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29th April 2019 Jacqueline Haxton

Keeping the dialogue open #DigiLab

In her second #DigiLab blog, Ruth Selwyn-Crome from University of East Anglia (UEA) reflects on the key takeaways she’s gained from recent AMA training events and the impact these have had on her work.

One of the benefits of taking part in the Digital Lab has been access to the online workshops and being invited to attend AMA events. These would not have been on my radar in my current role in an higher education institution.

I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to hear about thinking from the arts and cultural sector and have been pleasantly surprised by synergies in thinking and practices. Many of the events offered to the public by UEA are free of charge — there’s no financial gain — but we strive to attract and encourage as wide an audience as possible to hear about brand new research in an accessible way. Purpose and aims shared by Digital Lab colleagues often resonate.

Three months on from blog no.1 and I’ve participated in:

  • Two online workshops: Producing a Podcast and Content is All
  • Digital Marketing Day — Future Now

I’ve written:

  • Two blog posts for UEA’s Alumni newsletter (open rate c. 15K)

Uploaded:

  • Two new memory boxes onto the Gig History site
  • And one brand new venue list to publicise and play with
  • AND taken over the foyer of the wonderful Regent St Cinema for a UEA London lecture: Pop and the Disabled Body

A project with an original completion date of December 2017 is still attracting interest from all areas of the university — with requests for The Gig List publication for visitors and invitations from University partners like the East Anglian Film Archive to commission a short film for UEA students’ Do Something Different week. When thinking about the brief to the students, I was reminded of the original aim for the project: to create an exciting, mysterious, online venue.

There’s been some serious distraction (see above) from setting up the test website. But UEA Gig History now has a domain and a WordPress site, together with a special template. Tester gigs have been identified and material has been gathered and my mentor is working on setting up some interesting widgets.

I had a number of takeaways from Future Now, which I’ve shared with colleagues here at UEA. The opening keynote by Anne Lise Kjaer really hit home; that being a good storyteller isn’t enough these days — you have to keep the dialogue open. The Gig History project was designed to be a short, fun campaign within a temporary online mini-exhibition. There was never space for true interaction and the new website should — ideally — allow for this functionality.

Another key takeaway was from the wonderful Lucy Sinclair from the Royal Opera House; that everyone in a modern organisation should be digitally literate. As someone who has always been first in line to try new methods of communication (I still believe I was one of the first people at UEA to have a Twitter account…) there’s always been that sneaky suspicion that it’s not “my job”, so Lucy’s words were heartening.

The inclusive digital experiences session with Robin Christopherson, was also incredibly inspiring. Key takeaway was that everyone is (almost) on a level playing field when it comes to new technology. We mustn’t associate accessibility with disability as if it were something out of our own experience. I will bear this in mind when designing those first pages of the new site.

Suhair Kahn from Google Arts and Culture was last to speak.  Scanned Life magazines caught my eye with the ‘lifetags’ project. I could imagine the gig archive scans being tagged and searchable. Would that be too simple?

If nothing else I need to make one small, measurable experiment at a time. But for now, I’m excited to see what my mentor makes of the theme I’ve chosen.

Read Ruth’s first #DigiLab blog Shrinking changes for the Sex Pistols #DigiLab

Image courtesy of University of East Anglia (UEA). Photographer Mark Hodgson via University of East Anglia (UEA) — The Passions performing in 1981. 

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