I’ve been at the Substance office today in Manchester near the beginning of an exciting collaborative learning project, bringing together a variety of creative and cultural organisations in a partnership to share learning on leadership. Included in the core partnership are Substance, Greater Manchester Music Action Zone (GMMAZ), Music Leader North West, and Performing Arts Network and Development Agency (PANDA). My role within this project is to facilitate the online sharing, provided on a web-platform. I want to use this post to explore how I use technology, and its potential for freelance artists and arts organisations.
My experience of distance learning and online forums has been, most often, frustrating. People did not respond to each others’ posts, content was messy and badly presented/described, and in the case of distance learning, the obligatory contributions to online discussions were so forced as to hardly be worth writing. This is why I am really looking forward to getting started on the leadership Lab project, where I will be providing online facilitation. Just as a discussion is most often useful when effectively facilitated, so too online discussion needs to be guided, especially as online discussions will be at a slower pace, as new comments are added over days and weeks.
Blogging can be equally frustrating at times, especially when no one comments – how do I know anyone is reading it, or that it is worth writing? Blogging is definitely worth the effort as it is a wonderful method of documenting publicly any influences, ideas, learning, project development, anything, in a concrete, yet informal way. And as someone running a small business, it’s a cheap (free with WordPress) way of having a website which is more than just an online poster.
Twitter is another tool which I have found incredibly helpful, mainly because it has greatly improved my google rating (yes, I admit, in my vainer moments I occasionally Google myself). Twitter is also great for seeing content I may be interested in. I follow people I am likely to be interested in such as musicians, community arts organisations, my friends, people in my local area e.g. local hospital as I am interested in health issues, local journalists and some newspapers. Twitter etiquette means you can follow as many people as you like. The Twitter question is different from Facebook, which is more about status/state of mind etc, where as Twitter asks the question ‘What are you doing?’. This can be useful for businesses as it is less personal, you only have 140 characters, so a ‘tweet’ might be “at the Substance office in Manchester meeting the orgs involved in Leadership Lab with @timdavies”
All of these different technologies have required a fair investment of time to get set up – the blog being the most time-consuming, although quite straightforward, and Twitter being very easy indeed. They are definitely worth doing as once they have been set up, they are easy to update and show everyone what you are doing/thinking, which is where the conversations should start. Tim Davies has written a series of one-page guides to help people start up with these different web-tools.