Online Educa Berlin 2014: roll up roll up!

I’m reading through the programme for this year’s OEB, which takes place this week – and my, are we in for a treat. There’s always something magical about Educa; non-stop action, amazing speakers, brilliantly organised, a real EdTech party atmosphere and what’s not to love about Berlin in December?

Obviously, I’m hoping for snow but the weather widget isn’t playing ball…

This year, OEB is more packed than ever. I haven’t got a clue how I’m going to manage this, as there are so many amazing sessions to attend. The OEB team really do know how to programme a conference, as evidenced by the variety of formats (workshops, panels, debates, comedy, music – the list goes on…) .

Keynote speakers this year include Howard Rheingold and Stephen Downes, so it’s great to see Open/Connected Education featuring so prominently. The Annual OEB Debate is also looking rather exciting – this year´s motion reads: ´This house believes that data is corrupting education´. Battling it out will be (PRO) Ellen Wagner and Inge de Waard, vs. (CONTRA) George Siemens and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger. I’ll have a front row seat, please.

The newest addition to the programme is the Spotlight Stage (programme here) which reminds me of a learning and technology variety show: where else would you get the Berlin Singularity Group sharing a stage with the comedian Amelia Jane Hunter, and the ‘they’ve seen it all’ duo a.k.a. Howard Rheingold and Jay Cross in conversation? Dave White’s “Re-Humanising E-Learning” is sure to be top quality, and I’m on stage shortly afterwards talking about curiosity and gaming, so very much looking forward to that. In fact, I could easily stay in that room for every session, but I won’t. I can’t. I’ll try not to, at least…

Actually, I definitely WILL be leaving the Spotlight Stage to chair a networking event on Thursday from 11.45 – 13.15 in the Köpenick I/II/III Rooms (SHAMELESS PLUG). I ran this session a couple of years ago and we had a blast. Lots of connections made, lots of fun in the process. Do come along if you want to meet others away from the hustle and bustle. These are always valuable sessions for finding others with similar interests and passions, and I’ll be there to make sure that it all goes smoothly (don’t laugh).

So, early start tomorrow and then we’ll be in OEB bubble once again: friends old and new for Europe’s biggest EdTech get-together. The perfect (near) end to the year. I just wish we had more than a few days!

See you there 🙂

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MINA 3rd Mobile Creativity & Mobile Innovation Symposium 2013

WEEK TWO: Auckland (post 3 of 3): MINA 3rd Mobile Creativity & Mobile Innovation Symposium 2013

The Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa [MINA] creates interactions between people, content and the creative industries http://mina.pro/

This is the final post of three covering ‘WEEK MINA’ (as it shall henceforth be known) – my first week in Auckland and a welcome excursion into all forms of mobile creativity. The main event of the week was the 3rd Mobile Creativity & Mobile Innovation Symposium 2013, organised by Max Schleser and Laurent Antonczak and held at AUT’s stunning Sir Paul Reeves Building.

Now in its 3rd year, the MINA Symposium is gaining a reputation as one of the leading-edge academic events around mobile creativity, with close links to partner mobile film festivals around the world. The 2-day symposium was punctuated by 3 nights of mobile film screenings that I wrote about here.

I was delighted to be invited to the symposium as a keynote speaker along with Prof. Larissa Hjorth from RMIT. This was the first time I’d attended a MINA event, and I was impressed by the diversity of sessions. With key themes of:

  • MOBILE & PEDAGOGY / Learning & teaching
  • MOBILE & MEDIA PRODUCTION / Distribution & collaboration
  • MOBILE & AESTHETIC / iPhonography & filmmaking
  • MOBILE & SOUND / Music production & Instruments
  • MOBILE & HYBRID ART / Installation
  • MOBILE & INTERACTIVITY / Ludification & gamification
  • MOBILE & SPACE / Locative media & GPS tagging
  • MOBILE & APPlications / Science & Health

Contributions ranged from gaming, interactive film, pedagogy, citizen journalism, film theory, cultural theory, politics, audio (design/art), pedagogy, documentary filmmaking, transmedia, product design – in fact, I kept finding myself thinking ‘(insert colleague/collaborator/twitter contact’s name) should be here. There really is something for everybody at MINA, with the devices in our pockets serving as springboards for an impressively rich range of contributions from pretty much any discipline/field – I was as transfixed and inspired as I am by The Rest Is Noise festival, and that’s saying something…

The full programme is here, but I’ll just pick up on a few (personal) highlights beginning with Hjorth’s keynote, a brilliantly nuanced exploration of social, mobile and locative media signalling a need to focus on emplacement and co-presence rather than the dominant ‘network’ metaphor in visual/media and internet studies. Mobile, movement and geolocated production practices were recurrent themes (as you’d expect), with Hjorth’s keynote followed by Trudy Lane and Halsey Brugund’s audioscapes – which being based in acoustics/audio I found especially interesting – and Candy Elsemore’s mobile location-based augmented reality gaming, which resonated with me from the perspective of engagement through alternate realities and pedagogies.

Lorenzo Dalvit’s focus on camphones as devices for capturing events as they happen was a sobering unfiltered view of the inhumaneness of an oppressive regime. Showing footage that captured police brutality in South Africa, Dalvit highlighted the role of the devices in our pockets as tools for citizen journalism – a theme also picked up by Ben Lenzner who highlighted the work of Tim Pool and the community-activist group India Unheard.

In terms of mobile aesthetics, there were several notable sessions from practitioners/theorists/practitioner-theorists including Patrick Kelly, Dean Keep, Craig Hight and Felipe Cardona. I loved Miriam Ross’ session on ‘The New Vertical’. Ross set up the Vertical Cinema Manifesto as a response to the anti-vertical PSA-spoof (and related) vids that were doing the rounds online. Making the case that this in itself is a form of policing, Ross is calling for us to fight for our right to go vertical. Whatever you think about the horizontal vs. vertical debate (personally, I’m a big fan of the idea of vertical – although I don’t always find it comfortable to watch), it’s important to recognise industry-led convention and to keep questioning, exploring and innovating. Why should film always be horizontal? What about vertical, round, etc? Don’t they have a place too? I always find it interesting when we’re working with students on 24F24H, seeing how many people reject outright the vertical – because that’s how it is, that’s how it’s done, “there’s this study that says…” Ross’ work is timely, needed and refreshing.

MINA 3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening 2013

WEEK TWO: Auckland (post 2 of 3): MINA 3rd International Mobile Innovation Screening 2013

Screen shot 2013-11-26 at 22.06.26

As well as working with some of the ELVSS team on our Mobile Augmented Reality Film Workshops (more of that later), I’m in Auckland as a keynote speaker (along with Prof. Larissa Hjorth from RMIT) at the 3rd MINA Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium. I’m writing this after the event, which was so rich that I can’t fit everything into one post so I’ll write about the mobile film screenings here and the conference itself in a separate post.

SO, the films: The Symposium itself launched on Wednesday night with the first of three nightly screenings of mobile shorts from around the world. Each screening was held in a darkened theatre with films shown on a large screen. I’ve rarely viewed mobile films in this way before (having generally viewed films on smaller screens/devices – apart from when showing films to students, but then as standalone pieces rather than as a running showreel) and I was struck by the intensity of the experience. Because the films were so short, ranging from something like 15 seconds up to 3 minutes, we were immersed in mobile film in all it’s glory – a real cornucopia of genres, styles and aesthetics which showcased the rich possibilities of pocket cinema brilliantly. I’m more in love with mobile film than ever after this…

The depth and power of emotion in many of the short pieces is quite remarkable. These filmmakers really understand the medium and the art of telling a short story quickly. Interestingly, some of the films were virtually indistinguishable from big budget counterparts in terms of production values as a result of technological shifts (HD camphones) and were not only crisp and clear but also incredibly cinematic due to their framing and sweeping shots (for instance, Wilhelm Jerusalem – Kołacze by Lukasz Krysiewicz). Others retained a more lo-fi aesthetic, including several made using apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic. Max Schleser’s film “Midtown” was filmed on an iPhone 4 with mCAMLITE, the mobile video created with the Time Piles app, edited with the Splice app and the music was produced using the iMaschine app. It’s amazing to think what can be created with the devices in our pockets.

As is practically a defining characteristic of ‘pocket cinema’, the films had a sense of immediacy, intimacy and authenticity. Personal devices are ideally suited for telling personal stories, and the films were so imaginative and varied – the one unifying feature being that they all proved how compelling short-form content can be when the idea/story is really strong. It doesn’t have to take a long time to take people on an emotional journey, as proved by films such as “A Grand Mother” by Candy Elsmore, which conveyed her delight and pride knowing that her grandmother had signed New Zealand’s Suffragette Petition over 100 years ago. The spark and wit of pieces such as Kevin Logan’s “To Have and To Have Not”, and Paul Taylor’s “Digital Trust Hike” were palpable, without detracting from deeper messages. I won’t list all of the films here, but I’ll be searching them out online and if available, will write a follow-up post listing the contributions with hyperlinks (many are not in the public realm as this may compromise their eligibility for festivals etc.).

The final night (Friday) was a showcase of films from other/partner mobile festivals, including SEISFF (Korean Mobile Film Festival), the Cinephone Spanish Mobile Film Festival, the Macedonia Mobile Film Festival, the USA Mobile Film Festival, and the Ohrenblick and Mobile Streifen Festivals (Germany).

There’s something about sitting in a darkened room watching a succession of short-form films on a big screen. It’s intense, compelling, leading the viewer into a Zen-like state. It had me thinking about the Netflix model of releasing an entire series in one go (see Kevin Spacey’s speech here). Increasingly, audiences want to be immersed in a viewing experience, and in the digital age, we can be. However, this isn’t just about gorging on the latest epic (obvious examples being The Wire, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black – even though 3 of these were broadcast as regular series, many or even most viewers saved themselves so they could watch the entire thing over a short space of time). In the case of the MINA 2013 screenings, we experienced the depth and immersion in a much shorter time period, ideally suited to short form content.

As you can tell, the MINA screenings were truly inspiring. They made me want to go away and start creating there and then – and judging by the conversations I was having many others felt the same. These screenings were invaluable in terms of opening the mind to what’s possible – vertical and square formats, durations as short as 15 seconds, a huge variety of styles and genres – it’s a brilliant exercise in freeing the mind from the constraints of industry-led convention. I’m looking forward to showing the MINA 2013 DVD to my students next semester as I think it’s a powerful way to experience mobile film, and I hope that it will really open up their minds and get them thinking about what’s possible, pushing them to create in new ways.

Here’s the MINA 2013 Showreel as a taster – and some stills here.

Some more of the films:

The Rest Is Noise: immersion in learning

I’m inspired, energised and brimming with ideas after attending another Rest Is Noise weekend at London’s Southbank. The Rest Is Noise festival (inspired by Alex Ross’ book) is running throughout 2013, and so far I’ve managed to make it to three of these superbly curated weekends of talks, debates, films and performances which “help to explain the relationship between classical music and the social and political changes of the last century”, allowing us “to see the music of that period ‘in the round’ – bringing in the history of science, technology, philosophical and political movements”.

While that (possibly) sounds a little weighty, the programme is so brilliantly put together and accessible that it’s far from elitist. All presentations are engaging, often with some weird and wonderful titbits of information that stick in the mind (“Nazi Porno Kitsch” anybody?). Expertly overseen by the wonderful Jude Kelly, who has an obvious passion not only for the audience experience, but also a deep grasp of the diverse range of topics in the programme, The Rest Is Noise is without doubt my favourite way to spend a weekend in the UK.

There are usually around 5 parallel sessions every hour, but to give you a flavour, highlights so far (for me) have included:

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#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 😉

Futures of Entertainment 2012 – #FoE6

audiences : culture : curation : spread : content : creation : innovation : activism : slactivism : remix : production : storytelling : engagement : copyright : collaboration

These are the words that I highlighted on the programme for this year’s Futures of Entertainment conference at MIT, from which I’ve just returned. I actually did this on the outbound flight, using a pen, on a paper programme. Obviously these would have been hashtags had there been wifi on the flight (and no, I’m not complaining).

Looking back at these tags now, I can safely say it more than lived up to expectations. Launched 6 years ago through the Convergence Culture Consortium and Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, Futures of Entertainment brings together leading media scholars and industry practitioners for an intensive 2-day programme of panels and debates focused on media and audiences. The blend of academics and digital media types is invigorating – not interdisciplinary in the strictest sense, but the mix in background/focus certainly leads to a uniquely rich and inspirational event. Always a stellar line-up, Futures of Entertainment is a real melting pot of digital media/audience/fandom/participatory culture researchers and practitioners.

This was the first time I’ve attended, although as I’ve followed past proceedings online I knew it would be a great experience. The reason I had to attend this year is that I’m working with both undergrad and postgrad students on a series of projects based around ‘spreadable media’. ‘Spreadability’ was the buzz-concept of FoE5, and I think it’s a brilliant and welcome challenge to the tired and misleading ‘viral’ metaphor. From a pedagogical perspective it’s incredibly rich as not only is there potential for all kinds of creativity in terms of learners producing artefacts, but also there’s real scope for critical thinking and theoretical developments around content, audiences, agency and networks. Gold dust as far as digital media literacies are concerned, therefore this was pure personal learning/development rather than a speaking gig – a welcome respite as I was able to immerse myself in everybody else’s thoughts and words rather than worrying too much about my own. I do believe that it’s crucial to keep abreast of what’s happening ‘out there’ in order to keep developing relevant, transmedia pedagogies, and I often find that I get the most of out conferences that aren’t necessarily focused on learning as it encourages me to contemplate, and frame, things differently.

Anyway, on to the conference… the standout sessions (for me) were:

Maria Popova and Joshua Green in a brilliant one-to-one conversation around The Ethics and Politics of Curation in a Spreadable Media World. This was an energetic and passionate discussion much of which focused on the definition of curation and the role of the curator i.e. semantics and power relations. Being a fan of brainpickings.org I knew this would be interesting, but both Maria and Joshua were so incredibly incisive in the way that they challenged one another and this was one of those sessions where one hour feels like ten minutes. Seriously good stuff.

Another standout session was Curing the Shiny New Object Syndrome: Strategy Vs. Hype When Using New Technologies. The panellists were Todd Cunningham, Jason Falls, Eden Medina, David Polinchock, Mansi Poddar, and it was brilliantly moderated by Ben Malbon from Google Creative Lab. The discussion was a great mix of laughs, scholarly musings and industry insights on innovation and I loved how @edenmedina brought a more academic slant to proceedings. While there was much talk of SNOS (Shiny New Object Syndrome), they also explored the fetishisation of failure and the problems of assuming that what works in one culture can be easily transported elsewhere – which led to the important point that for all our talk of the importance of being able to fail and not fearing failure, that failure is indeed a privilege.

I also loved the session From Participatory Culture to Political Participation. The panellists here were Sasha Costanza-Chock, Dorian Electra (new to me, and I was instantly blown away by her Economics music videos on YouTube), Lauren Bird from the Harry Potter Alliance (was already a fan of Lauren’s as I’ve known about her work for a while, and Bassam Tariq, the co-creator of 30 Mosques in 30 Days. Again the moderation was excellent thanks to Sangita Shresthova. This session was fascinating due to the conversation around activism and using fandom and fan practices to highlight issues, awareness and encourage action. However, what I found most interesting was the reluctance of the three (Dorian, Lauren and Bassam) to define themselves as political or as activist, leading the audience to question whether there was some kind of generational shift (very mixed views from the crowd as to whether their reluctance to define themselves as political or as activist was a help or a hindrance).

Finally, another session which remains deeply embedded in my mind (although not for the same reasons) was the panel on Rethinking Copyright, with T Bone Burnett, Henry Jenkins and Jonathan Taplin. Burnett and Taplin put forward the classic ‘music industry’ viewpoint, which wasn’t shared by the audience. This would be an interesting session to relive through both the first and second screen. Voices were raised and tensions were rising (although Henry stayed calm and reasonable throughout). The Twitter backchannel was going crazy, but kudos to Sasha Costanza-Chock for standing up on several occasions to offer well-informed perspectives on alternative revenue/licensing models – and also to the guy who stood up to admit that he was the one who closed down Napster. This was a pretty intense session, to say the least…

I’ve just chosen a few highlights here, but I urge you to watch the all the videos on www.convergenceculture.org when they become available. Rachel Clarke did a brilliant job of live blogging each session, while @huey pulled together tweets in Storify which also offer a neat perspective. My usual low-grade instagram pics are here, while there are much better pictures here.

While FoE brings together media scholars and industry practitioners who share the same passions around content, audience and participation, the diverse perspectives on topics such as copyright or activism (and the generational, political, or financial motivations) meant that this conference couldn’t be anything but thought-provoking and invigorating. At times, I found myself nodding vigorously at speakers who used particular terminologies/frame of reference, while I’d have an equally visceral (negative) reaction towards the few who spoke in marketing language and yet they were talking about the same phenomena. Terminology and meaning, ontologies and epistemologies… it was fascinating to reflect on what was being said from different perspectives, and what our choice of language says about us. The great thing about Futures of Entertainment is that it’s the kind of environment where you can say “oh, I’d say xxxxxxx to describe that” and there’s no jostling for position of battles of ownership, just insightful and positive dialogue. However, while we all might have been talking about the same things, jargon does matter. As @henryjenkins tweeted during a particularly lively debate: “it is NEVER just jargon!”.

Thank you, Futures of Entertainment 2012.

How to (IT) support a Pedagogy of Chaos?

Into the Wild: Embracing the Anarchy

View more presentations from Helen Keegan

I’m delighted to be here to present today’s closing plenary at the UCISA Support Services Conference ‘Great Expectations’, which this year is held at the stunning Crewe Hall. In all honesty I was surprised (and very honoured) to be invited, as I’m basically an IT Support person’s worst nightmare (well at least, that’s what I’ve been told 😉 ). However, it’s been great to meet people who are doing brilliant things and working tirelessly to support students and staff in the use of technologies – even if some of the terminology (e.g. delivering services to customers) sends a shiver down my spine. I’m pretty sure some of the stuff I’ll be talking about will make people feel equally uncomfortable.

Preparing for this, and learning about the views of the IT support community, have made me realise that I’m gradually developing a pedagogy of chaos. It’s gone from learning through paranoia, through to learning through frustration… and now this. Having spent time away from my like-minded PLN I’m reflecting on my practice from an IT support POV and realising that in many ways it’s completely unmanaged and unmanageable. We often don’t know what’s happening from one week to the next, what devices/platforms we’ll use – they’re often learner-driven and/or negotiated… along with the curriculum and the assessment. Students are pretty much free to use whatever they want, as long as they take responsibility for that particular tool/platform/programming language.

As an example, in a recent project we had students from the UK, ES, NZ and DE working across levels, disciplines and timezones to produce transmedia reports for one another. Not only was it just-in-time learning, it was just-in-time curriculum planning with the respective tutors meeting up via Google hangouts the night before classes to plan activities which would work for everybody. Each country/group of learners used different sets of tools, and none of us knew every tool. I probably only mastered around 6 or 7 – they used approx. 40 in total. Students found tools they thought looked interesting and learnt about them and presented them to one another. This meant that there was always a resident expert in whatever tool. Nobody complained because the tutors didn’t know all the tools. They produced creative reports which spanned multiple platforms, and we all learnt from one another in a global Community of Practice.

As lecturers, we have the luxury of being able to engage in daily/weekly dialogue with our learners. We can talk honestly and openly, levelling out the power relationship, becoming co-learners alongside our students, the result being that when we don’t know how to use a certain tool they’re pretty cool about it. We’re working from the ground up.

For IT services staff, it’s largely driven from the top-down, with increasing pressure to ‘deliver enhanced services’. However, IT support staff can’t be expected to learn/support every tool/platform/app that appears – most of them don’t stay around for more than a couple of years before they either a) collapse, or b) something better comes along. We can’t expect IT services staff to support everything – but what I HAVE found is that learners love to share their expertise with one another, and there’s generally at least 1 ‘expert’ user of any tool in an institution.

At the risk of sound all ‘Big Society’ (shoot me now…), I do think there’s a place for resident student IT/app experts – in whatever platform comes along this week/month (and dies as quickly) – alongside centralised IT support for the ‘big stuff’. Some kind of accreditation would be great for students, along the lines of Mozilla Badges perhaps? Anything which shows that they’ve shared their knowledge with the wider community.

So that’s it really. I’ll be interested to hear from the UCISA crowd, see what they think about this. It’s something I’d definitely like to see happening at Salford – random, ad hoc, user support groups as devices and platforms emerge. It often happens informally already through Twitter, Facebook etc. – but by recognising/rewarding, there would be less pressure on IT services, more kudos to learners and their interests/skills.