Thursday, 24 January 2013

Back to the #Phubu - Notes on an open class

I'm going to noodle some stuff down here about my new class whilst it's fresh in my head. Maybe I'll update it or reflect on it at the end, but as I'm doing something new (for me) I'm going to make notes on what I'm doing and why.

When I wrote Picbod and Phonar the mode of delivery embodied the issues they were dealing with (Photography like Education is going through a paradigm shift). Picbod was about the artefact and the generative experience, Phonar was about the audience and the role of the author.  So Open was just - appropriate - because open/connected/digital is driving these changes .

This year I got bumped into another class and the expectation (from students and the institution) is that it too will run openly. But unlike picbod and phonar this class has a predefined destination (it's a final year class ending in a final degree exhibition), in other words it starts with an answer rather than a question and that answer is "an exhibition".

In lots of ways this must be a common story; unforeseen staff changes mean someone drops in to cover someone else's class - it's unfamiliar material but with a little extra work the teacher can re-orientate themselves and quickly get up to speed.

But this seems very different. I have to work out how and where an open and connected classroom can be appropriate mode of delivery for any class.

Week 1:
I started out by asking the students to think about what form this Open class would take and (given that I would have to recruit another member of staff), who they wanted to deliver it.

The answers were:
  • Individual and small group tutorials (vs lecture program). 
  • Personal tasks pertinent to the individual's Final Major Project (vs group tasks).
  • A speaker program (online and/or onsite).
  • Mentors (online and/or onsite).
I did tutorials f2f in class for the rest of the session then online "hangouts" in the evenings for overspill.

Q's (to the students)

If the class is going to run as a kind of open workshop - then we need an online "pin-board" where I can post resources and relevant content to people whose projects overlap and for cross fertilization. Needs to be pre-existing architecture (no sys admin here), robust, secure, free to access and free to use. Needs to be searchable and able to handle multimedia content. Preferably it will have an existing audience/community and we must be able to "port" existing open-participants across  - perhaps something like tumblr?

Answer (from class)
Google+ Community.

Q (to the students) What's the class called? Name should draw on existing phonar/picbod brand-familiarity but delineate this class as different - something like #PhFubu (Phonar For US By Us)

#Phubu in collaboration with Raw Format (the final degree show title)

Week 2:
Groups of four taking turns to pitch their project ideas and then brainstorm around developing those ideas.
New Groups - repeat process.
New Groups - pitch idea followed by brainstorming all the possible audiences for their projects.
Watch interview below - then read blog post excerpt.

"I wrote to Aaron for help with Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother to get his ideas on a next-generation electioneering tool that could be used by committed, passionate candidates who didn't want to end up beholden to monied interests and power-brokers. Here's what he wrote back:
First he decides to take over the whole California Senate, so he can do things at scale. He finds a friend in each Senate district to run and plugs them into a web app he's made for managing their campaigns. It has a database of all the local reporters, so there's lots of local coverage for each of their campaign announcements.
Then it's just a vote-finding machine. First it goes through your contacts list (via Facebook, twitter, IM, email, etc.) and lets you go down the list and try to recruit everyone to be a supporter. Every supporter is then asked to do the same thing with their contacts list. Once it's done people you know, it has you go after local activists who are likely to be supportive. Once all those people are recruited, it does donors (grabbing the local campaign donor records). And then it moves on to voters and people you could register to vote. All the while, it's doing massive A/B testing to optimize talking points for all these things. So as more calls are made and more supporters are recruited, it just keeps getting better and better at figuring out what will persuade people to volunteer. Plus the whole thing is built into a larger game/karma/points thing that makes it utterly addictive, with you always trying to stay one step ahead of your friends.
Meanwhile GIS software that knows where every voter is is calculating the optimal places to hold events around the district. The press database is blasting them out -- and the press is coming, because they're actually fun. Instead of sober speeches about random words, they're much more like standup or the Daily Show -- full of great, witty soundbites that work perfectly in an evening newscast or a newspaper story. And because they're so entertaining and always a little different, they bring quite a following; they become events. And a big part of all of them getting the people there to pull out their smartphones and actually do some recruiting in the app, getting more people hooked on the game.
He doesn't talk like a politician -- he knows you're sick of politicians spouting lies and politicians complaining about politicians spouting lies and the whole damn thing. He admits up front you don't trust a word he says -- and you shouldn't! But here's the difference: he's not in the pocket of the big corporations. And you know how you can tell? Because each week he brings out a new whistleblower to tell a story about how a big corporation has mistreated its workers or the environment or its customers -- just the kind of thing the current corruption in Sacramento is trying to cover up and that only he is going to fix.
(Obviously shades of Sinclair here...)
also you have to read
For his TV ads, his volunteer base all take a stab at making an ad for him and the program automatically A/B tests them by asking people in the district to review a new TV show. The ads are then inserted into the commercial breaks and at the end of the show, when you ask the user how they liked it, you also sneak in some political questions. Web ads are tested by getting people to click on ads for a free personality test and then giving them a personality test with your political ad along the side and asking them some political questions. (Ever see ads for a free personality test? That's what they really are. Everybody turns out to have the personality of a sparkle fish, which is nice and pleasant except when it meets someone it doesn't like, ...) Since it's random, whichever group scores closest to you on the political questions must be most affected by the ad. Then they're bought at what research shows to be the optimal time before the election, with careful selection of television show to maximize the appropriate voter demographics based on Nielsen data.
anyway, i could go on, but i should actually take a break and do some of this... hope you're well
This was so perfect that I basically ran it verbatim in the book. Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill, and intelligence about people and issues." (

For next week - look at all of the audiences of the entire class and build crossover groups.

Introduced Mentor number one - Graham Macindoe - (interview hadn't been outputted as I'd only done the interview the night before and so they had to watch an unedited version in class - meant that the tweeted notes and comments couldn't draw on a synchronous live online audience). NY- GMT time difference means Graham can't be live on the Wednesday morning session (this class is Wednesdays 09:00-13:00) - need class to resolve this.

Secured two more mentors - one with experience running his own magazine and gallery, one working in editorial magazine and advertising industry - both London based, both with active social media communities / presences.

Approached an assistant working with 'A' list fashion photographers to do some behind the scenes interviews and technical workshops - need confirmation - this will have to be anonymous but am thinking it could be a serialized feature of the class - a hook.