written as an amusement of the writer and for the amusement of the reader? Though if it gets to the heart of a more contentious and wider-reaching issue then it stands a greater chance of being spread and picked-up by other people.
At the heart of this style of blogging is the active sense of participation and community that bloggers develop, even if they are separated by thousands of miles and by some pretty steep cultural distances. We all aspire to have fun and to capture a sense of play through which creativity is born. This isn’t about getting things right or wrong, or meeting other people’s expectations. It’s about doing something valuable that we as individuals find meaning in, and which other people might also find valuable and useful, even if only for a moment.
I came across this article today while researching my lecture on social media I’ll be giving on Monday. I think it’s perfectly adaptable to stand for community media as well as open source programming.
“If you are going to legitimately adopt the open source mantra, you must expect, prepare for, and welcome outsiders into your organization (dare I say–community?).
As a matter of fact you should probably spend significant time working on making sure outsiders can really participate.
Largely this is going to consist of changing culture, and removing roadmaps as well as identifying and exposing the processes for getting involved.” David Nalley
What does anyone think? A realistic objective?
I’ve never used Press This before, so this is something of an experiment. I’m not sure how it will come out on the site, or if it is worth using on a regular basis, but it’s got to be worth having a go.
The Independent is reporting today that “Too many teachers have no respect for authority and are hampering schools’ attempts to improve standards”. Chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, warned that “head teachers are being ‘undermined by a pervasive resentment of all things managerial’ by some of their teaching staff’, and that “some teachers simply will not accept that a school isn’t a collective but an organisation with clear hierarchies and separate duties.”
So it’s back to the days of the manager knows best and has the absolute right to manage! This pervasive culture of executive management has effectively taken over our public services during the last thirty years and has brought about an intense level of corporate instrumentalism in the delivery of learning and other public provision. No longer are teachers, parents and children allowed to have their own independent view of the world and the relationships that govern it. Instead their thoughts and concerns have to be subsumed to the corporate and brand imperatives that self-serving cadres of executive management regard as being de facto requirements for running a modern organisation – instrumentalism, transactionalism, cultural-reductionism and collective amnesia.
So any sense of collegiality, cooperation, collaboration and innovation gets tossed away in the interest of the corporate brand, the Whitehall dictat and the cult of the leader. Instilling a healthy disrespect for authority and for hierarchy is essential for good teaching. The expectation that we should Think for Ourselves is what fuelled innovation and progress in Western society since the Enlightenment. Why should independent thinking be stymied now, just as information and communication technology is changing the way that share and spark debate and knowledgeability, giving us new ways to appropriate and exercise ideas, information and creative thinking.
Contemporary teachers are exposed to the routines of scientific management and Taylorism like never before, and yet we don’t seem to be reaping any kind of reward in the underlying status of our culture. The UK still lags behind our competitors in performance indicators for basic literacy and numeracy skills. Perhaps if people like Sir Michael Wilshaw spent their time challenging the absurd and increasing inequalities in British society, in which a smaller and smaller social elite gain the rewards, and an even smaller global elite live in obscene opulence, then we wouldn’t need to condemn or berate teachers for wishing to exercise their conscience and practice a more collaborative, collegiate and cooperative approach to learning.
Today’s International Community Media Day was a fantastic opportunity to listen to the testimony of people from around the world and based in Leicester about how community media has touched and added value to their lives. Led by John Coster of Citizens’ Eye, we spoke to people from New Zealand, Thailand, India, South America, as well as cities around the United Kingdom.
I managed to sit and talk with some of our visitors who shared their experience and their thoughts about why community media can change lives and strengthen communities.
If community media is to be given proper credit and support it needs to be embedded within courses that allow for the examination of practice and principles. What are the key issues that need to be considered when developing courses and learning opportunities associated with community media?
I’m working with John Coster of Citizens Eye [http://citizenseye.org] as part of my research work, and we’ve been discussing and testing an idea to develop formal training opportunities in community media, both within formal education settings, and as part of informal social networks and communities.
I’m looking to float and test some of the ideas a little further, and specifically the development of a pair of undergraduate modules to be offered by the Leicester Media School, focussing on Community Media as a set of participant-led production practices and as a vehicle for personal, civic and community development.
I’ve attached a document that gives a thumbnail outline of two modules that I hope could be offered across the LMS, one at level five for 2014 and one at level six for 2015.
I would appreciate any feedback and thoughts about the scope of the proposals, the level that they are pitched, and what forms of collaborative development within DMU – and with external partners – we might pursue?
There’s a discussion thread on The Community Media Forum. Apply to join, and any comments can be shared with other community media activists.
If you want to get a sense of the community media projects I’ve been working with, my blog has some posts and podcasts that outline some of the activities I’ve been engaged with.
Level 5 Community Media Production – Principles & Practices [2014/15 Delivery]
Rationale: Community and collaborative media aim to promote and develop the voices, social presence and skills of ordinary people in grassroots and marginalised communities. As a third-tier of media, outside and distinct from commercial and public sector media, community media faces a number of challenges that would otherwise limit its measurable social impact, and which make sustainability in the sector hard to achieve. This module aims to account for and critically examine the principles and regimes of community media ideas and concepts, while giving learners the opportunity to experience and develop skills as practitioners of community and collaborative media through engagement with active community media organisations.
Outcomes: At the end of this module learners will be able to demonstrate:
• An ability to use and evaluate key terms and concepts associated with community and collaborative media, and to use these terms and concepts to undertake critical assessments and interventions in debates associated with of community media practices, organisation and policy.
• An ability to develop, produce and share – responsibly and ethically – content and media products within a community media group or network.
Prerequisite: It is essential to be able to demonstrate skills in media production, collaborative and social media and critical and contextual analysis at level four.
Theme 1: Community Media Principles
Participation; community representation; civic activism, representation; grassroots organisation; alternative media; co-operative and membership association; collaborative networks; alternative voices; history of community media activism; legislative agendas; funding regimes & economic models.
Theme 2: Community Media Practices
Citizen media; sourcing stories;, hyperlocalism; communities of interest; ethical practice; staying safe; open source & free media; creative commons media; staying on the right side of the law, NCTJ diploma.
Theme 3: Community Media Case Studies
Local Media – Citizens Eye, Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery, EavaFM, Takeover Radio…
National Media – ResonanceFM, Community Media Association, Radio Regen…
Theme 4: Community Media Social Impact
Alternative voices; civic empowerment; working with marginalised people; social gain; local political activism; community regeneration.
Delivery: A combination of lectures, practical workshops and project work, utilising e-learning, collaborative media and network tools.
Level 6 Community Media Production – Development & Impact [2015/16 Delivery]
Rationale: Community and collaborative media have a global significance, being championed and promoted in many parts of the world as development platforms for the enhancement and building of personal, social and civic literacies and skills within grassroots and marginalised communities. As a third-tier of media, outside and distinct from commercial and public sector media, community media organisations can be non-governmental, ad-hoc and anti-corporate, and therefore face a number of challenges in achieving long-term sustainability. This module aims to critically examine the national and transnational policy discourse of international community media development, and will give learners the opportunity to explore how the management and organisational structures and interactions of community media can be used to promote the social gain objectives of collaborative, grassroots and networked volunteers and participants.
Outcome: At the end of this module learners will be able to demonstrate:
• An ability to use and evaluate key terms and concepts associated with international community and collaborative media development and to use these terms and concepts to undertake critical assessments and interventions in debates associated with of international community media practices, organisation and policy.
• An ability to develop, produce and share – responsibly and ethically – content and media products within an international community media group or network.
Prerequisite: It is essential to have undertaken the previous level five community media production module, unless significant acquired prior learning or experience can be demonstrated.
Theme 1: Community Media Partnerships
Working with the third-sector, local authorities, education providers, professional bodies, regulators and trusts. Networking with activist, faith & community interest groups. Challenging stereotypes & barriers between organisations, communities & people(s).
Theme 2: Community Media Volunteering & Participation
Hearing all voices; communication for volunteering; project management for voluntary groups; recognising and rewarding volunteers; hosting & moderating discussion; managing realistic expectations; building capabilities and literacies.
Theme 3: Community Media Funding & Development
Making partnerships work; forms of organisation – cooperatives and members associations; sources of mainstream & alternative income; applying for awards; ITC infrastructure development; financial management & accountability; community regeneration.
Theme 4: Community Media Global Perspectives
International networks of community media practice, research & public policy; international development goals & bodies; development challenges – building capabilities & literacies; intra- & extra-community communication; case-studies of supporting organisations – i.e. Media Trust, Unesco, European Community, BBC World Service Trust, etc.
Delivery: A combination of lectures, practical workshops and project work, utilising e-learning, collaborative media and network tools.
Organising and activism are at the centre of strong communities. Trade union Unite is one of a number of unions who are pushing for a more widespread level of community membership. According to Unite their aim is to provide a way that “people can find and use their political voice. Whether it is taking a stand against a service closure or coming together to improve your living environment”. I spoke with Steve Yemm, Unite’s Community Organiser about the potential for community unions and community media groups to work together.
I’ve been playing with the idea of developing a wiki based around community media. It’s separate from this site, and uses the MediaWiki software, that is used to run Wikipedia. There’s a learning curve to get the hang of using MediaWiki, but it’s probably about the best for ease of use for users. Is this something that is worth developing and seeing if we can get an on-line community of contributors for?
Update: I’ve been trying to get the registration process for the site working so that users can just log-in. Rather than an open process that will allow bots and spammers to get in. So I’ve set the site so that applicants need approval from an administrator. I’m also looking for a Captcha plugin to add to the registration process so that there is an extra layer of security. I’ll keep my eye on the number of registrations and see how it works.
Since the start of the term I’ve been introducing first year BSc Media Production students to bloging as part of their module TECH1002 Social Media & Technology. The aim is to get each student to share and post content on their own individual DMU Commons blog and then to share posts that are relevant to the Future Media site.
We started off in week one by setting up a basic account on the DMU Commons. First of all we changed things such as how the user names are displayed, what the domain for the site is called, and how to set up categories. This went well, and each of the students is now up and running with their own individual blog that they are free to post to whenever and however they want.
I asked everyone to add a ‘category’ to their blog called Future Media, so that when a post is created, and the learner feels that it is relevant to the work we are doing in the module, they can select that category and it will be pulled into the Future Media site from an RSS feed and shared with all the other learners on the module – and beyond. This means that all the learners on the module are listed as contributors to the Future Media site, which is acting as an online aggregation point, or even magazine, of their posts.
The links to each of the posts points back to the original blog site, so each learner gets the chance to build more followers for their own site, who can read and interact with any other blog posts that the learner is posting. We’ve covered a lot of ground quite quickly since week one. Some learners have integrated their Twitter feeds into the sidebars. Some have started to embed YouTube videos, and everyone is starting to use hyperlinks to connect to other sites, articles and feeds of interest. I’ll be encouraging all the bloggers to experiment with different forms of media. They are all keen on producing video, audio and images, so why not showcase this work in a portfolio of blogs!
The challenge now is to enhance the Future Media site with a better sense of graphic design, and a gallery of images that can be shared publicly. We also need to develop a moderation policy, so that any issues that might push the boundaries are dealt with sympathetically and appropriately. I’m hoping we can do this by self-management and peer-working, rather than trying to impose a centralised and hierarchical policy on everyone. This is going to be crucial to the ongoing success of the work we are doing, and I’ll be reflecting on it quite regularly.
Underpinning this is a focus on building individual and group capabilities in collaborative and social media. I’m asking learners to think about what capabilities they need to develop as producers of social media content, what kinds of sociability they will need to practice and perform in order to make their posts engaging and attention worthy? In trying to make this as ‘playful’ as possible at this stage, and working in reflection and analysis later, I’m hoping that we can cover the initial ground more quickly, before we really start to reflect on the processes and the affordance of social media production.
I’m very grateful to Andrew Clay for passing on such a well-developed and organised module. The clarity of the rational, the focus on critical and technical practice is clear. The challenge in moving away from a linear mind-set of media production, with a sense of externalised authority, to one that is interactive and sociable can’t be underestimated. This module is proving a great learning experience for myself, never mind the enrolled learners. I’m looking forward to expanding my thoughts on the process and the tools of social collaboration. It’s something I’ve been working on for years in other work I’ve been doing, trying to develop a more collegiate and social form of working. So this module is taking up many of the themes that have been in the back of my mind, from a more practical and experiential perspective. The key difference here is the extent to which this module affords me and my fellow learners with the ability to reflect and analyse this process as we go along.
Despite the rain this morning, the students for MEDS3108 Forms and Practices of Radio wandered away from the DMU campus over to Phoenix Arts for a coffee and a natter about the No Quarter Given reports they will be producing. It was good to sit and chat about the different arts and culture events that we are all interested in and would like to hear more about in the regular podcasts from the site. The next few weeks is going to be spent doing some background research and checking out some potential stories. So watch out for a regular update from the site.
Making the case for community media in the UK is more important now than it has ever been. It’s ten years since the New Voices report that led to the establishment of the Community Radio sector was updated.
When the report was first published Professor Anthony Everitt said: “This is radio not simply for the people, but by the people. The pilot projects gave hundreds of local volunteers the chance to become broadcasters, and produced real social gains for their communities as well as some lively radio. I have little doubt that, if it is introduced, Access Radio promises to will be one of the most important cultural developments in this country for many years.”
The question now is, are we in a better position now than we were then, or has government imposed austerity and consolidations in the market place made it harder for community media groups to thrive? Are we just paying lip-service to the ideals of community media, or is there a genuine future for all forms of collaborative and community media in the UK?
Across the world, particularly in developing countries and communities, community media is still regarded as an important driver for change. Both in terms of skills and capabilities of individuals, and also in interaction and the representation of communities. Community media is effective when it is clear about its objectives – either supporting social cohesion and expression, or providing an independent and alternative voice.
The challenge, however, is to find a financial model that will allow community media groups to flourish without succumbing to market pressures and to conform to mainstream tastes; but instead to articulate alternative views, to give people who don’t have a voice a chance to speak out, and to, perhaps most importantly, to find new ways to make things pay.
The Community Media Forum is a collaboration between Rob Watson at De Montfort University Leicester Media School, and John Coster of Citizen’s Eye, building a space that can bring people together from different community media backgrounds and experiences, to share and talk about how they have faced the challenges of running community media groups, and to think about how community media groups might be better supported and developed in the future.
Registering on the site is easy, follow the link for Community Media Forum and tell us a little about your role in community media, what drives you, and what you hope you can share with other community media activists.
With over three years’ experience running drop-in café’s for community media, John Coster knows the ins and the outs well. As the founder of Citizen’s Eye, John has been meeting volunteers and activists from the community media groups and charities in Leicester to help connect people. The community media cafes are not only a chance for volunteers to share their experience about how they can develop their projects, it’s also a social platform in which it’s possible to meet people with a like-mind and a common passion for community media and social enhancement.
At today’s Community Media Hub session at BBC Leicester, John explained how to get the best out of hosting a community media café, how to make it a social event rather than a formal event, and how to make it as accessible to a wide range of people. Simple things like pushing tables together and having a badge can make all the difference, according to John. Make sure that people are welcomed when they come in. Try and do a deal with the café manager to have a discount for people attending the media café, but be sure to help the cafe by holding the event at a time when they aren’t that busy.
Community media cafés are a regular occurrence in Leicester, and coming along has helped me to widen my circle of contacts and friends, and to talk to other people who are passionate about community media. If you’ve never been to one, but fancy trying one out, just pop along to Coffee Republic on Granby Street in Leicester, every Tuesday 9.30-10.30.
Politics, it is often said, is a battle between ideas and the conditions for living. Political idealists believe that they can secure power by articulating an ideology of one sort or another, or a sense of general optimism that tomorrow will be a better day. Political pragmatists, however, are more inclined to assume that voters will only give credit and political power to the representatives who are seen to keep the buses running, the hospitals queues down and the pavements free from obstruction.
Following this second adage there is certainly clear grounds for political opportunists to fight a pragmatic campaign in Leicester’s West End about the state of the pavements around here. In the time I’ve been living back in Leicester, just over a year, I’ve resolved to try to shop locally, supporting local businesses and traders. But even my patience is severely tested in the torrential rain we had this weekend. The pavements along Narborough Road are impassable in places, and are sever trip hazards in others.
There is also the plethora of signs and pavement displays that one has to negotiate, along with the usual wide variety of street furniture and cars parked erratically. The challenge of walking along Narborough Road doesn’t seem to get any easier. I wonder what any forthcoming local election campaign would make of this?