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.

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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 😉

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.