Sep 072017

Yesterday I organised and ran a training session with colleagues in the Media, Design and Production subject group, in the Leicester Media School. The aim of the session was to introduce and familiarise colleagues with the social media platforms that we have available, and that I’ve been developing over the last few years.

At DMU we use a WordPress blogging system that is part of the DMU Commons, which is a suit of open source and open access media platforms that students and staff can use as part of their studies, their personal development and their social interaction with one another.

The blogs that learners and staff create and share can be aggregated on a site I’ve set-up called DIY-DMU. It’s a standard WordPress site, but it has been loaded up with RSS feeds taken from the individual blogs. So every time someone wants to share blog post, if they use the DIY-DMU category feed, then it will be updated on the DIY-DMU site as well.

The idea is that in order to find out about what people are working on, what they have been up to, and how they are getting on with their learning or professional development, you only have to go to one place to see these posts. It needs a bit of work to make it more attractive and to manage the feeds to make them more accessible, so it’s under development and should improve as more people get involved.

The next platform that we looked at is the DMU Commons Wiki, which I’ve been using for a couple of years as well. This is an open resource for learners and staff to post information about themselves, their activities, their interests and their projects.

I use the wiki extensively in my modules, as it’s a great way to enhance collaboration, to provide a single and central point of information that can be easily shared, and in the process, promotes a collaborative working culture based on communities of practice and interest.

The last platform that we looked at is new – Talk. Working with Owen Williams in the ITMS development team, we’ve installed a version of Discourse, which is a chat forum platform that supports the development of online communities and collaborative discussions. The system is new, so it will be interesting to see how we can use it effectively, both as a resource for learners, and as a resource for colleagues.

The objective of developing these platforms is to support learners, researchers and colleagues to more easily interact, which has become a relevant question on the National Student Survey, which asks if learners feel they are part of a learning community. How we promote this sense of community, and what people bring to it is going to be interesting to learn about.

Sep 052016

Just spent some time with friends recording a podcast, Chad, Pav, Damien and Ruby. We sat around a table in the Coffee Counter in Leicester and chatted about stuff that came to mind. We didn’t really have a plan, and we didn’t really know what we where talking about, but that was kind of the point.

We played a few tracks from my playlist off my phone and just passed the time with some inane ramblings.

Oct 052012

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.