Libraries – the original Social Networks

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library dragon

I was listening to the Scroobious Pip podcast (birthday edition) this morning where he interviewed his mum.
She sounds very nice.
She also works in a library.

She was advocating the role of libraries everywhere. I sympathised with her because, over the last few years, I’ve worked in several libraries in Perth, Dundee and Fife on behalf of their local authorities, running workshops and classes in using social media and digital media (filmmaking, storytelling, etc…).

As a direct consequence of doing this work I have a new found enthusiasm for libraries and there role in local communities. In lots of areas libraries are struggling to stay open but in others they are the hub of the community. The fact that you are reading this may mean that you have all that you need at your finger tips via the internet – however, by turning up at your local library for an event, to borrow a CD or… dare I say, borrow an actual book, you are helping to retain a service which, for some, is a life line.

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Click here to visit my LinkedIn page to watch a couple of short videos and tell me your memories of going to the library – or even what’s happening at your local library this summer!

Death of the Selfie?

group NY selfie

Do you remember when taking a selfie meant using the tiny convex silver blob on the back of your phone as a guide?

Well, the ‘selfie’ is so common place now that at the end of 2013 ‘Selfie’ was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries and even the Pope was in on the act.

Such is the fickle world of fame that having reached the pinnacle the only way is down; and, thanks to a gaggle of the movie world’s finest, it may be that last weekend brought about the beginning of the end for the poor old selfie.

Oscars superfly'd

Whereas the Pope came across as obliging and benevolent the Oscars pic has an embarrassing ‘dad dance’ feel to it. And then, with this being the internet, we see the ugly truth – that no one let Liza Minnelli (at the back in the blue dress) push through!

liza minelli Oscars

The one saving grace was that Matt Groening rattled off a spoof…

simpsons selfie

Pop, as they say, will eat itself!

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While working on the the Sense of Place project at Dundee’s McManus we were looking at how cinema developed locally in the early 20th century. At a time when only a few dozen people on the planet had access to a movie camera they were filming the most mundane of activities; people coming out of work; trains coming into stations. It took the magician George Melies to spot the entertainment value of the medium.

With the creation and sharing of photography and video being so ubiquitous and democratised through smart phones and social media we live in a constant avalanche of selfies and dinner plates. But surely it’s the same phenomenon.

It’s interesting that many of the people who complain about the number of people sharing their breakfast on Instagram are also glued to the Great British Bake Off; I’m sure there’s some shared DNA in there somewhere.

And of course the Oscar selfie became the most re-tweeted Tweet of all time with over 2  million RTs before the end of the show.

ancient selfieFinally, my favourite selfie. Apparently the picture on the left dates back to the 1850’s (?). Although it could just be an early iPhone using a grungy Instagram filter. It’s so hard to tell these days.

Visual Storytelling Made Simple: Storehouse for iPad

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Did you know that the very first version of Instagram (Burbn) was intended as a ‘Swiss army knife’ of an app… kitchen sink included. As development progressed went on, Kevin Systrom and his team stripped out feature after feature to arrive at the simple (but effective) photo sharing app that subsequently sold to Facebook for 1 Billion Dollars only 18 months after launch.

Storehouse is a new digital visual storytelling application for iPad and shares something of the simplicity of Instagram.

Positioned somewhere between Storify and photo book production, Storehouse maximises the intuitive interface potential of the iPad. Bring in pictures and video from your iPad’s photo albums, Flickr, Dropbox and Instagram to create (very quickly) a polished ‘story’ that can be annotated with text (again, limited to ‘header’, ‘quote’ or ‘regular’) and published on the web to the Storehouse community and to the world.

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Experienced desktop publishers might see the application as limited. As a long-time Adobe InDesign user the power of Storehouse, to me, is in its simplicity. Within 30 mins of downloading the app for the first time I had browsed some great stories (links below) and had one of my own ready to publish.

Sharing is simple too – Facebook, Tweet or email a link to stories. Click ‘recommend‘ to bookmark stories you might like to return to. I expected ‘recommend‘ to be a ‘like’ but I can’t see that Storehouse display numbers of ‘recommendations’, only ‘views’.

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Translation to bigger screens via your web browser is excellent, no need for ‘mum’ to download any pesky desktop apps to see your story. As yet embedding is not an option, but I wonder if that’s an intentional choice for now… YouTube videos can turn up in all sorts of places – Storehouse stories can only be seen on their site.

Developed by a team that includes an ex-Apple employee, the presentation is very cool – limited, but unfussy. As with Storify, the inability to ‘save a version’ of my work is a little disconcerting. I once experienced hours of work on Storify disappear due to a server problem. Once was enough.

Although a PDF would be appreciated, I have to say that much of the functionality and beauty of the ‘story’ would be lost. The Storehouse versions flow and bounce and twist (to close) in the fluid way we have grown accustomed to in well executed iPad apps. And while images can be cropped in the ‘story’, a single tap has the image appear full screen and uncropped.

storehouse application image

While less than a week old the Storehouse community is growing and, like me, they see a lot of potential and room to grow.

I think Storehouse would be great learning tool for schools. My daughter loves creating Keynote (Powerpoint) slides about her favourite subjects. On an iPad I could see the simplicity and intuitive nature of Storehouse being really popular with children creating home or class projects – but for that to happen I would want the ability to create private accounts, maybe even private groups where stories could be shared with the class, youth club, etc.

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I can also see me using Storehouse as a presentation tool – particularly for image heavy and Pecha Kucha style slides; particularly for the cropped images that then appear full screen.

But, I’ve kept you for far too long – you should try it out for yourself.

Have a browse through the stories I’ve linked below, including my own ‘SuperFly’ exhibition retrospective… (read more about SuperFly here)

Remember where you heard about Storehouse first – if it was here then come back and tell me what you think. If you make a ‘story’ (or you already have one) link to them in the comments below or Tweet me @OnTheSuperFly

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Welcome to the Real World

Matrix Agents in the code

Morpheus said it best when he first met Neo in person!

However, Neo’s alter ego, Mr Anderson, had previously been living life as a Duracell for deluded A.I. machines who had taken over the World and was getting out even less than the geeky-recluse had realised! Clearly not a real life!

So it nips my head to see “IRL” (in real life) used in reference to off-line activity, as if on-line activity is unrelated to anything real or valid. Like taking the blue pill!

And while it’s mostly well intentioned internet speak there’s a valid point here…

My social media activity is mostly limited to my this blog, Twitter, and Instagram. Occasionally I dip my toe elsewhere but these are my regulars. And I’m quite certain that what I post is real life.

below – Instagram post from July 2013

Instagram post july 2013Instagram for example: My tendency to take ‘snaps’ pre-dates digital capturing, let alone digital networks! It’s something that I’ve always done – an enthusiasm that was elevated by digital – first by the cameras and now by mobile and the ability to share on the spot!

What about Twitter? Well Twitter provides the ability to share widely what I do for a living; as often as not while I’m in the middle of doing it. But more than that it allows me to pepper that feed of activity with other stuff like, personality, links and likes, recommendations, etc. – it’s not all about me!
But if you need tangible evidence of its value then let me tell you that Twitter has brought me a lot of work over the years by making me visible to the people that matter.

Twitter Feed July 2013right – a snap shot of Twitter posts from July 2013

Collectively my blog posts, tweets and Instagrams’ all reflect real-life; as real as delivering a presentation; as real as bus-stop banter; as real as water cooler conversations! Not all of those conversations would I rate as valuable in themselves, but building real-life relationships is complex – it’s over time that the value emerges.

We also need to be careful of the message that we send to young people about how they use their time – a lot is invested through on-line communication and to demonise it as the root of all modern day social deficiencies understates the real issues (see update below).

Characterising off-line as real-life and on-line as meaningless un-reality is just daft. It suggests that our life on-line is always irrelevant and has no value and that all real-life (off-line) activity is implicitly genuine, relevant and valuable. No one can assume either of those states, off-line or on-line can be inherently genuine or in-genuine!

And of course, to drive the point home, those of us who have experienced the cross-over between on and off-line worlds will recognise the buzz from meeting an on-line contact in person. And that’s great because, clearly (as we’ve already learned from “The Matrix”), the combination of genuine relationship and in person is near impossible to beat.

But for as long as we’ve been sending letters, crafting smoke signals or banging on drums, the world simply hasn’t existed exclusively in in-person relationships. And while it’s not all good, my positive on-line experiences have resulted in: learning new skills; online collaborations; (and most significantly) food on the table!

So to underestimate the potential of connecting on-line is foolish; and tagging it IRL only perpetuates the myth.

Its 2013. We know better. Or do we?

UPDATE: Since writing this I saw a post relating to the tragic suicide of teenager Hannah Smith in the UK. It presents a balanced view on the relationship between the internet and bullying and, as someone who endured a (relatively short) stint of bullying at school, to me it rang true.

Included in the piece is a similar point regarding “IRL” and, in this context, adds significant weight to the argument for acknowledging on-line activity as ‘real life.

Pique interest with Pinterest

Pinterest_Logo

It feels a little late in the day to be writing about Pinterest – such is the world of the internet – but while it currently holds the record for ‘fastest growing online network’ ever (currently between 50-70 million users depending on who you listen to) I still talk to lots of people who are not sure what it’s all about.

Wikipedia defines Pinterest as “a pinboard-style photo-sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, and hobbies.

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The definition of “Photo-sharing” diminishes its functionality to a degree – while the ‘visualisation’ of the ‘pin’ using ‘images’ is key to the Pinterest experience, you can share much more than just the picture.

At the moment I use it in the way that I used to use Delicious; simply a collection of bookmarked ‘favourite things’. They may be images, but usually images that are part of a webpage, TED talk, App, etc. So, on my ‘Books’ board you’ll find images of recommended reading, but those images will take you to the relevant Amazon page to purchase or sample. The TED board ‘pins’ will take you to the actual TED talk.

Pinning your favourites is as simple as a cut and paste of the web address, or navigating to an image on your had-drive to upload. You’ll also find that more and more sites are (as this one does) displaying handy buttons that allow you to ‘pin’ webpages with a single click. Your ‘boards’ and ‘pins’ can be shared, followed, liked, re-shared, etc – but you can also make boards collaborative amongst groups. (While I’ve yet to use it in this way it was one of the features that ‘piqued’ my interest in the site.)

Launched in 2010, the requisite iPhone app in 2011 (and other platforms since) provided additional mobile access – by December of that year Pinterest was in Time magazine’s list of top 50 websites of the year and one of the top 10 social networks with 11 million total visits per week.

For me, Hubspot’s ‘How to use Pinterest for Business’ helped cement  my understanding of Pinterest’s value and potential and while I haven’t yet had an opportunity to use it more thoroughly I thought it was about time I drew your attention to my Pinterest account (you can also access it via a button on the left hand column of my home page).

I’ve seen great examples of Pinterest used for mood boards, photo-blogs and exhibitions; and because collections are visualised, visitors are drawn in exactly as they might be to a pinboard on your wall.

So I recommend you give it a go! Please check out my Pinterest boards and if you’ve got any ideas, suggestions for new boards or boards that I should visit, let me know. Most of all, create some of your own and let me know how you get on!

Totally Recall

smart phones

Philip K Dick already had some ideas up his sleeve on memories and what ‘they really mean’ when he wrote ‘We can Remember It For You Wholesale‘ which later became Paul Verhoven‘s 1990 movie Total Recall. (Remade in 2012 lest we forget!)

In the vein of my blog post from last summer ‘Is anyone Watching?‘ (which draws on a couple of posts from 12 months before that – link are in the above post) the BBC today are asking if ‘smartphones are killing memories?‘!

It’s worth a watch, if a little mellow-dramatic!

I don’t think it’s a good idea to live life watching through a 3 inch view finder – however, I’d agree with the chap in the BBC report from the National Portrait Gallery (Sandy Nairne, Director of NPG (very Scottish sounding name!) ) gets the balance just right…

What do you think? Are you or members of your family missing out on experiences through a need to share what’s happening through your digital devices or do they help you remember more vividly in a way that you can share time after time?

Brian Cox (The Dundee Actor) talking about his experiences as a boy with the cinema as ‘child care’!

Bria Cox at The McManus