CEDAR, Session 3: On Academic Blogging, Collaboration, and Creativity

Yesterday was CEDAR‘s third session in Leicester, at De Montfort University’s Institute of Creative Technologies. We covered blogging for academics, using Web 2.0 resources for document collaboration, creation, and presentations, and a bit on creative processes.

For me, the session wasn’t quite as useful as the last one, primarily because I (obviously) already blog, and already use the Web 2.0 resources covered (plus a truckload of others that would take days to discuss in such a seminar format). I think I’m to blame a bit – the last session I didn’t have any real expectations, as the topics initially didn’t seem at all applicable to my work. When I found applications, I was stoked.

This time, the topics seemed catered to my research…but because these aren’t necessarily advanced sessions, it was all at a level I’ve already mastered. So I had higher expectations than I should have had. I did suggest that in the future we might consider breaking into different focus groups for hands-on sessions, to allow more advanced people to get something out of them as well.

The basic level of info was great (if even a bit challenging) for a lot of folks there, though, so I may be an outlier. The discussions were slowed to tortoise speeds by the general lack of digital knowledge and awareness in the room, multiplied by some sadly vocal active resistance to the topics. If you’re not into the kids and their darned confabulated computers and such, why not just stay in the barn with the mules and the plow?

I do admit the afternoon session felt a bit like trickery to me: it was mere data collection for a research project, with no application to our work, our creative processes, or even our general knowledge whatsoever. I don’t think the course organizers quite knew that was to be the plan, however, so mostly I blame those researchers for shafting us of the afternoon. It didn’t help that their data-collection software didn’t actually work on half the computers in the room, including mine.

Add that to the frustration of a facility that seemed woefully unprepared (no provided computer lab, so it was BYOLaptop; no access to wireless, so it was 15 people crowded around ethernet ports; poor projector visibility…we also could have used advance warning of necessary computer requirements and account setup for the hands-on segments), and the day got tiring fast. I don’t think most of this stuff was really anyone’s fault; seminars on Saturdays seemed doomed for lack of support, and having to present in remote locations two out of every three seminars makes for some disorganization.

I did gain a few things from the day, however, so in no way do I think it was a waste.

First, I’m half-assing this blog thing. I write my posts and label them and send them out into the ethosphere, but I don’t back them up. I don’t support them by popping over to similar blogs in my community and checking in on what others in my field are sending out to the ‘sphere. I can blame it on lack of time, but the truth is I do need to know what’s going on, and more and more that immediacy and finger-on-the-pulse sort of knowledge and exposure comes from blogs and blog communities. I need to participate more.

Also, the trip out was a carpool with my fellow PhD student (ludology) and our supervisor, which gave us a few hours (extended by a break in a pub and over ice cream) to just talk. Something we never really have time to do back in Bangor. We came up with new strategies to approach funding, and talked about research and life in general. It really helped to refresh my batteries on all things research-related, and to feel a bit more part of a team/family. When you have so much stress and unknown factors pelting at you from every direction, days like this go lightyears toward bolstering your sanity.

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