Destination London

 Out & About  Comments Off on Destination London
Apr 102016
 

Yesterday I went to London for a day out. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I didn’t really plan it, so I didn’t have a fixed idea of what I wanted to do. I wanted to mooch and wander about, and see if anything caught my attention. Sit in a café and watch the world go by.

It wasn’t the best start to the day when my train didn’t even get out of  Leicester station because it had a fault. Forty minutes later and I was tucking into my breakfast, but it should have been an omen for the rest of the day really.

Coffee Festival Queue

Coffee Festival Queue

First destination was Shoreditch, and it’s easy to get the Tube to Liverpool Street, and then a short walk through Spitalfields market. As it was early there was still a lot of setting-up being done. Lots of stalls, but to be honest, they were all selling things that can be bought any day. If you are into chain cafes and restaurants I suppose Spitalfields has some pull as a destination, but it’s become as much a generic shopping centre as any other.

London Coffee Festival

London Coffee Festival

Heading over to Brick Lane I wanted to pop into Rough Trade – I bought the new Parquet Courts album. Getting to Rough Trade meant walking past the queue to get in to the London Coffee Festival. It snaked down the street and around the block. So many people interested in coffee that has been regurgitated by gerbils!

Brick Lane Bagels

Brick Lane Bagels

Brick Lane has the feel that Camden Lock has, with standard food stalls, vintage market stalls and tat shops. It’s good but I did feel that I should have tweaked a moustache and brought a fixy-bike with me.

The next thing I wanted to do was visit Tate Modern, so I got the Tube to St Paul’s then walked over the Thames to the South Bank. It’s a pretty impressive approach and the views up and down the river are cool. The problem with the Tate is that it is so busy all the time that it’s almost impossible to make sense of what you’re looking at. The special exhibition fees are way too much as well. It’s like the art is given second billing to the numerous gift shops and cafes.

St Pauls

St Pauls

Tate Print Shop

Tate Print Shop

I ended up thinking it will be just as easy to read an exhibition catalogue than wander about trying to get some appreciation of the otherwise iconic works.

I then wandered over to the West End, through Covent Garden over to Foyles, where I got a copy of Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire and a book of essays by Michael Oakeshott. What I wanted to do was sit somewhere and relax for a couple of hours, but obviously this being Soho it was massively intense and every café seemed to be busy.

Tate Art Demo

Tate Art Demo

The problem is that I hate chain cafes and restaurants. Anything that has a ‘brand’ is just dreadful, and London is dominated by corporate brands. I used to look forward to finding small, independent cafes and restaurants, but they seem to have vanished from the West End. Indicative is the chain The Breakfast Club. London used to be serviced by proper cafes. Now people queue in the street to get into The Breakfast Club for a bacon cob!

I can’t complain entirely, the French House still resists the corporate onslaught and offers a more traditional environment of association with no music, no theme, just people sitting drinking and chatting without being instructed in how they should feel about themselves, which is too often a priority of the ‘we-are-all-so-wonderful-and-amazing’ types. It’s rare to find a space that isn’t dominated by a surfeit of ego and self-entitlement.

Blackfriars Bridge Steps

Blackfriars Bridge Steps

I think the problem is that London has stopped being a city and has instead become a destination. What was once a place that people congregated, cheek-by-jowl to do their business and live their lives, has now become a corporate enterprise that has to be managed and homogenised so that the maximum efficiency can be squeezed out of the place.

The problem is it is so boring. The West End bustles, there are millions of people wandering about, but the script has been laid-out for them. Go see a show. Have a dinning experience. See the iconic landmarks. Visit the galleries and stare at the picture postcard exhibitions. Shop in the same stores you get in the rest of the country. Travel efficiently between well laid out points of the map. Have the ‘London Experience.’

I have to say by the end of the day I was thoroughly bored and couldn’t wait to get on the train back to Leicester. It’s going to be a while before I go back to London for Leisure. It’s just not worth it. I couldn’t even buy any interesting postcards. They were all the same as well.

Community vs. Corporate Media

 Community Media, Debate  Comments Off on Community vs. Corporate Media
Oct 052012
 
wpid-wpid-photo_0-2012-10-5-07-42-2012-10-5-07-42.jpg

DemonFM – Community Media

This week I’ve been encouraging learners to take up blogging on the DMU Commons, which is a WordPress based system that is being developed at DMU, along with other universities in order to enhance the reflexive learning experience by providing a direct way for learners to communicate about their activities in an individual and personal way. The challenge is to empower learners so that they feel confident about being able to present themselves as creative, inventive and dedicated media practitioners, rather than as novices who need to be moderated, controlled and approved before they can venture into to wide world of communication.

Watching the reaction of learners has been interesting, because of the different levels of engagement and commitment that is shown. Some are advanced in their ability to write and discuss issues that matter to themselves in a blog, others are more cautious and don’t immediately think that they have much to offer or opinions that are worth expressing. Faced with a blank page it’s always a challenge to think what are we going to be able to write about? My personal starting point is to take a photograph or a screen-grab and use that to trigger some thoughts about an experience that I then go on to describe and discuss in more detail.

Most important, though, is building the sense that these blogs form part of a community and a network of similarly minded communicators. Learners on the courses in the Creative Media Technology subject area have already taken the plunge and have committed themselves to being media producers of one form or another. It might be music, it might be TV, it might be video, it might be radio, photography or multimedia. The decision has already been made, and so the next step is to build confidence that the opinions that learners want to express are recognised, acknowledged and celebrated. We all have to start somewhere and we all want to show clear signs of improvement in our writing, so why not take the first steps and see what difference it makes.

This process is leading me to think about the importance of the community or social media model, versus the corporate media model. Many of our learners have aspirations to work in large media companies at some point in their career, however, many more will work in more ad-hoc and de-centred networks of informal, entrepreneurial production. What skills will producers of the future need in order to engage with this new production environment? How will learners of today integrate and shape this non-corporate environment? Is the corporate media model increasingly limited and doomed to irrelevance? Are audiences (and we have to think of audiences in terms of multiples now, rather than an homogenous whole) able to by-pass the restricted and dominant channels of communication that are set in place in order to push-out single messages, brands and ‘communication strategies’?

Is community and social media about to be hijacked by the corporate, global corporations because they are the only ones who have the muscle to pay for the R&D, to attract the biggest stars or build a loyal following around a ‘brand’? The advantage that community and social media has is that it is in the hands of the people using it, and if we follow an Open Source model, can be run effectively and cheaply without having to pay money to the mega-corporations that dominate the software and computing industries? Over the coming weeks I’m going to be encouraging learners to develop content for their blogs that can be shared and gifted in social networks of collaborators and producers, it will be interesting to see what kind of style and identity comes out of it.