In January 2009 I registered on a part-time research degree, with the aim of exploring how social media is used by volunteers and students at DemonFM, De Montfort University’s community radio station. Because we had a lot of students and volunteers who where working at different hours and doing different jobs to get the station ready to launch, we couldn’t get together very often to share ideas and track progress. We decided to look at how we can use email, Facebook and a phpBB message board system.
This research project is an attempt to track and to evaluate the success or otherwise of these different methods of communication. The over-riding priority was to develop a sense of community around some simple communication methods as we had very little resources, only a hand-full of people working on the launch of the station, and no one with any previous expertise of launching a station of any kind.
The nature of the project has meant that the research question is taking some time to define, and longer than anticipated to interrogate, but useful progress is being made. I intend to use this blog to note and reflect on many of the issues that we encountered along the way, the benefits and the challenges of using untried techniques, and to give some recommendations about what might work more effectively in the future.
I am particularly interested in situating this research in the ‘post-professional’ domain, in which volunteers and ‘amateurs’ as empowered to produce and distribute their own media content, and to ask what support systems and mental approaches they need to make a success. This will take the form of a reflection on the experience that I and the many other contributors to the development of the station have lived through, and continue to live through. Our mistakes clearly belong to us, and the frustrations that are encountered on the way probably look trivial now, but at the time presented significant challenges. There is lots that can we learn from this experience that can be shared as good practice or as a warning of what to avoid.