Academic Conference Connected Communities

Digital Economy ‘All Hands Meeting’, Connected Communities workshop, 5 November

DE2013 is the fourth All Hands annual meeting of the Digital Economy RCUK priority areas. This year it is being held at MediaCityUK, Salford Quays, with the theme of Open Digital. 4-6 November. As part of my Connected Communities Leadership Fellow activities I have organised a workshop at DE2013 this week where we will be showcasing some of our activities around digital community.

Workshop A: Working digitally with communities: the Connected Communities Programme, digital activities, culture and community

Date and time: Tuesday 5 November, 3-5.30 pm

The purpose is to introduce the digital research of a small number of the many projects funded in the AHRC Connected Communities Programme. The projects to be discussed are focused on understanding and harnessing the potential of digital technologies in two specific areas:

  • extending the creative practice of knowledge exchange into co-production and co-design (projects working with community partners
  • using digital devices and technologies within contexts of community identity / resilience / arts practice.

I will briefly introduce the AHRC Connected Communities Programme—both in terms its funded projects (with emphasis on those with a digital / cultural brief) and in terms of current and future funding opportunities, both for academics and community / industry partners in the audience. Then there will be presentations, with screenings / hands-on demonstrations, from four researchers / community partners from different projects about their work.

Here are our workshop contents:

  • George McKay, University of Salford/AHRC Leadership Fellow for Connected Communities Programme, chair: Introduction 

to the Connected Communities Programme, funding, partners, scope and aims.

  • Colin Lorne, PhD researcher, Birmingham University: ‘MapLocal’ – Engaging Communities in Participatory Planning through Mobile Technologies

MapLocal is designed as a tool to help communities gather information about their neighbourhoods. The idea is that people walk around their neighbourhood taking photographs and making voice recordings using our smartphone app. The pictures and audio clips are then uploaded to a central map which can be accessed on the MapLocal website. As more people from the local area take part, more and more information about the neighbourhood appears on that community’s map, building a detailed picture of the area.

MapLocal can be used for different purposes, for example, gathering information about a local area in preparation for the production of a local plan which communities in England and Wales have been empowered to make under the provisions of the Localism Act, 2011. It could also be used for local campaigns to highlight issues in a neighbourhood that need addressing or as a means of recording the history of an area that is about to be radically changed as part of a regeneration scheme.

The MapLocal app is available to download for free via Google Play, search: ‘MapLocal’

  • Prof Chris Speed, Edinburgh College of Art/Edinburgh University: Mr Seel’s Garden, Digital Sentinel work: the role of territorial clouds

Mr Seel’s Garden was a Connected Communities project in Liverpool, focusing on urban horticulture and history, and working with museums, community gardeners, beekeepers, and Transition Liverpool; the Digital Sentinel is an output of a Connected Communities project in Edinburgh, working with a local community to produce a new, online version of a defunct community newspaper, the Wester Hailes Sentinel

  • Dr Josh Cameron, University of Brighton: Constructing a resilient community of practice across the Connected Communities Programme: online connection of researchers

With 280 funded projects and 400 community partners to date, how do we communicate across the Connected Communities Programme? An online ‘community of practice’ (CoP) approach will promote inclusive discussion. CoPs were developed as a way for groups made up of people from differing backgrounds (eg social, cultural, occupational) and with different types of expertise (eg personal experience, practitioner, academic) to effectively collaborate around a shared area of concern. Whilst originally developed for face to face discussions, there is a promising, but limited, body of research suggesting that digital CoPs can be effective. Indeed CoPs may be even more inclusive when online as it becomes possible for discussion to be open to the wider public. This form of Community-University collaboration represents a much more ‘horizontal’ form of engagement than the more traditional ‘vertical’ model implicit in the Mass Open Online Courses (MOOCS) that has gained much recent attention.

  • Prof Mike Wilson, Falmouth University: University of the Village project

University of the Village explores a learning model which focuses on the community, rather than the individual. One of the key aspects of the project is the co-design of a creative curriculum which can be then delivered from the university campus directly to the village via superfast broadband. University of the Village looks at new modes of delivering learning opportunities, enhanced through Next Generation Access (NGA) Broadband. NGA or superfast broadband is already recognised as being critical to the development of business and the economy in the UK; university of the Village explores how it can be harnessed to support learning, which in turn supports the development of the creative rural economy and the sustainability of village communities.

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