Occupied and Imagined; a summary post.
‘The modern social imaginary does not make sense without strangers’ (Warner 2002: 57).
The task began as an ambiguous concept and raised the question how we, as a group could imagine a new kind of space for storytelling and occupy it in a way that was engaging and inviting. How could we compel people to take an interest, to be active and to become as immersed and enthusiastic about the project as we were? Could we handle loosing control of the direction of our project by putting it into the hands of contributors as they produced the content that would make it up?
Harold Jenkins remained as a source of inspiration during the project, his philosophy on media convergence gave me permission to realise the freedom new media platforms have granted us as new media practitioners. Jenkins highlights the unique nature of the space we are inhabiting, emphasising that nobody has the power to produce content ‘above us’. I felt encouraged and able to take my position as a key player, as a driver in the production and circulation of content. It became very clear during the process that we needed to focus on experience rather than an event or a preconceived outcome, the project would evolve with contributions which would form the map of our journey rather than us dictating the plot points. As Fee Plumbly put it in her guest lecture (Wk#10) “don’t use technology as it comes out of the box …consider how it makes you feel and how you can use that as part of the storytelling arc and create texture and journey”. This also remained as solid advice that I continued to reflect back on and used as a reminder to remain focused on quality of experience.
I am a very visual person heavily interested and engaged in the art world so it seemed appropriate for me to source the visual callouts put out via Twitter and Tumblr. In these posts, I aimed to spark a sense of nostalgia or connection to the ideas of our project and enthral people to contribute. I think this platform was largely successful as it targeted the visual communities that exist on Tumblr and we received some great artistic responses from this and received quite a number of followers and ‘reblogs’. I feel I was very active in gaining exposure for the project and was responsible for linking the Twitter and Tumblr feeds together. I was also an active in seeking out specific contributions by sending out directed tweets and personalised emails to contact groups/communities the group felt would enhance the project with innovative and relevant ideas. This idea stemmed from Shao’s article Understanding the appeal of user-generated media: a uses and gratification perspective (Wk#2) which suggests participating and producing online content encourages engagement rather than simply engaging in one way consumption. In taking a personal approach we became very effective in reaching our target audience, which culminated in some of our strongest contributions. We aimed to ensure our contributors felt their work was being recognised and their time and effort acknowledged.
It was really important to develop the controlling idea of the project, and I feel my contributions in this stage were extremely important in the formulation of the call out. I felt that the initial word based callout was overly elaborate wasn’t immediate enough to capture peoples interest in a moment of connection. This observation led to the formulation of a physical call out poster that we used to point people to our Facebook page where they could find the full details of the project. This ended up being one of the major successes of the project. Due to my organisational skills, I was also responsible for mapping out a time plan and keeping track of tasks and their priorities (Weekly Plan and Potential Outcomes). Due to the changing nature of the project, this meant I had to maintain an open mind and flexibility as to the direction the project was taking and learnt that sometimes the less you try to forecast and plan outcomes, the more possibilities emerge. However, completing profiles of potential contributors meant that I formed a good understanding of how different sectors of the community could be marketed towards.
I don’t think we ever imagined we would create a community, however, I think it’s where we ended up arriving. We developed a hub of like-minded people that is primarily reflected in the considered quality of the contributions and the range of texture they carried. I played a major role in seeking out particular people I felt would provide distinctive and creative responses to the callout. In featuring these high quality, considered responses, I feel we managed to set a really high standard from the outset, and unobtrusively set the tone of the project and attracted an eclectic and intelligent demographic of contributors.
By the end of the project, I really liked the way that the Song readings (Wk#9) were, for me, debunked. He claimed that online communities are being plagued by monetary interest and government control. “Consumerism colonises life and endeavours of art become appropriated for commercial ends” – he claimed that corporate interests can easily become confused for the empowerment of a minority group and that niche communities are no longer capable of producing work they once did because; “Dispositional goods such as mutual trust, obligation and reciprocity and overshadowed by the encroaching priority of the relationship between the individual and the community as a ‘service provider.” My involvement in Read/Land counters these claims and illustrates how communities can flourish when likeminded, active communities band together and are driven not by monetary or egotistical gain. Participants value being part of a community and become emotionally engaged and rewarded by the inclusive process. I think the project highlighted the power of an active audience, and showed us the true meaning of collaboration as a consistently evolving process, rather than a ‘one off’ moment of sharing that it’s easy to lose interest in.
We are currently living in an ‘always on’ lifestyle (Boyd Readings,Wk#1), we are easily distracted by flashing lights and sirens, so to speak. By giving the user something they can keep returning to and ‘keep in touch with’ (Facebook Page, Twitter Handle etc) true collaboration can occur. The article What is collaboration Anyway” (WK#3) highlights the importance of choosing appropriate ‘methods of coordination and governence’ in order to create ‘technical and social contexts’ for users. “The technical mechanisms make it harder to contribute anything that isn’t harmonious with the initial content… the social mechanisms maintain the goal of the collaborative process”. So, in sum, as a creator you should always strive to ‘work with’ your audience than than to ‘putting them to work…social media platforms can become collaborative whee when they add an additional layer of coordination” This was especially relevant to our assignment because the last thing we wanted was for people to feel like contributing was a ‘chore’.
Overall, being a part of Read/Land was an enjoyable and enlightening experience, it taught me that if you target the right people, they will be enthused by your idea, and follow through – as long as you know how to interact with them. In the current media landscape, we live a very switched on, always connected, ‘always-on lifestyle’ and I get the sense people are beginning to appreciate long term engagement and enjoy the process of actually creating something with longevity that extends beyond a singular ‘tweet’ into an endless feed or an Instagram photo which fades as more and more pop up.
I think what made our project unique was the broad concept that invited a range of different contributions based on memory and connection. The project provided a space for people to express their feelings and share their knowledge in an open environment that was constantly changing and making people reflect on aspects beyond the online world to the more tangible element of the land.
Although my commitments at RRR prevented me from being at the presentation, I contributed to it’s formulation. As Bianca and I were a bit distracted with organising the radio show, I would really like to acknowledge the hard work Erin, Megan and Blake put in during the presentation - from all accounts they did a bang up job!
Things I have learnt from being a part of Read/Land:
- It’s not just about putting out bags of content, it’s about about sharing, promoting, conversing and truly engaging with your themes and your audience.
- Never ever be afraid to put an idea out into the virtual world, no matter how abstract, weird or insignificant you think it is, there is always someone out there who will appreciate it enough to respond!
- Always be up front about the direction, potential and controlling idea of your project and be clear about things you will and won’t accept.
- Always be open and attentive and never ever treat a contributor like a customer, create genuine connections with the likeminded.
- Keep connections open, you may find people you would like to maintain ties with to collaborate with further down the track, don’t simply jump ship because the project is technically ‘over’
- I learnt about the appropriateness of each form of social media for a particular function, and I think this knowledge will be applicable for projects I may engage with in the future.