Week Five: Brisbane (QUT) and Melbourne

The first part of this week has been spent with Thom and Laurent working on curriculum design and planning for our future collaborations (we’ll be launching #MoCo360 in 2014 so rather excited about that one), before flying back over to Oz for a few days at QUT. Here at QUT, it’s been pretty non-stop. I kicked off the visit with a presentation where I floated around my blog/slideshare picking out bits of interestingness – not easy when you realise 20 mins before your talk that there are so many areas of mutual interest with pretty much everybody there (and it’s a blank slate). Since then I’ve been spending time with individuals/groups of academics and related staff, discussing emerging pedagogies, technology, media and new learning/teaching paradigms… the usual stuff, basically.

I’ve really enjoyed my time at QUT, exploring ideas in relation to their digital transformations project. Wonderful Uni with super-talented people 🙂

I also experienced my first staff Xmas party in the southern hemisphere. Now that i’m getting used to the whole ‘santa in shorts thing’ I’m learning to love a sub-tropical Christmas – but never imagined I’d be sharing Yule-tide celebrations under palm trees… complete with Flash Mob. #loveQUT

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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.

Australia/New Zealand Week One: CANBERRA

I’m writing post in the air (on a chair!) between Australia and New Zealand, where I’m spending nearly six weeks hopping about due to a mix various speaking engagements (seminars, keynotes etc.), and co-delivering hands-on workshops which will mean finally working alongside (yes, as in face-to-face!) some of the people with whom I’ve been collaborating over the past three years. It’s a fantastic opportunity both to share practice with, and learn from others, so in terms of personal development I’m expecting to return to the UK with a much deeper appreciation of learning/curriculum innovation and institutional change elsewhere. The first stop was the Australian capital, where I’ve spent the past week at the University of Canberra and (a last minute addition) the Australian National University, working with staff to explore possibilities for new ways of learning and teaching through social and mobile technologies.

Canberra

It’s been a fantastic experience so far, and I’m blown away by the talent involved in #ucsaffire – the University of Canberra’s campus-wide project which aims to remodel learning and teaching across disciplines and faculties through integration of digital literacies and pedagogies. The #ucsaffire team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, and between them they cover pretty much everything you’d want in a Teaching and Learning Centre (and then some), including some cutting-edge AR work, an award-winning cinematographer and an amazing woman who alongside specialising in interactive/digital performance has also hitched her way around the world on yachts… (Cynthia, next time I’m coming too! 😉

It’s been a most thought-provoking, challenging and rewarding experience exploring current (and future) practice over here, and I’m genuinely excited about the possibilities for learning and teaching at the University of Canberra, which closely parallels Salford in many ways – so I’ve found myself drawing on not only my own personal experiences, but also the drivers behind learning innovation at my home institution. I look forward to maintaining our relationship virtually as both a critical friend and an ardent supporter of #ucsaffire now that this week has come to an end.

Before sharing some goodbye drinks at the end of the day on Friday (Jean *waves*!), I was whisked over to the Australian National University to present to staff there, and again was heartened by the openness and the attitude towards experimentation with emerging (and in this case, risky) pedagogies. Again, I look forward to keeping in contact and sharing experiences in relation to curriculum design – in this case we were specifically considering simulations and alternate realities in the legal disciplines. Exciting stuff!

It’s not been too bad working in opposite time-zones, as I’m able to do ‘Salford work’ in the early mornings and evenings, with ‘Oz work’ in between. More than ever, I’m appreciating Instagram for ambient social connectivity, and I love being able to stay connected with students back on home turf through photo-sharing – in fact, I’ve found myself referring to Instagram on many occasion this week, as a platform that both academics and learners are using in unanticipated ways to share knowledge and sustain connections over time and space…

Thank you to everybody I’ve met, talked at and talked with this week. You’ve all been wonderful (and a special thanks to Jonathan Powles for inviting me over in the first place and Traci Ward who has looked after me every step of the way), and I’m leaving Canberra feeling rather excited about the road ahead. I probably say this way too much but I’m going to have to say it again…

#ilovemyjob

(pics on Flickr)

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.