Feb 062015
 

Using the DMU Commons Wiki for coursework activity for TECH1002 Introduction to Social Media & Technology has been a very interesting experience. This week I wanted to start and develop a page about Instant Messaging. Well, I’d planned to do a load of research and present a mini-presentation about it, but then I thought better and realised that this might be something that I can put out to the ‘crowd’ and see what we can build and assemble collectively.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 13.16.53So I created a page on the wiki ‘Instant Messaging’ and I added a couple of questions to the talk page behind it to start the process off. So far so good. I was interested in finding out how the learners on my module had used Instant Messaging in the past, and what information they could find on the web about it. So the task was to search for some information, note and summarise it on the wiki talk page, and then pass this information on to the next group, who could take it on and build it up.

Wiki Talk Page

Wiki Talk Page

The only problem has been the lack of attendance at my sessions. Apparently there is a media production deadline today, and it seems that all other work stops when first years are putting their audio and video pieces together! But not to worry, this is the web, and this is a social media module. There’s always another way to get this done.

So, I’ve decided that I’m going to virtualise this little project and to use social media to encourage the learners on the module to contribute to this page on the wiki by using other means. We have blogs, wikis, Twitter streams, Facebook groups, and so on, all accessed and used by learners. There’s no particular reason why this must be done in a lab sessions, other than this is the one place that I’m available for questions and advice.

One of the learners pointed out that we have not been using the talk page correctly, and that each point that is made on the talk page should be given a signature. On Media Wiki this is very simple. It just involves the use of a simple piece of syntax ‘~~~~’. This then bring up the users name and a date stamp with the information of when the discussion point was raised.

The actual discussion page is very similar to the main page in the way that it is edited, except that it isn’t for public consumption and can therefore be revised more freely. It’s an excellent way of testing out the wording of an entry and getting people to agree the content before it is copied or moved into the required page.

The next thing I want to look at is tags and categories, as I’ve fallen behind in how to use them. By the end of next week I’d like for us to have a comprehensive page of information about Instant Messaging that can be spread to other people as an example of how to collaborate on a document like this.

Nov 022013
 

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 wpid-wpid-rwm_0068-2013-06-12-11-54-2013-06-12-11-54.jpgSchool, 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.

http://robwatsonmedia.net/category/communitymedia/

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.

Jun 102013
 
Play

Community Media is more than a thrown-together opportunity for volunteers to participate in the creation of their local media. It’s also a chance for ordinary people to own and benefit from the running of the media organisations that directly serve them. That was the message from tonight’s Make The News presentation held at the Leicester King Power Stadium.

At a time when there is significant challenges for media businesses to survive, while still catering for a traditional local communities, it’s refreshing to hear some passionate arguments and an alternative approach – the co-operative.

Supported by the Carnegie Trust and Co-Operatives UK, three speakers gave impassioned demonstrations why local media continues to matter. Why it is wrong to claim that local media is dead, and what can be done about building alternative co-operative media businesses.

Chris Morley from the NUJ spoke first about the impact that economic change has had on the local news industry. Followed by Dave Boyle who shared his passion for co-operatives and their potential for radical change. Ross Hawkes from Lichfield Live shared his experience starting a not-for-profit news service for his local town.

Afterwards I caught-up with Dave Boyle who gave me a run-down of the main reasons for backing co-operatives as a good way forward for keeping local media local, and how you can find out more at events running around the UK.

Apr 192013
 

According to a post on the New Statesman website, Ed Miliband is determined to pursue the development of One Nation Labour as an ambitious and transformational intellectual project, as well as an ambitious plan for government and the reform of the British economy. The article quotes Stewart Wood, “Ed Miliband’s consigliere” who outlines five principles behind the project:

1. A different kind of economy

2. A determination to tackle inequality

3. An emphasis on responsibility (at the top and the bottom)

4. Protecting the elements of our common life

5. Challenging the ethics of neoliberalism

So far this discussion is largely taking place in the closed circles of the policy review and the policy-wonks who work in them. The question is, are these principles going to be accepted more widely, and will they work in practice. It’s often easy to build a theory or an ideology in the seminar room, but to make it work in the harsh reality of daylight and people’s lives, is something else.

So for each principles there are a whole host of problems and issues that need to be thought through:

1. A different kind of economy – in what way, we could just as easily invest in an economy that is more capricious and selective and which offers less sustainability and resilience to shocks and change. We need some meat-on-the-bones that takes us past the Thatcherite simplicity of ‘private good’ and ‘public bad’, so what examples and models can we look to that tell us something about longed-for economic model of the one Nation Labour dreams?

2. A determination to tackle inequality – this is more radical than it first seems. Putting full employment, back at the heart of economic decision making will wipe away the last remnants of the failed Thatcherite model. For over forty years we’ve worked to suppress inflation at the expense of maintaining high levels of unemployment. The waste and immorality of confining people on the dole, or locked into benefits, needs to be challenged. Inequality was at it’s peak in the 1970s in Britain, at the point when full-employment was last prioritised as an economic good. There’s only one chant that the Labour Party should repeat – Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

3. An emphasis on responsibility (at the top and the bottom) – restoring the principle of moral and social virtue to our individual and collective actions will be a lot harder to represent in an accessible and emotional sense, but a-politicism of democratic consumerism is unsustainable, both from a social point of view, but also from an ecological point of view. Resisting the technocratic and bureaucratic mind-set that dominates much of our public life, either as the market is allowed to provide a value-free tool for the allocation of resources, or the determination by the state, means that individuals lose site of the impact that decisions have on individuals and communities. It doesn’t mean that we stop fighting for change, but we do it in a way that is sensitive and empathetic to the lives of the people who are affected. Thatcherism is regarded by many as an absence of that empathy, with it’s focus on hyper-individualism and the ‘value-free’ marketization of decision making. There are values outside of the market that need to be cherished and fostered if a pluralistic society is to flourish.

4. Protecting the elements of our common life – the lack of investment in our cities, in social housing and in shared resources, mean that our daily life is too often a struggle and a challenge. Infrastructure that allows us to move around and get about have been hollowed-out in our towns and cities for too long. Finding locally run businesses and services is becoming harder and harder. Our high-streets are dominated by national brands, a handful of large supermarkets, and a lack of sustainable investment in family and community economies. Do we need a thousand Thorntons shops on the high-street? Do we need a supermarket with a twenty-five per cent share of the grocery market? Local competition needs to be looked at so that independents and new business get a fair crack at making a success of their businesses. Local communities should assume responsibility for local competition in goods and services. The unfair advantage of the giant supermarkets is killing our high-streets, while simultaneously blocking anything that can innovate and challenge the charity shop and pay-day check culture of decline.

5. Challenging the ethics of neoliberalism – does neoliberalism have an ethics? Merely stating that we expect people to adopt and sign-up to an ethical code is a challenge. Protecting free speech in the workplace, promoting trade unions and work-based councils will show that sharing power and decision making is more effective than the obscene forms of executive management, with immoral pay differentials and autocratic leadership cults. A return to a mixed economy, with growing support for mutualism, cooperatives and sustainability. This does not necessarily mean a return to statism and centralised control. Until fairly recently the Labour Movement was defined by thousands of small mutual societies, cooperatives and trade unions. The benefit of new online technologies give us the opportunity to communicate and organise in many diverse and provocative ways. Allowing a few small super-national web companies, like Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft to dominate the marketplace in the name of efficiency will be a betrayal of the gift that the Internet promises – self-determination and organisation.

There are many long-term, serious questions to be asked about the One Nation Labour project, it’s time we started having this discussion more openly.

 

Feb 102013
 
wpid-wpid-factory-001-2013-02-10-16-18-2013-02-10-16-18.jpg

Factory Learning?

There is considerable pressure for the education sector in the United Kingdom to return to a model of learning that originated with the factory production era. While ‘investigation’ and ‘knowledge management’, ‘hypothesis testing’ and ‘case building’ are seen as significant virtues at the upper-echelons of the educational establishment, for example lawyers, doctors and politicians, they are not considered to be appropriate for the rest of the population. Instead, the so-called ‘mass-market’ end of the educational spectrum is asked to learn by rote, memorise the names and dates of historical events, and think about how they can place dubious former monarchs names into an uncritical account of the process of empire building. Thanks Michael Gove.

All of which is retrograde and a huge step-backwards at a time of great technological, cultural and international change. At a time when thinking skills and the independent ability to learn and think should be given priority, we are heading back, instead, to the comfort zone of recall, memory and useless recitation. Pleasure in learning is being denied as the ’skills’ and ‘employability’ agenda’s are prioritised. Seldom a week goes by without some sort of initiative or event taking place that aims to make our young people more capable of dealing with the world of work, of acquiring the right skills to the workplace, and having the right disposition to show that they can get out of bed every day – just to suit the nine-to-five mindset of the begrudging already employed. The question is, does this enhance learning and the love of learning, or not?

On the whole, the school, college and university systems in the United Kingdom have been used repeatedly as places designed to simply churn-out skilled workers, as you would in a sausage factory. For those workers who are able to be clearly differentiated in this supposed meritocratic order, they will be. Some lucky people get to be chosen and will have a say in which buttons will be pressed. But the vast majority of people are merely expected to know their place and do the bidding of their masters. Since the 1990s, government education policy has largely been about addressing the skills shortage, rather than creating jobs, so the hysteria about the skills shortage has grown increasingly shrill. As Paul Krugman is fond of reminding his readers, there was no skills shortage during World War Two. People skilled-up very quickly once the work was there.

So, what is this supposedly unassailable divide between investment in learning and investment in skills based on? Russell Ackoff is famous for his critique of the American Business School system. Ackoff argued that business schools have repeatedly churned out an uncritical and unimaginative cadre of business managers, fit for nothing more than the cemetery. These managers have been schooled in the idea that they are entitled to act as an independent class of executive operators, who merely need to give a command to exercise control. Indeed, their proficiency is judged by how well they hold the reigns in the command and control system, rather than in the outcomes that they deliver for society in general. Ackoff’s alternative was to think of business operations holistically, and to design inclusive and democratic processes that are suited to problem solving and innovation in an organisation. According to Ackoff, an organisation has to be capable of looking “beyond simple metrics and calculations” that can only be understood as “idealised options”. Instead, Ackoff wanted decision-making to be taken in the real world, by people who had been grounded in the practice of implementation through experience, and not simply well versed in the theory of systems management.

The recent report on failings in the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust highlights the dangers of maintaining an unaccountable organisation that exclusively promotes executive management and executive governance. The culture of executive management that has driven these public organisations, means that ordinary patients, staff and supporters alike, can be bullied, and their independent views suppressed. Employees live in perpetual fear for their jobs, and service users live with the threat of an axe being taken to their beloved local services if they dare to speak out. If there is even a hint that an alternative voice might be expressed, then a way is found for it to be snuffed-out. Usually as soon as someone is remind that they might be ‘bringing their employer into disrepute’. As a consequence, mistakes get hidden and people die. Executive managers, however, seldom suffer, and more often get promoted because they have demonstrated that they can make tough choices – whatever that means.

The usual prescription for a dysfunctional organisation in these circumstances, ironically, is that the executive management systems that repeatedly led to these calamities are only in need of being reinforced and renewed. Managers are encouraged to do more ‘listening’. They set-up focus groups and bring in so-called independent consultants to talk openly and transparently with staff, service users and stakeholders. Eventually the executive team will produce a statement pointing out that ‘you said’ and ‘we did’.

The BBC’s executive management, according to The Guardian, is happy with the anti-bullying processes that are in place at the BBC. Though it looks like staff on-the-ground have said something different when they have been able to express themselves anonymously. According to The Independent “More than 850 BBC employees have come forward to raise their concerns about bullying and sexual harassment at the corporation, fuelling fears about the broadcaster’s culture.”

Atul Gawande, in his book, “The Checklist Manifesto” describes how successful emergency surgical teams do what they can to promote a ‘learning culture’. Rather than brining out the firing-squad every time there is a problem, the successful team will allow team members to openly discuss and analyse how mistakes happen. They are expected to evaluate their own performance and make recommendations about how to respond to mistakes. Gawande argues that “we need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have, but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies.” Clearly there are limits to our individual capability, and a team has to be made of the best people for the job, but Gawande’s thesis is that in employing the firing-squad we are more likely to hide our mistakes than learn from them. In a surgical team hiding mistakes costs lives.

The point is, therefore, that rather than thinking about education simply as a depository for knowledge, or as a factory for the development of employability skills, we would do better to remind ourselves that we are a development community. A community that is composed of co-learners and co-teachers. This should be a community in which our learning is shared and respected, regardless of the individual roles either as an experienced learner, or if you are just starting out on your learning journey. If we merely use our educational spaces as a point of social replication, rather than as a place of invention and transformation, then we will continue to undermine the potential that we have to be innovative, creative and relevant. The world is moving very quickly on from the factory systems of the past, and there is no assurance that Western Europe can maintain it’s inherited advantage of investment in knowledge? Unless we are willing, that is, to let go of the past and think about new ways of co-developing knowledge and expertise. Without letting go of the past then it will be highly unlikely that we will be able to do the essential task, which is to pull the future from the air.

Apr 212012
 

Over the last year students on the final year radio production course TECH3013 Advanced Radio Production, have been producing content for broadcast on DemonFM. We divided up in to three groups. Comedy Festival Podcasts, Cultural Quarter Podcasts and DemonFM Live Sessions. With each group expected to manage and develop content that will be broadcast on the station.

The aim of the module is to develop a capability and awareness of the production process for radio at an advanced level. By the end of the module learners should be able to demonstrate that they are able to produce a wide variety of different forms of audio content from a wide variety of situations and using different production techniques. All of which will be demonstrated in a production management report that explains how the content has been developed and managed. Lots of emphasis is placed on explaining the process and the decisions that are made, and giving practical advice to the reader so that they might produce similar types of programming themselves.

Some of the the wide variety of skills that learners have to develop as they work on their projects include: Time Management, Resource Management, Contacts Management, Calendar Management, Production Sessions, Deadlines.
Communication Management , Team Organisation, Role Differentiation.

wpid-wpid-Project-Management-Roles-001a-2012-04-21-09-46-2012-04-21-09-46.png

All of which have to be analysed on in the production management report, using visual and schematic analysis techniques. This is not a descriptive-reflective process, where learners tell their personal thoughts about the experience of producing content. Rather, the production report asks the learner to explain to what extent the decisions that they made helped or hindered the practical production of content for DemonFM. What worked and what didn’t work? What was successful and what was a failure? How were the groups organised, and did this make a difference to the content that was produced?

The great thing about this approach is that it is always one in which the learner has to discover for themselves how we move past purely experience – usually trial-and-error – to a more systematic project development approach. In evaluating the production reports I look for the use of evaluations techniques such as SWOT analysis, or Next Steps analysis. Nothing terribly sophisticated, but useful tools for the enhancement of any project none the less.

We have used some readily available tools to help with the organisation of the project, particularly Facebook Groups for communication and messaging, some dropbox systems for sharing media files, and Google Documents for collaborative file management. But there are over seventy students undertaking the module, and while these tools are great for small groups, they are less than suited to projects with larger numbers, especially when it’s only possible to dip in and out on limited occasions to contribute to discussions or monitor progress.

So, in order to take the development of this module and it’s associated projects to the next level, and help learners shape and manage this process with a little more coherence, I’m looking for a project management system that can form the backbone of a shared project development space. I’m after something that will allow a wide range of users to get hands-on experience using a range of project management tools that that will bring this process along in a more organised manner.

So far I’ve read through the Wikipedia entry for Project Management Tools, where there is a good table of comparison between different systems. The main features that are recommended in a web based system are:

wpid-wpid-Project-Management-Roles-001b-2012-04-21-09-46-2012-04-21-09-46.png

Project Management Functions

Added to this is the need to use an Open Source system that can be managed internally within the faculty and which can allow for students to be listed and managed in a collaborative and convenient environment.

So far Project.Net stands out as it can be hosted locally and is Open Source, but are there other systems out there that can be do a similar job, and which are not resource intensive to manage? I’m looking for any suggestions that can help me decide what systems I should look at and investigate further. If anyone has any links to any systems, or offers of systems development infrastructure, then please get in touch.