Monday, June 3, 2013

Evaluation of MC2020 by James Field

To summarise the whole experience of Media Culture 2020: it has been as enjoyable as it was challenging.

Challenges came in many forms for myself. Firstly, I have never worked on a project with so many co-collaborators. Added to this there were “layers” of co-collaborators with the project layer consisting of 10 academic partners (although only 1 per institution was assigned to the preparations) and an additional 50 students comprising the participants layer - this was an ambitious project considering the amount of participants alone.

When I first realised the enormity of the planning, logistics and organisation my first thoughts were “how are we all going to communicate and stay synchronized?”. This scared me. I find communication sometimes difficult with people in the same building let alone spread across the continent in differing time zones and with different schedules.

Fortunately, Cai introduced me (and probably some of the other academic partners) to a set of tools which made this particular aspect a whole lot easier. There were still problems, but nothing on the scale I was imagining if we hadn’t of had Google+, Docs and Drive at our disposal. Which, although very useful, presented another challenge for me; getting to grips with new technology and a new way of working.

I have to admit however, that despite my initial reservations, I am now converted and can see practical applications of these tools in my everyday professional and personal life.

One of the aforementioned reservations about using collaborative technology is something I feel a number of participants, students included, who were new to this way of working, was being so publicly visible.

This took me awhile to embrace because prior to this project I has always worked in a vacuum until a project was completed and ready to be unleashed on the world. I had always kept blogs for projects as documentation of this nature is perfect evidence for assessment (for whatever outcomes, academic, commercial, etc.) and I have always asked of my students to create blogs to allow the cycle of constant feedback all media projects require to be successful - but all were “behind closed doors”.

During the planning process of this project I was working on documents that were open to all participants - live - and some documents were public facing. This unnerved me slightly because now I was carrying the responsibility of being a team leader and everything I was writing or contributing was up for public scrutiny. I used to take a long time to get something ready for even my peers and here I was creating work live!  

I am so glad I was introduced to working this way as it gave me the confidence to contribute, give feedback and have a voice, all in real-time so collaboration started to become a conversation and documentation became organic as opposed to revisions of static materials.

Managing a group of students with different skills and cultural backgrounds was also something I had never experienced prior to the project, and again, I am very glad to have had this opportunity because it made me realise that differences make for a more interesting and conceptually stronger ideas generation phase. I know this may sound obvious, but it is only when you experience this first-hand that you can really see the benefits.

In terms of evidencing the above, I think it is clear in the range of concepts produced that participant’s experiences prior to the project helped shape the end result and what may not be evident to those reading this who didn’t take part, was the different ways in which students from different institutions approached the same task. Some were very pragmatic and logical, others were slightly more creative and wanted to dive straight in but all, eventually, agreed on a strategy to approach the planning and development stages of their concepts.

Working in such an intensive programme proved another challenge for all of us. Not because any of us are lazy; more because there were so many exciting and useful activities packed into such a tight schedule. It was impossible to see and do everything! This is by no means a negative reflection on the organisers; quite the opposite. The challenge came in understanding how to manage your own time when working under an intensive schedule that included a mix of work and social activities. Most of the participants are used to projects spanning weeks or months. Here, stages of development required completion in hours or days. It certainly made for interesting, and concise, meetings!   

I have many, many fond memories of my 2 weeks in Tampere. TAMK were excellent hosts and their students a credit to the institution because they took us under their wings and showed us a Tampere that we may otherwise have missed.

The country-themed evenings were excellent too. With each night becoming more and more sophisticated so as to not be outdone by the previous country demonstrating pride and passion about the place the hosts were from and willingness to share that with their new friends. I feel honored to have been a part of that.

I feel the work done in the workshops is important on many levels. It demonstrated to me that cultural differences and large groups spread across a continent can work together. Remote working has still some way to go before it becomes as effective as being in a physical place together, but when together, the differences that define us help bring something new to the discussion and some of that is evident in how the groups managed the planning process.

It was also important for the students because not only have they now become part of a continent-wide circle of friends, they also have undergone the same experience as I have complete with apprehensions, expectations and joy of working on such an intensive, creative and above all, fun project.

I feel it also important for the rest of the academic world and indeed the media industry, especially in Europe, because it proves that projects, and the experience behind creating them, becomes far more interesting when people come together from different backgrounds and contribute to a task and shared goal/vision.

I would like to take this opportunity to again thank:

“Uncle” Cai Melakoski for all his hard work writing the bid and organising practicalities in Tampere.

The academic staff of all partner institutions for their contribution to the planning and development of the programme, as well as their vital roles as team leaders and consultants,

And finally, the students who embraced the opportunity to work on this project and share their views, opinions and abilities with us all.

I now look forward to Liepāja!

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