Category Archives: Collaboration

Raspberry Pi launched

Today the low cost, credit card sized computer Raspberry Pi was launched with the prime purpose of encouraging young adults and children to learn computer programming. This has been an area sadly lacking in UK schools since the demise of the BBC Micro Computer in 1994. The initial cost of the computer is just  £22 ($35) and runs on open-source operating system Linux.

At the moment it’s just a board (below) weighing about 45g that can be plugged into a TV and a keyboard. But it potentially marks a turning point when children and young adults are given something more exciting and challenging than building PowerPoint presentations in their ICT class. This is a generation adept at playing sophisticated online computer games. How uninspiring it must be to “power down” their brains and work on a spreadsheet or a powerpoint in the classroom.

But it’s more than this, it is about understanding the workings of technology both technically and critically, often referred to as digital literacy. Recently I had a discussion with a friend about the need to put digital literacy education on a par with other forms of literacy like the reading, writing and maths. He disagreed and, using the car analogy, said that you don’t need to know the technical workings of a car to drive it – that’s what mechanics are for. At first this seemed to me like an inapplicable comparison. Nevertheless, after refection, I could see that, in a way, it proves my point on two different levels. It’s an interesting analogy because one can drive a car without knowing it’s workings (other than knowing when to fill it with fuel!). Most people do. But knowledge obviously helps if the car develops a fault. However, to point out the other side of this analogy, you would not think it wise to drive a car without becoming proficient at driving it as this could be physically dangerous to you and other people.

A similar comparison can be made for the digital world. Of course the danger of using the internet may not be physical but knowing what happens if you open an email with a virus or even what to do if you are a victim of “trolling” may be of some benefit to your mental health. This knowledge could be on an even more banal level like knowing what happens to your data when you type a query into Google. As with the car analogy there could be said to be two levels of digital literacy in this case. Firstly, educating young people in the necessary skills to develop critical judgements and understanding of how the digital world functions seems sensible (the learning to drive bit) so that they can use the Internet confidently and analytically. And secondly, access at an early age to learning the basics of programming is an advantage because then they will have an understanding of the technical structure of the Internet (the technical workings bit) and be able to make, adapt and customise things for themselves. This adds a creative element too.

This is one of the many reasons why the release of Raspberry Pi is so crucial to the latter. Learning basic programming at an early age will make it seem a natural, basic and potentially enjoyable activity. Last year, at his MacTaggart lecture, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt criticised the UK education system by saying that he was “flabbergasted to learn that computer science is not taught as standard in UK schools” He went on to say this also ignored the legacy given to us by pioneering UK computer scientists like Alan Turing. Here’s a link to a post I wrote at the time.

In my experience computer/video games courses, at the few schools and colleges that run them, are the courses that fill up straight away because the students are passionate about gaming. It would seem a perfect time to start the process of educating our childen and young adults in the art of programming not just for their own benefit and education but to stop us lagging behind other more technologically ambitious and savvy nations that have had computer science programming on there curriculum for many years. Raspberry Pi is the perfect starting point.

Below Robert Mullins, co-founder of Raspberry Pi Foundation, is interviewed by Harriet Green about how and why Raspberry Pi was created.

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’308′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gky68aE578[/pro-player]

 

Social Media Week London – Friday

And so to the last day of Social Media Week London. I only made it to two events on the final day. First was The Future of being Social hosted by the Like Minds Club in which a panel of five distinguished media professionals grappled with what amounted to an impossible and unwise subject to predict. No one really knows the answer but the room where we were seated was packed to the rafters, reflecting the audiences desire to get some insight.

The panel traded jovial banter and disagreed over the perfect analogy for social media. First the ‘village’ was put forward, presumably taken but not referenced from Marshall McLuhan’s “Global Village”, and then ‘bazaar’ taken and referenced from Eric S. Raymond excellent book about the rise of open-source software, The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Perhaps the most articulate and succinct was Alan Moore, describing himself as, innovator, entrepreneur and mentor, who spoke about how our society needed to be more participatory. He’s also the author of the publication No Straight Lines: making sense of our non-linear world which discusses, amongst other things, “the emancipation of our information-behaviour”.

An interesting debate ensued but no one came close to sticking there neck out to predict the future of social, and nor should they because doing so could make them look rather silly in a few years time.

Next it was off to the other side of the City and Farringdon for the Twittamentary, a hour long documentary about everyday people who use Twitter. It’s directed by Tan Siok Siok, who crowd-sources the stories and videos for the project. The film is essentially a road movie accoss the United States that shows the diverse uses of Twitter from buying a pizza, stock trading and travel journalism to sex workers and homelessness.

[pro-player image=http://www.timrileydigital.com/phddiary/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/twittamentary.jpg width=’465′ height=’308′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6svkZQoqik[/pro-player]

Social Media Week London – Thursday

Thursday began with three events at the Design Council. The first, The Future of Sharing discussed whether web users future will “embrace a world of ubiquitous sharing, or come to reject added noise and clutter”.

The event was prefaced with a consumer survey presentation by digital agency Beyond which looked at the future trends in online sharing.

The Current State of Sharing

The definition of online sharing within the context of this survey is very broad and can mean anything from sharing a link to your recently uploaded YouTube video or to the automatic sharing of your online activity. This is a term know as “frictionless sharing”, which posts your online activity through the use of applications directly to your profile without the need of a “like” or “share” button. Frictionless sharing was widely discussed as a social marketing tool. I question, however, its value to the social media user as it creates unnecessary noise and clutter and can interfere with the online conversation. This was backed up by a straw poll of the audience where only 4 people out of a room of around 170 wanted more frictionless sharing. However the assembled panel of marketeers recognised its value realising that recommendations from friends and colleagues are more valuable for selling products and services than traditional advertising and marketing are. Indeed this issue seemed to identify the course of the day’s attention.

The full survey can be viewed and downloaded at Beyond’s Future of Sharing web page.

Later in the morning there was a panel discussion entitled The Psychology of Online Influence. This event is also the title of a forthcoming book  by Web PsychologistNathalie Nahai who gave the first presentation concerned with new insights from the fields of neuropsychology and neuroaesthetics. The main angle of her presentation was discovering how we can apply these fields of research to “influence and communicate persuasively online”. Again this event was heavily weighted towards marketing and the value of social media tools and online communities to it.

Thursday afternoon began with massively oversubscribed Google@SocialMediaWeek, which was an interesting mix of both academic study and the features of Google+. The event started with a presentation from Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University. He is the person to whom the phrase “Dunbar’s number” derives. It’s a reference to the number 150, which Dunbar claims is the “cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships”. Professor Dunbar’s presentation, titled “Why the Internet won’t get you anymore friends”, was academically orientated, as one would expect, and full of valuable and interesting research conducted over many years. His conclusion suggested that the reason we “won’t get anymore friends” on the Internet is the size of our brains and the behaviour we carry forward from our primate ancestors. This was followed by Alex Bentley, Professor of Anthropology at Bristol University who used some of Dunbar’s data to ask the question “Does the Internet really change how we interact and decide?” which looked at the mapping of social behaviour and “how ideas, behaviour, and culture spread through the simple means of doing what others do”. This is a question that I think that will be ongoing for some considerable time to come.

However, these two academic heavyweights were just a prelude to the main Google+ presentation. As I mentioned earlier in this post, much of what interests marketers about social media is the high value placed on personal recommendations and the ability for these recommendations to be converted into sales. Mobile Sales Director at Google UK, Ian Carrington qualified this by revealing an astonishing statistic that individuals are 300% more likely to make a purchase if someone they know has recommended it to them.

This led on to the main theme and big idea of the session, the development of “circles” on Google+ and the use of the “plus 1” (+1) button that’s becoming ever-more prevalent on blogs and webpages (indeed, this blog already has one, below!). The idea being that everytime one of your friends, or someone in one of your circles, clicks on the +1 button this will personalise your Google searches to reflect your friends/circles choices. Personally I think this sounds annoying and there appears no way of turning the feature off. It certainly takes the serendipity out of searching the web. This reminds me of a book I read recently, The Filter Bubble by Eli Praiser, which discusses invisible algorithmic editing on the web and its potential implications.

The event ended with a very entertaining (and brave!) live demonstration by Beth Foster, Senior Google+ Strategist of how Google+ ‘hangouts’ works.  It was a bit like a conference call or a multiple Skype call except the experience felt more like being in a room with your mates…. only one that would allow anyone to come in. Very impressive and lots of fun.

As darkness fell I made my way into Soho and Londata II: Taming the firehose – putting data to work in social media, an event hosted by data management company Media Science. To my pleasant surprise there was an array of free alcoholic drinks (sponsored by Windows Azure) including, tastefully, some organic pale ale which was very much to my liking. After a bit of networking and a few drinks we were given three presentations on the merits of social media, data modelling and management (I wouldn’t blame you, dear reader, for thinking that drinking alcohol would’ve been a mandatory requirement before listening to three presentation on this subject, but this was not the case).

And so to the final event of the evening. I’d  managed to get one of the last batch of tickets for the Social Media London Official Closing Party at The Penthouse on Leicester Square. Again there was a generous free bar and food arrived at regular intervals on trays. This was purely social but in the physical sense although there had been a good use of the Twitter #smwldn hashtag all day… as you would expect from an event like this. Suitably stimulated both mentally and physically I made my way home.

Social Media Week London – Tuesday

I’ve spent most of the last few days at various Social Media Week events in and around London. Yes, I know, social media is happening online all the time but this is a week where the virtual meets the physical. I’ve just got around to writing up the events of the week so this is the first of a number of entries relating to experiences during the week. This first entry is intended as an over view of the week and my first day.

The week is made up of events held concurrently at 21 major cities around the world and also accessible virtually through SNS and live streams. The main drive of the subjects and topics is marketing led but includes discussions on the broader issues surrounding social media and the web. The main theme of this years events was “Empowering change through collaboration”. However, this theme has tenuous links to to the events I visited.

Social Media Week London had a multitude of events with the vast majority free and, in most cases, sponsored my commercial organisation. One of the recurring themes discussed at many of the events I attended was the use of the term ‘Big Data’ and the access to and analysis of large data sets. IBM claim that “everyday, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone” (IBM). Indeed, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated at the Atmosphere 2010 conference that “Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. We [now] create five exabytes every two days. See why it’s so painful to operate in information markets?” (although how this comparison and calculation has been achieved is not divulged). So this is already a well discussed debate and, as the last sentence in the quote alludes, one pertinent to the modern company. With the constant generation of ever larger amounts of data comes the issue of how companies and individuals can harvest it, analyse it and, of course, issues of privacy that are inexorably link to it. “Big data” appears to have moved up the agenda with many of the company presentations at events offering services to digital businesses. However, the impact on privacy and data protection were given little regard.

Given my area of research I tried to limit the events I attended to less marketing led subjects although it became apparent that most linked to this subject somewhere in most events. In Tuesday morning’s Is eyewitness news, news? a panel discussed the impact of citizen journalism through social media and the use of user-generated content on news gathering. This mainly boiled down to issues of trust, authentication and accuracy. Adam Baker of Blottr caused consternation from both panellists and audience when he suggested that if something “trended” on Twitter it was probably true. Many examples were given to contradict his claim but Baker qualified this by saying reports on Twitter would be checked before his site would publish.

In the afternoon Mark Stephens CBE, owner of law firm Finers Stephens Innocent, discussed the legal minefield of copyright and intellectual property in the digital age in Freedom of Tweet: Censorship, Governments, Marketers & The Law. He discussed the recent high-profile cases of super-injunctions to suppress stories and their effectiveness in the age of Twitter and social media’s worldwide reach. Stephens suggested that a more effective strategy for anyone wishing to go down this route in the future would be to employ a PR firm to mitigate and pre-empt the story’s release with favourable news. Censorship and freedom of speech were also covered with reference to the UK’s freedom of speech organisation Index on Censorship, the Electronic Frontier Foundation affiliated online rights organisation Chilling Effects and the recent protest over SOPA.

 

Higher Education Academy Art, Design, Media Creative Learning and Teaching Day

Last Thursday I went to the HEA Art, Design, Media Creative Learning and Teaching Day at Ravensbourne.  This was a well attended event that was the first chance to get involved in wider discussions about government polices and the forthcoming education cuts and rise in student fees. But it was also a chance to see the sort of initiatives taken by individuals and higher education institutions in art, design, media creative learning. A brief overview of the event can be seen in the following video.

 

[pro-player image=http://www.timrileydigital.com/phddiary/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/HEA_logo.jpg width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://vimeo.com/33503530[/pro-player]

 

The early morning keynote presentation was given by former NUS President, Aaron Porter, who is now a freelance journalist & higher education consultant. His presentation (below) used statistical data to analyse and show the current state of HE and then to present the (mainly) negatives and positives of the proposed changes to education funding.

 

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://vimeo.com/33684129[/pro-player]

 

There were many parallel sessions through out the day so it was impossible to see all the presentations but one notable and memorable presentation that I managed to see was by James Corazzo, Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design, University of Derby, who put forward the rather provocative statement “Sometimes the best teaching is no teaching at all”. Although on the surface this could be seen as self-defeating James showed that empowering students to use their initiative could be very creatively productive. It reminded me of the ideas of the American adult educator, Malcolm Knowles, in the 1970s and his ideas of self-directed learning that he called ‘andragogy’.

The day’s conference culminated in a keynote presentation by Pro-Vice-Chancellor of  University of Brighton, Professor Bruce Brown who gave a speech that followed the history of creativity and learning from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present day. (below).

 

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://vimeo.com/33489589[/pro-player]

Mozilla Festival at Ravensbourne

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been involved in teaching some first year under-graduate students at Ravensbourne over the last few weeks. This has taken the form of the introduction to and production of WordPress websites.

Part of this project was linked in with the Mozilla Festival which took place at Ravensbourne over the weekend. Students were asked to prepare WordPress sites ready to use and for filling with content over the course of the festival. It was heartening to see the multi-disiplinary groups of students firstly grapple with the new software and concept of content management systems and then steam ahead with innovative ways of using it.  Some implementing live feeds and others procured sponsorship and deals with local businesses.

Each team chose a different subject to cover and during the weekend they filmed interviews, edited videos, wrote articles and constantly updated their site with content from the festival. I went along on the Saturday to observe and take in the festival. The project was a very good example of collaboration, networking, pooling skills and resource as well as learning how to work as a team.

Their sites are available here to view:

Ravezilla: audio and video innovation
Children and Education
Mozilla Gaming
Journewlism

Social Media Chapter & TVam reunion

Now that the Transforming Audiences 3 conference is finished I’m using this week to finish a book chapter I was asked to write back in the Autumn of 2009. There have been plenty of re-writes since then. The book is entitled The Digital Media Handbook. 

A member of staff from my previous MA, Digital Media course  is overseeing and editing the book and it’s final deadline is approaching. The chapter, titled ʻSocial Media: Sharing and Collaboration Onlineʼ, positions the contrasting views of media and academic commentators against a historical and descriptive background and links them to a pedagogical case study.

The chapter is in two sections. The first part is a historical and academically orientated study of the rise of social media and the second part is a case study that relates to the preamble. I’m collaborating with the course leader at Ravensbourne College as he wrote the course that we are using. The book is produced in association with Department of Applied Social Science at London Metropolitan University and is slated for publication in spring, 2012.

After many changes and iterations the chapter is now finished and currently with the editors for integration with the other chapters. I’m glad it’s done as I need to clear the desk for my last year,  although there will, no doubt , be more changes!

Last night I went to a TVam reunion where I worked in the early 1980s. It was organised via Facebook. TVam was the first commercial breakfast TV channel launched in 1983 and the reunion was to mark the anniversary of the industrial action that lost all 230 of our jobs back in the late 1980s. At least that’s what I thought it was, although on reflection it’s a strange thing to mark.

The event was held at the Elephant Arms in Camden Town just across the road from the old TVam building in Hawley Crescent, now the studios of MTV. There was a fairly average turn out and still the factionalised department cliques of the past, the graphics team (left) included. The event was a bit limp, uninspiring and slightly banal. There again, that’s what most reunions are, (sad) reflections of the past.

Re-starting the interviews 13 – 15

A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to an artist, Adam Justice-Mills, at an open-day in East Finchley. He told me about a project he was organising involving two Artists’ Open House Weekends in the first two weeks of July. This consisted of 50 artists from around the area opening up their houses so the public can view their art. This saves on renting space and gives the viewer the chance to see the art in a natural environment.

On Saturday I intended on visiting five houses but stayed at the first due to the willingness of two artists to let me interview them about how they use the web to create and share content. On the Sunday I managed to walk to five venues and arranged an interview for the following day.

What are really excellent idea this is. It’s community based and just a really relaxing and enjoyable activity for a summer’s weekend.

Creativity and Remix Culture Lecture

Yesterday, I gave my lecture on ‘Creativity and Remix Culture’ as the final lecture on the Creativity module. I used a lot of music examples to add some variety and to slow down the pace in-between the different stages of the presentation. Using music in this context was valid as artists such as Grandmaster Flash and Danger Mouse revolutionised how music is remixed. As for remixing on the web the Google Chrome and Arcade Fire project ‘The Wilderness Downtown‘ shows how current web technology can mashup content to create a truly immersive and emotive experience. The lecture was well received by the students but this may have been more to do with the content and subject matter than the lecturer.

And here is the RiP – A Remix Manifesto – Trailer that’s linked to in the presentation.

[youtube 9oar9glUCL0 460 277]



Recruiting Participants for Research part 1

The winter break is over and 2011 is here. I’m now eager to start getting participants for my research. It’s a very important stage which is key to how my research progresses and is completed. I’ve already identified organisations I am going to contact in an attempt find appropriate participants.

I’m looking to recruit 15 to 20 web users in three age groups: 18 – 28, 40 – 50 and 65 – 75. All of the participants must already be engaged in the practice of creating and sharing content and not be in the process of learning. Obviously creating content could be considered anything from type a message to edited video but I’m defining content creation, in the context of this project, as an arrangement of visual and/or audio material that requires some element of composition or editing.

Earlier this week I went to give a short talk about my project to a U3A Science and technology group in Hillingdon. I’m hoping that I may be able recruit participants for the 65 – 75 age range from here. The U3A – The University Of The Third Age is a “self-help organisation for people no longer in full-time employment providing educational, creative and leisure opportunities”. The visit  went well with a very attentive, inquisitive and curious crowd. There were certainly a few members who could participate.

I’ve emailed a document of the project out to members of this group and they have forwarded it to other people in other groups. I now have meeting with the digital photography group on Monday.