My digital media project

Summary

Puffles and I will be having some friendly visitors over this week

This week is quite an important week for me in terms of the social media workshops I run. I’m going to be spending this week working with a group of Twitter friends producing some digital videos – something that I’ve not done properly before.

The ‘business need’ on my side stems from the various levels of knowledge people have at the workshops I run. Some people need to be taken through the very basics step-by-step, while others are completely familiar with social media, the only major gap in their knowledge being around information security in most cases.

Bringing in the experts – people who’ve grown up with the technology!

Which is what I have done. One of the things that I find astonishing is how firms are saying publicly that they need to start using social media, but focus on the negatives of employing graduates while ignoring the positives of having social and digital media natives on their books. So I’m ‘ve decided to turn the whole thing on its head.

A number of people that have followed Puffles for quite some time have spoken out about how difficult it is to get decent paid work experience or project commissions. This made me think about putting one such commission together – which I went and did. This week, four of Puffles’ followers – none of whom had met face-to-face in real life – descended onto Cambridge to start the planning process of making these digital videos.

I have made it clear that the outputs – the digital videos – will be used in a commercial environment. (Hence paying them for their input). Indeed – the deadline is real as I am hosting a social media workshop in for the University of Bristol next week where I hope to use the digital videos as part of it. Thus the final products need to reflect well not just on myself, but on them too as participants. While the commission may end on Thursday, the results of their work most certainly won’t. The digital videos are just as much a shop window for them as they are for me.

Day 1 – planning.

This was just as much about problem solving as it was writing scripts. As well as tapping into their past experiences – in particular that of Kate McAlpine (whose skills learnt on an A-level in media are now being applied in a commercial environment) we were able to crowd-source ideas via Twitter, Facebook and my own blog. The particular question I was struggling with was which app to use to do ‘screencasting‘ – that is recording the actions you are doing when using a computer or laptop. Far easier to play a short digital video on how to use the basics of Twitter or Facebook than to do a live demonstration in front of a live audience where it’s easy to be interrupted.

Bear in mind I’m trying to give all four of them some real world experience that they can use at future interviews – both in terms of being commissioned and solving problems.

As well as exploring different options for screencasting, we spent a lot of time preparing scripts for the screencasts – as well as generally having fun. My view is that if people are enjoying what they are doing, you are more likely to get a better output and outcome at the end. Getting a group of like-minded people from different backgrounds together has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of this project.

Teamworking

The most striking impact of social media has been how all of us seemed to work very well as a team, despite the four of them not having met in real life before. They have had exchanges over Twitter, to the extent that they have been able to bypass the formalities of the ‘team forming’ stage. Through social media we already have lots of mutual friends and acquaintances, thus the conversations have been much more meaningful.

Food and drink

One of the things that struck me about working in a ‘formalised’ working environment was how few people would share food and drink with each other – particularly during the day – as part of the working process. For lunch and dinner, we all chipped in and took it in turns to cook. For several of us, life can be solitary so the opportunity to cook up something big for a larger group was something we all embraced. It was great for me because the past few meals that I’ve had are some that I would never have even thought about cooking in times gone by.

Learning for me too!

This was part of the deal too! There were a number of things that I had been procrastinating on or was a little bit too fearful of dipping my toe in the water to explore. But having a team of familiar people around me, I was able to overcome this barrier. Sometimes you need that – you need the encouragement of friends and peers.

The other thing I’ve tried to do is to give them both a blank canvas but with a clear set of parameters. i.e. how long each clip should be, the type of audience it is aimed at and the context that I intend for the clips to be used in. Other than that, I’ve let them get on with it. I trust them. I know they are more than familiar with the various social media tools – I don’t need to micro-manage them. Micromanaging is not my style. I also trust them to ask questions when they need clarification on anything, or any guidance. Having seen the crushing impact micromanaging people can have, why would I want to do that here? On creative projects, you cannot micromanage if you want people to be innovative and try new things out. One of the things we will be trying out is using a new piece of software.

Preparing for day 2 – filming.

I very deliberately kept day 1 for planning alone. The temptation with these sorts of projects is to run riot with a digital camera. I hope today has allowed us all to get a feel of the problems that the digital film clips will help solve, as well as what we are trying to overcome too.

As well as doing the filming of actions on the laptop using screencasting software, we will also be heading out and about in Cambridge to provide some alternative shots away from what could otherwise be the equivalent of staring at a screen. It gives both variety and a narrative/storyline. One of the other outputs along with this is a ‘how we did all of this’ digital video. The reason for this is to record the learning for all of us. Also, I want other people to look at what we did to see if the model that I have used can be replicated: Are there small businesses out there that could get together a group of otherwise unemployed graduates and get them to produce something using social and digital media for their firms?

The first day has gone far better than I could have possibly hoped for: I have a functioning enthusiastic team of people that get on with each other and are using their talents collaboratively. While taking the commission seriously, we’re also having fun too – well, at least I am anyway. Just through observing I’m seeing a real sense of purpose in this task which, compared say to my university days I seldom saw in the teamwork tasks that we had to do.

So if you see a group of people running around Cambridge later on with a dragon fairy, a tripod and two digicams, chances are it’ll be us. Can’t wait!

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