Four Tet on the power of Twitter

I was listening to Four Tet in conversation with Benji B recently, and was interested to hear him talk about connecting and collaborating with other musicians through Twitter. I grabbed an extract as I thought it could be useful to play to next year’s students:

For further musings, it’s worth listening to the whole thing – especially from around 15:40 to 18:15, where he talks specifically about collaborations and the web. Here’s the full chat:

#MoCo360 kicks off!

#MoCo360 is an umbrella term/collective (Mobile Collaboration all around you, geddit?) designed to aggregate mobile film co-creations and collaborations across the globe. Involving the usual suspects from the #ELVSS international mobile filmmaking collaborations, along with the welcome additions of Anthony Nevin and Dave Cowlard, #MoCo360 is the social aggregator for various mobile filmmaking projects and collaborations involving staff and students from NZ/FR/DE/CO/UK, including ELVSS (the BIG one), 24 Frames 24 Hours, Shoot Me Now, Shoot Your Egg, and #marmw.

We wanted to find a way to sustain our global collaborations and mini-projects, especially when diverse student numbers and shifting semester dates work against us, while still retaining a sense of community across space and time. Hopefully #MoCo360 will give us a bit more flexibility; by connecting under the #MoCo360 banner we can still work together – hopefully all year round in an #iCollab sense – with the option of dipping into projects right through to full-on international collaborations (depending on constraints or lack of) while still remaining a collective.

So far things are looking good! It’s nice to see things shaping up through the #MoCo360 hashtag. We have VINE video intros, a wonderful group Vyclone-hello from Dan’s students in Auckland, a growing tagsexplorer and increasing activity from various platforms showing up in the #MoCo360 tagboard. It’s always great to see what others are doing elsewhere, allowing us/our students to learn from others around the globe, sharing ideas and inspiration.

Although some students have been using Vine and Vyclone to say early ‘hello’s’ to one another asynchronously, we’ll be holding our traditional Great Global Hangout on 18/19 March (depending on the hemisphere). Really looking forward to this, as it’s always quite special seeing so many people coming together through a Google hangout! Two years ago we had 50+ students, last year it was more like 100 – wonder if we’ll break our record in 2014? Lots of potential with so many students in NZ, Colombia, France and the UK this time around!

AUT and #nextgenhello

WEEK TWO – Auckland (post 1 of 3): AUT and #nextgenhello

Last week was my first week in Auckland, where I’m mainly based at AUT (apart popping back over to Australia for Ascilite) until 11th December delivering mobile film talks and workshops with long-term virtual collaborators Thom Cochrane, Laurent Antonczak and Max Schleser (Massey University). I’ve also met Dan Wagner from UNITEC for the first time (another member of the ELVSS team), and it’s been a delight to finally be working alongside people I’ve known through a screen for the past three years!

I arrived here in Auckland on Sunday 17th after a week in Canberra, and had a great introduction to CfLAT (the Centre for Learning and Teaching) on Monday morning when I attended a staff meeting and met the team behind many learning innovations here at AUT. It was great spending the day with Thom and Vikram (and finally seeing the wall I’ve been staring at through a Google hangout window for three years!) before heading to the mobile film workshop delivered by Max and Laurent – which I then joined on the Tuesday, sharing some rich discussions with participants relating to social/cultural issues around the use of social, mobile platforms before we made some rather cool vids for our #nextgenhello film. Loved seeing Max and Laurent in action – they really know their stuff – and the workshop participants were all very engaged and produced some fantastic work.

On Wednesday, I went along to the CfLAT Pecha Kucha workshop, where staff presented their EdTech projects to one another. I was most impressed both by the number and range of projects coming out of CfLAT and also the quality. Excellent practice all round, so well done all.

In between all of this I was frantically trying to promote #nextgenhello which basically involved annoying people on Twitter/facebook/instagram through incessant #nextgenhello tweets and staying up until 5am so that I could keep haranguing the northern hemisphere. I was also following the Salford Media Festival at our MediaCity campus (review here), which seems to have gone brilliantly judging by the tweets! Bit tiring after 3 nights of this as I was getting up at 7am – but it was worth it in the end when we finally launched #nextgenhello on World Hello Day (21st Nov) in three locations: Salford Media Festival in the UK, the MINA Mobile Symposium here in NZ – and of course, online (YouTube). Thank you and well done to everybody involved – the contributions were wonderful, and a special thanks to Clare Wells for looking after everything at the Salford end, and Jan Bradley for the original suggestion of doing something for World Hello Day – you can read more about the project on the #nextgenhello site – and here’s the story in Storify.

ELVSS13 – State of Being

The ELVSS collaboration/community of practice is now in it’s 3rd year. Since #ELVSS12’s excursion into internationally collaborative mobile filmmaking on the topic of global sustainability, we’ve taken a different turn – and the community has extended as we’ve now welcomed the University of Bogota (Colombia) into the mix.

This year (#ELVSS13), over 100 learners from the UK (Salford), New Zealand, Colombia and France were brought together to further explore creative practice through mobile filmmaking.

Their brief?

To work in international teams in order to co-create the visual backdrop for Warwick Blair’s 8-act opera which was premiered at the Tete-a-Tete Festival at the Hammersmith Riverside in London:

“State of Being is an inspiring, sometimes harrowing, journey through the human psyche. The opera presents a powerful series of emotional states of being that depict an individual’s struggle for survival and redemption. The opera interpolates live and recorded music with video and theatre to produce a compelling synaesthetic experience.”

In order to produce the video element, the learners were divided into 8 teams, and once again had to negotiate not only time and space, but also a challenging creative brief. Each team was assigned an act and given the ‘soundtrack’ with a one-word descriptor (real right-brain stuff). They then had to produce the visual backdrop for their act, entirely filmed and edited on mobile devices.

This meant that learners from across disciplines and cultures had to negotiate not only the creative process, but also meaning, e.g. What is truth? How can we represent truth visually? As you can imagine, this is extremely challenging not only from a organisational/temporal perspective (as we had even more timezones to deal with this time around), but even more so from an aesthetic perspective.

As with #ELVSS12, the process was exhilarating, scary, frustrating and at times quite painful – but WE DID IT! Warwick Blair’s State of Being was premiered in August, accompanied by a stunning visual backdrop that had been co-created by over 100 students from across the globe. Congratulations to all involved!

You can see the final output here.

#PLEconf Collaborative (un)Keynote

The PLE Conference, now in it’s 4th year and running simultaneously between Europe and Australia, is one of the most innovative conferences out there. I can’t think of any other conference that pushes the boundaries quite so much when it come to the keynotes – or in #PLEconf terms – UNkeynotes.

UNkeynotes are about interaction and audience participation, moving away from the idea of the ‘sage on the stage’ towards a model which is collaborative and energising, drawing on the knowledge of the room, not just the ‘main speaker’.

When I was invited to UNKeynote this year’s PLE, I was genuinely delighted – and also intrigued by the overall theme: Personal Learning Environments in the Cities of the Future, or ‘smart cities’ as they’re often termed. Having been working with colleagues across the globe for several years now on mobile filmmaking projects, I thought it would be pretty cool to do a collaborative keynote. After all, if we’re connecting learners across the globe, co-creating through mobiles and Google everything, what better way to demonstrate our global PLN/PLE than using a Google Hangout? What can possibly go wrong? Hehe…

So we did it. I’m still breathing. Just*

We started by exploring the range of smart city initiatives from the top-down, centralised initiatives led by the big beasts of IT through to bottom-up citizen-led, grassroots initiatives. Drawing on Dan Hill’s Manifesto for Smart Citizens (a city can only be as smart as it’s citizens, right?), we discussed the complexities and tensions between these ‘extremes’. Most importantly, we asked “what will the PLE of the future, in smart/future cities, look like? What about the idea of the whole city as a PLE?”

My co-presenters were Max Schleser and Dan Wagner, two awesomely creative people with whom I’ve been working for the past 3 years on a range of mobile/PLE-driven projects, bringing together students across the world to make short films on topics including global sustainability. Dan and Max are both based in New Zealand, although Max is from Germany originally and Dan is from LA. They are amazing to work with and they were amazing in the unkeynote – both joined via Google hangout and spoke about global collaborations such as 24 Frames 24 Hours (a constantly evolving film ethnography where participants across the globe contribute 2 minute mobile films representing their life/day/city), and ELVSS (which I wrote about here last year – and there’s more to come as this year’s project pushed the boundaries even more… yes, we ‘gone done’ a visual opera backdrop with over 100 students from New Zealand, France, Colombia and the UK), sharing their thoughts on mobile PLEs and the potential for connecting people across the world through co-creation.

We then invited the audience to contribute 15 second clips on THEIR ideas in relation to future PLEs using instagram along with the conference hashtag #PLEconf13films. Yes, we actually tried to make a film DURING a keynote (I’m still in the no man’s land between ‘never again’ and ‘I can’t wait to do that again’ i.e. slightly shellshocked). If you go to this URL http://web.stagram.com/tag/pleconf13film/?vm=grid you should be able to view the short videos as they come in. This is a living, connected, mobile film project. We have just over 24 hours to produce a short film composed of multiple clips from people across the globe – so we’re really hoping that our friends at the Australian #PLEconf will also contribute! We’re looking for either a) abstract shots relating to PLEs/future cities, or b) 15 second (max) talking head videos responding to the following question:

What do you think our learning environments will look like in the cities of the future? What will we use them for?

We also have a Google doc set up here http://bit.ly/11B92HM for crowdsourcing general thoughts and ideas, so if anybody would rather contribute to that (or even, as well as a video clip) then please do so! We’d love to end the conference with a manifesto of sorts – alongside a really cool short film starring YOU!

So thanks again #PLEconf for giving us the opportunity to experiment with a connected, collaborative, (un)keynote idea that was technically challenging, chaotic, and slightly scary at times – it was rather ambitious, but I’m hoping that tomorrow we’ll (and when I say WE, I mean ALL OF US!) look at the outputs and think ‘damn, we managed to produce something pretty special’. Judging by the contributions so far, I think we stand a good chance…

#PLEconf? We’re ALL the PLE Conference! Let’s make it happen 🙂

 

*a few unanticipated technical glitches 😉

Teamwork: Interdisciplinarity and Pedagogical Beliefs

A few days ago I attended an ‘away day’ along with my academic colleagues who deliver modules on our BSc Professional Sound and Video Technology degree (PSVT). We’ve been running the PSVT programme for over 10 years now. It is a combined technical/creative degree with elements of audio, video and web. It’s less ‘technical’ than our other course offerings within Computing, Science and Engineering – such as Digital Broadcast Technology and Acoustic Engineering – and while it used to be seen by many as a poorer sibling to the more technical degrees, as our organisational culture has gradually shifted towards interdisciplinarity (resulting mainly from a general shift towards renewed appreciation for interdisciplinarity in HE along with our move to MediaCity) it’s now really coming into its own. Entry tariffs are increasing year-on-year, and our students are building up fantastic portfolios and blurring the boundaries between education and industry through a smorgasbord of live briefs and student placements. And yes, our students ARE awesome.

I’ve never opened up in an online space when it comes to PSVT as a programme – or as a team of educators. Nowadays, our academic identity can be played out over so many spaces; from our personal learning networks (blogs, twitter), to international collaborations (in my, case I often work alongside colleagues in New Zealand and other countries more than I work with colleagues in my own institution). While we work and often socialise together, I’ve certainly never shared deep discussions with most of my immediate colleagues on the PSVT team in relation to THEORIES of learning – and crucially, our personal beliefs. The reason? Partially, time – but also, we’re so damn different…

This is why Tuesday’s meeting was so special. We spent 3 hours together with the sole intention of learning more about one another’s approaches to assessment and module content in order to identify areas for improvement in terms of curriculum, pedagogy and overall coherence. We’re already very proud of the PSVT programme which we review/refine every year, but thanks to ‘Our Leader’ Dave Eustace (sorry Dave, hope I’ve not embarrassed you) we all came away from this meeting with a much deeper understanding of one another’s practice, identifying emerging relationships between modules and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the broad range of pedagogies that the students experience on the programme, which is highly interdisciplinary in nature. Upon entering the room, we were greeted by guitar music played and recorded by members of the group – enjoyed by us mere mortals while the audiophiles critiqued the production (there’s an insight into the team right there – I love that we can rib one another in this way). Dave had peppered the walls with quotes and articles from educational research/reports designed to get us thinking, and opening up about our practice and how it fits (or not) with the rest of the group.

I feel truly honoured to be part of a team who are able to open up and articulate their beliefs and pedagogies in the complex space that characterises PSVT (traditionalists… progressives… scientists… arts… teaching vs. learning curriculum), and it was basically the perfect end to the academic year for me. These are the kinds of discussions that would be commonplace in a school of education – less so in a science faculty (which is where we ‘belong’). Our discussions were illuminating, informed, respectful, and genuinely rewarding. I feel extremely positive about our team and our programme, and in all honesty it’s great to feel this way after what has been a turbulent time both within our institution and the HE sector in general.

I’d be really interested to hear from others who work in highly interdisciplinary teams. What are your experiences? How to do articulate your practice to one another? How do you resolve tension and conflict in terms of pedagogical beliefs (assessment is an obvious one here)? How do you negotiate the terrain between traditional and progressive approaches, between diverse/competing epistemologies?

So many questions… would love to hear your thoughts.

Aaron Koblin: Artfully visualizing our humanity

“An interface can be a powerful narrative device. And as we collect more and more personally and socially relevant data, we have an opportunity, and maybe even an obligation, to maintain [our] humanity and tell some amazing stories.” (Aaron Koblin)

Not sure how I managed to miss this when it came online back in May 2011 – but thankfully came across it this weekend: a brilliant presentation from the artist Aaron Koblin, who specialises in data and digital technologies, using real-world and community-generated data. You may be familiar with his work from The Johnny Cash Project and the Wilderness Downtown music video. In this talk, he presents these along with other projects – all stunning examples of crowdsourcing, collaboration and visualisation. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s definitely worth checking out.