1215.today Innovation Lab

co_LAB is hosting the next instalment of 1215.today Innovation Lab series and is currently seeking participants.

 

Do you want to spend a day with other creative minds to re-imagine what our lives could look like in the future? Do you want to work alongside an internationally recognised artist to discuss, debate and develop ideas and artwork that might be commissioned as part of the 1215.today project?

www.1215.today is an online creative project that connects and empowers young people across the world to have their say about their rights. So if you care about democracy, freedom of speech and human rights, join us on Saturday 11 June in Lincoln.

If you’re a maker (of any digital media/art-form), gamer, Youtuber or just want a chance to express yourself, the Lab is an opportunity to share your point of view with the rest of the world. You will also be joined by 4 creative technologists who will translate your ideas into a working prototype on the day! Please see the attached official invitation – declarations of interest must be returned by 21st April via info@1215.today

This event is suitable for both staff and students.

Those interested in attended are asked to fill out the attached application form and send to Kelly Daniels – info@1215.today

 

1215.today Lab, Leeds ODI

Lab 1: Future Space (Jan 2016)

Former co_LABers Fran Bullinger and Zach Jones were participants of the first Innovation Lab, which was held at the Open Data Institute in Leeds in January. Artist Kathrin Böhm asked participants to define what future space might look like. Some radical ideas emerged on the day. One of these has been commissioned into a creative, digital artwork. Check out this post by a member of our curatorial panel about her experience at the Lab.  The next event is being hosted by the LSFM digital innovation centre, co_LAB – if you are interested in being involved please could direct expression of interest to info@1215.today.

Branding Design Workshop mini-series

Hot on the heels of the Game Engine workshop series came our second extra-curricular opportunity for students from across the University. This time the subject under the spotlight is Branding Design and a call for participants was circulated (predominately to the College of Arts). This particular workshop was created for two reasons.

brandingdesignposter

Firstly, back at the start of 2015, we, along with other members of the OnCreate consortium, co-created a blended learning course on the subject of branding design with the intention of offering access to students across all partner institutions. The course was devised in such a way that it was to be as a collaboration between students from different institutions. They would be provided with all the learning material via an online learning platform (in this instance Eliademy) but this would be blended with scheduled online live workshop/meetings hosted by partners responsible for creating the course materials.

Secondly, the school to which I belong had recently been granted permission to create their own sub-branding to gain a certain amount of autonomy. This reflects current trends within educational institutions to highlight a particular area of importance or to encourage growth and improve reputation. As a research group also known for producing and facilitating well-designed artefacts, we were approached to design this new branding. We thought however, this should be an opportunity that is presented to students, utilising the learning materials developed for the branding design workshop.

We know that at least one other partner institution from the OnCreate consortium were planning on running something in the domain of branding design with their students so we decided this was an opportunity to try and engage the students with collaborative production.

We have learnt from previous attempts with remote location-based collaboration that it’s important to set the scope of what realistic exceptions are achievable. Based-on the fact our collaborations are only ever extra-curricular (as to include everyone at module level would be logistically difficult due to the number of students we have), we decided to opt for the minimum expectation of collaborative peer review and feedback. This way, teams of students could work autonomously but get together at various instances to present ideas, developments and final work.

Another issue that arises from us only ever been able to commit to these projects as extra-curricular ventures is that the time we can commit to them is always very short or compact. In this instance we only really had the opportunity to “connect” our classrooms once.

Connecting The Classrooms

The plan to connect the classrooms was to use Adobe Connect – the platform used by the consortium for OnCreate meetings – to bring all participants (or groups) together in a “meeting room” and then divide them out into “breakout groups” for feedback sessions.

In theory this is a good system and prior to this we had some success with the Adobe Connect platform, however there were issues that hampered this experience and actually convinced us that the platform is actually quite poor, especially in conjunction with the way we managed and envisioned it would work.

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Firstly, the technology is relatively outdated. It is still powered by Flash – which, when it comes to video, isn’t necessarily the worst option as although Flash as a web-based platform is now obsolete, Flash video is still quite prevalent and the choice of many video streaming services. However, the quality of the experience is directly proportional to the capability of both the server and bandwidth of all connected clients. If one or more of these components is weak then the experience for all tends to diminish.

There was an additional logistical problem, that wasn’t the fault of the technology but still a consideration, in that we (Lincoln students) were all in the same room and the EU students were either at home meaning that they had access to headsets, and we didn’t. Even if we did, it would have been socially inappropriate to don headsets whilst a room full of other collaborators.

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Perhaps the largest issue however was the apparent lack of planning brought about by a mixture of slightly misaligned expectations, poor communication and the inability of the technology to deliver an effective transition from modes (from open meeting to breakout groups). After this pilot we concluded that in order for future online classroom connections to run efficiently, the facilitators of said sessions must present an agenda ahead of the actual meeting. Unlike meeting in person where the agenda can be circulated at the time of the meeting, the nature of the collaborative practice undertaken in these sessions requires that participants be forearmed with potential questions or feedback ready to take full advantage of the reduced ability to communicate via this combination of technology and activity.

There were some positives which clearly demonstrate that once an ideal platform has been selected (or the existing one improved), that there is potential for online connected classroom activities to play a very useful role in both extracurricular and general curriculum activities. For instance, when the text-based communication was utilised by both parties then actual feedback and suggestions for improvement did take place. Most notably however, the functionality of the real-time drawing board did allow those who discovered it to actually “sketch” ideas out as opposed to describing them. This obviously rendered any language barrier null and void. If Adobe Connect had the ability to sketch in real-time over existing files (like PDF or PNG), then feedback could have been directed to the location of the issues or point of comment. It may well have this feature but it wasn’t immediately accessible or intuitive to new users.

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Digital Platforms

As part of this workshop, students were introduced to two digital platforms. Firstly, the course was hosted on Eliademy because online learning management platforms tend to be closed to visitors outside of the owning institution. As this was a collaboration between different institutions we therefore turned to Eliademy because it is free and anyone can create an online course with whatever structure they deem appropriate.

eliademy

Whilst Eliademy is wonderfully simple and accessible, it doesn’t have the same power to encourage participants to become engaged with the topic at hand. Partly because of the open way a course is structured. There are no measures for establishing monitored progression either from the participant or the teacher. There is formal assessment but no indication that the way you are structuring your ‘classes’ or learning materials is working and that students are looking at them. Maybe there are more features in the paid version but we have yet to explore this. Basically, the course is only as good the owner has arranged it. Whilst Eliademy has tried to accommodate as many course structures as possible (by leaving you to it), I think this works against it when compared to other examples we’ve encountered that offer highly structured and trackable content management. That aside, for a simple 4 week course, Eliademy performed quite well.

The other platform we explored allowed students to perform multiple aspects of both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. Padlet is simply a shared space where collaborators can attach images, videos and web links in any arrangement they see fit. It has advantages over other pin board applications such as Pinterest in that there is no grid or structure to how content is positioned. This allows it to be re-purposed as a moodboard, scrapbook, presentation aid, research repository and many more.

padlet

Students really enjoyed using Padlet with many of them now using it as the default collaboration space online.

Conclusions

Upon completition of the workshop participants were given a simple questionnaire, the questions and topic of which were drawn from the ongoing OnCreate project’s work on establishing an evaluatory feedback model testing creative collaborative experience. For this particular workshop, the following questions were used:

  • General – Did you enjoy participating in the workshop?
  • Tools – Did you find the course environment (technology) easy to Use? If not, what problems where there?
  • Tools – Did the tools you used on the course environment support communication and working with others well?
  • Teamwork – Was your team working, communicating and sharing tasks effectively? If not, what could have been better?
  • Teamwork – Did you learn new team working skills? If so, what were they?

10 participants answered the questions and the results were consistent. All students answered Yes for the first 4 questions and commented on how useful they found the experience of using technology in order to support collaborative-based working. Some also commented that when the technology was working, the real-time connection to a studio in an international institution was a new and useful experience. All participants answered No the fifth question. Comments seem to suggest that the nature of their courses here in Lincoln have already set them up for working effectively as part of a team, and even though the technology provided them with a space in which to document their ideas, because they met in a physical space, they didn’t really get to see the benefits the tools could have when distance working. I guess this would have been different if they were working in international groups, but, as mentioned at the start of this post, this was going to be too logistically challenging.

This information will shape the way we approach the next iteration of this collaborative-working model when when we start working the The Hague University of Applied Sciences and participate on their Service Design module in the Spring of 2016.

The Winners

I am pleased to share with you the final winning design from the brief the students here at Lincoln were all working towards:

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It was produced by Sam Dos Santos and Cheryl Porcelijn. Sam is a Media Production student from Luxembourg and Cheryl was an exchange student from The Hague University of Applied Sciences so even though the collaboration between different institutions was difficult to manage this time, the result did have influence of an international flavour.

All logos produced for this workshop were submitted to a panel of judges. The judges liked Sam and Cheryl’s bold approach and striking colour palette. It deviated from the “safe and corporate” option and presented the school as an entity that wanted to take creative (but measured) risks and not afraid to stand out from the crowd.

iWeek – Liepāja University

Louise Lawlor and Clive McCarthy were invited to run a workshop as part of Liepāja University’s 7th international New Media art festival ‘iWeek’ 2-7 November 2015 http://iweek.mplab.lv/en/. Of course they jumped at the chance to return and their workshop became ‘Human < > Object’.

They took along 4 students from Lincoln School of Film and Media; Philippa Revitt (Media Production), Emma Heaps (Media Production), Joseph Lewiston (Media Production) and Thomas Love (Film and Television). They began the long journey to Liepāja on Monday 2 November and after arriving late in the evening they began looking ahead to day 2 and the start of the workshops. The majority of workshops began on Tuesday 3 November in both MPLab and Vecā Ostmala 54 (an abandoned house used by a group in Liepāja to stage events, parties etc and converted this time into the grand base for iWeek).

Philippa and Emma took part in the second part of the Connected Neighbourhoods project along with Īstā Madara and Linda Strauta (LV), Thomas took part in Tibor Kecskés (HU) workshop ‘Open Up Famous Paintings Into 3D!’ and Joseph Lewiston signed up for Gyorgyi Retfalvi and Zoltan Gayer’s (HU) workshop ‘Looping iWeek’.

Louise and Clive’s workshop began on Wednesday 4 November in MPLab and included participants from a range of nationalities; Dana Rasnaca (LV), Iris van der Harst (NL), Annija Gancōne (LV), Marta Matuzeviča (LV), Kristaps Strungs (LV) and Teotim Logar (LV). Day 1 centred around discussions of the workshop concept, with explorations into what ‘human’ and ‘object’ mean. So on to day 2; the group agreed the final outcomes would be in the form of experiments that they undertook and would film and edit together in order to present, this matched the experimental thinking of the workshop and became spontaneous reactions to the concepts of ‘human’ and ‘object’.

Photo: Valters Pelns

The 3 outcomes became:

Louise and the Connected Neighbourhoods team took part in the Open Idea Space on the Wednesday evening. Louise gave a talk on her recent MA project ‘Mapping an ethical becoming, or, devices for the anthropocene’ and the Connected Neighbourhood team went through what they had worked on in Lincoln and were working towards in Liepāja. The talks were live streamed and the rest of the team watched along with messages of support.

Photo: Valters Pelns

The group went along to the iWeek dinner on Thursday 5 November, where all workshop tutors and participants came together to enjoy a meal and make connections.

Day 3 of the workshop and final exhibition day on Friday 6 November produced 3 videos of the 3 experiments and as a group they decided to exhibit these projected one on top of the other onto an object in the space. Using a mac mini to power a projector displaying the mapped videos onto 2 doors that had been abandoned in the space, giving these inanimate objects an agency and a life force they didn’t have previously. Bringing them and the room alive with the sounds of laughter from their Laugh in a Jar experiment. (A special thanks goes to Pēters Riekstiņš for the fantastic technical help!) On the guided tour of the exhibition by the lovely Anna Trapenciere, Louise and Clive gave a short introduction to the workshop and what had been produced in collaboration with the students. Inviting viewers to explore the room in their own time.

Photo: Valters Pelns

Photo: Valters Pelns

Thomas exhibited his installation of the Vitruvian Man expanded into a 3-dimensional space and viewable from a single perspective. Thomas gave an excellent introduction to the work and got people involved to interact with the piece to find the perfect viewpoint.

Photo: Valters Pelns

Joseph also exhibited the final outcome from his workshop, Joseph and the workshop tutors created a loop of all workshop groups using stop motion photography. This was an effective piece to capture the energy of iWeek and celebrate the many workshops going on.

Photo: Valters Pelns

http://coub.com/view/918p8

Philippa, Emma, Madara and Linda showed the final outcome of the second part of the Connected Neighbourhoods project, a film and soundscape of the communities of Liepāja ending with an interactive map where they invited people to pin their favourite place in the city.

The group then had a chance to explore the other excellent workshop outcomes on display. All in all it has been a fantastic experience and, although tired and exhausted, the group are all full of inspiration and motivation for future areas of collaboration.

iWeek + Frequency Festival

#Freq15

This week has been an extremely busy one for the team, as we have been exhibiting artists as part of Frequency Digital Arts Festival. Back in May the production team behind Frequency worked closely with us to organise the Web We Want exhibition at Southbank Arts Centre. The second part of that project culminated last week, with the co_LAB team re-running this exhibition as three separate installations during Frequency:

‘Caught in the Web’ took place in the Waterside centre, thrilling shoppers of all ages

Blind_Data running as part of the Frequency Fabratory

www25 at Chad Varah as part of Frequency

iWeek

We are also finally recovering from hosting our very first iWeek. Over the past few years we have been lucky enough to be invited to several iWeeks across Europe and decided it was time we ran one of our own. iWeeks are a great way to share working practices between a network of European universities, and primarily consist of running intensive workshops that bring together staff and students from different countries. The iWeek model provides a platform to explore new modes of international and interdisciplinary collaboration, co-creation and learning. Welcoming guests from University of Liepāja, Latvia and Hanze Academy of Pop Culture, Netherlands, we collaborated on a number of projects as part of the Frequency Fabratory.

Our international guests

Our international guests

Don’t Grow Up, it’s a Trap

This two day public workshop, ran by Johanneke Dijkstra (Hanze Academy of Popular Culture) and a team of Dutch students, aimed to explore the freedom of creativity and imagination we experience during childhood. The workshop invited children to direct the team of students to build an art installation in response to their drawings, designs and stories. The creations dreamt up by participants included a Big Ben Time Machine, Ariana Grande taking her pet alien cat for a walk, a rocket ship and a gigantic cardboard archway.

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The outputs from the ‘Don’t Grow Up, it’s a Trap’ workshop later formed a multi-media installation at Chad Varah House that featured audio recordings of the children discussing their drawings, which were also projected onto the artworks.

‘Don’t Grow Up, it’s a Trap’ installation at Chad Varah House

 

Bank of Kindness

As part of the ‘Connected Neighbourhoods’ project, students from LSFM, University of Liepaja and Hanze Academy of Popular Culture ran a two day public workshop as part of the Frequency Fabratory’. The workshop, called ‘The Bank of Kindness’, invited people to spread a little happiness by choosing a random act of kindness to perform, in exchange for contributing another kind act for someone else to perform. Participants were encouraged to post pictures of their good deeds on social media via #‎BankofKindness‬

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Spreading a little kindness as part of the Frequency Fabratory

 

co_LAB mentioned in National Press

The Telegraph have recently published a story about Frequency Festival, with co_LAB and LSFM post-grad student Joanna White getting a mention. This is kind of a big deal so congratulations to all those involved and a massive thanks to all the student volunteers who have helped make this the best Frequency Fest yet!!!

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