Tag Archives: community

An Introduction to Two New Mini-Projects.

Local in a Digital Age

What does it mean to be local in a digital age?

This research sets out to examine confluences between the types of communication and exchange networks and constructions of personal & community identity that are enabled & encouraged by digital technology, on the one hand, and physical proximity and location on the other.

Its particular context is the creative industries, taking Greenwich as the overall case study, and, within Greenwich, five more specific case studies, relating to different creative sectors.

Principal Research Questions:

What significance do creative practitioners / businesses / customers / audiences ascribe to their location in Greenwich?

What is the role of face to face interaction (between creative producers and customers/audiences, other practitioners, members of the wider community etc.) in creative arts and events? What significance (personal, social, economic, logistical etc.) do they ascribe to this interaction?

How do creative practitioners / businesses / audiences use digital technology to produce, promote and participate in creative arts and events? What significance (personal, social, economic, logistical etc.) do they ascribe to this technology?

As part of this research we are conducting a short questionnaire. If you are local to the Greenwich Borough and have a couple of spare minutes,  please feel free to tell us your opinion.

Click here: https://goo.gl/forms/jeQkJdAKLJRK3Ac33.

Digitising Academic Publishing

How has the digital revolution changed academic publishing?

This research aims to examine the changing shape of academic publishing; contrasting new and old academic publishing models and identifying how digital publications have affected the way in which the public, scholars and students access information. The crux of the research is to present the best possible way for academics to disseminate their work to the widest audience.

The work aims to understand the effects of Open Access on academics, publishers and academic institutes. It will include, examine and assess business models used by publishing companies, university libraries/ presses and distributors, and identify how these entities have adjusted in the digital market place.

 Principal Research Questions:

How should an academic publish their work? – Identifying if traditional publishing has become synonymous with reputation and how quality can be maintained within new publishing models.  

What is the future of the academic publishing market? – A look at worldwide programmes to create universal dissemination of knowledge. 

Should an academic self-publish? – How self-publishing has become an integral part of the industry and why it should or shouldn’t be considered for academics.

How has the digital market redefined conventional publishing tropes? – With the majority of reading conducted on digital devices, how has the market adjusted to maintain consistence and ease of use?

 

Writing & Collaboration

The romantic myth of the artist as lone genius is an enduring one. Writers such as Boltanski & Chiapello and Brouillette have written persuasively about the way that this ideal has merged with the individualistic culture of capitalism to produce the contemporary model of the worker as autonomous creative individual, embracing the values of flexibility, innovation and self-sufficiency.

However, this myth actually erases much of the process and social context that characterise the act of writing. In fact, writers have always depended on the collaboration of others in a multitude of ways. They have depended morally, creatively and financially on family, friends and lovers to support them in their endeavours (famous examples include William & Dorothy Wordsworth; Percy Bysshe Shelley & Mary Shelley; Anais Nin, her husband Hugo Guiler & her lover Henry Miller). They have frequently developed their work as part of a collective movement of mutual inspiration (the Bloomsbury group, the Surrealists, the beat poets). Writers also regularly collaborate with agents and editors; screenwriters collaborate with producers, script editors, directors, actors, distributors, financers. And of course writers need readers. Dickens was acutely aware of his readers, writing for them in installments, and going on frequent public reading tours.

So it did not take digital culture to make writing an interactive and collaborative phenomenon. However, it has made such collaborative processes more visible and more scaleable. As Henry Jenkins points out, contemporary cultural practices, such as social media and fan fiction, have made online writing and reading feel more like a back and forth conversation than a one way process of production (by the writer) and reception (by the reader). On social network writing sites, such as Wattpad, writers actively engage readers in the development of their work. Many writers engage extensively with their reader community via social media and new business models, such as crowdfunding, also bring many active collaborators besides the writer into the writing process.

Our recent panel on The Writer as Catalyst & Collaborator featured five writers, whose work has explicitly involved the contribution of others: raising questions about how such processes might characterize writing in general. Four main themes emerged:

the changing role of the reader: readers are becoming more actively involved with texts and engaged with writers. Sarah Haynes, creator of internet collaborative fiction, The Button Jar discussed her particular interest in creating work that involves alternating between writing and reading. Visitors to the site can both read the stories of others and upload their own stories. Novelist Jean-Paul Flintoff crowd funded his book through the publisher Unbound. He worked with an improvisation group to develop the story and, later in the process, his funders provided feedback on drafts, which resulted in some important changes to the final work. These examples from new media storytelling and new funding models are part of a wider groundswell in the importance of reader communities. Across the publishing landscape, the relationship between readers and writers is becoming more interactive and collaborative.

 

 

the writer as conductor/editor: the role of the writer is also expanding. In her work, Haynes recasts the writer as editor/conductor and sees her role as being to devise a narrative frame for the interaction of other writers and readers that will facilitate ‘organized serendipity’. Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes, who together researched and wrote the short story collection breach – which tells the story of the refugee crisis through six voices based on interviews with refugees in Calais – join Flintoff in rejecting the idea of the writer as ‘sole presiding genius of a work of art.’

Maya Chowdhry, poet and transmedia artist, sees the writer as ‘a sign-writer illuminating the way, or a compass showing that there are many directions’. She explained how pro-active she needed to be in going out to find her audience and facilitating ways for them to get involved in the location based narrative Tales from the Towpath. Flintoff says he has followed the example of the editor of a newspaper he used to work for, who saw his job as editor as being like ‘creating a party that people want to come to’.

As they develop more interactive, collaborative relationships with readers and other partners, writers need to develop a clear conception of what their role is within the collective. There are a range of metaphors to choose from: catalyst, compass, sign-writer, conductor, editor, party convenor… each project may require a different label, but a guiding metaphor can provide an important direction for a project.

ethics of collaboration: our panel’s experiences suggest that, although these are crucial, there may not be a one size fits all approach. The ethics will be determined to a certain extent by the nature of the project. Transparency about the aims of the project may be one guiding principle. Popoola and Holmes felt it important to make their aims absolutely clear to the people they spoke to at the refugee camp in Calais. They explained that they wanted to produce a fictional work, to provide a different perspective on the refugee crisis, and that they would not be telling the refugees’ individual stories in any direct way. Instead their intention was to draw on them more loosely as material. The writers found that most people at Calais were happy to talk, because they were bored and frustrated and keen to make connections with others. This human connection was as, if not more, important to them than getting their stories told to a wider audience. Nor did those refugees who had now made it to the UK have any great desire to be identified with the book or to be involved in its promotion. They were happy that it had been written and hoped that it would interest and move readers, but it was more important to them to get on with rebuilding their lives than to be identified as collaborators in the book.

Flintoff stated that, quite simply, ‘everyone needs to get something out of it.’ What ‘it’ is, however, may not always be fully defineable in advance. There are many different reasons why people might get involved in a project. Some may have a story to tell. Someone else might want to contribute in a small way to a big project they think is worthwhile. People might want to learn new skills, have new experiences, meet people. They might have a life goal they want to achieve or simply to take part in something fun. Furthermore the answer may develop and change as the project itself develops through the collaborative process. Therefore, although the writer as conductor needs to provide a clear framework for engagement, there also needs to be flexibility. As Chowdhry points out, rather than assign a role to collaborators in advance, it may be necessary to allow them to find it through their participation of the project.

A collaborative approach to writing has much in common with collective ventures such as performance, co-design and community activism and can draw on insights from these fields. The ethics of collaboration also depend on an acknowledgement of the process as productive of more than a work of art or a commercial product, as discussed below.

writing and reading as social practice: the informality, relationality and embeddedness of the writing practices discussed by our panel remind us that writing and reading are not aesthetic activities bracketed off from the rest of life and society. Popoola and Holmes said that they had made some lasting connections with the people they met in Calais and were still in touch. This was partly related to the book, but also to the friendship that had developed between them. The process of researching refugee experiences had thus led to two distinct outcomes: to new relationships and understandings of the world on the one hand and to a book of short stories on the other. They were equally important. Haynes and Flintoff also commented on the way that the structures within which they were writing led to and indeed were dependent on the development of human relationships.

Forms of writing and reading, which blur the boundaries between professional and social activities (social media, blogs, life writing, crowd funded works, interactive fiction, fan fiction) remind us, among other things, that professional writers draw on and develop personal relationships through their writing; non-professional writers can have huge public influence, and that both writing and reading can be variously and also simultaneously professional, political and leisure activities.

Watch all video clips from this and other creative conversations here

How does an Audience become a Community?

Our recent panel on ‘Building Reader Communities’ discussed how and why it is important to think about engaging reader communities.

Our starting premise was that writers, publishers and other creative producers need to engage with their audiences in new ways.

While publishers’ main relationship used to be with the retailers who sold their products, digital technologies now facilitate a much more direct engagement with their audience. This is a great opportunity, but it is also a challenge. Marketing departments are expected to be experts in social media and in building communities and there is an increased pressure on writers to have these skills too.

So how to go about it? Here are five key points that came out of the discussion:

1) Perhaps one thing that needs to be taken more into account is that communities usually take time to build. As Co-Director of Greenwich Book Festival, Auriol Bishop anticipates it will take three years to establish a community around the festival. In order to set it up, she and her co-directors, Patricia Nicol and Alex Pheby, drew on the communities of which they were already part. They all belong to the world of publishing. Auriol is Creative Director of Hodder & Stoughton, Alex is a writer and Patricia is a journalist. However they all also belong to the local community and so, while Auriol knew Alex through her publishing contacts, she met Patricia through the school playground network. With Alex also leading the Creative Writing degree programme at the University of Greenwich, the trio were able to bring into play a powerful nexus of local and industry support.

Sci-fi author, Kate Russell, and Alexis Kennedy, Creative Director of Failbetter Games, both recounted similar experiences of drawing on existing communities to build new ones. As a tech journalist and broadcaster, Kate had a large twitter following and Failbetter Games had a loyal community around their game Fallen London. They were both able to launch new projects with the help of crowd funding from these existing communities. In fact Kate’s project was a novel set in the world of the videogame Elite, a community of which she was herself a member. New communities then built around these new projects.

For many writers, publishers and other creative producers, thinking imaginatively about how to draw on existing networks and playing the long game is the best, most realistic approach to building a community.

2) Communities require not only time, but energy, to build and maintain. Meike Ziervogel, Founder of Peirene Press, testified to the fact that it is possible to build a community from scratch, with minimum reliance on existing networks. As a publisher of foreign language books in translation, which are traditionally difficult to sell, she knew she had to establish a strong brand, rather than rely on selling individual titles. Therefore, although Peirene titles are available for sale individually, the subscription model is very important to Peirene, as it facilitates much stronger reader loyalty. In order to attract subscribers, Meike focused on getting out into public spaces – setting up pop up stores at places like supermarkets and farmers’ markets. She also produced a newsletter, which she handed out at the entrance to the tube. The strategy paid off and Peirene still runs about 80 pop up stores a year to attract new subscribers. Meike sees face to face contact as very important, not only to build but to maintain a community. She runs a literary salon from her own house. Since the house can only fit 50 people, the salons tend to sell out very quickly. But for Meike the fact that the salon is in her house epitomizes the nature of a reading community – which is ‘the private and the public sphere colliding’. A community is something more intimate than a public. A community is something that you choose to participate in and belong to.

3) This brings us to our next point, which is that communities are interactive, dynamic and autonomous. Kate pointed out that communities need consistent and regular input, but it is equally important to offer people ways to participate and contribute themselves. Members of a community will not only buy books and attend events, they will crowd fund projects, spread the word and bring in new members. They will provide feedback and give you new ideas. Dedicated communities want this kind of involvement. They interact intensively with each other, discussing experiences, sharing strategies, organizing their own related events and thus deepening and expanding the experience of the game for each other. Publishers work closely with book groups, because they know how powerful and proactive they are in engaging readers with books.

However, communities also have a life far beyond this original engagement. Community members become friends. Sometimes they even get married. When your community is important to its members, it becomes part of their lives and they own it as much as you do. Communities are therefore also unpredictable. They will not always give you the feedback you want or expect and they may not always do things you want them to do. As Kate Russell points out, communities need to be managed. Yet, if communities are powerful and proactive, they will never be fully controllable.

4) Nevertheless, communities are a valuable business asset. Both Meike and Alexis were clear about the fact that their businesses depend on their communities. Alexis recounted vividly how his business struggled to survive financially on their original interactive fiction Fallen London. In a final effort to make the business work, he and his partners launched a crowd funding campaign to produce a videogame, Sunless Sea, which is set in the world of Fallen London. They found the Fallen London community keen not only to fund but to promote the game. Failbetter Games’ business model relies on this community. They operate a freemium model, in which people who participate for free in Fallen London pay for additional content and spin off experiences, such as Sunless Sea. Sunless Sea has also reached a whole new audience and expanded the community. The ability to beta test prototypes through the community is also highly valuable to the company.

For Meike too, it is this loyalty felt by the community to something bigger than a single work, in her case the Peirene brand, which holds the key to her business.

5) At the same time, communities depend on trust and mutual respect. When your community is your business asset, you obviously value it highly. But how do you maintain the balance between the values of the community and the values of the market? As Auriol pointed out, this is sometimes less of a conundrum for small businesses, like Failbetter Games and Peirene Press, or for writers like Kate, who are likely to share the values of their community and engage with them in a very direct way. Although many people who work within mainstream publishing are also passionate about what they do, it may be harder for a large publishing business to get the balance right. As Kate stressed, being authentic is vital to building a successful community. When communities build around a story world, a brand or an individual, it is because people feel it is something they can connect to, which is genuine and which has its own unique identity and integrity.

To hear more from our panel watch video clips here

You may also be interested in our next ‘New Space of Publishing’ panel on ‘The Writer as Catalyst and Collaborator’

The Writer as Catalyst and Collaborator 27th April

Writing is self-expression, but it is also much more. Writing can start a conversation, issue a call to action or stand as an act of witness. Writing may be the work of a unique author, but it can also be interactive and collaborative.  Our panel will discuss the potential of writing as a form of action and collaboration.

Panel Members:

Olumide Popoola & Annie Holmes, co-authors of forthcoming book breach,  a short story collection, which tells the story of the refugee crisis through six voices based on interviews with refugees in Calais.

(c) Deborah moses-Sanks
Photo (c) Deborah Moses-Sanks

Nigerian-German Olumide Popoola is a writer and performer. Her other publications include essays, poetry, short stories, the novella this is not about sadness (Unrast Verlag, 2010) and the play text Also by Mail (Edition Assemblage, 2013).

Olumide’s interests include creative/critical investigations into the ‘in-between’ of culture, language and public space. She is an associate lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths College London.

 

Jean-Paul Flintoff, author of How to Change the World

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 12.54.27Jean-Paul Flintoff is the author of five books, published in 16 languages. His latest is a novel, which he crowdfunded with Unbound, and the writing of which involved collaboration with theatrical performers, fellow authors, and many of the individuals who pledged money to the book.

www.flintoff.org  

@jpflintoff

 

Sarah Haynes, Head of Media Production at the Liverpool Screen School, Liverpool John Moores University and creator of collaborative fiction The Button Jar

SarahHaynesFollowing a career in video production Sarah moved into new media and for a number of years was a multimedia developer at the International Centre for Digital Content, Liverpool, in a team working on CD Rom, web and digital games research projects.

Her research explores the opportunities digital technology affords for collaboration in writing fiction and the potential for new reading experiences.

Sarah is currently working on The Memory Store, an online narrative set in Liverpool in 2115. Readers are invited to contribute their own writing, influencing the story and expanding the narrative universe.

http://www.buttonjar.co.uk/

 

Maya Chowdhry, poet and interactive artist
MayaChowdhry-reading-med-cropped

A poet and Transmedia artist, Maya’s writing is infused and influenced through her work for radio, film and theatre. Her collaboration Tales from the Towpath at Manchester Literature Festival was shortlisted for the 2014 New Media Writing Prize, and her recent digital poetic work Ripple was shortlisted for the 2015 Dot Award. She is currently working for Lets Go as a Digital Artist, making interactive theatre and completing Fossil, a chap book of her poetry.

http://interactiveartist.org/

@MayaChowdhry

www.linkedin.com/in/maya-chowdhry

https://www.facebook.com/maya.chowdhry

 

Join us to discuss the following questions and more:

What is the role of a writer and writing in society? Has this changed?

Do new technologies offer new ways of writing?

How might we think differently about the relationship between writers and readers?

Is it possible to have too much writing in the world?

 

Date and Time: 27/4/16. 6pm Welcome Drinks, 6.30pm Panel Discussion

Venue: Stephen Lawrence Gallery, 10 Stockwell Street, London SE10 9BD

Attendance is free, but you need to register at Eventbrite

How to Build Communities – Speaker highlights

If you missed our Building Reader Communities Panel on 2nd March 2016, or want to revisit the discussion, wise words and valuable insights from our speakers can be found below. (You can also read a short report on the key insights we took from the event here)

Sci-Fi author Kate Russell shares her experience of community building and gives her 5 rules for building a digital presence

‘It takes 3 years to establish a community’:  Auriol Bishop, Creative Director of Hodder & Stoughton, and writer Alex Pheby discuss their experiences in publishing and as co-directors of the Greenwich Book Festival.

‘Community is a tangible business asset’: Alexis Kennedy, Creative Director of Failbetter Games.

‘Reading communities are the public & the private sphere colliding’ Meike Ziervogel on building a community around Peirene Press.

Panel discussion on building communities in publishing, interactive fiction and games

Why do reader/user communities build?

We used to call them ‘the audience’ but now they don’t behave as we expect audiences to. They’re active, they’re vocal, and they’re engaged. They have multiple options and channels, voices and media.   They want do everything and have a say in everything on  their terms. And many of them don’t want to pay for it by following the traditional publishing business models.

We are all the audience for something. We live in exciting times as an audience, we are being courted and sought after with suitors from all forms of media. We are encouraged to enter and explore created worlds through multiple entry points. Using American TV show Fringe as a case study Mélanie Bourdaa discussed how audiences engage across multiple media  to follow story arcs in ‘Following the Pattern’: The Creation of an Encyclopaedic Universe with Transmedia Storytelling.’ A key, and very influential strategy and theory she suggests  is Henry Jenkins’ Transmedia Storytelling . It allows us to engage with a writer/designer’s vision on multiple levels, as much or as little as we want. The key thing here is that we can choose to become really involved, going beyond the ordinary level of engagement for an audience.

It is not all about the audience, these are equally exciting times for writers and creators. You can imagine your story in people’s social media, in games, in books and on the TV.  A story can have an active following, conversations happening in real time, apps can help access it and live experiences can draw in a completely other group of people or enhance the feeling of belonging that a community has.

Authors can choose how they want to share their book experience with their audience; they can choose to have their characters tweet, such as Goran Racic tweeting as his hero Thomas Loud from his book ‘Loud Evolution.’ Not stopping there he has created a whole district in Minecraft where visitors can explore his world. Little by little the book world that we enjoy enters into our real world, to come with us to the office, the gym or while we wait in a Tesco Metro queue.

But at what point does this audience become a community? A dedicated group of people that are interested enough not just to buy the story in its multiple forms but to spend the  time to influence the plot on many of these digital platforms, following the success that gaming has enjoyed where players can influence or even change the storylines within certain parameters . Let’s face it, those of us that are old enough to remember them loved those old multi-branching adventure books where you could make decisions and those choices took you to different pages of the book.

The main problem that authors, designers and marketers face with all of this participation is money – where does all the money come from to create these great experiences. Audiences want so much for free now. The kickstarter model has proved a great launch pad for creative projects. The backers are the people that actually want the creative product and so are happy to fund it. The audience becomes the backers becomes the community.

I enjoyed Naomi Alderman’s, Rebecca Levene’s and  Adrian Hon’s Zombie Run! in this way, an audio adventure while you get fit. I like the idea,  backed it through kickstarter and then became part of a community of runners, though not the fastest of runners I am a happy runner  enjoying a story and getting a little fitter along the way. Intriguing a potential audience sufficiently that it then becomes a community and is prepared to pay for it is a hard model to follow and necessitates creating work with no guarantee of return. This is only one of business model out there that author/ designers/ filmmakers and publishers are using.

Fallen London with its steampunk aesthetic is equally captivating, a browser-based game in which every choice you make changes the storyline. It is free to play but the business model choice to keep it that way means it is delivered in little chunks. However, the community that Failbetter builds through this sharing will potentially go on to buy Sunless Sea, or The Night Circus or buy pure narrative premium content such as The Gift.

For the upcoming Creative Conversations panel on March 2nd , the next part of our Creative Conversations New Space of Publishing series, we start to tease out this very subject. ‘Building Reader Communities’ will question what distinguishes a community from an audience, and if writers and publishers need to build such communities and what they could gain from doing so.  We also want to unpick what the implications are for the writer-reader and publisher-reader relationship when the business model changes and the community is so much more in control of the creative product.

Our panellists will include: Auriol Bishop & Alex Pheby, co-directors of Greenwich Book Festival; Meike Ziervogel, novelist and founder of Peirene Press; Alexis Kennedy, CEO of in interactive fiction studio Failbetter Games; and a commissioned video featuring Kate Russell, tech reporter and author of ‘Elite: Mostly Harmless’, a sci-fi novel based in the Elite Game World.

It promises to be an interesting evening of discussion and places can be reserved through Eventbrite.

Featured image Winter Kaleidoscope by Dr-Wolf0014 on Deviant Art

Building Reader Communities 2nd March

Writers and publishers have always needed readers, but is that enough any more? Does future success depend on building reader communities?

Our next New Space of Publishing Panel explores this question, with the help of:

ALEX PHEBY-2

Auriol Bishop & Alex Pheby, co‐directors of Greenwich Book Festival 

As co-directors of Greenwich Book Festival, Auriol and Alex worked with fellow director Patricia Nicol to launch Greenwich Book Festival in May 2015, with the theme of discovery. Strands included history, politics and music (memoirs from Viv Albertine and Tracey Thorn), as well as fiction highlights, such as Jessie Burton, South London author of international bestseller The Miniaturist. The festival also featured a strong focus on childrens’ books, with workshops and other participatory events, and a showcase of new writing from the University of Greenwich’s creative writing students. In addition to their festival experience, Alex and Auriol bring their individual professional experiences to the topic of building reader communities. As Creative Director at Hodder & Stoughton, Auriol is responsible for creative strategy, consumer campaigns, positioning and packaging across Hodder’s publishing output. Alex is himself a novelist and a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich.

www.alexpheby.co.uk
twitter: @alexpheby

 

MeikeZiervogel_portrait3_rb

Meike Ziervogel, novelist and founder of Peirene Press

Meike has a background as a journalist, working for Reuters in London and Agence France Presse in Paris and is the author of three novels, Magda, Clara’s Daughter and Kauthar. Meike founded boutique publishing house Peirene Press in 2008, to bring contemporary, award winning European literature in translation to English language readers. Peirene Press specializes in novellas and short novels ‘that can be read in the same time it takes to watch a DVD’ and offers its readers an annual subscription option, as well as individual titles for sale. Peirene Press also produces a newspaper and hosts regular events, including literary salons and coffee mornings. Meike will be sharing her particular approach to building the writer-reader and publisher-reader relationship.

www.meikeziervogel.com
Facebook: @PeirenePress
twitter: @MeikeZiervogel

Alexis

Alexis Kennedy, CEO of interactive fiction studio Failbetter Games

Alexis Kennedy is creative director of Failbetter Games, best known for their interactive fiction game Fallen London, which has a large and loyal community. The expansive community and world of Fallen London provided a strong foundation from which to launch the videogame Sunless Sea and was key to its critical and commercial success. Alexis will discuss the relationship between story and community and how it is essential to Failbetter Games’ business model.

http://twitter.com/failbettergames

KateRussell

Kate Russell, tech reporter and author of sci-fi novel ‘Elite: Mostly Harmless’.

Kate is currently writing her second book with her online community, enabled by TWITCH streaming and linking to the Elite: Dangerous games platform (the fourth release of the original Elite video game, which was a British video game phenomenon in the 1980s). Kate’s knowledge of how to build a community and work with social media is encapsulated in her book Working the Cloud. She will be bringing these insights to the panel via a specially commissioned video.

Our panel will be discussing questions such as what distinguishes a community from an audience? and why might writers and publishers need to build such communities? We will also consider the implications for the writer‐reader and publisher‐reader relationship

Join us to explore these and other questions  on the 2nd of March. The evening will begin with welcome drinks at 6pm in the Stephen Lawrence Gallery Project Space which is based within the Stockwell Street Building. The panel will follow at 6.30pm.

The Stockwell Street Building is located at 10 Stockwell Street, Greenwich, London, SE10 9BD

 

Video of this panel event is available here

What #MakingLondon Made

This blogpost is the final reflection on the event Making London, held on the 18th July 2015 at the University of Greenwich (see #MAKINGLONDON – A First Person Account for full breakdown of the day).

The desire to run a design-led community engagement event like #MakingLondon was ignited by our Creative Professions & Digital Arts department settling into our new home in Stockwell Street, Greenwich. As we became habituated to our new setting and began enjoying the high tech equipment and creative environment, I couldn’t help but reflect on the vintage market place that, on weekends, used to take over this small piece of industrial land with its haphazard collection of furniture, books, clothes and traders. By reflecting on this I began to question what this shiny new RIBA nominated building does to the community here in Greenwich; does it offer new opportunities, collaborations and cultural activities, or is this just what we would like to see reflected in our possession of this space? Are we giving something to the community or displacing it through continued building and development? Through the series of Creative Conversations events we have begun to challenge ourselves, and allow ourselves to be challenged by others, to map out the impact and constellation of networks that have been shifted, altered and re-formed through our occupation of Stockwell Street.

From personal experience we also began to question ‘what does it mean to belong to such an amorphic city as London?’ and ‘whether this alters our sense of belonging and our ability to form connections with those around us?’

mapping

Fig 1: Our original Making London brainstorm considering everything from agile belonging to Pop-ups.

To consider this we have begun by looking outwards to see whether design could have an impact on the way that London is currently being shaped, and to question the relationship forming between building developments, financial markets, local communities and the creative industries. It became a trajectory that sought to give people a voice and space to reflect on and construct new perspectives on their own personal London-based issues. By bringing together a collection of diverse people from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines; from game developers to political activists, from ages 20 to 65, our aim was to use design methods and workshops that would allow them to creatively rethink their relationship to London. These activities, writing and thoughts were spatialised within an oversized map of London. Attendees were invited to inscribe their most powerful memories of living in London, what they value about London in its current incarnation and the growing issues of living in a city that has become filtered through it being a financial hub.

MapLRg

The map data could be divided into four main themes; these are London in Flux, London Debates, Londoners on the Go and London Pride (further analysis of these can be found in the Making London report).

For the full information:

Read the report on our Making London Workshop

Watch footage of Making London, including interviews with participants (5 Minutes)

What does it mean to be “local” in a digital culture?

One of our key themes for Creative Conversations this year is the role of the University in the creative ecology of Greenwich. This brings together key strands in our work: The relation between markets and communities, and how new forms of content, new business models and digital technologies connect in practice. We look to our local community for examples of how this works in practice, and for collaborators.

At our Open House event earlier in the year, we put out an open call for comments on how those present might like to connect or interact with the University. With the aid of some post-its and a whiteboard, we asked those present to suggest how they might want to do that.

Around half the comments were about training, with respondents expressing an interest in the University offering learning opportunities to learn media skills, basic web design and content management, and ways of keeping up with new developments and technologies.

film-design

Another important theme in the comments was an interest in collaboration with University staff, and in mentoring students, and taking on interns/placement students for projects.

Finally, networking emerged as an important topic. Participants mentioned meetups, links with industry, and a sense that the University can offer a social hub for local businesses and organisations.

Chart-themes

We on the Creative Conversations team are very grateful to those who participated, and their input has certainly informed our programme of activities and events for this coming year.