Monthly Archives: May 2015

WORKSHOP DAY 4

The day began with a pitching workshop by Richard Adams, Senior Fellow at University of Lincoln and currently engaged in Digital Business Transformation at Royal Shakespeare Company. Held via Google Hangout, Richard gave students some great tips to prepare for the display of their work at Web We Want Festival at London’s Southbank Centre. The morning session focused on an overview of how to pitch and why this is important, with the advice of structuring their pitches using NABC (need, approach, benefit and competition). The students were then tasked with preparing their pitches to then present these back to Richard at the end of the day.

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The day then followed with more ideas development and testing while working on their short, sharp pitches. The Oculus Rift was set up in the space and the students also began work on designing a poster to be on display at the festival, which explains their workshop/installation and entices the public to engage.

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co_LAB was proud to have Dr Sarah Barrow, Head of School of Film & Media, drop by to check on the progress and hear about the great work being produced. The groups talked Sarah through their concepts and did a bit of live testing, including Sarah’s first time on the Oculus Rift that we feel was a success. It was great experience for the students ahead of part 2 of Richard Adam’s pitching workshop later in the day and left Sarah feeling very impressed.

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The day was bookended by part 2 of Richard Adams’ pitching workshop, the students took it in turn to pitch the installation and workshop and gained feedback on how to improve upon them in order to engage the public and also coherently present their concepts. Some excellent progress was made ready for the final push on day 5 before co_LAB heads down to London for Web We Want Festival.

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WORKSHOP DAY 3

Graham Cooper began day 3 with Wake Up co_LAB, which involved some physical and mental exercises getting participants out from behind their desks and off their feet. A series of activities designed to highlight the strength of collaboration and positive thought and featured the infamous 12 part handshake.

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The teams then continued their ideas development following the strong foundational base laid down on day 2 with feedback and advice from tutors where needed. We then had a whole group ideas feedback session, allowing students and staff to collectively give their input and help push the ideas forward with some sage advice and stories by Clive McCarthy.

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Day 3 ended with the teams naming their concepts and beginning the branding and realisation of these. co_LAB hereby presents workshop Blind_Data and Oculus Rift experience Caught in the Web.

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Workshop Day 2

The second day of the workshop explored the potential of the Oculus Rift and associated VR software (Janus browser and Unity) so the students could start to address how they might approach the ‘technical exhibition’ strand of the project. The day started with an introduction to the technology with LSFM Learning Advisor Mark Aldridge, who then tasked the students with heading out onto campus to film some footage with the 360° GoPro rig. Mark (with the help of KTP Jo Graham) then instructed the students of how to stitch this footage together using AutoPan for use within the Oculus Rift. This was an engaging activity designed to get the students out of the classroom and their hands on some exciting kit!

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In the afternoon the student groups began generating ideas for both strands of the project. They were asked to ‘brain dump’ their initial responses to the brief in order to design both a workshop and some form of ‘technical exhibition’. This was a lively session, with the students coming up with lots of interesting ideas that could potentially be developed further throughout the rest of the workshop.

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They were then asked to pick one of their ideas from each strand to concentrate on, addressing how this might run at Southbank, how many participants might be involved, what resources they might need, what message or particular theme they are trying to communicate, etc. Tutors were available for ‘floating feedback’, dropping in on the discussions to offer advice and help the students approach their ideas from a fresh perspective.

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In the final session of the day, the organisers of Frequency Festival of Digital Culture popped in to discuss the logistical aspects of exhibiting at the Southbank Centre, and to listen to the students present the concepts that had been developed throughout the day. It was great for the students to get some professional advice from an external stakeholder. It was also really useful for helping them to identify what they would require to turn their ideas into a finished product, and to focus on a simple message that could be easily  communicated to the public.

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Workshop Day 1

After a welcoming cuppa, the first day of the @WebWeWant workshop started with an introduction to the key themes, outlining the schedule for the workshop and discussing the project brief. The students watched an interview with Edward Snowden (with John Oliver from Last Week Tonight), which was useful for addressing public apathy towards the mass surveillance of digital communications (in both a military and commercial context).

#Twitter_Bricks

With the key themes resinating in the participants minds, we thought we’d launch straight into the first workshop task… Twitter Bricks!

Usually, when a group of strangers are to work together on something (be that forced or otherwise), there is usually some team-bonding task led by a facilitator that gets participants thinking and working as a unit. The idea is that communication becomes more fluent as they are all experiencing the same task simultaneously. These tasks traditionally take the form of some role-play scenarios, or if you’re lucky enough to be outdoors; building a raft out of planks of wood, string and some old oil drums.

We wanted to try something different. For a start, we (the co_LAB team) wanted to participate as equals with the students. After-all, part of the co_LAB intensive workshop ethos is to remove the notion of “us” and “them” wherever possible. Secondly, we wanted to introduce an element of creative problem solving, and we wanted to do this based on a recent experience when some of the team visited Copenhagen. Here, in the home country of Lego, they use the wondrous little plastic bricks to help with all kinds of business and creative problem solving. We thought we could take this a step further and use Lego for a collaborative creative problem solving task. Twitter Bricks was born.

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The idea is that 3 teams work together to recreate the co_LAB logo in Lego. They were assigned a third of the actual logo (see above) but instead of just recreating it flat, each group had to turn their “node” into a tower and their “connections” into a span. The 3 segments would then have to join together. Sound easy? Well if all 3 teams were to work together in the same room then yes, it probably would be very easy. However, here’s the twist! The 3 groups are separated by being in different rooms and so therefore unable to communicate. They all had the same briefing, they all saw the same plan (above) and all had the same instructions and rules.

Actually the rules were quite simple:

  1. no direct communication with the other groups BUT you can communicate with them via a Twitter hashtag
  2. the spans have to connect (denoted by the white lines in the diagram above)
  3. a Lego car has to be able to travel along the entire length of all the spans
  4. a Lego boat (which later became a camel) has to fit underneath each span

This still might not sound all the difficult but think about it, the spans have to be roughly the same width, have to be EXACTLY the same height and communicating even these simple dimensions using only Twitter isn’t as straight forward as you might think.

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After the strict 1 hour time limit was up, each group carefully carried their segment back into the main room to connect the whole structure together:

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Incredibly, the structure did connect and the car could pass across the entire span with no problems. The camels could fit underneath the spans too making this little exercise a fantastic success. Yes, there were teething issues, but this was an idea that had never been tried before (to our knowledge) so there was no telling if it would work or not. I guess we were always going to get something which could be cobbled together but the success can be measured by how little modification it takes to connect the spans. In this instance, hardly any was required.

After bonding over pizza, the students groups discussed the research they collaboratively sourced during the pre-workshop phase. The students were asked to respond to a series of questions and present their findings to the rest of the group.

Collaborative Practice Based Research

To contextualise the co_LAB approach, it was important for us to situate the involvement of the students within a wider set of critical issues. To address this, postgraduate students Louise Lawlor and Andy West gave an insightful talk about their research and experience with the newly revalidated LSFM Masters programme (which explores an experimental approach to blending theory and practice).

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The use of practice-based research methodologies, collaboration and the utilization of public space are not only fundamental to co_LAB’s manifesto, but are also part of a more critical response to developments and approaches in Humanities research and also aligned to the Student as Producer initiative run by the University of Lincoln.

The talk contextualised a series of developments and symptoms mapped by a variety of scholars from the crisis of empirical research to the marketization of the University. Drawing upon the experiences from their own postgraduate research using practice based research methodologies and collaborative practice, which can breakdown the boundaries of a classroom. For the participants of co_LAB, the active and experimental approach to learning  can attune them to new ways of thinking about and understanding the themes of the project.

We feel this gave the students a critical insight into a range of problems when approaching methodologies and gave them a chance to not only see the project of co_LAB as something creative and collaborative, but as a wider response to important developments in academic research and public engagement.

The day ended with a lively discussion, recapping some of the core themes and research that was covered throughout the day. This resulted in the formation of some initial ideas which the students will be developing throughout the project.

Final Pre-Workshop Task!

Congratulations, the first phase of our co_LAB adventure is nearly complete – we just have one more small task for you to work on in your teams.

On Thursday we would like you to present the findings from your initial research to the rest of the group. We realise this is not going to be overly extensive given the limited time that you have had to get cracking on this, but if you could prepare some responses to the following questions that would be MOST GOOD!

  • What are the key concerns about military / commercial surveillance?
  • Is privacy online important to you?
  • Is the right to free speech and protest important for democracy?
  • Should governments have unrestricted access to personal data?
  • How might we challenge public apathy towards these issues?
  • How can we challenge forms of surveillance?
  • What legal or political ramifications do you foresee over the next 10 years
  • What technological developments do you foresee over the next 10 years

 

These questions are designed to inspire/intrigue you during your research, but ultimately the research we undertake collaboratively will inform the projects you will work on over the next week or so. Remember to post any interesting articles or videos in the repository document in the shared Google Drive folder, and duplicate your findings on the FB coffee room (to keep things tidy I suggest everybody adds them to the Russell Brand video thread so all posts can be found in one place!)

 

Good luck gang… see you at 9.30 at the Junxion!