Jan 192016

This evening I’m at Open Knowledge Edinburgh Meet Up 19, at the National Library of Scotland on George IVth Bridge, organised by OK Scotland.

I’ll be liveblogging so, as usual, any corrections, tweaks, comments etc. are very much welcome.

Tonight’s event has a number of lightning talks including:

  • Gill Hamilton (NLS): Welcome
  • Pippa Gardner (Urban Tide): Scottish Government Open Data Training Pilot
  • Allan Brown/Gill Hamilton: Identifying People in Scotland’s Post Office Directories
  • Ewan Klein: The UK Local Open Data Index
  • Fred Saunderson: The NLS Open Data Strategy
  • Akiko Kobayashi: The Fountainbridge Community Wikihouse
  • Jeremy Darot: Data Linkage in Scotland / Greener Leith‘s Edinburgh Open Data Map

Gill is starting us off with an introduction to the venue and the meet up – which is number 19. She is also giving a shout out to two Wikimedian’s in Residence: Sara from Museums and Galleries Scotland; and Ewan from Wikipmedian in Residence for Edinburgh University. And now over to Ewan Klein

Welcome to old faces and new. We have four talks today, then a break, then three more talks. It’s very informal, you can ask questions and obviously there is chance to discuss and ask more later on…

Pippa Gardner (Urban Tide): Scottish Government Open Data Training Pilot

This is Pippa’s first visit to OK Edinburgh – I’ve been to the Glasgow one before a few times though. So this is basically a big plug for #scotopendata, https://scotopendata.eventbright.co.uk.

ScotOpenData is a free open data training pilots for public sector organisations across Scotland, funded by Scottish Government. We are running 28 courses over the pilot year and this is a pilot – we are interested in content, style, duration, everything. It’s being handled in a very open way. We can get round about 560 people in that year but that’s just a drop in the ocean of the sector and the people working with open data. We’ve run 5 courses so far, two more this week (Aberdeen and Inverness) so do pass on the message.

At the moment there is a 1 day course: Open Data Opportunity – an introduction to what open data is, the cultural changes not just the technical issues. That’s covering background, strategy, aims of Scottish Government, engagement. The 2 day course then goes into much more detail and covers more technical aspects.

The 1 day course is designed with the needs of public sector leaders, senior managers and data owners in mind – although we see a wider range of people coming along. It’s quite high level, not technical at all but talk best practice and engagement.

The 2 day course is about the publication process, the publication chain, platforms to use, APIs, licensing, etc. And one of the things we are finding already is that the 2 day course is more popular than the 1 day course. There is a massive appetite for this throughout the country, for that detail not just the “what is” aspect.

A really interesting journey so far. Started in October, running until September… Have first quarterly reporting coming up in the next few weeks. We have had 52% take up already. We have had strong representation form local authorities, NHS and a range of other public sector bodies so far. And we have used networks and social media to spread the word but do share onwards, all are welcome.

Feedback so far has included a lot of people reassured by knowing that there are others in the same boat as them – commenting that they feel they are “Not alone”, “struggling with limited resources”, and that there is a “great deal to gain from greater collaboration”. There is a particular interest in making business cases etc. We think the exchange of ideas and experience and networking is a hugely valuable part of these sessions and we need to think about how to sustain that network on an ongoing basis.


Q1) What are the reasons people are giving for coming along?

A1) For the 2 day course the technical aspects have been really important, there is a real appetite for that. They want to know how to do it and how to coordinate across Scotland. The 1 day course is a lot about people starting out, de-mystifying, and really wanting a focus on benefit and business case – what can I use to take to my senior managers to make my case?

Q2) What is the eligibility here? Are community councillors eligible?

A2) As long as you have an association with an eligible public sector body it should be fine, but I can check. There is a list you can look at too. The only people we’ve had to turn away so far have been academic sector – their training is funded separately.

Q3) Has there been any follow up with participants?

A3) We ask questions through eventbright at sign up, we ask again at the end of the course, and then we do 3 month follow up. Some show a dip after the course – we think that may be about them judging their own skills and then reassessing them in light of learning more. But they are quite engaging workshops, getting people talking about what they will do when they go back…

Allan Brown: Identifying People in Scotland’s Post Office Directories

I’m going to be talking about my honours project using the OCR data from scanned historical Post Office Directories (PODs). And taking those original directories and making them into a searchable database – looking for surname, first name, address, business name etc.And I am using machine learning to do this.

So we wanted to identify feature vectors – what a forename looks like, what a surname looks like etc. so that the system can use that as a training set to learn what those features look like, so that it has a mathematical model to predict what kind of word new ones might be.

So, an example of doing this would be to take feature vectors of the form [cloud coverage, temperature, wind speed] and to predict if it will rain. The system looks for features that can differentiate rainy and non-rainy days…

So, we are doing that sort of prediction for the PODs. Why use machine learning for this? Well it handles format differences between directories well – which is good as the directories from across 100 years vary here. It handles format differences within directories… and ambiguities. OCR errors mean its not just a case of looking up words in dictionary (70% accuracy when we tried that) and our machine learning is hitting about 80% accuracy.

The benefits of this project is to provide historians with open source tool for exploring Scotland’s history. And a free resource. It serves as a springboard for further work with similar data. And demonstrates what can be done with open data and a broad range of experts from different field – showing the benefit of using this data beyond historians so that more can be done with the data, making it more useful.


Q1) This is important stuff. Are the NLS, and are you, relaxed about copyright and open data?

A1 – Allan) The data we are using is already open source. But the format isn’t that searchable or sortable. So the idea is to attribute metadata to it so we can attribute people to it. I think it will be almost entirely open source.

A1 – Gill) We license transcriptions as CC0, images as CC-BY-NC. But we are using the giant XML transcriptions.

Q2) If you took current valuation data rolls, could you do the same thing? The valuation rolls of commercial properties etc. the NRS data.

Comment) Better to ask for the current owner of the data.

A2 – Allan) This is very much designed for Edinburgh post office directory. Very

Q3) How far through?

A3) About half way through… Can take a page, identify people in that data… Looking to de-depulicate data across directories…

Q4) We worked with these same directories a few years ago (for AddressingHistory), looking for locations based on file structure rather than machine learning but that work might be of interest to combine with the person work you are doing.

Comment) I think you already have the POD Parser from that

A4) Yes, but would be useful to discuss.

Ewan Klein: The UK Local Open Data Index

The UK Local Open Data Index is part of a wider OK Foundation project looking to measure and see how mature, and how open countries are.

So, you can look at the US City Open Data Census and this compares data sets deemed important, then ranked (with a traffic light colour system) by openness.

So, if you want to run a census for your country you can do that nationally or locally. The community agrees the key data sets. Then we have a hack or sprint event doing some leg (desk) work to see what is available – what open data is available on crime in LA, say. And then from that the ranking by importance is done.

A census was started for the UK but it didn’t get that far. Nottingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester etc. were looked at but the data gathered wasn’t terribly thorough. The default data sets include things like real-time transit; air quality etc. These are reasonable… But are they useful for Scottish cities? For instance:

  • Real-time transport data – is controlled by transport operators
  • Air quality – is published by Air Quality Scotland, collected locally
  • Transport timetabled – again, transport operators
  • Crime statistics – collected by police, published by Scottish Government
  • Procurement contracts – published by Scottish Government
  • Food Safety inspections – published by Food Standards Agency
  • Traffic accidents – Published by UK Dept for Transport

Many of these data sets are not at city level, and many cities in scotland will have the same data available so not useful to compare.

In Australia they used different data choices: public amenities; addresses; trees; garbage collection times and places; bike paths and footpaths; ward boundaries; property boundaries; public buildings; building outlines; etc.

I think it is up to the community to decide those data sets that matter, that have relevance and meaning to those communities. I’d like this community to be involved in that. Saturday 5th March is International Open Data Day and I’d like to do a sprint and to carry out an Open Data Census for Seven Scottish Cities! Join me!


Q1) Aren’t there standard city measures?

A1) There is an ISO standard for city indicators – with about 400 measures.

Q2) Can you find those automatically with web crawlers etc.

A2) There are limits – for instance on whether the license is machine readable. And whether available for download, or by API etc. I’d be happy to sit down and look with you at the data sets… Doing some of this automatically is useful to a point, but you need human judgement too. But first you have to decide what is important.

Q3) Are there clear requirements for openness?

A3) There are quite specific criteria to use.

Q4) It’s maybe dull at city level but it’s a good thing that Scottish Government is ensuring data is comparable across cities. That’s a good thing. And there are things that aren’t being done nationally that could be done more, collected more…

A4) I think that’s important and you could argue that having green all the way down might be a good thing.

And we’ve just had a wee break here… Now onwards… 

Fred Saunderson: The NLS Open Data Strategy

We published our NLS Open Data Publication Plan last week. This comes out of the Scottish Government Open Data Strategy which builds on the principles of open data by default, quality and quantity, usable by all, releasing data for improved governance, releasing data for innovation.

That Scottish Government strategy calls particularly on public sector organisations to publish their data in a format more appropriate for reuse – 3* or above on Tim Berners-Lee’s Deployment Model. So this is really exciting for us, it’s a really strong encouragement and a reason to talk to senior managers, to get buy-in on a plan. There is an appetite for better understanding, better structure, it’s a really nice way to go about it.

So, last month we published our Open Data Publication Plan (http://www.nls.uk/about-us/open-data/). And our plan is to provide our data in 3* and above. Unlike many public bodies we are set up to provide information, we have been thinking about this for a long time, so we are in a good place to get our data to a good standard. We benefit from already having the culture and mindset of data and data sharing.

Fred is explaining Berners-Lee’s deployment model.

So, our plan lists the data we have and will make available and two major priorities:

  1. To make available as 3* open data the data that we already make available
  2. We can also identify what we aren’t yet supplying at that level. And we aim to publish appropriate non personal and non sensitive data as 3* open data.

So, we want better data. But we also want better reuse which will benefit us but also will benefit wider society.

Generally we wil be licensing under CC-0 or CC-BY for data. And we aim to release as CSV, EAD (Encoded Archival Description) and MARCXML. We may release in other formats but those are our main formats.

We will have 14 datasets opened by the end of 2016; a further 8 identified by the end of 2017. We have a list of the datasets – it is online – but I wanted to point out that it’s an amalgamation of collections metadata and corporate information. For instance the Emigrants Guides to North America, the Bibliography of Scottish Literature in Translation (BOSLIT) – these are things we collate or use. But we also have datasets like Payments with a value in excess of £25,000 – much more data on the running of the organisation.

In terms of other datasets we need to identify those datasets that we can open up. We have that list of what is already available, but we will be adding to that. We will release this data on our website to start with. But I know that the Scottish Government is also working on a data discovery site where it will also be discoverable.


Q1) You mentioned some difficulty identifying non personal, non sensitive data… I was wondering if you’d seen the ODI Data Spectrum as that helps a lot with clarifying that.

A1) I’ll take a look!

Q2) What about 4* or 5*?

A2) We haven’t done any yet, so we want to get some institutional buy-in early, and get to the 3* place first.

A2 – Gill) We will get there… But it’s a step process. We have to do what the government recommends first, and then move onwards.

Q3) Isn’t this a legal requirement? There is a directive… I thought it was a mandate to publish a plan.

A3) That’s different, that’s an EU directive perhaps…? The Scottish Public Sector has a different specific requirement on public sector bodies, which is what we are working towards.

Akiko Kobayashi: The Fountainbridge Community Wikihouse

I’m an architect and I’m going to give you an overview of a project I worked on last year. The site is in the Fountainbridge area. The council acquired the land for Boroughmuir High School and, once it acquired that land, we ased if we could set up a community project. So, our project is Fountainbridge Community Initiative, and brings in the Community Garden and The Forge. The Wikihouse was a project undertaken for £3500 of public and housing association funding.

For me a Wikihouse is about open source design – a whole other talk on the meaning of that. It is also about digital fabrication; and the ease of assembly.

So, Open Source Design… There are hundreds of projects on the Wikihouse website. Earlier designs formed portal frames with two layers sandwiched together – still in use but now the design uses box beam… (cue exciting presentation of samples!). So, you have one layer, with sides, build of plywood to create a very strong cross-section.

I used the design, with some additional privately shared designs, and some hacks. So we have a frame design that builds a strong building but, as it is temporary, we don’t have foundations but instead use breeze blocks as ballast to help hold it down. Then throughout the structure we have a waterproof membrane to keep it water tight.

So if you go to the ecommons folder the models and designs are provided in SketchUp – as that’s free. It’s fascinating to explore and play with those designs. There is little documentation so you have to pick apart the design that way anyway, and you have to personally take responsibility to decide if that’s a sensible approach.

In SketchUp you can then explode the design to see the components and use a tool (e.g. AutoCAD) to make changes etc. Then you use ? software to allocate the pieces to your plywood. That is then turned into instructions for a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) router to cut and create those pieces. I’m sure many of you love learning new things – and what I love about new things is sharing that with people. I loved learning how to use the CNC machines, so I trained a bunch of people (from all sorts of backgrounds) to do that to, to help fabricate the pieces.

To me open is also about ease of assembley… Making this as easy as possible means as many people as possible can get involved and be part of the process. To find out how easy it was to do I tried a test assembly of one 1-1 frame to see how long it took, if it worked, was it easy enough to do. The version (v.4.2) I was basing my wikihouse on hadn’t ever been built before so it was a major test. And I was feeding back to the Wikihouse Foundation a lot on that. And we got a lot of feedback from the community on how they found the process.

There was one sequence issue – not readily obvious in the 3D model – that I found in building this. So I fed that back to the form for version v.4.2… But no one saw it unfortunately (but it was fixed another way!).

We also did some load testing (with human and a keg of Guiness!) and alongside design and fabrication I undertook some 1:3 scale workshops (for context Akiko’s model along today is 1:10) to get a sense of how this would work – with community members, with Primary 2 students, with structural engineers (very competitive but also very lovely in coming up with fun and useful testing suggestions!) etc.

The event and build took place in October. There is one other building on site, the Rubber Mill (shortly to be the home of Edinburgh Print Makers), where we were allowed to store components.

So, we began the project building frames.. We had half our volunteers from Canmore Housing Association, school children visiting… We built the frames, lifted them and made connections with pin connectors and joints. We had a rockclimber on roofing duty… Companies donated some of the materials. The developers provided a camera to take images of the building. My favourite picture is one where an early mock up was pretty much happening during the build!

One of our participants said: “I can’t believe I helped to build a building. I thought only professionals could do that.”. Now, obviously there are some things that only professionals should do but there are lots of things we can all build, do, and be part of. I’m interested in self-build houses and that idea of how much you can do yourself is part of that.

So, take a look at #wikihouseEDIN (@fountainbridgec; @WikiHouse) – do get in touch and use the space – we have community stuff taking place there, Collective Gallery’s Marxist reading group meets there!


Q1) Is the issue with self-build homes that we don’t have the land?

A1) The land is there for developers to use. There is a bigger policy issue around land banking.

Q2) What are the future uses for the system?

A2) People see this in different ways. Alastair Parbin, who leads Wikihouse, he’s in touch with development companies. There is wastage. As nice as digital fabrication is… I had a nightmare founding an affordable CNC machine I could use affordably… For remote spots, non developed countries… CNC is a big ask. I don’t know how he’s getting on with that. The strongest feature for me is ease of assembly. My idea for this site was as a catalyst to help people to understand that they could get involved in their own self-build house, or whatever… Self-efficacy. Maybe even just for confidence in building a piece of Ikea flat pack furniture…

Jeremy Darot: Data Linkage in Scotland / Greener Leith‘s Edinburgh Open Data Map

My day job is as a statistician at the Scottish Government working on making data available as Linked Open Data. Up until now it has been difficult to link data sets together to get the maximum value from open data sets. So the Scottish Government has put together a framework to make that happen, particularly for research and statistics purpose. So, if you are researcher and have a question that you think would be answered by combining several data sets, and would benefit Scotland, we can offer some support. So please come and speak to me.

Outside of work I work with a charity called Greener Leith with a crazy plan to plant 1000 trees in Leith, but we are also working in sustainable communities and sustainable development. It can be really hard for individuals to track planning, to engage with it, and to have a voice in that. Happily Edinburgh Council are getting better at making data available as open data on their website though.

So, I decided to take this data and create a map of Edinburgh… This is a really simple map, created in R (used in academia and government) and it’s a little bit of server side and client side. I didn’t even have to use a GIS to do the spatial data analysis with this. So, I started taking a small data set from the Leith community council – a curated database of major projects. For each project – such as the tram extension – we have status, information, a link to the Council website and any consultation links. Ideally I’d like to do this for all of Edinburgh. I know the Improvement Service will be launching a website to do this for all planning applications… But some manual curation is needed… Actually things are only going to be in there when an application is made, and often as a community one wants a voice before that stages, before an application is made.

So, that was my starting point… I have also brought in the Local Development Plan… Protected areas (including listed buildings). This is a framework… But also with planning you need to understand infrastructure. For instance, in Leith we are a highly populated and growing area… but if anything access to GP surgeries has been decreasing… So I wanted to map GPs (and ideally catchment areas – I have a request in for that), dentists, care homes, and also things like shops. And i have also added options for air quality, based on the University’s air quality monitoring station. It’s possible to add lots of things to this map… One thing that is quite useful is to view administrative boundaries. And you can search the map.

I provide links on the map to the Greener Leith site, and a page with much more information, the data sources etc.

So, this was a weekend pet project… I want to add census data, data on population health, Council Tax paid… And will also use a MungoDB to let people save views, add data, etc. I’ve no idea if this is useful and usable so do play around with it and let me know any feedback, bugs etc.

The map that Jeremy built can be found here: https://myleith.shinyapps.io/myedinburgh/.


Q1) How will all this information, these maps help developers? And infrastructure shown?

A1) Ideally I’d want it to be useful. I’d like to think developers will look at this stuff when planning. I got some early data under a data sharing agreement… The Council holds this data but not all open. The idea is that this sort of data levels the playing field a little bit for consultations and planning processes.

Q2) Can we get access to the R code that drives this?

A2) Yes, I’ll ping the code on GitHub… And my code is built on that.

Q3) A lot of this data is available on Edinburgh’s atlas actually…

A3) A lot of open data is available, but

Q4) Did you say that you did this over a weekend?

A4) I did, yes. And for free – thought it costs me $9 a month to host. I used CartoDB and Leaflet, etc.

Q5) Could this be your day job?

A5) I have a day job! But I know that the Scottish Government has a great open data portal that is really lovely.

Ewan: I should note the MESH project and the contributions to Open Street Map for that, and we have Richard Rodger, the leading light of that there.

Richard: Indeed. We have what will be the most detailed map in Europe, and we want that to be 100% accurate. So when Jeremy zooms in you can see every single garden… Every house number. They will all be there and that work continues. All of the plots in huge detail. And every business listed is actually accurate at the moment – it’s really really useful. You could use that for checking what else is already open/nearby etc. (e.g. to find the best place for a new pharmacy near a GP’s surgery etc).

And policy isn’t best made with contemporary data, but with 5 years or 10 years’ data. I would like to take the last 10 years of planning data, put in a georeferenced database… And contact community and community organisations to see what is happening, and the upcoming planning proposals. Most importantly it would be great to know if data sets would have 5 or 10 year back projections – so useful for policy making.

Jeremy: There is data going back to the 80s on changes of use that could be useful…. Would be great to work together actually.

 January 19, 2016  Posted by at 5:52 pm Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with:  No Responses »
Jan 062016

Today I am delighted to be hosting – in my eLearning@ed Convener hat – a talk from Martin Hawksey, from ALT.

Note: this is a live blog so apologies for any typos, errors etc – corrections always welcome.

I am one of about four members of staff at ALT – the Association of Learning Technologists. How many of you are ALT members? (a good chunk of the room are) And how many of you have heard of our conference? (pretty much all). I’m going to talk today about what else ALT does, where there are opportunities to take part etc.

A key part of what we want to do is improve practice, promote research and influence policy around information technology. We support learning technologists of course, but our members cross a wide range of roles reflecting the range of learning technology use. ALT itself was established in 1993 – before the internet which is an interesting marker. ALT has 1700+ individual and 180 organisational members at present. ALT works across sectors including Further Education, Higher Education and research, and ALT is also an international community. And, as you are all part of the University of Edinburgh you can join ALT for free as an associate member. To become a voting member/get involved in governance etc. you do, however, need to apply for full membership.

Before I worked at ALT I didn’t really appreciate that ALT is truly a membership organisation – and governed by its members. And that genuinely drives the organisation.

In terms of the benefits of membership there are three areas particularly relevant: keeping pace with technology; developing skills; recognition for your work. We also have the ALT-MEMBERS list (a Jiscmail list) and that is a really rich resource in terms of people posing questions, receiving feedback on what they are doing. You obviously have elearning@ed giving you a great insight into your local community, that ALT-MEMBERS list does some of the same stuff on a wider/global scale. For instance discussion on VLE Review (a conversation including 24 replies); tracking Twitter hashtags (a conversation including 14 replies); a post on appropriate use of social media and advice on inappropriate behaviour (had 15 replies and became a blog post drawing resources together); review of web conferening tools had 23 replies. So you can see there is huge interaction here, content to draw upon, trends to pick up, information being shared. If you aren’t yet a member of that list then you can sign up – it is a closed list and you need to be an ALT member to sign up.

Do you have any feedback on the mailing list?

Comment: It is just too busy for me, too many emails.

I think it is useful to have that health warning that there is a lot of traffic. You can manage that with filters, subscribing to the digest etc. But you need to be aware of the volume. In terms of posting we’d recommend a good subject line – to catch those eyes – and as with any list it’s good to do a bit of research first and share that in your post, that makes it more likely that you will have replies and engagement. Despite all the other technologies we have available email is still suprisingly important.

ALT also has Member Groups and SIGs (Special Interest Groups) on areas such as games and learning, open education, MOOCs, FELTAG.The SIGs tend to change as different trends go in and out of popularity – the open education group is especially busy at the moment for instance. There is also a specific ALT-Scotland group. So, for instance ALT-Scotland recently held a policy board with funders and policy makers to understand what they are thinking and doing at the moment which was hugely valuable.

In addition to email we are also using Twitter. For our conference and events we’ve moved away from specific hashtags for each towards a since hashtag – #altc – and that’s a great way to share your message with the community. We monitor and retweet that hashtag – and we have around 7000 followers. That hashtag can be used for projects, events, blog posts, etc. It’s pretty all encompassing.

As I mentioned ALT is your organisation, as a member. Our governance model is that we have a board of trustees including ALT members in Scotland – currently we have a member from Glasgow Caledonian, and another from Heriot-Watt. Our current vice-chair is Martin Weller, OU, our chair is ? and our current president is ?. We also have operational committees – a rewarding thing to do, enabling you engage with the community and good for your CV of course. And we have editors for the ALT journals as well.

I also mentioned recognition… How many of you have heard of CMALT – Certified Membership? (pretty much all in the room have) What do you want to know about it? It is a portfolio-based accreditation – you submit electronically and you can do that in whatever electronic format you like. That portfolio is certified by peers, and you can nominate one of your assessors. And they will give you feedback. There is a cost – about £150 – but if a group of you want to submit there is a reduced group rate.

Because there are a range of roles within ALT the skills assessed cover a range of core areas (operational issues; teaching, learning and assessment, wider context, communication), and specialist areas (such as leadership, tech development, administration, research, policy). The key thing is to certify your commitment to learning technology. It can feel like saying what you do but it is also about successes, reflection on success and failure, and working with feedback and support – about being a better learning technologist and making you have that professional journey. It isn’t just about the achievement of the certificate.

Question: How long does this take?

Once you are registered you have up to a year to complete and submit your portfolio. Obviously it doesn’t take that long to do. Maybe a few hours per area is sufficient – 20 or 24 hours perhaps for portfolios. There are examples of submitted portfolios and guidance on the ALT website. We also try to run regular CMALT webinars where you can talk to other candidates about the process and the detail.

Question: What are the benefits of doing CMALT?

Interestingly CMALT has been running for around 10 years now. We just passed our 300th CMALT certified members. And we have increasingly seen ALT members looking for CMALT as a desirable qualification for roles, which is obviously helpful for job prospects. The main benefit though is that process itself -the reflection, the capture of that experience, the opportunity to develop your practice.

Additionally CMALT maps to UKPSF and HEA Fellowship. We have mapped the requirements of UKPSF onto CMALT so that if you do either of those you may be able to reuse that work in applying to the other – there is more about this on the website.

Also we have the annual Learning Technologist of the Year Awards (#LTAwards), to recognise excellence in the sector. The awards are open internationally but most applicants are UK based. You can nominate someone else, or yourself. We normally announce these in April, so watch this space. Again, this is a great way to boost your CV but there is also a cash prize. This year the winner has been working on using Minecraft in teaching.

We have run ALT publications for years – we used to have the ALT Newsletter which we have now rebranded as the #ALTC Blog – anyone can contribute to this and we have editors who are all ALT members. We have around 225 posts and counting and look for posts of around 500 words each. Again, a great way to get information out.

We also have Research in Learning Technology (used to be known as ALTJ), and a great way to get full on research publications out there. It is a peer reviewed open access journal. It is rolling submission – although we have the capacity to do special issues. Again this publishing schedule fits with the roles and schedules of ALT members. There are no submission fees like some other open access journals – so little overhead to submitting. And the process can be very useful for preparing to submit to elsewhere. We have a bit of a boom at the moment so we currently have a call out for new editors – so if you are interested do take a look. Full details of submission processes can be found on the journal website.

As I mentioned we also have the annual conference, which is a really interesting conference but can melt your brain slightly – 3 very busy days! How many here have gone to the ALT conference? And how do you find it?

Comment) I find every second year works well. I like that you get a broad overview of what is happening in the sector, and a way to take the temperature of the sector in a fairly unique way.

Even if you can’t make it in person we do livestream a lot of the keynotes and plenary sessions, so we haven’t announced our keynote speaker. Last year we have Laura Cernovicz from Capetown, South Africa on ethics of education, open access, open education etc. We also had Jonathan Worth from University of Coventry, who has experimented with opening up courses to wider audiences and the challenges on informed and implied consent around use of social media in these. We also had Steve Wheeler. In the plenaries we had Rebecca ? from Oxford University on scaling learning analytics there. The videos of sessions are all available online on the ALT YouTube channel. It’s worth looking back to 2014 as we had some great speakers then including Audrey Walters, Catherine Cronin and Jeff Hayward.

In terms of other events note that OER16 is in Edinburgh next April – here at University of Edinburgh and co-chaired by Lorna Campbell and Melissa Highton.

Lorna: This year we are focusing on open cultures and making connections to galleries, museums. Submissions are closed at the moment – we are marking those right now. In terms of speakers we have Catherine Cronin, University of Galway; Melissa Highton, University of Edinburgh; John Scally, NLS; Emma Smith, Oxford University on Open Shakespeare work; and Jim Groom from DS106 – a MOOC or perhaps a cult – and the forefront of open higher education. The conference is on 19th and 20th April and registration will open up shortly. And it would be great to see a good cross-section of Edinburgh folk there.

Martin: ALT’s work with OER is a more recent thing, in terms of supporting its’ running. And that is in recognition of the importance of openness. And it’s worth noting that the call for OER17 chairs is now open.

The other thing to be aware of is the ALT Online Winter Conference 2015 – a free conference online, open to anyone to drop into and participate. Presenters all needed to be ALT members. And we hope to run this again this year. The call will go out in September so keep an eye out for that.

Something else ALT does is the policy side. So, a big plug here for our ALT Annual Survey – which is our opportunity to understand current and future practice, to enable us to represent our members needs. And this information helps us understand those needs for policy responses as well, for instance on the development of the Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. Currently ALT is preparing a response to the TEF as well.

One of the things I wanted to talk about was… last night I tweeted that I’d be talking here and was looking for what the benefit of being a member of ALT is… Originally I asked about technology and I realised there were technologies I wouldn’t have had access to without being part of ALT… For instance last year we ran an event here at the Informatics Forum where we got to use a real Oculus Rift – certainly at CES VR is supposed to be the big thing. Also John Kerr at Glasgow Caledonian had Google Glass along to see how his projects with it worked. There are opportunities to be introduced to new technologies. Also BuddyPress was something that in 2009 at the ALT Conference Joss Winn was experimenting with BuddyPress and finding it useful… Fast forward and we use BuddyPress in ALT activities, online courses etc. And it was that connection and chat that led to that solution… Again these are part of the benefits of being part of this lovely melting pot of people, contributing to the ALT community… Less about what than who in many ways.

Other benefits include discounts for the ALT conference (a big one), we also negotiate with other conferences – e.g. Online Educa this year.

Finally… Emerging areas and my advice on this…

This is related to the ALT community/membership thing. Throughout my career I have gotten the most out of technology by being flexible in what I focus on – but you do need to focus on things in some depth. A benefit of being part of a wider community means they can filter through those a bit, making you aware of them as they do. I have at various times worked on voting systems, peer instruction, Twitter, learning analytics… So, my advice is… With such a broad field keep half an eye of what is going on – and the ALT community is great for that – but also delve in and get lost in…

And with that Martin is done… and we open up for some discussion on emerging areas… this group suggests they include: policy; what an institution is and what its bounds are in the face of online education; teacher presence in various contexts, including the impact of MOOCs on student expectations.

Martin: Expectations are a really interesting area… In peer instruction you move things out of the classroom. Back when we trialled some of those approaches and moved a lecture out, the students resisted… They wanted that lecture, and to be in that room.

Comment: I think that depends on trust in peers… My undergraduate experience involved trusting some but there were also risks of social bullying dynamics and I would have had real concern about that.

Martin: The social aspect of being at an institution is a high priority… Whether an online experience can replicate that is interesting. And digital identity and the transitions between one form of digital identity to another, the move to professional attributes. Which is why learning technology is never dull!

And with that we broke for lunch and discussion. You can explore Martin’s magic live tweets and Lorna Campbell’s (less automated but no less impressive) live tweets in the Storify below:

You can also view the full story “Martin Hawksey talk on ALT for eLearning@ed (6th Jan 2016)” on Storify.

Dec 182015

Today I’m here at Sheffield Hallam University today for Social Media for Learning in Higher Education 2015 (follow #SocMedHE15) where myself and Louise Connelly (from UoE Royal (Dick) Veterinary School) will be presenting some of our Managing Your Digital Footprint research later today.

I’ll be liveblogging but, as the wifi is a little variable, there may be a slight delay in these posts. As usual, as this is a liveblog,


At the moment we are being welcomed to the day by Sheffield Hallam’s Pro Vice Chancellor who is welcoming us to the day and highlighting that there are 55 papers from 38 HEIs. The hope is that today will generate new conversations and communities, and for those to keep going – and the University is planning to run the conference again next year.

Keynote by Eric Stoller

We are starting with a very heavily Star Wars themed video introducing Eric and his talk….

When he thinks about his day it has no clear pattern, and includes a lot of watching videos, exploring what others are doing… And I’m a big fan on Twitter polls (he polls the room – a fair few of us use them) and when you poll people about how universities are using social media we are seeing use for marketing and communications, teaching and learning, a whole range of activities…

There are such a range of channels out there… Snapchat, how many of you are Snapchatters? (fair few) and how many of you take screen shots? How about Reddit… yeah, there are a few of us, usually the nerdy folk… YikYak… I’m avoiding that to avoid Star Wars spoilers right now… Lots of sites out there…

And now what we say online matters. That is game changing… We have conversations in this auditorium and that doesn’t get shared beyond the room… But online our comments reaches out beyond this room… And that can be where we get into trouble around our digital identity. We can really thank Marc Prensky for really messing things up here with his Digital Natives idea… Dave White brilliantly responded to that, though few seemed to read it!

But there are some key issues here. Social media blurs professional and personal identities…

My dad was checking out Facebook but he’s not on Facebook, he was using my mothers account… My parents have given me a range of interesting examples of people blurring between different spaces… So my mom added me on Facebook.. Is she my friend? I think she has a different designation. I got on there and she already had 8 friends – how did they get there first? Anyway she is experiencing Facebook in a way that I haven’t for years… My mom joined Facebook in 2014 (“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fad”) and when you have 8 friends you truly see everything… She sees people that she doesn’t know making fun of, saying snarky things to, her child (me)… We’ve never really had a space where we have that blurring of people. So, my mom hops into a comment thread to defend me… And then people make fun of her… So I have to defend her… We haven’t really adapted and evolved our ways of being professional, of managing relationships for this space yet.

One thing we haven’t come to terms with is the idea of leadership in social media. No matter who you are you can educate, promote, etc. One of my favourite leaders on social media is in the US, president of the University of Cincinnati (@PrezOno). He has a lot of followers and engagement. Typically if your academics, your leaders, are using social media and sharing their work and insights, that says a lot about the organisational culture you are trying to build and encourage.

When you are thinking about employability (and man, you can’t miss this University’s employability office)… It’s about personal brand – what you post and say matters… It’s being human.

Facebook has been around 11 years now, it’s massive… There are over 1 billion users… In fact in September there were over 1 billion in a single day. But people don’t use it in the same ways they did previously… Look at institutions with an older cohort age then Facebook is where it’s at.

I have this quote from the University of Edinburgh’s Managing Your Digital Footprint account that 90% of bosses use Facebook to vet candidates… Which is potentially an issue… As students don’t always post that carefully or with an awareness of how their comments appear later on…

As a consultant I tell people not to fall in love with one platform, but I’m a little in love with Twitter. And there are really interesting things taking place there. We have things like #LTHEchat – a discussion of technology in education. And this is a space where comments are kind of preserved… But that can include silly comments, things we don’t want to stick around. And I love when universities connect students to alumni… We have to think about criticality and digital literacy in these spaces too…

Different spaces also work for different uses… Some love Vine, those 6 second videos. And when we think about teaching we want to talk about story telling some of the YouTube vloggers are a create place to learn about creating narrative and story. So, for instance, Casey Neilson, a vlogger who has also directed commercials for brands like Nike, is a great person to watch. For example his video on Haters and Losers… [we are now watching videos]

How many of you are on LinkedIn? [we mostly are] I assume those not on LinkedIn don’t have a job… There is huge amounts of useful stuff on there, including organisational pages… But it doesn’t always have a great reputation [shows a meme about adding you as a connection]. This is a space where we get our recommendations, our endorsements. Right now LinkedIn is a powerful place. LinkedIn is the only major social media site where there are more users ages 30-49 than 18-29 year olds [stat from Pew Research]. How many here work in employability or careers? You get that thing where students only approach you 5 minutes before they leave… They should really be getting on LinkedIn earlier. People can be weird about adding their students – it’s not about adding your students as friends, its an opportunity to recommend and support each other – much better there than Rate My Professor.

I wanted to show this tweet from the Association of Colleges that “soft skills should be called human skills. Soft makes it sound inferior, which we all know they’re not”. Those soft skills are part of what we do with social media…

When I moved to the UK – my wife got a promotion – and I, as a consultant, had all my networks in the US… But I also had social media contacts in the UK… And I was able to use LinkedIn groups, connections, etc. to build relationships in the UK, to find my way into the higher education sector here. I was talking to a LinkedIn rep last week at Princeton… What do you think the number one activity is on LinkedIn? It’s lurking… And I did a lot of strategic lurking…

So, we have these new spaces but we also have some older online spaces to remember…. So, for instance, what happens when you Google yourself? And that’s important to do… Part of what students are doing when they build up their profile online is to be searchable… To have great presence there.

And email still matters. How many of you love email? [one does] And how many of us have checked email today? [pretty much all]. We are all professional email checkers in a way… Email works if we do it right… But we don’t. We send huge long messages, we reply all to unsubscribe… It’s not surprising if students don’t get that [cue a tweet that shows an email tactically bearing a subject line about free football tix miraculously was received by students].

How many of you are concerned about privacy on social media? It’s always a huge concern. We have spaces like Snapchat – ephemeral except some of you take screen shots – and Yik Yak. We’ve already had issues with Yik Yak – a lecturer walked out when she saw horrible things people were posting about here… But Yik Yak tends to be sex and drugs and Netflix… Also a lot of revision…

And we have Periscope. Twitter owns it now, so who knows where that will go… It’s a powerful tool to have… You can livestream video from anywhere, which used to be hugely difficult and expensive. And you get comments and discussion.

And you don’t need to always do social media by posting, there is so much to listen and learn from…

The student experience is holistic. Social media, just like it blurs personal and professional selves, the same thing happens with teaching and learning and higher education. There are not separate entities in an organisation now… academic advising, careers services, induction/orientation, first year success, mental health/wellness…. So much learning happens in this space, and it’s not necessarily formal…

There is no such thing as a digital native… there are people learning and trying things…

So, now, some Q&A.


Q1) When you see lecturers named on YikYak… Can you really just ignore it?

A1) On YikYak the community can downvote unpleasant bad things. In the US a threat can be prosecuted [also in the UK, where hate speech laws also apply]. But if I say something insulting it’s not necessarily illegal… It’s just nasty… You get seasonal trolling – exam time, venting… But we have to crack the nut about why people are doing and saying this stuff… It’s not new, the app just lets us see it. So you can downvote. You can comment (positively). We saw that with Twitter, and we still see that on Twitter. People writing on pointed issues still get a lot of abuse… Hate speech, bullying, it’s not new… it’s bigger than social media… It’s just reflected by social media.

Q2) On the conference hashtag people are concerned about going into the open spaces… and particularly the ads in these spaces…

A2) I am a big fan of adblock in Chrome. But until this stuff becomes a public utility, we have to use the tools that have scale and work the best. There are tools that try to be Facebook and Twitter without the ads… It’s like telling people to leave a party and go to an empty room… But if you use Google you are being sold… I have so much commercial branded stuff around me. When our communications are being sold… That gets messy… Instagram a while back wanted to own all the photos shared but there was a revolt from photographers and they had to go back on that… The community changed that. And you have to block those who do try to use you or take advantage (e.g. generating an ad that says Eric likes University of Pheonix, you should too… ).

Q3) I find social media makes me anxious, there are so many issues and concerns here…

A3) I think we are in a world where we need discipline about not checking our phone in the middle of the night… Don’t let these things run your life… If anything causes you anxiety you have to manage that, you have to address that… You all are tweeting, my phone will have notifications… I’ll check it later… That’s fine… I don’t have to reply to everyone…

Q4) You talked about how we are all professional emailers… To what extent is social media also part of everybody’s job now? And how do we build social media in?

A4) In higher ed we see digital champions in organisations… Even if not stated. Email is assumed in our job descriptions… I think social media is starting to weave in in the same ways… We are still feeling out how social media fits into the fabric of our day… The learning curve at the beginning can feel steep if everything is new to you… Twitter took me a year or two to embed in my day, but I’ve found it effective, efficient, and now it’s an essential part of my day. But it’s nice when communication and engagement is part of a job description, it frees people to do that with their day, and ties it to their review process etc.

Workshops 1: Transforming learning by understanding how students use social media as a different space – Andrew Middleton, Head of Academic Practice and Learning Innovation, LEAD, Sheffield Hallam University

I’m assuming that, having come to a conference on social media in learning, you are passionate about learning and teaching… And I think we have to go back to first principles…

Claudia Megele (2015) has, I think, got it spot on about pedagoguey. We are experiencing “a paradigm shift that requires a comprehensive rethink and reconceptualisation of higher education in a rapidly changing socio-technological context where the definition straddles formal and informal behaviours” [check that phrasing].

When we think about formal, that tends to mean spaces like we are in at the moment. Michael Errow makes the point that non-formal is different, something other than the formal teaching and learning space. In a way one way to look at this is to think about disruption, and disrupting the formal. Because of the media and technologies we use, we are disrupting the formal… In that keynote everyone was in what Eric called the “praying” position – all on our phones and laptops… We have changed in these formal spaces… Through our habits and behaviours we are changing our idea of formal, creating our own (parallel) informal space. What does that mean for us as teachers… We have to engage in this non-formal space. From provided to self-constructed, from isolated to connected learning, from directed to self-determined, from construction to co-construction, from impersonal to social, and from the abstract and theoretical to authentic and practical (our employers brief our students through YouTube, through tweet chats – eg a student oncology tweet chat, sharing content themselves but academic names coming in as well), moving from the taught to the learnt – and the learner-centred environment.

Social media is about transforming habits…

We see heterotopia – displacement; hybridity – mutation or disruption of spaces… These are the in-between spaces and liminality. And we see combinations of rich digital media, user generated media (including that oncology tweet chat), bring your own device, mobile learning, openness, social media for learning, all coming together in a transformational space… And you start to see conceptual lines between these areas that reinvent the notions of the formal and the informal…

So we see change happening… But do we all understand this different learning environment? I think a principle based design approach is what is needed here… Lets get back to the basics, the clear, the clarity, the principles… And I’d like you to explore the room, with various principles dotted around it, about how we’d bring this in to practices around social media for learning… And I’d like you to note those down…

[On which note… I’m going to sneak away into the session on Copyright…]

Copyright education in the age of social media – Chris Morrison @cbowiemorrison – University of Kent and Dr Jane Secker @jsecker – London School of Economics  

[Obviously I’ve joined this session late, so apologies for any lack of context here… ]

Jane: We have developed Copyright: the card game which we are using in training sessions, and I’m now regularly seeing 20-25 people at copyright sessions. In the game we explore, in this order: Works; Usages; Licenses; and Exceptions. We want to encourage the use of licenses first, only relying on exceptions later (as they can be more complex, making licenses a better place to start).

So, you have a deck of cards, you have a card handler, and you talk through scenarios which means you share experience – with more experienced and less experienced colleagues able to share and discuss…

Now, this game wasn’t originally designed for social media but we are going to try using the game in relation to social media content. So, each table gets a set of cards and in a moment I’ll give you examples about what type of work it might be…

Why consider copyright work? It’s a starting point to understand what a copyright object is, to understand the phrasing in the law… And to think about different durations, different layers of rights, different owners within content etc… So we have cards for e.g. artistic, performance, musical, etc.

And what I’d like you to do is identify what types of works are in the following… (1) a tweet (2) a blog post (3) a photo on Pinterest and (4) a photo on Facebook.

We are now discussing our objects… We (“Team Rudolf”) had a blog post – a literary work, with images (artistic work), and could potentially include typography and database works [although for me the database part is more of a stretch when looking at the post itself]. Across the post there are also moral rights as author to be asserted. We also had a Facebook photo – an artistic work, but there is also a text post there (literary or database work), and also trademarks and typography – though Facebook is relaxed about sharing of that…

The other group in the room (“Team Copycat”) includes a Tweet – a literary work but is it for copyright reasons? Maybe depends on the content. They also had pinterest – an artistic work but you are collating them… So it is a database… and those images are a more complex aspect of this as multiple owners and copyright implications [and across different territories].

Back to Jane…

So, I want to turn to usage, and what someone is doing… There are a series of restricted acts around copyright objects. So, I’m going to give you some more cards here, on usage.

So, what types of usages apply when…

(1) a colleague at another university retweets your tweet which includes a photo of the outside of the British Library

Much discussion… We generally think Communication with the Public, and Copying [we also discussed Issuing copies to the public… thinking about case law on retweets as a new publication around libel]. If the text were tweaked, or text added (e.g. a quoted tweet) it might also be Adaptation… But the wording of the law is very much geared to traditional formats, rather than social media.

(2) You Photoshop a picture of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood to include your work colleagues and share on Facebook…

Here we think that Communication to the Public, Adaptation, Copying, and potentially also [I’m arguing] Performing, showing or playing in public might apply if the image is a screen capture from a TV programme – which would be a performance. But also noting that a parody is, now, allowed as an exception under the Copyright law.

So… We can see that the law is not well worded for social media and there are some really interesting challenges for this reason. Licenses (terms of use) govern much of what you can and can’t do on social media websites. When is sharing not sharing – how social media changes our understanding of rules and cultural practices… In traditional senses sharing diminishes the size of the whole… It’s very different in social media contexts where there is no limit on available copies. There are social norms and practices that may not be legal but are understood to be how the world works… For instance that comment on Facebook and their design – and their happiness to share their trademarked stuff.

To finish we have a game to match up copyright positives, and copyright negatives with a social media source… Based on a game designed to teach students about understanding resources, and quality of resources… So far it’s untested – you are the first!

Also, Jane is noting that all of the cards used today are CC-licensed. [Check them out, they seem really useful!]

To finish Jane shares her and Chris’ top 3 tips…

(1) Think about the value of the content you want to use (to you and the person who owns it) – the issue of risk.

(2) Then consider licences/terms of use for social media sites.

(3) You always need to make a risk assessment.

You can find everything at http://ukcopyrightliteracy.wordpress.com (see also Jane and Chris’ blog)

The cards can be found on Jorum… But also on our website too.

Jane’s slides – which will be shared via SlideShare (see conference hashtag) – includes a lot of references… including the new UCISA social media toolkit.

Short Papers 1Experiences of social media in higher education: Barriers, enablers and next steps
Alison Purvis @DrAlisonPurvis, Helen Rodger @HelenRodgerSHU and Sue Beckingham @suebecks – Sheffield Hallam University

Alison: We started looking at institutional barriers to use of social media, to understanding how we could enable use of social media. We undertook a survey on institutional practice in social media to understand strategic support and development activities. We started with 200 academics who had already attended social media workshops – those already interested. We also put the survey on our intranet as well. We got 50 academics involved in our survey, 70% were already using social media in learning and teaching, 60% wanted to give it a go. And the biggest barrier for them was time to do this…

We asked respondents what they used social media for… they indicated sharing work or information, collaborating with students, gathering information, etc… And the drivers behind their usage included usage in the sector, the technology enabled something not otherwise possible, pedagoguey driving the technology was a significant driver, but also strategic, colleague driven, student driven, and (most of all) seeing clear benefits from using social media in learning and teaching.

Barriers, well we’ve already mentioned time. But support, colleague confidence, own confidence to play with things, understanding the tool, not having kit or software, students not having the confidence (perhaps perception rather than reality given some other research we’ve been working on), and also cost and management buy in came into the picture.

Helen: We identified three rough themes that came out of our survey responses around why staff felt unable to use social media in learning and teaching. One of these was the tools themselves…

We named some of the big tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube), including social bookmarking (which we knew people would be less familiar with). We did ask about use in personal life, professional working lives, and teaching lives. YouTube is pretty much ubiquitous in personal, professional and teaching arenas… We don’t think they are using these sites as content creation, instead they are mining it as a resource – because its easy to do. When you look at social bookmarking – we mentioned Diigo – hardly anyone had heard of it, but as educators you’d expect that approach to be better used and better known… What we think that is about is the fact that these tools aren’t as much part of the popular culture as those other spaces, they are not as sexy. And they are not as easy to pick up and use…

We also identified a theme of attitude… Not of being anti technology or social media but they had clear rationale for what they were and were not using.

Our third theme was about benefit – if people saw the benefit, they were more likely to use these tools… They were seeing the pedagogic relationship and benefit, that was what made the real difference for those using social media in learning and teaching.

Sue: So, next steps… We’ve taken two focus groups and transcribed. They need to be evaluated. We want to follow up with interviews in depth. We have more work to follow and write up. The group we have researched is still quite a small pool… We’d like to do more and get management buy in for institution-wide research. And if you look to the US there are number of yearly surveys and maybe we also need to look to that, to get the broader picture…

We also want to think about more of an appreciative enquiry approach, what are the good things coming out of social media… There is a lot of sharing but that is often also in social media – and if you don’t yet use those spaces you can miss those conversations.

And we are also looking at development of a crowd sourced toolbox. We’d like to gather what others in the sector are doing. We mentioned at the beginning about social media guides… We gave that a creative commons license so others can use them. The other thing being done here that will extend beyond are links to three main questions… on myths of social media, on writing guidance – what works for your students, and challenges. Those tweets with those questions link out to Padlet where you can add your comments (you can also find the links on the conference website).

One of the things we’ve been really conscious about is that when people are using social media, and they start as personal users, then become professional users, it is more likely that they will go on to use social media in learning and teaching. As people become confident in these spaces, they engage their students in them. For instance in computing we have content on communication, for professional communication. LinkedIn is now a key space to be part of that classroom experience – to share their profile as a role model, the sharing of their work, being a case study for students to look at and learn from.

So I think the key take aways here are… We have a lot more questions than answers! We want to take that out to the community and find out more. And we have a few questions:

  • Are individuals in HE who are non users of social media at risk of being marginalised by increasing digitisation of academia?
  • To what extent is digital identity and practical application of digital capabilities of educators significant to potential and existing students.
  • What support is required to develop the digital capabilities of both staff and students? And that’s fundamental.


Q1) How do you address the issue of time?

A1 – Helen) A perrennial issue in academia… Not specific to social media… No easy answers! Seeing the benefit helps people make time…

Comment) It’s easy to say you don’t have time, it’s about prioritising… People don’t want to say they don’t have the skills.

A1 – Sue) People find time for all sorts of other things… They learn how to use new things…

Comment) It’s complex but it’s about replacing something too… Sometimes it replaces something else in your approach… But takes time to acquire.

Comment) Promote the benefits and bait the hook… Find out what’s resource specific, subject specific etc. to save time, get buy in… You find managers and leaders and find them ways of doing what they do. One or two at higher levels has a ripple effect.

Comment) I think you gave the answer in another section… If people use this stuff personally they are more likely to use it professionally… That reason and motivation lets them see the application in an academic context. And I think that observation of starting in a personal space, then professional leading to teaching… I think that’s true… I think the reverse may be true of students as a tactical decision to separate personal from learner identity. And we can be hard on learners for making these choices… I’m interested in the idea of LinkedIn etc. Because there is a thing of using the right tools for the job.

Comment) On time… I’d say that Twitter saves me loads of time in discovering things… then prioritising.

Q2) You mentioned reticence to use, and it not being a kneejerk thing… So what is it?

A2 – Helen) They don’t see the need basically. Their comments suggested more flexibility though… they were open to using in the future if they could see the benefit of that.

Short Papers 2: Student identities in transition: social media experiences, curation, and implications for higher education – Nicola Osborne @suchprettyeyes and Louise Connolly @lconnelly09 – University of Edinburgh

This was our session so, for now, here was our abstract (slides will follow):

Students are increasingly likely to use social media in a range of contexts, from socialising, informal peer support, and formal academic tasks to building complex networks of potential employers and contacts.

Research conducted as part of the University of Edinburgh’s Managing Your Digital Footprint research project, funded under the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme, has been investigating how students across the University use social media, how they manage and curate their online presence, and the extent to which they encounter both risks and opportunities.

Two surveys (n=587 and n=870) from across the student body (UG, PG, PhD) have provided a vivid picture of the student experience of managing their digital identities. Ethnographic tracing work (n=6) has explored students’ personal approaches and conceptualisation of their digital footprints in more depth.

In this paper we will discuss some of the relevant findings of the Managing Your Digital Footprint research around current student use of social media, approaches to managing their representation of self, and their experiences of both negative behaviours, and positive support and opportunities in these spaces. We will also discuss how social media is enabling peer support and fostering learning.

We will discuss how these current student practices have implications for the use of social media in teaching and learning contexts. In particular we will discuss policy, support and the role of student handbooks and skills needs that arise from the use of social media in formal teaching and learning contexts, as well as some of the challenges and risks associated with informal social media use in HE (e.g. Student Facebook Group).

This work will be presented with reference to the wider context, including professional bodies’ guidance, and the current support paradigm locally at University of Edinburgh (e.g. Your Digital Edge) and as captured in e.g. Jisc Digital Student case studies.

Managing your digital footprint website

The Managing your digital footprint website includes ”Resources for educators” and “Resources and guidance” sections, both of which we think will be of interest to #SocMedHE15 participants. These sections are being updated as we publish resources created for this research project and University of Edinburgh service, and as we develop new resources, for example a new “e-professionalism” guide which will be going live in the coming weeks. We also welcome requests for new materials that might be useful.

Managing your digital footprint blog

This blog, aimed at students and university staff, shares updates from the Managing your digital footprint campaign and the associated University of Edinburgh, including news, key events, updates, practical tips, guest posts, etc.

Workshops 2Applying critical digital literacy to social media practice – Juliet Hinrichsen @juliet_hin – Sheffield Hallam University and Antony Coombes – University of Greenwich

Juliet begins by switching off the projector – despite being a digital literacy session, they won’t be running the session with technology. When you look at digital literacy there is a huge range of what is included… But when you look at literacy you see two strands: functional literacy – the skills and functions that are curriculumised for a particular person, skills that employers need is often the framing; and critical literacy – which is much more about agency and ownership of those skills, and empowering individuals in the society and culture they are in. And it was a set of intellectual skills. With social media there are sets of intellectual skills that are coming in, around academic skills, notions of what graduate skills are. And we wanted to find a common approach across different disciplinary contexts, a commonality of approach that could be taken and worked into the curriculum. So we’ll be showing you what we’ve come up with here.

Antony: We’ll be showing you the sorts of activities we proposed to do with staff – initially at Greenwich – and hopefully you’ll see how this could work in your own context… So we will give each table a card – either an artefact, a challenge or a scenario.

Juliet: We’d like you to identify skills, competences, knowledge, etc. that you’d need for the task or to avoid a particular scenario [we’ll be doing this with post it notes… so I’m pausing my typing… We have a challenge for a student to organise, publicise and disseminate a lecture series].

Juliet and Anotony note that these are discussion and diasnosis tools. The cards etc. are available openly on the web under CC licence – search for “The Five Resources Model of Critical Digital Literacy”.

Juliet: A lot of people have an agenda to try things out… But our students can feel like guinea pigs so sometimes that thinking is “is this a fair expectation etc”. On the project we used the tool with a series of senior university managers, and also e-skills people, because there are lots of stuff about skills students need in the workplace… But there are competing and conflicting discourses. Sometimes employers want competence with the software… Want the organisation not to get into trouble… Want creative solutions… It means different things to different people… And different things at different times. So the idea of this approach is to develop a common language – including the option not to engage.

Comment) How much have you thought about this as a student employability resource tool… Although some of that language won’t be familiar.

Anotony) At the moment these resources were created for a Jisc Developing Digital Literacies programme, and designed for a particular set of stakeholders but it would be great to see students using this themselves, but also to understand the phrasing and language used.

Juliet) We did run this workshop with some students and that seemed to work once we’d gone through definitions, as we do anyway… On the website you can see further definitions here to help with terminology…

Antony) There is also an element that in a workshop… By creating a closed framework, and a game… understanding and questioning that lets you work through ideas, understanding, etc. It helps make it an exploratory playspace in a way.

Juliet) Normally we’d expect the academic to use this tool and how to facilitate those needs… But it can be used by students too. The idea is to think through the dimensions, and as an academic to look at your module, your curriculum, and whether you are actually addressing all the key elements – you can use it as a type of diagnostic.

Comment) I’d almost use this as a marking framework for creation of a digital artefact… This could be a brilliant way to build a marking framework around a new assignment…

Juliet) That would be brilliant – let us know if you do that too! We’d love to share more examples, ways in which this has been useful. The resources online include a workshop schedule, etc. Some of the work we also did was around group work in the curriculum, and facilitation through social media. And also around assessment and social media use there. And this tool is adapted from a model in Canada that is well established with teachers, with a practical provenance to draw upon – “The four resources model of digital literacy”. We have a paper here that you are welcome to grab as well…

Antony: I have some reflections on running these workshops… There are a number of very visual card based resources out there… It’s an approach that gathers momentum. It’s very useful… It has that play aspect, and it seems to be a real catalyst for discussion – especially if we pull together colleagues from different disciplines, triggering discussion and engagement. It allows you to think through issues in this whole area in collaboration with others…

That first activity, without the model… That’s deliberately to avoid people who want to work sequently and might cause the process to be less discursive and more predictable. When you pull the model out then it triggers spotting of gaps, questioning, and pulls in deeper discussion. On a very pragmatic level the more space you can have physically in the workshop, the better… So you can see and move around between tables.

Juliet: If you do find ways of using it, just let us know… We are still finding things out ourselves…

Comment) What is the next step after the use of the model? How do you move this to the next step? You could, for instance, define learning outcomes from that…

Juliet) It’s a conceptual framework around a text that is complex, particularly because of the technologies and multiple media and narratives involved. It is hard to cover all the aspects, so there is a lot of flexibility… But a shared notion of the scope, and a responsible attitude to developing student skills is really ensuring that that full circle is there… It is about the wider picture… Who has power, who doesn’t. What discourses are inherant in this… How does group size fit in… How do I engage? And what do I want to project? About judgement and analysis… Our concern was that that whole critical discourse, so central to graduateness, has been missing since the 1980s in our use of technology in education… Interesting to hear Eric raising issues that weren’t in a presentation I saw of his two years ago, because that criticality is moving into the mainstream. The resistors, that divide, can be around those who use but don’t act critically with technology, and those that don’t engage but do critically engage and examine. And we didn’t use technology today – something that many have been really valuing that…

Comment) That polarisation of users and non users seems a real risk…

Juliet) Everybody has expertise they can contribute to doing digital literacy practically.

Short Papers 3Bridging the gap between student learning and professional identity: Using Twitter to promote engagement in education policy – Damien Fitzgerald @teacheruni and Ester Ehiyazaryan-White – Sheffield Hallam University

Damien: We are going to go relatively quickly through the presentation as we’d love to focus on your questions and discussion at the end.

The module we’ve used Twitter on is a policy module… Students hate looking at policy. We work with early childhood development students and no matter how up to date the literature is, it won’t be totally up to date. And we wanted students to engage in policy, to be part of what is going on… To be active rather than passive recipients. And to have them understand that they have something to say that is relevant to other people. In our experience as practitioners we can find ourselves moaning about what happens to us… But do we do enough to shape the policy agenda? And we wanted students to understand they can have a role in shaping it.

We had an SIOE Conference and there Twitter (#SIoEARC) was used as a space for discussion, for capturing that discussion and resources, and as a CPD space.

I’m going to jump forward to a conclusion here… We decided we would use Twitter if it would add something to the learning, and only then. So we had this 140 student, first year HE module on child and family policy. There is a real push for more interactive sessions – a managerial and pedagogical push I think… Students sometimes voice that they find lectures as a format boring… And no-one wants to give a boring lecture! And we also have an expectation for online input. We have (to a degree) increased use of social media by young people. And we wanted interaction with current policy makers and practitioners – and that’s why we picked Twitter, because that’s where those conversations are.

So, we collected and analysed the data through a survey aproach to data collection, in a mix of open and closed questions via Google docs. Pedagogically we used Twitter as part of lectures, as parts of seminars, and also in their own time – as part of that independent study time. We wanted to get students to follow us, to look at who we follow… It was interesting hearing from Eric earlier… He said there perhaps shouldn’t be a divide between the personal and the professional. But we absolutely want to make a divide. We make it clear to students that they should build a professional identity. They have a right to a private life though… so is that the right thing to say… Our own (myself and Ester) Twitter presences are very much professionally orientated. In addition we had group posts, we engaged specifically with a policy debate.

We used two hashtags (#epeshu and #epeshuCD), if we do it again, we’ll make it very specific to individual sessions. Students posted policy, documents, posts, etc. as part of a tweet, others also shared work in progress – pictures etc. to share with fellow students. One of the things we found useful was that if students worked together in one seminar they would share that work, as a group, on Twitter – to keep the posts to a managable useful number. We also saw students independently pick up on issues like tuition fees (this was during the election debate), bringing those policy debates in. We also saw students finding current debate, news, etc… And bring that together…

The other way students engaged was in discussions and exchange, particularly one to one responses from tutors. They liked that direct responses. If they weren’t responded to, that wasn’t making them happy but on a practical basis that isn’t always possible… That reflects the real world of Twitter… But we don’t know really how to manage that expectation/need.

Some figures here… About 56% of students use Twitter weekly usually – which is what we were requiring them to do (to respond at least once a week – 68% did this) although really it should have been daily… few did that (3%). We asked them to create a professional Twitter account with their student email account… Not sure what works well for that… is that the right approach, should we make them use their own Twitter account? The majority of students (90%) used mobile phones to use Twitter. There was a preference for group use of Twitter as a response (51%) and/or as part of lecture/seminar (39%) as we did for the all party parliamentary paper that Damien spoke about.

Some points about what we think students learnt from using Twitter… Learning from each other, forming their own opinion, understanding the global nature and what happens elsewhere and that it can be accessed in this medium. And to understand what can be learned from others. They also developed digital literacy skills, their footprint, how they choose who to follow, what that means, who follows them… And how to take part in an interactive debate, and to engage online. Includig sharing and engaging in research.

Some of the challenges… Not everyone agreed that bring your own device works… Many bring a phone but you can’t assume access. We had a real amount of noise – so much information and they found that confusing, that they have to sift, that they have to use the hashtag wisely… So we probably need more targeted support in our seminar sessions to help with that.

Surprisingly students felt it didn’t count as legitimate teaching and learning… A few felt that online and social media wasn’t legitimate. We need to address that, to understand it as a course… This is a face to face course so this is fairly new… Perception of not legitimate is therefore perhaps natural…

In terms of pedagogy we found help and guidance from the tutor are key. Composing a tweet was what led to learning was key – so authoring mattered, it forced them to understand how to summarise and understand the content shared. The Twitter lecture format was unpopular – we probably won’t do that again. Students appreciate when the activity is structures, interactive and they are guaranteed a response – as in the Northampton uni task. Need more help and instruction on how to use it. Group tweets work well… But also students need to compose directly.


Q1) What was the Twitter debate?

A1 – Damien) It was about current policy…. But we have students with different digital literacy and skills… They expect chalk and talk… It didn’t work… They want us to be the experts…

Comment) We did similar… with about 10 out of 110 taking part…

Comment) They are paying for that expertise I guess…

A1 – Damien) It worked in a structured space… We wanted students to be empowered…

Comment) Could that be to do with what looks like legitimacy  in schools students come from…

A1 – Damien) Possibly… But we also had Twitter here as a standalone aspect, in a course that is otherwise face to face… Maybe as part of a blended course it would be find…

Comment) How many tutors were on this course?

Damien) There were four but two of us were much more engaged and thats an issue too…

Comment) I don’t particularly see Twitter as a discussion board… It’s an information space… I’m here because BlackBoard isn’t good enough for students anymore, you need new spaces… But also policy is pretty new and unfamiliar for students. You could use Twitter polls, e.g. for election debates might have been interesting…

Damien) The polls are new… But Twitter was brilliant for sharing new policy papers that came out that day, into your lecture and discuss it right away. That was fantastic.

Comment) If you have discussion, then a tweet you have instant feedback.

Damien) And you can take those comments away. We were in a session on accessibility earlier… recapping and summarisation with Storify.. Using that hashtag help with summaries and students like that…

Q2) I was wondering about using student email addresses – which won’t persist beyond their studies – for a professional presence? Are students still using Twitter now the course has finished?

A2 – Ester) We don’t have that data yet, but we want to run another survey soon…

Short Papers 4Heart and mind: Student Facebook groups emphasise that learning is emotional as well as cerebral – Tony Coughlan @tjcoughlan and Leigh-Anne Perryman @laperryman – The Open University

Leigh-Anne: We were interested in seeing how some of our concerns and perceptions of Facebook Groups may connect to actual practice – of interest in our research but also as teaching staff. The OU has thousands of Facebook groups but we focused on 10 groups, 4 disciplines, and 2600 members looking at whether these are learning spaces, how learning takes place, what happens there. We did some capture of number and types of posts etc. But we also did qualitative analysis on the posts. We used Galley’s Community Indicators Framework (Galley et al 2010) which proposes community indicators of participation, cohesion, identity and creative capability – Galley defines that last aspect the pinnacle of group formation and community. We used that framework in our analysis.

Tony: We quickly realised that there were three entirely different types of groups… The first one we found were “Umbrella Groups” that are discipline wide, e.g. Psychology, to discuss study routes, career patterns etc. Then we had “Module Groups” – where students are part of the same 9 month module – it is common for students to in several groups, which might be one umbrella group throughout your studies, but then module groups changing year by year. Then the third type of group are Student Life Groups – this is where you find kitten pictures, social activities, exchange of books etc, a really strong disabled students groups, etc.

And are these truly educational groups? Well they varied greatly… We gave scores from 0-100% and we found that they became more educational, the later in the programme students were. And we also saw extended educational discussion – around career paths, sharing insights into the career and jobs market – very high level and valuable stuff. So, overall, definitely educational.

In terms of practices we saw that they facilitated learning and inclusion through peer guidance around academic practices, study skills, extensive emotional support, discussion of module content. They complement formal tuition, improving retention. That peer guidance around academic practices etc. is really really valuable, and uptake was very high… There were more students in groups than were studying – it included current, previous, and future students (assessing the module, thinking about it) and all taking part. There was extensive emotional support… We have seen amazing threads where people are about to drop out and the group piles in to support them, to help them stay on board. But as students progress it moves from emotional content towards more content driven discussion. So, yes, overall we think they complement formal tuition and the practices we witnessed would be helpful for student retention.

In terms of bad practice… We just didn’t see any at all. I’ve since joined a group of Facebook Group moderators. The percentage of rude comments, slating tutors etc… We see very little of it, and we suspect that actually that happens in small private spaces.

Leigh-Anne: The groups we looked at are all public and open, and that may be part of the reason for that…

Tony: These groups are also very inclusive, which really opens education to those with less experience, those who traditionally may be excluded from learning – which is in contrast to MOOCs, for instance, which seem to benefit elite well educated people.

Leigh-Anne: We were also really interested in implications for institutions. There is hostility from institutions about risk, poor practice… At best they want to take over, bring them into the fold… Our argument is that they work well because they are not like that, it is student led, needs led, bottom up. They work with each other to meet each other needs of various types… We saw a parallel with student societies… At the OU we offer £100 set up costs for new student societies. We think as institutions we need to recognise the value of these groups – they are helping with retention, with student skills… That helps the institution no doubt. We need to help and support – perhaps through moderators – but not step in and take over.

We said already that this is a small snapshot, to get more of sense of working like this. We need to build a bigger picture… The body of evidence to counter the institutional imperative to control things…


Q1) Can you say more about those careers discussions that were taking place?

A1 – Tony) Some of the strongest were in the law groups – these are students wondering where they will practice, what topics to pick for essays, what combinations of routes will lead to what types of roles… One of the nice things there is turning students into consumers into creators and sharers of knowledge – their placements, their experience.

Q2) How applicable do you think your research with OU students – who are very deliberate students, choosing to study, they have reputation already… that is different as a context to an on-campus undergraduate student perhaps… Giving those organisational concerns potentially a very different context.

A2 – Tony) We looked at 10 groups, we started with more than 10… One was an OU nursing group… And only late on did we realise that it was Ohio University in the US… But Eric was saying that US students are more like OU students than UK on campus students.

A2 – Leigh-Anne) A comparative study with the same method applied to another space…

Comment) All of our OU Masters programmes have (closed) Facebook groups… Also for those professional reasons etc…

A2 – Leigh-Anne) And that issue of understanding the privacy and ethics of those groups comes in there too, about being public and private.

A2 – Tony) About 5% of OU groups are public. We didn’t feel we needed to ask permission to use these spaces.

A2 – Leigh-Anne) In our ethics session earlier, we talked more about this but… We’ve anonymised everything here. In the UK the rules are quite conservative, the US veers towards public domain…

Comment) The Association of Internet Researchers guidance are lovely for that subtlety of public, expectations etc.

Comment) I’ve just done some research on undergraduate pharmacy students and their use of a Facebook group – and it reflected much of what you’ve found here… That’s an on-campus course. I purposely didn’t talk to these students earlier… Their activity has changed over time and has tailed off now the cohort is coming to the end of the degree. When I asked about this it came down to concerns about sponging off colleagues, focusing on jobs etc… But for me personally I’m more self-directed as I mature as a student… That was pure students perspective.

Q3) When I was a student we had a Facebook group but were asked not to use it… But we found it useful to share discussion, to share across cohorts… My main question to you is how you are branding this to those who are against their students using these spaces?

A3 – Tony) We identified a role in many of these groups where one student would make a connection between the university and the Facebook Group – a go between alerting friends to changes, updates, etc.

Comment) That’s an interesting issue… When a student emails… I assume it is for that student… I might answer it differently if intended to be broadcast.

[We are having some interesting discussion of barriers and privacy… short summary: stuff gets shared, students attitudes vary].

And with that, the event is finishing… A really interesting and stimulating day but would be great to have had more space for discussion of some of the interesting points raised…


Oct 292015
Today I am at Central, in Edinburgh, for Access All Areas, a national conference organised by Culture Republic. You can find full details of the event here.  I will be blogging throughout the day, wifi permitting. And the usual caveats applying: this is a live blog so there may be some errors or omissions and I am very happy for comments, corrections, etc.
Janet Archer, Chief Executive of Creative Scotland
Our job is to provide artists and arts workers to provide insights to audiences and tools, and being at the centre of the network gives us a unique perspective. And this our first conference will enable us to share learning and experiences. Looking at patterns of behavior at arts venues, festivas etc. We are, subject to many of the same biases around accessibility to be addresses.

We need to ensure we are doing anything we can to ensure we challenge inequality in our own approach. The bias of opnion effects the work we do, the artists employed etc. We do face barriers but we still have much to learn. We benefitted from some eye opening training preparing for today.

We have contacted many artists, stakefolders, leaders, across the world. And there are many not here in person, watching the livestream. We have packed the programmed with talented and opinionated set of speakers. We want to talk not only about who your audiences are, but also who they might be.

If you change one thing about your practice when you return to work, we’ll have done our job.

Kirsty Walk

I’m very happy to have been asked to take part today. Cultural engagement enriches lives. Everyone here today are absolutely committed to changing the engagement in Scotland. I’ve seen how iemersion in the arts changes people, giving a voice, and dignity. And all of you here can deliver that give the right passion and tools Todau isn’t about takjuf of problems, but talking about answers. 

David Goodhart, Director of the Demos Integration Hub and a former director of Demos.
I rather stumbled into the world of diversity rather by mistake 10 years ago when I wrote an essay for the magazine I was editing at the time, Prospect. That led to more writing, conferences, and I wrote a book on the topic as a result. I set up a website at integrationhub.net. This is an attempt to be hard headed and realistic about diversity in modern Britain. I was inspired by Trevor Phillips who was committed to diversity all of his life. His background was in science and he believed in numbers, and it is important for us to understand the data in this area.
So I have set up this website, and it inevitably has an element of how different groups are doing… Integration in a liberal society is hard to define and a very disputed area – it is unclear how we can tell that we have an adequately integrated society. And that is not just about ethnic integration. It is also tricky to understand what integration means, and how it matters – we all speak differently, we can’t all live parallel lives or converge on a single lifestyle set. But it’s much easier to understand what the opposite looks like. And we have seen significant recent advances in openness in British society. A wider choice of schools, a reduction in symbols to rally around, these things can lead to increasingly separate or divergent experiences. One of the great policy questions of our time is just how much separation is compatible with an open and healthy mixed society.
But why should we worry about integration at all? Well there is such a thing as society. A recent conference on refugees where people were talking about global demographies – talking about youth bulges in the Balkans vs aging populations in Northern Europe… At that people were suggesting we just more one set of people to a new place but actually society is not just about random people in a place, it is about family, culture, etc.
So, what is happening with ethnic integration? Well England and Wales are more diverse than Scotland for instance, since Scotland only has 4% ethnic minorities. But if you are looking at England and Wales, and including white ethnic minorities, we have about 23% ethnic minorities. The majority of minority British consider themselves British and speak English. I think 1 in 8 households include more than one ethnicity. There are clear success stories for Chinese, Indian Hindu, and Indian Sikh communities for instance in terms of educational achievement, progression to universities etc. And there have been cultural shifts in attitudes.
On the negative side there is more mixing, but more amongst minorities themselves. A worrying trend recently is that the white British have become more separate from minorities. An expert analysis of wards found that 42% of visible ethnic minority Brits live in a ward where white British are the minority, and I don’t think that’s a positive development. And we have challenges around shorter term commuting minorities who also choose to be more separate.
But none of this properly speaks to the lived experience… [And here David effectively talks about code switching…]. So, what do we do about this? I have some suggestions for our discussion here.
Julia Middleton, Author of Cultural Intelligence – CQ: the Competitive Edge for Leaders Crossing Borders
On a daily basis you have to imagine, create and perform culture. It seems to me that you give us an ability to feel that we belong to something, and when you are exceptional you give us an opportunity to understand our own culture and the fact that it is multiple…
I don’t know about you but if I am asked where I come from it is a complex thing… There are so many factors. But it seems to me that you give us cultural insight. And I think all I do is reflect on culture. I’m passionate about the idea of cultural intelligence. Some people thrive on culture and crossing cultures, with the dangers arising when we don’t engage with other cultures. We find culture more fragmented than before, so we need more people who can cross those boundaries and bring us together. The internet enables so much, but many of us use it to seek out others like us. Do you follow people who agree with you on Twitter? Or do you engage and reflect on the experience of engaging with those you hate or disagree with?
Diversity is crucial – can you imagine any problem that will be resolved by homogeniety. I’m with the beatniks that new ideas will only arise from discord.
We used to have an idea of IQ, and then of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). The problem with EQ was people would say “I’m good with people”, omitting the “like me” part of this. And it is crucial to engage with poeple who are not like us. The future will be about cultural intelligence, of engaging people in crossing cultures.
When I travel around the world people have been so excited about how different sectors and partners came together for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, they want to understand how that was done… But what about after that? Does that continue? The definition of the word partnership – the sublimation in pursuit of funding!
You have people from across the world studying in Edinburgh, and what do they do when they get here? They meet others like them and leave with a poorer knowledge of Edinburgh than they had before. And that’s our fault – my son was a student and he wasn’t talking to his Chinese student down the hall – what an opportunity to learn from cultures from across the world!
So Cultural Intelligence is about behaviours, skills, capabilities, values, beliefs, identity, spirit. You are you and that’s a core thing… But there are so many things you can flex on, and this is where Cultural Intelligence comes. There are some people who are all core and no flex, and won’t adapt to others. Then some people will flex greatly – saying anything to achieve their goals. But Cultural Intelligence lies on that line between core and flex – and you move that line and you move it only with great consideration.
So, for instance, I was doing some work in Jeddah and was thinking about how I would dress and how much I would cover myself… For me I decided that what I wear is my area of flex. I decided to cover up. But when others here that they critique the fact that women who cover themselves there, don’t change their practice here… But what I wear is in my flex, for those women what they wear is part of their core. It is different and illustrates this idea of what is core, and what is flex…
That idea of your core, that changes over time… As we get older I think many of us start to see our core expanding – that others should think like you. But the more you unpick this stuff… People assue you get cultural intelligence by revealing yourself and learning from that. But the most difficult culture to unpick is your own… Whether it’s views based on prejudice or judgement or where you have biases – and we all have those. What you understand of the word and what gets in the way of your ability to move beyond your core and flex where you should… Sometimes you have to learn to live with your biases, and move past them, to flex. It’s a journey that fascinates me… all of us have our own way of connecting up the world and have insights into your sector that will have huge value to share with the world.

And now Kirsty Walk is introducing Fiona Hyslop… 

Fiona Hyslop, MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe & External Affairs
When Kirsty had us talk to the people around us I met someone I actually met at an event in Paris just last week, and here we meet again at a national conference – and I think that says a lot about this country and how we work.
I’ve been asked to set out the Scottish Government’s strategic priorities, the agenda of partnership, and what we are doing nationally and how it effects the culture sector. We are focused on a more open and diverse Scotland.
A stronger sustainable economy, stronger and fairer Scotland, protection our public services and connecting communities. It is important that we as a sector develop new partnerships and ways to engage. The Scottish festivals are a big part of that with a real community focus. Edinburgh’s position as a “world festival city” continues to attract national and international audiences and contribute £260M to the Scottish economy. The Glasgow Commonwealth Games culture programme evaulation report demonstrated success of the ambitions to celebrate culture in Scotland, attracting more than 2.1 m participations.
The Scottish government is committed to tackling equalities in Scotland and make Scotland a stronger, fairer, more inclusive society. Cultural heritage is an opportunity to be challenged and stimulated by culture, and that’s part of why health and wellbeing is one of the measures we use.
Scotland has high cultural engagement with around 9 in 10 engaging in cultural engagements in 2014. Our young people are key to think under the umbrella of Time to Shine and by various institutions. We don’t want anyone’s background to be a barrier and support the opening of national cultural records, and museums. The National Young People Advisory Group play a key role in shaping delivery.
We have seen a blooming of brass bands in the country, because of investment in young people’s bands, overcoming barriers and inequalities in areas that have seen deprivation or the loss of industry. We have also seen cash back for culture activities again enabling communities to engage in culture and overcome substantial difficulties, pushing proceeds of crime back to support the effected communities.
We are also protexting and reforming public services and strengthening communities whether urban or rural. And we launched our strategy for cultural heritage, “Our Place in Time”, last year. We also continue to work with local authorities and COSLAS to find ways to address joint challenges to protect our culture in tough financial times.
We want Scotland to be a fairer place and will have a social justice action plan to build a fairer Scotland, culture has to be part of that, I don’t want culture’s voice to be silent as we talk about a fairer Scotland. There is a website, fairer.scot and we encourage comments and input there. We have austerity measures and spending review due this autumn and it will have an impact but I’m invested in cultural heritage in Scotland and I want to continue to nurture our artists and cultural life and create further opportunity and experience for participation by communities, recognising the central role of culture in Scotland. We need to embrace and make use of changes and challenges and work together to show leadership going forward. And it is also about spirit, who we are, celebration, expression, and the joy that arts and culture resides in.
Q) How do you ensure grassroots engagement in strategies
A) For a fairer Scotland that website fairer.scot is open to all. But on an ongoing basis our cabinet goes around the country every month and we get questions from across the country. I don’t get as many questions as I’d like about culture, but there are opportunities there, and we get to see some of those cultural projects in action.
Q) Every area of government if under financial pressure, so how do you ensure protection for culture?
A) We work in partnership, but the cashback work was in collaboration with the justice minister and I work with colleagues across government.
And now the panel session… 
Q) Thinking about that core and flex… diversity isn’t just about background but also income… How do we do that?
A – Julia) It is about delivering to those we don’t agreement. I thought that the minister was impressive in terms of explaining how the culture budget fits with other areas… Sometimes the arts sector can have the same barrier as the NGO sector I am part of… Our own passion can get in the way.. Can end up dismissing the views of those who do not agree with us. We can be so passionate about our subject, our rightness, we can dissuade others from joining us. Sometimes we have to switch down the passion to make space for others to engage with us and talk to us.
Q) What about settling into a culture
A – David) I thought it was interesting that the minister talked of brass bands – can’t get more core than this. I think the last election was so much about voting for core cultural values, the SNP in Scotland, UKIP in England. The parties associated with multiculturalism, the Lib Dems took a kicking…
A – Julia) My core is many cultures though…
Kirsty) And those brass bands aren’t necessarily
Julia) I now have a daughter in law is from Bangalore and that is shaping and changing my core…
Q) Hurrah for Fiona Hyslop, the only person today to speak about Scotland today. We have had two privately educated speakers from London – one with borderline racist views… So, my question is to the conference organiser, how can you have a conference on diversity in Scotland with two speakers who do not know about the context here.
Kirsty) This is a conference that welcomes people no matter where they come from across the world, but it is a valid question.
A – Julia) I have never been to a private school in my life, and I am passionate about Scotland, And I think that it is a tragedy that just because I am English you made that assumption!
A – David) I am not as familiar with culture in Scotland, but I am familiar with allegations of racism… We have a history of discrimination and a social history that makes these conversations emotional and difficult. But there are patterns of ethnic outcomes that we should be able to talk about confidently.
Q) I liked the idea of core and flex, but I wanted to ask about a specific practical issues. One of the specific issues we face is the erosion of local authority arts, and that matters because of the grass roots. We have quite an archaic set up for arts funding, often around performances of an evening, or visual arts in a specific context. That’s our core. But the flex, getting out there but not on our terms, is a huge challenge and has always been a huge challenge. So how do apply that Cultural Intelligence context to that practical space.
A – Julia) With huge pain. The world over there is a struggle away from old models, and towards new models. I happen to love chaos, as from that you can often find new ideas and solutions.
Kirsty) The whole thing here is about partnerships and some organisations are resistant to partnerships with the private sector. I wonder if we have to expect companies to do more to support the arts.
A – Julia) I’m obsessed with the end result and if the end result is young people in Scotland gaining a better understanding of the arts and culture, and their wellbeing, that is worth doing.
LAB ONE – New Partnerships for Wider Engagement
This is described in the programme as: New business models and programmes, innovation, adding value and increasing connectivity.
Kerry Micheal, Artistic Director – Stratford East
I started at Stratford East in Marketing. I’m a Greek Cypriot and started my role marketing a Mike Leigh production about Greek people, and my job was to run around postering for it… And I’m a marketer at heart.
Stratford East is one of the poorest but also most diverse communities in London. We have a community that is 17% White British, 70% non British. 180 languages are spoken. 28% of adults engage in the arts. And against all of that we played to 86% capacity in our 460 seat theatre, and we specialise in new work, engaging with our audiences. As artistic director I look for the sweet spot between a good show that connects with a vibrant diverse audience. The more diverse the audience, the better that work has to be. Hamlet played to 400 kids with audiences is great, a version that plays to blue rinse WI members is great, but a Hamlet that can play to the diversity of both those audiences is better, that is excellence. An auditorium full of white faces is too easy so we have to leave room for new audiences.. In the old days cultural diversity was the phrase but now we look more widely in terms of class, gender, age. Government funders have failed on the culture diversity debate and are fudging this new debate.
My personal background is second generation Greek Cypriot… The terms used to label us can be tricky.. I was too different to be white, not confident enough to be Cypriot… And we have seen terms move across… We have Black and Minority Ethnic… But there are two A’s there. There’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic… And why is Black top billed? In my community black is not minority anymore! We are now people of colour. Martin Luther King used a term in 1963 that unites racial groups for equality not hierarchy. The term minority is being disenfranchised. In London 40% of the population are non white and that is growing, particularly as we have more and more mixed race families. So no more BAME-ing please…
Some of you would say they do diverse productions… But in our brochures we see lots of white disabled
Our cultural leaders are smart intelligent people and are good problem solving… So why don’t they make, find, support and encourage more diverse work. Is it because deep down they don’t like the work? Are they afraid to say so? Do they worry people won’t show up? We have to progress critical debate on what is good, and what is not. And why some pieces of information are important in collective history. If we had more diverse people writing and rating cultural work, then we would see that drive towards making the work. Next time you see an award ceremony count the number of non white faces you see collecting awards!
One of the things we did recently was to do an Open Stage project, opening up our stage to our audience… We had events, and asked them for what they want. We were sure we’d see themes… But actually we saw really different interests. Most of our audience wanted co-creation, to feel closer to us. So, we set up the Stratford East Singers.. For anyone to join and engage with that. And a year and a half later they’ve been on Gareth Malone’s show – and through to the finals. We did that activity, set that singing group in motion, to be inclusive, to work with our audience.
Another example is home theatre which came through work in Brazil – making a bespoke piece of work for the home. We did this in London and Birmingham. In London we had 30 one-person pieces and we did 10 in east London and 10 in other areas… We did half of those with homes already engaged in the arts, half for those who’d never gone to the theatre. And those new pieces of work happened on the same night (and you can see all of those pieces on our website this Saturday). That was a really interesting project. The statement of intention is huge. We got 20 new stories about our city and sensed th etemperature of our city The show lasted 20 minutes – the hosts get the show for free but then we ask thenm to provide refreshments aftewards. And that meant we had conversations – we trained our staff to be part of these and bring that back to us. And we’ll do that agian in 2016 with 10 countries across the globe .
Our building is our biggest asset. Things that have nothing to do with theatre take place in our theatre, and that’s brilliant for civic engagement, a great way to engage people.
Panel Session
The panellists are:
  • Janet Archer, Creative Scotland, @JanetArcher1
  • Tanya Raabe-Webber, Visual Artist, @tanyaraabe
  • Claire Cunningham, Performing Artist, @ClaireCprojects
  • Annie George, Writer and Director, @mrsanniegeorge
  • Kerry Michael, Theatre Royal Stratford, @Kerry_TRSE
  • Johnny McKnight, Random Accomplice, @randomaccomplic
  • Dr Maria Balshaw, the Whitworth Gallery, @mbalshaw
Q) Do you think that that statement of intent
A – Kerry) We all needed a statement of intent for what the Olympics meant for us, as we thought about that development in the area.
A – Maria, Whitworth) All of those of us that receive public funding have an active responsibility to engage with the public in the cities and the areas of the country we work in. It is part of the artistic mission of the organisation. So you need to think about what your institution means to the community – you seek out people who wish to engage. The responsibility and advantage of that is that you connect to people who may not think that the arts is for them, and let them see what that means for them. YOu have to open your doors, and that’s more than a simple physical thing. We had two sets of doors at the Whitworth, and we used to only open one of those, engaging one set of audiences… I was talking to someone about democracy in the arts and the importance of buildings, how we operate them, and the works we produce in them to engaging different types of people.
A – Johnny) Someone early said passion can get wearing… I don’t agree… Myself and my colleague started a theatre company as we didn’t think that, as a gay man, and as a woman, we’d get lost in the mix… In 12 things nothing has changed in a way… Your work started with your passion and you have to reach out from there… I don’t think we’ve actually solved any of these inequalities, and we have to use our passion to fight that…
Q – Kirsty W) But you don’t care who your audience is, as long as they come…
A – Johnny) I have worked with people who said that “your performance is dodgy”  they grew up in the 60s and were more liberal than me… It’s conservative talk for the sake of conservative…
Q – Kirsty W) In terms of deepening diversity, how do you do that…
A- Claire) There is something about getting out there… As an artist I can be in my bubble and I rely on partnerships, on my producer and promoter… And as I progress in my career I am more aware of my box, and how to get out of it. Last year I did work on how different religious faiths regard disability… And meeting attitudes of “well no deaf person asked for signing” or “no wheelchair users are coming in” – well they won’t without that support… There is an idea of the inclusion agenda, of getting people through the door… But how do you make people know that they can come, and take part in the first place…
Q – Kirsty W) I am interested in this idea of box ticking… How does Creative Scotland encourage diversity?
A – Janet Archer) It is important to open up the conversation, and we encourage artists to think more broadly in terms of who they perform and engage with. We have to be imaginative in working with communities. And passion is a huge part of fuelling that… And to understand how others see the world. On a practical work we’ve literally removed some of the box ticking: our small project funding has huge flexibility, and Time to Shine – which we heard about earlier – engages those with a totally different take on culture.
A – Annie George) Box ticking does happen, and there can be tokenism. I’m one of these minorities… I normally say I’m black…. And we can spend so much timing trying to label people that we are afraid to actually have the conversations. I’m just finishing a tour and as far as I am aware that’s the first national tour for an Indian artist for 25 years…
Q – Kirsty) You spoke of the last 25 years being barren for Indian performers… Is there something that can be done differently…
A – Annie George) I find that I’ve done shows in large and small theatres… I’ve had some of them expecting those shows to play just to ethnic minorities, not their mailing list of 23,000 people… You have to have conversations, to make it clear that everyone is invited.  You don’t have a party without inviting poeple…
A – Janet) That 4% has doubles in recent years and diversity will shift in Scotland. We are a welcoming country i think ad we have dialogue with 180 organisations we support and diversity and inclusion is part of that conversation with an equality action plan. Your audience is not just for an Indian audience but for all…
A – Annie) All the work I’ve done… I’ve been developed and trained… With this production I’m expected to develop an audience, what about the marketing… Why do I have to get black people into my show and why it is my responsibility.
A – Kerry) The elephant in the room is we don’t know how to assess diverse work… People cannot translate that to their own self… We have to have a critical debate about culture which is poor and we have to open up the conversations. And the flip side is that o one says that play that a black person was in was not good, we need the muscle for that debate too.
A – Tanya) I have worked for 7 years with Project Ability in Glasgow. I am kind of interested to see what we haven’t or have got… Some learning disabled artists or representation of that to celebrate the culture of learning disability as are forms. My work has been digitised for a National Disability Art Collection and Archive funded by the Big Lottery… And interested in what that will do, for future generations.
Q – audience) I want to speak up for signs… Of being visibly welcoming…
Q – audience) We’ve had a number of permanently funded organisations and that portfolio, it has been noted, has
A – Janet) Maggie Maxwell, who leads this area, and I are discussing this and I would like to open the door and bring more conversation from people that are not in this area. I was at an Indian Cultural Festival on Calton Hill last week, with 600 people in a tent. We have to engage with those groups and spaces as robustly as other organisations.
Q – Kirsty) And how diverse was that audience there?
A – Janet) I was rather in the minority there… But there was a mix of backgrounds and it was a good day. Perhaps more could have been done to market it more widely, but it was a community event.
A – Maria) It must look easy to find diverse audiences in Manchester – where we have a very diverse population, second only to London. But if we think of Alex Putts and his festival is for international artists and performers and he describes performers from across the world as he would anyone else, not referencing where they come from. For us our collections are chock full of Indian textiles so why wouldn’t we show exciting work from some of the best artists in India, exciting new work in China…
Q – Kirsty)
A – Johnny) Is is incredibly easy to do… We keep retelling the same story… I write a lot of pantos and usually it is 6 men to 2 women… And I decided to switch up the balance as more women go to drama schools so your cast is better. And I made the love story between two lassies… And it was playing to Catholic primary schools so I was nervous about how that would go down, but it went down well!
Q – Kirsty) Are we self-censoring?
A – Johnny) I think we are and we have to be braver…
A – Kerry) I think we’ve had 50 years of culture and diverse work… We have to get out of 1 or 3 years funding instead having 10 year plans and funding, the stability to change and expand what we do…
A – Janet) I’l have a word with Fiona Hyslop… But it does follow political cycles… There are some organisations in England have longer funding cycles…
Comment – Kirsty) But there are issues there too for other organisations….
Q – audience) I think we should talk about difference, rather than equality… I think if we can get that starting point different… as Kerry said…. So you say to Fiona Hyslop is what we are gong to do… We are in a place where potential is assaulted from every angle so we have to celebrate and recognise difference.
A – Janet) I agree. Our plan is “Unlocking Potential and Creating Ambition”is about that conversations, about understanding for humans to connect. I think one thing we don’t talk about is class. I was brought up in Japan and Brazil and when I moved here I was shocked to see the boxes we put people in… We have to unlock those barriers and that is never part of that debate.
Comment – Kirsty) Some companies are addressing this in their productions..
Q – audience) In terms of access and digital access… Tanya you talked about your work being digitised. When you put work out there it makes it more globally accessible… But does it help in terms of generating revenue and sustaining you?
A – Tanya) It is global exposure, and the more people access your work, the more invitations you get to speak, to collaborate, to work in partnership elsewhere… I’ve had invitations from Australia, working in partnership in New York in San Francisco… It works to an extent but it doesn’t really get across the sense of the work and the artist… So I’m about to embark on live portrait sittings taking place globally. I wanted to do it in Scotland, but couldn’t as Arts Council England wouldn’t allow me to put in a bid to do that work in Scotland! But I will do that work, with Project Ability, in January in Glasgow.
Q – Kirsty) Kerry you talked about putting work online… Do enough of us make enough of putting work online around performance?
A – Kerry) It’s not a money earner. But it is a statement of intent… It’s like the welcome signs… It’s about reaching outwards…
A – Johnny) There is a danger of engaging only online… We publicised on social media, online etc. We got an audience, we got a younger audience… But we usually have an older audience too and that excluded them… We can fixate too much online.
A – Maria) There is a whole tranche of work that we developed through social media… and is a different audience… But many of the friends of the Whitworth are over 60 and many still love paper, it’s about different needs and channels for different audiences…
A – Tanya) Digitising the work is a first step… But you can’t engage with a painting digitally in the same way, you need to see it, but it is a starting point…
Q – Kirsty) Much of what we’ve talked about is government funding… And is that conservatism seems to be shaping work, so how do we engage with big funders?
A – Kerry) But in many places those big funders, in the USA say, come with a price tag, with their own agendas of how their funding is used… We have a range of funding sources but if we only go to private funders we let the government, and society off the hook.
Q – audience) I manage an arts venue and one of the shows we have is the Lady Boys of Bankok… That is diverse but also light entertainment and I’ve been asked if we’ll carry on with that. Now that work engages people, and will subsidise other productions… And there is sometimes an innate conservatism there about more commercial productions, but that has to be part of what we do… In terms of how we tackle this… We should just “do”. We programme for the public and they, and each other, need to prod each other…
Comment) We are discussing diversity here… In a room of mainly middle class, middle aged, central belt audience… Not economically diverse – because of the admission price –
Comment) I would caution against being too focused on audiences as there are 1000s of people doing creativity across the land t kitchen tables which is inherent to what we are… Those of us who are publicly funded we must engage with grass roots, allowing arts to flourish and for participation to take place at every level.
Comment) I am from Wales and on a bursary place btw. I wanted to talk about technology not only for performance/as a place for work but also to support work, their accessibility… for disabled audiences, for language support, to welcome and support all people.
Comment) Many of us come into the arts to evade the box ticking due to economics, class, ethnicity or gender… We have to allow escape and transcendence.
Kirsty) A final 30 seconds from each panellist.
Johnny) The key to diversity needs to come from us and the idea of the banks taking over makes me boke on the floor. It has come from us.
Kirsty) I got read by a journalist as a middle class arts director… But at 17 I’d never been to a museum… It matters that we change access to all of the arts… Transcending categories is so important, and the arts gives us a means to challenge that.
Tanya) I think that, when talking about working with disabled artists, understand that there are different cultures, if you are going to work with a cultural identity group you have to engage with that cultural.
Annie) You have to open the doors… Have people in all the time… Change your staffing, change your boards… And give people ownership. There is no point in saying “here is the art that we will present to you”. It is criminal, and people are paying, through the public purse, for this. You have to be open to everyone.
Claire) Bringing people in is absolutely essential but integration and inclusion is not the same thing. And we have to ensure that this isn’t tied up with ideas of assimilation into what is normative – and largely dictated by white middle class men . There is creative advantage of difference which are less boring with art from lived out experience, rather than from middle class white British people.
Kerry) Lets celebrate it. We have moved on in the last 20 years. You have to also value popular work, to recognise what matters to audiences.
Janet) Scotland as seen in this room may not look so diverse but it is diverse and we just have to keep on having those conversations.
And after a wee break for lunch, we are back with Kirstie Walk introducing our next speaker… 
Maria Belshaw, Whitworth Gallery 
I am conspicuously not Scottish, as you can hear, but I do live some of my time in Bute – and I’m delighted to see colleagues from Bute here.
I’ve been asked to talk about working with audience, artists for diversity and equality. I was given several quotes which focuse on diversity as being about power, equality, and social justice, and ensuring that subsidy ensures that the arts meet the needs of the community. And I’m going to talk about our experience at the Whitworth, which recently won Museum of the Year, and I’ll be talking about the changes we’ve made.
When I arrived 10 years ago we had 80,000 visitors a year. Then we had 180,000 when we closed for refurbishment… and since refurbishing and reopening we’ve served 400,000 visitors per year. The level of change here represents a much greater chance about this organisation being relevant to the community. There used to be a foreboding Victorian entrance… Fine if you know how to cross that threshold, you might think you will be charged, you might be put off by thinking that it’s part of the University (which it is). And our back view of the Whitworth was a wall really. It said “go away” to the public. We have transformed the space, it’s huge and open, for visitors to do whatever they need us to do. It is usually hugely busy, particularly following the reoperning. We showed difficult contemporary work, digital works, we gave over some of our new grand spaces to the families that live around the gallery to make art in our galleries. In the evenings we gave the space to entertainment – a local grind band on the Saturday, a specially commissioned classical work responding to the works on the Sunday. And we took advantage of our University connection – we had the co-discoverer of graphine take graphite from a William Blake work, then used breathing on the graphine, triggering charge, to trigger a meteor shower chereographed by Cornelia Parker in the park, creating a Blakian sky… This could only happen in Manchester… And we had Blake songs playing, whilst projections of our works showed outside…
We have young people curating for us… We ran a project asking our audiences what the Whitworth meant for us – one of our youger visitors said “the Whitworth is a place people come to learn to be wonderful”.
But this stuff doesn’t just happen. This is about ongoing work, about years of progress to this point. The everyday helps show this – we have a snapshot here which captures access in such diverse ways – from visitors with walking frames and wheelchairs to our deaf staff member and her explainer leading a tour… We live in our audience space and scaffold their ability to enjoy what we do…
So, I want to talk about what has happens to get to this place… We used to have 80,000 visitors and despite being in a hugely diverse area of Manchester, we had a very undiverse audience in terms of race, class, etc… So we had the challenge to reach out. So, I have a picture of Iranian wrestlers. About 5 years ago we arranged a show with the British Museum of Persian objects, and we wanted to show work by an Iranian artist, Cosimo ?, whose work is too controversial to display in Iran. Added to that we have one of the biggest Iranian communities outside of the country… We had these activities that culminated in an Iranian new year celebration, with wrestling! And a member of that community commented that it was just like Iran – everyone was eating and people of all classes mixing together…
We had an indian artist come in, using a tent from Goa as a canvas for a live charcoal drawing… This is weird live art that you’d usually only see in hipster spaces… But we’d done months of work with the area around us, Manchester’s curry mile. One man, who’d moved to Manchester from Goa and had stayed because he couldn’t afford the fare back, kept returning
We had to close for 14 months for the refurbishment. And during that time we based some of our staff in care homes, as one group that rarely visits is older single men, usually because their partners have died. So we had them curate some of those works. Similarly we have young people curating works. This means our civic leaders value the Whitworth – engaging older isolate people, engaging with families, helping children to learn. And doing big high profile exhibitions – a big China exhibition whilst Manchester airport was bidding for a route to China – was really clever. It’s about thinking creatively here. About making the Whitworth a space for the city and for the people that know about the arts and those who don’t. In 1932 Whitworth Director Margaret Pilkington stated that she thought that a successful gallery is one where people feel welcome.
I was also asked about the kind of leadership required to make this sort of change… And actually it’s about modelling the behavior and culture for the organisation, being connected, partnering with other organisations and being a force for social justice and change within our city.
LAB 2: New Technologies for Online Engagement
  • Dianne Greig, Culture Republic
  • Antonia Lee-Bapty, Euan’s Guide
  • Jo McLean, The Touring Network


Julie McGarry, Culture Republic is introducing our session and our speakers:

Diane Greig, Culture Republic – background in social sciences research, business and marketing and she works a lot on integrated digital marketing.

Antonia Lee-Bapty, Euan’s Guide – Antonia is passionate about digital and work’s at Euan’s Guide, the award winning disabled access website.

Jo McLean, The Touring Network – background as a performing musician. Working on performing arts and crafts.. Background in developing and producing signature events. Now working as a consultant at national and international level, and commissioning works.

Diane Greig

I’ll be setting the context for the next two speakers… I’ll give a mix of examples for how technologies that enable information to be created, stored or shared in digital form… I won’t talk about labeling of particular characteristics etc.

Digital marketing is so much more than social media. So technology through the lens of digital marketing, so areas like CRM, Social Media, Analytics, Emerging Technology, Content Marketing etc. For an organisation analytics would probably be at the centre.

We are seeing increasing expectations… For instance Starbucks has reimagined their Covent Garden store – with new techniques for coffee snobs… Orders and payment via iPad, apps to pre-order coffees.. The public is more and more engaging with new technologies and new ways for customer experiences.

John Lewis have a Labs initiative which encourages development new ideas. For instance the Localz/lmarks app which uses iBeacons to alert a passing shopper to pick up an order, and alerts the store to prepare it… The point here is that they are really focused on their customers – though it works for audiences able to access smartphone apps etc.

On the flipside a recent report from Ipsos MORI for GO ON UK find that 23% of UK adults lack basic online skills. In Scotland specifically 19% lack basic skills. And when we think about mobile signals there are huge gaps in rural areas in Scotland – big gaps though that we have to be aware of. And in Dumfries there is high percentage – 33% – do not have internet access. The reason cited is that people don’t know how, need help and support.

Ofcom Comms Market Report August 2015 show that for the first time smartphones overtake laptops as device internet users say is most important for connecting to the internet. 34% of Scotland have 4G access.

In that same report we see that 12-15 year olds using social media include 24% using Snapchat more than 10 times a day…

Culture Republic – we have access to tons of social media presences via our system, Sheldon. Websites are 59% on desktop, 17% on tablet, 25% on mobile. And social media more dominated by mobile devices. And that is increasing…

Looking at how people are using technology in culture… Here’s a wee bit of projection mapping… Which overlys emotions or actions on statues… The Fine Arts Museum in Lyon invited an artist to do this.

I don’t know if you have heard of the I’m @ app which has social logins and uses iBeacons to feed information, content, etc to explore arts ad culture – and tracks that user as they move around venues.

We track loads of arts organisations social media and Visual Arts have a brilliant Content Marketing content.

Activcancas uses augmented reality to engage visitors in galleries – via flyers but also in galleries…

47% of arts organisations websites are not mobile optimised… When we see that stat on devices used to access the internet that’s really a provocation!

Antonia Lee-Bapty

We are an organisation on disability access… Euan is a local chap, who you’ll see about. He and his sister had the idea of the site to review anywhere – fun stuff but also post office, supermarket, shops, etc. The idea is for the guide to empower disabled people to get out and about – because that information just wasn’t available.

This isn’t just for wheelchair users, but for all disabled people. And we have been going for 2 years, and we cover many cities but focused on Edinburgh and the UK. We are all about physical access, but also digital access of course matters so we test our site on a whole range of accessibility devices.

Now our reviews come from users – and we’ve recently added a way for others to approve that review, or disagree, or say that they visited a venue because of a review.

The venue listings give you a chance to close the circle, an opportunity for you guys to shout about the work you are doing… Why do this? Well to promote your facilities; tell people what you have got; and tell people what you haven’t got – set appropriate expectations. If you take one thing away: Ask disabiled visitors what they want, and Inform your disabled visitors of what you’ve got.

A good listing has photos – lots! Details of events especially accessible events. Access statements. And a good listing encourages reviews.

Outcomes in these first two years have included a raised awareness from venues of accessibility, they’ve had an opportunity to showcase accessibility and realize commercial possibility of that, and build on feedback. And for our reviewers they get their voice hear, take up a challenge, make some changes, and we’re seeing offline communities form as well.

And we’ve been lucky in receiving endorsements from Ian Rankin, Stephen Hawking, and J.K. Rowling.

We are an ambitious start ups, launching new releases every month… And we have cool gamification coming up in the next 12 months.

We have Disabled Access Day 2016 coming up – a great date to throw open your doors, show what you do, find out what they think… See what we do.

Our aspirations is to make accessibility mainstream, and not just best practice. 

Jo – The Touring Network

I’m going to talk a bit about the Touring Network. We exist to ensure that there is a rich culture of rural touring for arts throughout the Highlands and Islands. It began in the 1960s but it formalized in 1998, as PAN – the Promoters Arts Network – and we became the Touring Network more recently to include performers as well as promoting. Our current venues cover half the landmass of Scotland and we represent 60 promoters and usually around 700 events of all types across the year. We enable companies to put on events, we can support some performances in some under served communities, and help ensure events are accessible to all.

Small venues have a maximum of 200 people, with venues ranging from purpose built high end facilities with accommodation, to small village halls… So venue information is crucial to running these events.

We do work digitally but we also do a lot of face to face promoter networking meetings, and an annual gathering. This year the theme is Audience Development.

Our digital work… We created a subsidiary project called Innovation Lab for digital, design and data for the Touring Sector. We have several areas… Tourbook is to stimulate activity in touring, to support performers, to build a community round touring… It’s kind of like a dating website for events. So, as a performer you login and write about your show… The venues can then search for that show, and they understand their audience and needs. Currently only open to members of the network in the Highlands and Islands…

But we have a new version coming… This will be open to a wider network across the whole of Scotland… It will have a searchable database for performers and promotors… Various improvements and developments will go live. And in either this or the next version will be on sustainable touring – understanding the emissions and carbon cost of touring. We trialled that with the company, but we also surveyed our audience, their transport, the wider purpose of their trip… When pulled together that gives us a rich picture of the emissions per show. And also recommendations for offsetting… But also what the impact of a more modern vehicle, lower weight of kit, etc.

So, the development of this platform and other projects, have potential for others and the wider sector in Scotland and worldwide.


Q: Is Creative Carbon Scotland involved?

A – Jo) Yes, we presented at their “50 shades of Green”


Q) Can I ask the panel generally, is there one thing you wouldn’t do without that have the most impact for your audiences…

A – Jo) Tourbook for us… But there is more to do with that…

A – Antonia) Twitter for us – for engaging reviewers, venues, etc. We have a social media and was one of the first people we hired.

A – Diane) Actually understanding your audience is so fundamental, and so many people find that hard to do… Most people don’t have time… Understanding data is the base stuff… That’s so important and it’s what is missing. From a social science perspective I can be dispassionate about product, and that can be helpful. Audiences can often reflect the artistic director’s vision…

Comment) Check if your website is mobile friendly seems important.

A – Diane) One artist, started to understanding her audience, then using that for targeted Facebook ads and increased audience by 1000% and that’s empowered her to be able to buy new equipment etc.


Q) Talking about the stats… It’s again understanding the user… Having tried to make apps, integrating audio for partially sighted… Have you had experience of doing that for a fairly visual interface?

A – Antonia) We take audio reviews… But we did have a young person’s charity who wanted to take part, and they do video reviews… Same technology though.


Q) In terms of iBeacons… If you can programme a smartpone to access data in a form that’s suitable.

A – Antonia) Actually Barclays is doing good work with iBeacons and apps to flag accessibility needs to their staff in store – lots on their website.


Q) How, as a technology specialist, do we engage with this sector…

A – Diane) It’s difficult but

Purple7 – the I’m @ app – engage with them, with Tate , Liverpool etc. Talk to them…

A – Jo) Also lots of workshopping and events to do that. Cultural Enterprise…

A – Diane) Potentially working with 10 museums and galleries around iBeacons… So you could put a pitch in…


Q) How about older audiences and technologies… Are there any technologies that work better with older audiences…

A – Diane) Social media has an impact, Facebook works well… Different organisations have different demographics… Lots of festivals have lots of older people engaged. Twitter can be useful… I see these all as distribution channels with different purposes…

A – Antonia) The mobile accessibility of websites is crucial too.

A – Julie) Don’t ignore the traditional distribution channels too.


LAB 2: New Approaches for Community Engagement

Sarah Drummond, Snook

I work at Snook and when I say I am a designer people ask me if I make dresses, do I design websites… Actually what we do is service design and what that means is seeing what you do through the eyes of your users, your audience. And designing for that experience. Understanding the end to end experience.

We had some designers working with the Culture Hack Scotland Geeks In Residence project for the Tattoo… The idea was to use apps to show things throughout the show, and that meant understanding the full process, from buying tickets, to downloading the apps, to engaging in that experience.

I love my job and a lot of what we do – and others are talking about today – are talking about co-creation, co-design, co-production… To engage them in every stage of the service…

Do any of us use Uber? It has it’s issues but as a user the experience is easy – I use it to book a taxi and know when they will come, how much it will cost. And the guy that’s the face of Uber in Glasgow is working with taxi drivers to make a manual, which is great.

We work with customers to make services happen… We worked with an organisation who had amazing caves under their building and didn’t know how to make a service, an experience from that. We worked with them for very basic making and prototyping ideas and solutions, to try things out and see what they doing. Similarly we are working with the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham to try stuff out in public – seeing if things work, or if it doesn’t.

It’s fine to say that we should prototype ideas, to bring things together… But how do we make these spaces? We are working on the project Culture Aberdeen to bring citizens together. We are also working on a project called Dearest Scotland – for writing to the future of Scotland – an opportunity for customers of the country, essentially, to get their voices heard.

Q) How do you deal with these types of ideas, and that not all will work?

A) You have to kind of focus on the positive, things that work. But you also have to let others define the problem first, and to respond to that, rather than

Amanda Broan – Marketing Services Manager, Glasgow Life

I’m going to talk a bit about Glasgow Life. We are a charity and have 2700 staff, with over 8 million visitors to our events and venues last year. We are a really big organisation. And we have projects that each have their own systems, and it was hard to pull data from those systems… So we have resolved that by pulling that data together through a CRM. So that we could gather customer records/history, clean data, get single customer view, but also be able to use that data to segment our audience and informed our future marketing and programming activity.

Our CRM is Market Developer and every night we feed in data from other systems, with customer record, history, data protection permissions, equalities information (anonyised). We don’t bring in any financial records. And we keep our data for the last 2 years. So that allows us to see all the touch points we have with our customers, how they engage, what they are doing, who is highly engaged, and how we can learn from other areas. Some of our venues, such as museums, are free to access. So we have created a form for staff to collect customer data.

Right now we have 582K records in the system – loads more to come as we bring in our libraries information. 52% permission by emails, 64% permission by mail – likely to go down as a percentage when sports and libraries data comes in.

What we’ve learned is that at the front line our data capture can sometimes be quite poor. Pushing back data to management systems is not straightforward – and we’re working on that. There is a nervousness from staff/management system suppliers. Staff processing large queues, inputting customer data can be difficult – so we are trying to get them to capture summary/brief data where possible. Market Developer is a complex system – so a lot to do to get up to speed. And once the data is in, it’s crucial to clean the data regularly so we are looking at reviewing it every 6 months.

So, when data comes in we review it, we clean it, and then we add to records. That’s quite a big commitment going forwards. The other thing we are very aware of is data safety, so we ensure staff only access what they need. All staff have to do a mandatory data security course. We can have users from read only to super users. All data via secure FTP. All portable devices are encrypted. Ad doc data removed from LAN. No financial information transmitted. Secure data centre and back up centre in the UK. By the end of our financial year (March) we should have all of our systems included.

Q) How are you using this data so far, in terms of programing of customer experience…

A) We’re using it for emails, for SMS… But at the data collection stage and making it usable. But what we want to do is ensure we are commuicating customers how they want us to – so if they want email, only email; if they want social media, use that… But we want deeper information on what they want and need. At the moment we are doing 3-4K emails a month, a significant number.

Artlink Edinburgh & Lothians – Jan-Bert van den Berg, Adrienne Chalmers

Jan-Bert: I’m going to talk about art, how it is made and how it is shared. As an artist, producer, presenter… working with a defined audience of visually impaired people, then how do I have that inform my work. It is simple… You have to listen and to talk to folk but that has taken me ages to do… To develop work with the audience in mind. And that’s challenging, you get views and demands that vary and it is your job as an artist to make sense of those views and needs.

Adrienne: We’ve been doing work with The Poor Boy Theatre at Greyfriars last year. They had been doing a lot of work on how to engage with those with visual impairments… They gave us noises, atmosphere, smells, food at the pub later too! But we worked with Poor Boy with a group of visually impaired people who are used to attending the theatre, and to work with them on drama, including Arthur Miller, in a way to make it easier to access and engage with for visually impaired audiences. That enabled them to understand what was possible, but also for the visually impaired audience to understand what is possible, works well, etc.

Jan-Bert: We engage with a broad range of people and we want our work to be informed… But we do this on small scale so how do we do that on a bigger scale? Have a dialogue around them. To see the work and examine it, seeing what it contributes and how. For me there is huge potential in seeing the work being informed at every level we do. And it is bloody simple: it’s about listening and engaging and we are all in the business of creating work that is good, which touches us and is important.


Q) I have in one ear that this is easy… But also remembering an experience of going to a playwriting workshop in the midlands that wasn’t succeeding in getting asian writers in… I was just wondering if there are any good communication practices or models to look to, so that that idea of listening and engaging really works.

A – Jan-Bert) We work with care workers, social workers, but first and foremost we work with the people we want to reach in that audience. But you have to acknowledge that every particular moment has it’s own community and audience… And you have to work to make that happen. Now that sounds awful in a way… Pulling everything together to be appreciated by everyone… But that’s not it… You pool people, you find what you want out of that, and you stick to that. You won’t please everyone… But you can talk that through or work that through with them, so they understand why you make those decisions as well. And it’s understanding the context, how that is informed, and working with that without fearing mistakes…

A – Sarah) That was a great answer. There is an organisation, Lankelly Chase, bringing together organisations and users with multiple complex needs, working mostly in England and Wales, who are a foundation funding works, and we are part of a project called the “Promoting Change Network”. They are running residential projects, bringing 150 people together. Those who have and have not been part of the events. With commissioners, organisations using services, and service users/those with lived experience of their support. You’ll be familiar with Open Space methodologies – they’ve been tried before but that hasn’t provoked debates as much as might be useful. So this event will provoke debate, to look forward in a positive way. And to ensure all in the room is treated as an equal – so even if you don’t agree, you take something useful away for you…  There are so many methods and models but… I like the model of the Design Studio, of critiquing and collaborating – the aesthetic of the space for sharing and engaging.

Q) How is your CRM project being supported?

A – Amanda, Glasgow Life) It is a self-funded project, and the additional income generated should offset that.

Sarah) A question for the audience – what are you doing that is new in terms of approaches?

Audience member) We actually used Open Space as a format, looking at the scale those work at. But also understanding what the differences are across a region, and how needs vary… I decided to go geographically and choose someone in a post code and engage with them.

Audience member) For us the idea of prototyping quickly, failing, moving on… is very different and not well supported by the statutory funders. So I think it’s about that. And about relinquishing the need for control, to be open to partnership, to innovation… To be innovative in who you are and how innovative you can be in your own approach… But sometimes it’s hard.

Sarah) Someone asked a question in a recent event of “what’s hard about doing this” – well it’s about this traditional approach, it’s quite contrary to that. We have to look at the barriers to doing that and understanding those… I don’t believe anyone can complete a funding form and know there won’t be any mistakes… We all make mistakes. We have to embrace those, understand that, and embed it in organisations, funding models, etc. Nobody can always get it right.

And with that the session draws to a close…

Kirsty Walk is now introducing our final session, and asking attendees at the various labs for their highpoints, the Partnerships session mentions “threshold” and citizenships being important; the new ways to do Community Engagement spoke of being open to engaging, of listening and trying things out; new Insights spoke of major regional variations in Scotland, requirements of EDI plans for Creative Scotland and toolkits to help with that, and also collaboration with organisations, diversity of activities with elderly generation needs lots involved; Had an excellent session on technologies and tools, each asked for most essential tool and the overriding element was that if you don’t understand your audience, the tools and technologies aren’t the issue, discussion of budget (or lack of) and role of paid social, tools for older people, connectivity in rural areas (and lack thereof). 

Panel Discussion: Changing mindsets
How do we shape the cultural landscape of the future?
What resources equip us to tackle the complex challenges of creating art that is inclusive, accessible and diverse in every way?

Featuring Jill Miller of Glasgow Life, Leonie Bell of Creative Scotland, Dr. Maria Balshaw of the Whitworth and Jackie Killeen of the Big Lottery Fund, also Julie Tait (CE) from Culture Republic.

Leonie: I oversee five art forms and creative learning which includes the ring fenced funding that the cabinet secretary spoke about earlier. We fund through open project funding, and have day to day contact and invite advice, post application advice. Funding is core but we also see ourselves as an organisation for developing the sector, and pushing influence beyond those we commonly speak to.

Jill: We deliver directly in the city and rarely do that on our own, mostly with partners and stakeholders. We work with the commercial sector, the cultural sector, and the private sector. But fundamentally its about local people  – the artists, the community. We have to listen to our local communities, to develop our services and programmes that are well suited to our audiences. You can’t just take your work to your audience, you have to ensure your work is accessible in terms of what you do, not just where you are doing it.

Jackie: My sector is broader than the cultural community, we are here for culture and community, to make life better for people in need. Culture is a big part of that and we see it as a resource and asset. Day to day we try to make sure we find, fund, support and learn across communities in Scotland.

Julie: Our team are researchers and marketers and that’s represented in their strategies for engagement. Sometimes I feel a lot of the people making decisions have to get out more in front of people and hear the challenges faced and also looking at the broadest range. The data is the reality, the end result, what happens when people pay for a ticket or cross a threshold.

Kirstie: Is there a lack of ambition Jill?

Jill: The funding conversation and capacity there is a major issue and I think we’ve seen some of these conversations taking place for years and years… We have to see things getting better, make some of these things work. The ambition is there but we have to see action, not just conversations.

Kirstie: Outreach is a social good perhaps but maybe there a way to make engagement happen would be to look at boards, and to ensure there is representation on boards.

Leonie: There is something quite formulaic about boards, that there is someone from the organisation, your accountant.. But are you representing the social not just the governance aspect of what your board is for. We have to ask this ourselves, but also do this as well… We exist under the Government requirements so our board is 50% women and actually quotas are OK, when we want to make a real change.

Jackie: As was said this morning, you need some discord to get to good decisions. Increasingly the work we are supporting is valued by, and is valuable for the community the work is for. That’s been a shift to ensure that the community truly benefits. Having people on the board is one way, but not if it’s tokenistic. YOu need to be intentionally more open, more inviting, more welcoming and accessible, as Maria from the Whitworth talked about. We have a programme called Young Start. That was for projects run by or engaging with young people… Lots of great examples of where that is happening now.

Kirstie: New Insights particularly talked about how arts organisations should be working and collaborating more…

Jill: It’s how we collaborate and learn from each other. We are loking at it from a negative position and there are some brilliant examples in Scotland. Conversations around intent, and openness. And the recognition of the gap between the intention to reach and engage “looked after children” and actually delivering that is huge… So you have to think about the partners who can bridge that gap. The board thing is a particular thing but there are other ways…

Kirstie: Fiona Hyslop made it clear that she has to fight her corner for funding… When Creative Scotland are doing funding, are you looking for organisations to work together?

Leonie: The ten year thing is a really heavy burden for funders. But to pick up on what Jill said, most in this space are doing great stuff already. We don’t know what is happening in the future finanically but we are, as an organisation, looking at the economic impact of the arts, but also the social justice impact of them. We all work in partnership all the time, but there are models of cooperation around e.g. utility bills, location, etc. which may be useful going forward.


Q from online audience) Reflecting on one of the labs section, there is an interesting discussion of partnerships taking place – how can we enable small businesses, partnerships, one man bands, etc. to address that.

Jill: It’s back to communication really, and thinking also about where we can get involved, and when we can’t. Sometimes being a big organisation makes you better place to facilitate rather than be a full partner. But you need real points of contact so that people know how to engage, who to speak to. And providing frameworks for managing and supporting them.

Jackie: Speaking to others and meeting for the first time is so valuable. We should be a catalyst to make connections, opportunities to talk, especially for smaller organisations.

Julie: We can also undertake Cultural mapping to understand the marketplace, who is already out there, what they do,. Arts is an ecology with organisations of all sizes, and interconnections and networks aren’t always clear, although we do see it as our role to bring people together in this way.

Q audience) My question is about measuring audiences, not just numbers or diversity, but the impact and value of that engagement. If we challenge economic rationale, what is the evidence we need and how do we do that.

Leonie) I think it is essentially back to stories, of the different something has made as an individual or the community. Jill and I worked together on the Commonwealth Games to tell that story of your audience and peer experience and professional arts and cultural experience and it was an interesting piece of work to learn from. Those numbers sometimes matter, but stories really do matter – we are comfortable with that but we need to get better at telling stories to others too.

Julie) One aspect here also is technology and understanding a person’s context, their friends and family, their network.

Jackie) Sometimes the things we ask or look for in monitoring reports, as a funder, is not the stuff that mattered most… And that doesn’t always get reported. And we need to think about how we can capture that to, to be flexible enough to let that come out…

Kirstie) So you might need to remodel what you’re looking for.

Jackie) We missed the point – for example we did work with Kilmarnock reoffenders and had missed what had happened in the community to support those people returning to them…

Kirstie) As a result of today, what will you take away to build on or refocus on?

Jill) I think language is a challenge, even for those working in this area full time. We had lots of examples of how people were labelled or grouped and what has come through for me is the social justice aspect of that… And the complicatedness underneath that which is helpful. It’s about long term planning and making sure we make a difference.

Leonie: The concept of equality in relation to diverse people, and work we spoke about.. I think that there is a lack of confidence about talking about equality in everything we do. We also have to deal with thinking beyond Council and political timings and boundaries – we do think ahead, to the next generation, but that is still hard to do and we need to do that. Fiona Hyslop drew evidence around ring fenced funding but they don’t exist along… you have to have something before, around them, and following up to make those useful.

Jackie) Even though things are challenging at the moment, you are some of the most creative people and if you don’t know how to overcome those challenges nobody does! We have to keep challenging ourselves to be ambitious and talented, to keep on the curve, not behind it. We have slightly more regularity to our funding… And we’ve been asking ourselves about that… We do have grants that grow over time, enabling that natural life cycle of development.

Julie) For me more than ever before, the opportunity to come together and meet each other… We are all facing the same strategic issues – there is a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge working together which will have even greater impact when we bring those together.

Kirstie) Thank you to everyone today for your participation, your tweets – I’d hoped to read some of the juicy ones – and for those watching online. And I think we have an amazing creative community in this country and that is work celebrating for every effort you are making.

Julie) Thank you to all of our speakers and participants today for some fantastic talks and engagement today. I also have to thank our sign language team, our live note takers, our web team, and the webcasting team from Glowcast. And to the Culture Republic team who have put today’s event. The next steps: the session recording will be available to view online soon. And the Culture Republic sessions on population profiles on disability is coming up, then on ethnnicity,  race, older audiences etc. And our new podcast series speaks about how you are reaching out and sharing what you know… And there is training coming up soon from specialists in disability in the arts. And finally today we’ll have some performance from Indepen-dance who are a new young dance company – so we can see not only talk about the arts today!

And with that I’m wrapping up this blog to enjoy the dance, a very quick drink and networking, but then I’m off to the Internet of Things Meet Up on Maker Cultures, which I’ll also be blogging here. 


Oct 132015
Michael Dewar, Data Scientist at The New York Times, presenting at the Data Science for Media Summit held by the Alan Turing Institute and University of Edinburgh, 14th October 2015..

Today I am at the “Data Science for Media Summit” hosted by The Alan Turing Institute & University of Edinburgh and taking place at the Informatics Forum in Edinburgh. This promises to be an event exploring data science opportunities within the media sector and the attendees are already proving to be a diverse mix of media, researchers, and others interesting in media collaborations. I’ll be liveblogging all day – the usual caveats apply – but you can also follow the tweets on #TuringSummit.

Introduction – Steve Renals, Informatics

I’m very happy to welcome you all to this data science for media summit, and I just wanted to explain that idea of a “summit”. This is one of a series of events from the Alan Turing Institute, taking place across the UK, to spark new ideas, new collaborations, and build connections. So researchers understanding areas of interest for the media industry. And the media industry understanding what’s possible in research. This is a big week for data science in Edinburgh, as we also have our doctoral training centre so you’ll also see displays in the forum from our doctoral students.

So, I’d now like to handover to Howard Covington, Chair, Alan Turing Institute

Introduction to the Alan Turing Institute (ATI) – Howard Covington, Chair, ATI

To introduce ATI I’m just going to cut to out mission, to make the UK the world leader in data science and data systems.

ATI came about from a government announcement in March 2014, then bidding process leading to universities chosen in Jan 2015, joint venture agreement between the partners (Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, UCL, Warwick) in March 2015, and Andrew Blake, the institute’s director takes up his post this week. He was before now the head of research for Microsoft R&D in the UK.

Those partners already have about 600 data scientists working for them and we expect ATI to be an organisation of around 700 data scientists as students etc. come in. And the idea of the data summits – there are about 10 around the UK – for you to tell us your concerns, your interests. We are also hosting academic research sessions for them to propose their ideas. 

Now, I’ve worked in a few start ups in my time and this is going at pretty much as fast a pace as you can go.

We will be building our own building, behind the British Library opposite the Frances Crick building. There will be space at that HQ for 150 peaople. There is £67m of committed funding for the first 5 years – companies and organisations with a deep interest who are committing time and resources to the institute. And we will have our own building in due course.

The Institute sits in a wider ecosystem that includes: Lloyds Register – our first partner who sees huge amounts of data coming from sensors on large structures; GCHQ – working with them on the open stuff they do, and using their knowledge in keeping data safe and secure; EPSRC – a shareholder and partner in the work. We also expect other partners coming in from various areas, including the media.

So, how will we go forward with the Institute? Well we want to do both theory and impact. So we want major theoretical advances, but we will devote time equally to practical impactful work. Maths and Computer Science are both core, but we want to be a broad organisation across the full range of data science, reflecting that we are a national centre. But we will have to take a specific interest in particular interest. There will be an ecosystem of partners. And we will have a huge training programme with around 40 PhD students per year, and we want those people to go out into the world to take data sciences forward.

Now, the main task of our new director, is working out our science and innovation strategy. He’s starting by understanding where our talents and expertise already sit across our partners. We are also looking at the needs of our strategic partners, and then the needs emerging from the data summits, and the academic workshops. We should then soon have our strategy in place. But this will be additive over time.

When you ask someone what data science is that definition is ever changing and variable. So I have a slide here that breaks the rules of slide presentations really, in that it’s very busy… But data science is very busy. So we will be looking at work in this space, and going into more depth, for instance on financial sector credit scoring; predictive models in precision agriculture; etc. Undercutting all of these is similarities that cross many fields. Things like security and privacy is one such area – we can only go as far as it is appropriate to go with people’s data, and issue both for ATI and for individuals.

I don’t know if you think that’s exciting, but I think it’s remarkably exciting!

We have about 10 employees now, we’ll have about 150 this time next year, and I hope we’ll have opportunity to work with all of you on what is just about the most exciting project going on in the UK at the moment.

And now to our first speaker…

New York Times Labs – Keynote from Mike Dewar, Data Scientist

I’m going to talk a bit about values, and about the importance of understanding the context of what it is we do. And how we embed what we think is important into the code that we write, the systems that we design and the work that we do.

Now, the last time I was in Edinburgh was in 2009 I was doing a Post Doc working on modelling biological data, based on video of flies. There was loads of data, mix of disciplines, and we were market focused – the project became a data analytics company. And, like much other data science, it was really rather invasive – I knew huge amounts about the sex life of fruit flies, far more than one should need too! We were predicting behaviours, understanding correlations between environment and behaviour. I’

I now work at the New York Times R&D and our task is to look 3-5 years ahead of current NYT practice. We have several technologists there, but also colleagues who are really designers. That has forced me up a bit… I am a classically trained engineer – to go out into the world, find the problem, and then solve it by finding some solution, some algorithm to minimise the cost function. But it turns out in media, where we see decreasing ad revenue, and increasing subscription, that we need to do more than minimise the cost function… That basically leads to click bait. So I’m going to talk about three values that I think we should be thinking about, and projects within that area. So, I shall start with Trust…


It can be easy to forget that much of what we do in journalism is essentially surveillance, so it is crucial that we do our work in a trustworthy way.

So the first thing I want to talk about is a tool called Curriculum, a Chrome browser plug in that observes everything I read online at work. Then it takes chunk of text, aggregates with what others are reading, and projects that onto a screen in the office. So, firstly, the negative… I am very aware I’m being observed – it’s very invasive – and that layer of privacy is gone, that shapes what I do (and it ruins Christmas!). But it also shares what everyone is doing, a sense of what collectively we are working on… It is built in such a way as to make it inherently trustworthy in four ways: it’s open source so I can see the code that controls this project; it is fantastically clearly written and clearly architected so reading the code is actually easy, it’s well commented, I’m able to read it; it respects existing boundaries on the web – it does not read https (so my email is fine) and respects incognito mode; and also I know how to turn it off – also very important.

In contrary to that I want to talk about Editor. This is a text editor like any others… Except whatever you type is sent to a series of micro services which looks for similarity, looking for NYT keyword corpos, and then sends that back to the editor – enabling a tight mark up of their text. The issue is that the writer is used to writing alone, then send to production. Here we are asking the writer to share their work in progress and send it to central AI services at the NYT, so making that trustworthy is a huge challenge, and we need to work out how best to do this.


Data scientists have a tendency towards the complex. I’m no different – show me a new tool and I’ll want to play with it and I enjoy a new toy. And we love complex algorithms, especially if we spent years learning about those in grad school. And those can render any data illegible.

So we have [NAME?] an infinite scrolling browser – when you scroll you can continue on. And at the end of each article an algorithm offers 3 different recommendation strands… It’s like a choose your own adventure experience. So we have three recommended articles, based on very simple recommendation engine, which renders them legible. These are “style graph” – things that are similar in style; “collaborative filter” – readers like you also read; “topic graph” – similar in topic. These are all based on the nodes and edges of the connections between articles. They are simple legible concepts, and easy to run so we can use them across the whole NYT corpus. They are understandable to deal with so has a much better chance of resonating with our colleagues.

As a counter point we were tasked with looking at Behavioural Segmentation – to see how we can build different products for them. Typically segmentation is done with demography. We were interested, instead, on using just the data we had, the behavioural data. We arranged all of our pageviews into sessions (arrive at a page through to leave the site). So, for each session we representated the data as a transition matrix to understand the probability of moving from one page to the next… So we can perform clustering of behaviours… So looking at this we can see that there are some clusters that we already know about… We have the “one and dones” – read one article then move on. We found the “homepage watcher” who sit on the homepage and use that as a launching point. The rest though the NYT didn’t have names for… So we now have the “homepage bouncer” – going back and forth from the front page; and the “section page starter” as well, for instance.

This is a simple caymeans (?) model and clustering, very simple but they are dynamic, and effective. However, this is very very radical at NYT, amongst non data scientist. It’s hard to make it resonate to drive any behaviour or design in the building. We have a lot of work to do to make this legible and meaningful for our colleagues.

The final section I want to talk about is Live…


In news we have to be live, we have to work in the timescales of seconds to a minute. In the lab that has been expressed as streams of data – never ending sequences of data arriving at our machines as quickly as possible.

So, one of our projects, Delta, produces a live visualisation of every single page views of the NYT – a pixel for person starting on the globe, then pushing outwards, If you’ve visited the NYT in the last year or so, you’ve generated a pixel on the globe in the lab. We use this to visualise the work of the lab. We think the fact that this is live is very visceral. We always start with the globe… But then we show a second view, using the same pixels in the context of sections, of the structure of the NYT content itself. And that can be explored with an XBox controller. Being live makes it relevant and timely, to understand current interests and content. It ties people to the audience, and encourages other parts of the NYT to build some of these live experiences… But one of the tricky things of that is that it is hard to use live streams of data, hence…

Streamtools, a tool for managing livestreams of data. It should be reminscent of Similink or LabView etc. [when chatting to Mike earlier I suggested it was a superpimped, realtime Yahoo Pipes and he seemed to agree with that description too]. It’s now on it’s third incarnation and you can come and explore a demo throughout today.

Now, I’ve been a data scientist and involved when we bring our systems to the table we need to be aware that what we build embodies our own values. And I think that for data science in media we should be building trustworthy systems, tools which are legible to others, and those that are live.

Find out more at nytlabs.com.


Q1) I wanted to ask about expectations. In a new field it can be hard to manage expectations. What are your users expectations for your group and how do you manage that?

A1) The expectations in R&D, in which we have one data scientist and a bunch of designers. We make speculative futures, build prototypes, bring them to NYT, to the present, to help them make decisions about the future. In terms of data science in general at NYT… Sometimes things look magic and look lovely but we don’t understand how they work, in other places it’s much simpler, e.g. counting algorithms. But there’s no risk of a data science winter, we’re being encouraged to do more.

Q2) NYT is a paper of record, how do you manage risk?

A2) Our work is informed by a very well worded privacy statement that we respect and build our work on. But the other areas of ethics etc. is still to be looked at.

Q3) Much of what you are doing is very interactive and much of data science is about processing large sets of data… So can you give any tips for someone working with Terrabytes of data for working with designers?

A3) I think a data scientist essentially is creating a palate of colours for your designer to work with. And forcing you to explain that to the designer is useful, and enables those colours to be used. And we encourage that there isn’t just one solution, we need to try many. That can be painful as a data scientist as some of your algorithms won’t get used, but, that gives some great space to experiment and find new solutions.

Data Journalism Panel Session moderated by Frank O’Donnell, Managing Editor of The Scotsman, Edinburgh Evening News and Scotland on Sunday

We’re going to start with some ideas of what data journalism is

Crina Boros, Data Journalist, Greenpeace

I am a precision journalist.  and I have just joined Greenpeace having worked at Thomson Reuters, BBC Newsnight etc. And I am not a data scientist, or a journalist. I am a pre-journalist working with data. At Greenpeace data is being used for investigate journalism purposes, areas no longer or rarely picked up by mainstream media, to find conflicts of interest, and to establish facts and figures for use in journalism, in campaigning. And it is a way to protect human sources and enable journalists in their work. I have, in my role, both used data that exists, created data when it does not exist. And I’ve sometimes worked with data that was never supposed to see the light of data.

Evan Hensleigh, Visual Data Journalist, The Economist

I was originally a designer and therefore came into information visualisation and data journalism by a fairly convoluted route. At the Economist we’ve been running since the 1890s and we like to say that we’ve been doing data science since we started. We were founded at the time of the Corn Laws in opposition to those proposals, and visualised the impact of those laws as part of that.

The way we now tend to use data is to illustrate a story we are already working on. For instance working on articles on migration in Europe, and looking at fortifications and border walls that have been built over the last 20 to 30 years lets you see the trends over time – really bringing to life the bigger story. It’s one thing to report current changes, but to see that in context is powerful.

Another way that we use data is to investigate changes – a colleague was looking at changes in ridership on the Tube, and the rise of the rush hour – and then use that to trigger new articles.

Rachel Schutt, Chief Data Scientist, Newscorp

I am not a journalist but I am the Chief Data Scientist at Newscorp, and I’m based in New York. My background is a PhD in statistics, and I used to work at Google in R&D and algorithms. And I became fascinated by data science so started teaching an introductory course at Columbia, and wrote a book on this topic. And what I now do at Newscorp is to use data as a strategic asset. So that’s about using data to generate value – around subscriptions, advertising etc. But we also have data journalism so I increasingly create opportunities for data scientists, engineers, journalists, and in many cases a designer so that they can build stories with data at the core.

We have both data scientists, but also data engineers  – so hybrid skills are around engineering, statistical analysis, etc. and sometimes individual’s skills cross those borders, sometimes it’s different people too. And we also have those working more in design and data visualisation. So, for instance, we are now getting data dumps – the Clinton emails, transcripts from Ferguson etc. – and we know those are coming so can build tools to explore those.

A quote I like is that data scientists should think like journalists (from DJ Patel) – in any industry. In Newscorp we also get to learn from journalists which is very exciting. But the idea is that you have to be investigative, be able to tell a story, to

Emily Bell says “all algorithms are editorial” – because value judgements are embedded in those algorithms, and you need to understand the initial decisions that go with that.

Jacqui Maher, Interactive Journalist, BBC News Labs
I was previously at the NYT, mainly at the Interactive News desk in the newsroom. An area crossing news, visualisation, data etc. – so much of what has already been said. And I would absolutely agree with Rachel about the big data dumps and looking for the story – the last dump of emails I had to work with were from Sarah Palin for instance.

At the BBC my work lately has been on a concept called “Structured Journalism” – so when we report on a story we put together all these different entities in a very unstructured set of data as audio, video etc. Many data scientists will try to extract that structure back out of that corpus… So we are looking at how we might retain the structure that is in a journalist’s head, as they are writing the story. So digital tools that will help journalists during the investigative process. And ways to retain connections, structures etc. And then what can we do with that… What can make it more relevant to readers/viewers – context pieces, ways of adding context in a video (a tough challenge).

If you look at work going on elsewhere, for instance at the Washington Post working on IS, are looking at how to similarly add context, how they can leverage previous reporting without having to do that from scratch.


Q1 – FOD) At a time when we have to cut staff in media, in newspapers in particular, how do we justify investing in data science, or how do we use data science.

A1 – EH) Many of the people I know came out of design backgrounds. You can get pretty far just using available tools. There are a lot of useful tools out there that can help your work.

A1 – CB) I think this stuff is just journalism, and these are just another sets of tools. But there is a misunderstanding that you don’t press a button and get a story. You have to understand that it takes time,  there’s a reason that it is called precision journalism. And sometimes the issue is that the data is just not available.

A1 – RS) Part of the challenge is about traditional academic training and what is and isn’t included here.. But there are more academic programmes on data journalism. It’s a skillset issue. I’m not sure that, on a pay basis, whether data journalists should get paid more than other journalists…

A1 – FOD) I have to say in many newsrooms journalists are not that numerate. Give them statistics, even percentages and that can be a challenge. It’s almost a badge of honour as wordsmiths…

A1 – JM) I think most newsrooms have an issue of silos. You also touched on the whole “math is hard” thing. But to do data journalism you don’t need to be a data scientist. They don’t have to be an expert on maths, stats, visualisation etc. At my former employer I worked with Mike – who you’ve already heard from – who could enable me to cross that barrier. I didn’t need to understand the algorithms, but I had that support. You do see more journalist/designer/data scientists working together. I think eventually we’ll see all of those people as journalists though as you are just trying to tell the story using the available tools.

Q2) I wanted to ask about the ethics of data journalism. Do you think that to do data journalism there is a developing field of ethics in data journalism?

A1 – JM) I think that’s a really good question in journalism… But I don’t think that’s specific to data journalism. When I was working at NYT we were working on the Wikileaks data dumps, and there were huge ethical issues there and around the information that was included there in terms of names, in terms of risk. And in the end the methods you might take – whether blocking part of a document out – the technology mignt vary but the ethical issues are the same.

Q2 follow up FOD) And how were those ethical issues worked out?

A1 – JM) Having a good editor is also essential.

A1 – CB) When I was at Thomson Reuters I was involved in running womens rights surveys to collate data and when you do that you need to apply research ethics, with advice from those appropriately positioned to do that.

A1 – RS) There is an issue that traditionally journalists are trained in ethics but data scientists are not trained in ethics. We have policies in terms of data privacy… But much more to do. And it comes down to the person who is building a data model – ad you have to be aware of the possible impact and implications of that model. And risks also of things like the Filter Bubble (Pariser 2011).

Q3 – JO) One thing that came through listening to ? and Jackie, it’s become clear that journalism is a core part of journalism… You can’t get the story without the data. So, is there a competitive advantage to being able to extract that meaning from the data – is there a data science arms race here?

A3 – RS) I certainly look out to NYT and other papers I admire what they do, but of course the reality is messier than the final product… But there is some of this…

A3 – JM) I think that if you don’t engage with data then you aren’t keeping up with the field, you are doing yourself a professional misservice.

A3 – EH) There is a need to keep up. We are a relatively large group, but nothing like the scale of NYT… So we need to find ways to tell stories that they won’t tell, or to have a real sense of what an Economist data story looks like. Our team is about 12 or 14, that’s a pretty good side.

A3 – RS) Across all of our businesses there are 100s in data science roles, of whom only a dozen or so are on data journalism side.

A3 – JM) At the BBC there are about 40 or 50 people on the visual journalism team. But there are many more in data science in other roles, people at the World Service. But we have maybe a dozen people in the lab at any given moment.

Q4) I was struck by the comment about legibility, and a little bit related to transparancy in data. Data is already telling a story, there is an editorial dimension, and that is added to in the presentation of the data… And I wonder how you can do that to improve transparancy.

A4 – JM) There are many ways to do that… To show your process, to share your data (if appropriate). Many share code on GitHub. And there is a question there though – if someone finds something in the data set, what’s the feedback loop.

A4 – CB) In the past where I’ve worked we’ve shared a document on the step by step process used. I’m not a fan of sharing on GitHub, I think you need to hand hold the reader through the data story etc.

Q5) Given that journalims is about holding companies to account… In a world where, e.g. Google, are the new power brokers, who will hold them to account. I think data journalism needs a merge between journalism, data science, and designers… Sometimes that can be in one person… And what do you think about journalism playing a role in holding new power brokers to account.

A5 – EH) There is a lot of potential. These companies publish a lot of data and/or make their data available. There was some great work on 5:38 about Uber, based on a Freedom of Information request to essentially fact check Uber’s own statistics and reporting of activities.

Q6) Over the years we’ve (Robert Gordan Univerity) worked with journalists from various organisations. I’ve noticed that there is an issue, not yet raised, that journalists are always looking for a particular angle in data as they work with it… It can be hard to get an understanding from the data, rather than using the data to reinforce bias etc.

A6 – RS) If there is an issue of taking a data dump from e.g. Twitter to find a story… Well dealing with that bias does come back to training. But yes, there is a risk of journalists getting excited, wanting to tell a novel story, without being checked with colleagues, correcting analysis.

A6 – CB) I’ve certainly had colleagues wanting data to substantiate the story, but it should be the other way around…

Q6) If you, for example, take the Scottish Referendum and the General Election and you see journalists so used to watching their dashboard and getting real time feedback, they use them for the stories rather than doing any real statistical analysis.

A6 – CB) That’s part of the usefulness of reason for reading different papers and different reporters covering a topic – and you are expected to have an angle as a journalist.

A6 – EH) There’s nothing wrong with an angle or a hunch but you also need to use the expertise of colleagues and experts to check your own work and biases.

A6 – RS) There is a lot more to understand how the data has come about, and people often use the data set as a ground truth and that needs more thinking about. It’s somewhat taught in schools, but not enough.

A6 – JM) That makes me think of a data set called gdump(?), which captures media reporting and enables event detection etc. I’ve seen stories of a journalist looking at that data as a canonical source for all that has happened – and that’s a misunderstanding of how that data set has been collected. It’s close to a canonical source for reporting but that is different. So you certainly need to understand how the data has come about.

Comment – FOD) So, you are saying that we can think we are in the business of reporting fact rather than opinion but it isn’t that simple at all.

Q7) We have data science, is there scope for story science? A science and engineering of generating stories…

A7 – CB) I think we need a teamwork sort of approach to story telling… With coders, with analysts looking for the story… The reporters doing field reporting, and the data vis people making it all attractive and sexy. That’s an ideal scenario…

A7 – RS) There are companies doing automatic story generation – like Narrative Science etc. already, e.g. on Little League matches…

Q7 – comment) Is that good?

A7 – RS) Not necessarily… But it is happening…

A7 – JM) Maybe not, but it enables story telling at scale, and maybe that has some usefulness really.

Q8/Comment) There was a question about the ethics and the comment that nothing needed there, and the comment about legibility. And I think there is conflict there about

Statistical databases  – infer missing data from the data you have, to make valid inferences but could shock people because they are not actually in the data (e.g. salary prediction). This reminded me of issues such as source protection where you may not explicitly identify the source but that source could be inferred. So you need a complex understanding of statistics to understand that risk, and to do that practice appropriately.

A8 – CB) You do need to engage in social sciences, and to properly understand what you doing in terms of your statistical analysis, your P values etc. There is more training taking place but still more to do.

Q9 – FOD) I wanted to end by coming back to Howard’s introduction. How could ATI and Edinburgh help journalism?

A9 – JM) I think there are huge opportunities to help journalists make sense of large data sets. Whether that is tools for reporting or analysis. There is one, called Detector.io that lets you map reporting for instance that is shutting down and I don’t know why. There are some real opportunities for new tools.

A9 – RS) I think there are areas in terms of curriculum, on design, ethics, privacy, bias… Softer areas not always emphasised in conventional academic programmes but are at least as important as scientific and engineering sides.

A9 – EH) I think generating data from areas where we don’t have it. At the economist we look at China, Asia, Africa where data is either deliberately obscured or they don’t have the infrastructure to collect it. So tools to generate that would be brilliant.

A9 – CB) Understand what you are doing; push for data being available; and ask us and push is to be accountable, and it will open up…

Q10) What about the readers. You’ve been saying the journalists have to understand their stats… But what about the readers who know how to understand the difference between reading the Daily Mail and the Independent, say, but don’t have the data literacy to understand the data visualisation etc.

A10 – JM) It’s a data literacy problem in general…

A10 – EH) Data scientists have the skills to find the information and raise awareness

A10 – CB) I do see more analytical reporting in the US than in Europe. But data isn’t there to obscure anything. But you have to explain what you have done in clear language.

Comment – FOD) It was once the case that data was scarce, and reporting was very much on the ground and on foot. But we are no longer hunter gatherers in the same way… Data is abundant and we have to know how we can understand, process, and find the stories from that data. We don’t have clear ethical codes yet. And we need to have a better understanding of what is being produced. And most of the media most people consume is the local media – city and regional papers – and they can’t yet afford to get into data journalism in a big ways. Relevance is a really important quality. So my personal challenge to the ATI is: how do we make data journalism pay?

And we are back from lunch and some excellent demos… 

Ericsson, Broadcast & Media Services – Keynote from Steve Plunkett, CTO

Jon Oberlander is introducing Steve Plunkett who has a rich history of work in the media. 

I’m going to talk about data and audience research, and trends in audience data. We collect and aggregate and analyse lots of data and where many of the opportunities are…

24,000 R&D very much focused on telecoms. But within R&D there is a group of broadcast and media services, and I joined as part of a buy out of Red Bee Media. One part of these services are a metadata team who create synposes for EPGs across Europe (2700 channels). We are also the biggest subtitlers in Europe. And we also do media management – with many hundreds of thousands of hours of audio and tv and that’s also an asset we can analyse (the inventory as well as the programme). And we operate TV channels – all BBC, C4, C5, UKTV, France, Netherlands, and in US and our scheduling work is also a source of data. And we also run recommendation engines embedded in TV guides and systems.

Now, before I tak about the trends I want to talk about the audience. Part of the challenge is understanding who the audience is… And audiences change and the rate of change is accellerating. So I’ll show some trends in self-reported data from audiences on what they are watching. Before that a quote from Reed Hastings, Amazon: “TV had a great 50 year run, but now it’s time is over”. TV is still where most impact and viewing hours are but there are real changes now.

So, the Ericsson ConsumerLab Annual Report – participants across the world – 1000 consumers across 20 countries. In home interview based understanding their viewing context, what they are watching and what preferences are. Of course self reported behaviour isn’t the same as real data but we can compare and understand that.

So, the role of services varies between generations. The go-to services are very different between older generations and younger generation. For older viewers it’s linear TV, then DVR, then Play/catch-ip, then YouTube etc. For Younger Generations SVOD is top viewing services – that’s things like Netflix, Amazon Prime etc.

In terms of daily media habits we see again a real difference between use of scheduled linear TV vs. streamed and recorded TV. Younger people again much more likely to use streaming, older using scheduled much more. And we are seeing YouTube growing in importance – generally viewing over 3 hrs per day has increased hugely in the last 4 years, and it is used as a go to space to learn new things (e.g. how to fix the dishwasher).

In terms of news the importance of broadcast news increases with age – still much more important to older consumers. And programming wise 45% of streamed on demand viewing of long content is TV series. Many watch box sets for instance. As broadcasters we have to respect that pattern of use, not all are linear scheduled viewers. And you see this in trends of tweeting and peaks of tweaks of how quickly a newly released online series has been completed.

There is also a shift from fixed to mobile devices. TV Screens and desktop PCs have seen a reduction in viewing hours and use compared to mobile, tablet and laptop use. That’s a trend overtime. And that’s again following generational lines… Younger people more likely to use mobile. Now again, this is self-reported and can vary between countries. So in our broadcast planning understanding content – length of content, degree of investment in High Def etc. – should be informed by those changes. On mobile user generated content – including YouTube but also things like Periscope – still dominant.

In terms of discovering and remembering content it is still the case that friends, reviews, trailers etc. matter. But recommendation engines are important and viewers are satisfied with them. For last two years we’ve asked study group about those recommedation engines: their accuracy; their uncanniness and data and privacy concerns; and an issue of shared devices. So still much more to be done. The scale of Netflix’ library is such that recommendations are essential to help users navigate.

So, that was self-reported. What about data we create and collect?

We have subtitle coverage, often doing the blanket subtitle coverage for broadcasters. We used to use transcribers and transcription machines. We invested in respeaking technologies. And that’s what we use now and those respeakers clean up grammar etc and the technology is trained for their voice. That process of logging subtitles includes very specific timestamps… That gives us rich new data, and also creates a transcript that can sit alongside the subtitles and programme. But it can take 6-7 hours to do subtitling as a whole process, including colour coding speakers etc. And we are looking to see what else subtitlers could add – mood perhaps? etc. as part of this process.

We have a database of about 8.5 million records that include our programme summaries, images on an episode level, etc. And we are working on the system we use to manage this, to improve it.

I mentioned Media Management and we do things like automated transcription – it wouldn’t be good enough for use in broadcast but

Media RIM – 60 telecom operators use it for IPTV and collects very granular data from TV viewing – all collected with consent. Similar for OTT. And similar platforms for EPG. Search queries. Recommendations and whether acted upon. And we also have mobile network data – to understand drop off rates, what’s viewed for a particular item etc.

We are in the middle of the broadcaster and the audience, so our work feeds into broadcasters work. For insight like segmentation, commissioning, marketing, scheduling, sales… For personalisation – content recommendations, personalised channels that are unique to you, targeted advertising, search, content navigation, contextual awareness. One of the worst feedback comments we see is about delivery quality so when it comes to delivery quality we apply our data to network optimisation etc.

In terms of the challenges we face they include: consumer choice; data volumes – and growing fast so finding value matters; data diversity – very different in structure and form so complex task; expertise – there is a lack of skills embedded in these businesses to understand our data; timeliness – personal channels need fast decisions etc. real time processing is a challenge; privacy – one of the biggest ones here, and the industry needs to know how to do that and our feedback on recommendation engines is such that we need to explain where data is coming from, to make that trusted.

In terms of opportunities: we are seeing evolving technology; cloud resources are changing this fast; investment – huge in this area at the moment; consumer appetite for this stuff; and we are in an innovation white space right now – we are in early days…

And finally… An experimental application. We took Made in Chelsea and added a graph on the viewing plan that shows tweets and peaks… And provide as a navigation system based on tweets shared. And on the right hand side navigation by character and follow their journey. We created some semantic visualisation tools for e.g. happy, sad, funny moments. Navigation that focuses on the viewers interest.

Audience Engagement Panel Session – Jon Oberlander (Moderator), University of Edinburgh

Jon is introducing his own interest in data science, in design informatics, and linguistics and data science, with a particular mention for LitLong, similarly a colleague in Politics is analysing the public interest in the UK and EU, but also reaction to political messages. And finally on the Harmonium project at the Edinburgh International Festival – using music and data on musical performers to create a new music and visualisation project, with 20k in person audience and researchers monitoring and researching that audience on the night too…

Pedro Cosa – Data Insights and Analytics Lead, Channel 4

I’m here to talk a bit about the story of Channel 4 and data. Channel 4 is a real pioneer in using data in the UK, and in Europe. You’ve all heard Steve’s presentation on changing trends – and these are very relevant for Channel 4 as we are a public service broadcasting but also because our audience is particularly young and affluent. They are changing their habits quickly and that matters from an audience and also an advertising issue for us. Senior management was really pushing for change in the channel. Our CEO has said publicly that data is the new oil of the TV industry and he has invested in data insights for Channel 4. The challenge is to capture as much data as possible, and feed that back to the business. So we used registration data from All4 (was 4OD) and to use that site you have to register. We have 13 million people registered that way and so that’s already capturing details on half our target audience in the UK. And that moves us from one to many, to one to one. And we can use that for targeted advertising, and that comes with a premium paid for advertisers, and to really personalise the experience. So that’s what we are doing at the moment.

Hew Bruce-Gardyne – Chief Technology Officer, TV Squared

We are a small company working on data analytics for use by advertisers, that in turn feed back into content. My personal background is as an engineer, the big data of that side of number crunching is where I come from. From where I am sitting audience engagement is a really interesting problem… If you see a really big engaging programme that seems to kill the advertising so replays, catch up and seeing opportunities there is, for us, gold dust.

Paul Gilooly – Director of Emerging Products, MTG (Modern Times Group)

MTG are a Scandinavian pan-European broadcaster, we have the main sports and Hollywood rights as well as major free to air channels in Scandinavian countries. And we run a thing called ViPlay which is an SVOD service like (and predating) Netflix. Nordics are interest as we have high speed internet, affluent viewers, markets where Apple TV is significant, disproportionately compared to the rest of Europe. So when I think of TV I think of subscribing audience, and Pay TV. And my concern is churn – and a amore engaged customer is more likely to stick around. So any way to increase engagement is of interest, and data is a key part of that. Just as Channel 4 are looking at authentication as a data starting point, so are we. And we also want to encourage behaviours like recommendations of products and sharing. And some behaviours to discourage. And data is also the tool to help you understand behaviours you want to discourage.

For us we want to increase transactions with viewers, to think more like a merchandiser, to improve personalisation… So back to the role of data – it is a way to give us a competitive advantage over competitors, can drive business models for different types of consumer. It’s a way to understand user experience, quality of user experience, and the building of personalised experiences. And the big challenge for me is that in the Nordics we compete with Netflix, with HBO (has direct to air offering there). But we are also competing with Microsoft, Google, etc. We are up against a whole new range of competitors who really understand data, and what you can do with data.

Steve Plunkett – CTO, Broadcast & Media Services, Ericsson

No intro… as we’ve just heard from you… 


Q1 – JO) Why are recommendations in this sector so poor compared to e.g. Amazon?

A1 – SP) The problem is different. Amazon has this huge inventory, and collective recommendation works well. Our content is very different. We have large content libraries, adn collective recommendation works differntly. We used to have human curators programming content, they introduced serendipity nad recommendation engines are less good at that. We’ve just embarked on a 12 month project with three broadcasters  to look at this. There is loads of research on public top 10s. One of the big issues is that if you get a bad recommendation it’s hard to say “I don’t like this” or “not now”, they just sit there and the feedback is poor… So important to solve. Netflix invested a great deal of money in recommendations. They invested $1 million for a recommender that would beat their own by 10% and that took a long time. Data science is aligned with that of course.

A1 – PC) Recommendations are core for us too. But TV recommendations are so much more complex than retail… You need to look at data analyse… You have to promote cleverly, to encourage discovery, to find new topics or areas of debate, things you want to surface in a relevant way. It’s an area C4 and also BBC looking to develop.

A1 – HBG) There is a real difference between retail and broadcast – about what you do but also about the range of content available… So even if you take a recommendation, it may not reflect true interest and buy in to a product. Adds a layer of complexity and cloudiness…

A1 – SP) Tracking recommendations in a multi device, multi platform space is a real challenge… Often a one way exchange. Closing loop between recommendation and action is hard…

Q2 – JO) Of course you could ask active questions… Or could be mining other streams… How noisy is that, how useful is that? Does it bridge a gap.

A2 – SP) TV has really taken off on Twitter, but there is disproportionate noise based on a particular audience and demographic. That’s a useful tool though… You can track engagement with a show, at a point of time within a show… But not neccassarily recommendations of that viewer at that time… But one of many data sets to use…

Q3 – JO) Are users engaging with your systems aware of how you use their data, are they comfortable with it?

A3 – PC) C4 we have made a clear D-Word promise – with a great video from Alan Carr that explains that data. You can understand how it is use, can delete your own data, can change your settings, and if you don’t use the platform for 2 years then we delete your data. Very clear way to tell the user that you are in control.

A3 – SP) We had a comment from someone in a study group who said they had been categorised by a big platform as a fan of 1980s supernatural horror and didn’t want to be categorised in that way, or for others to see this. So a real interest in transparancy there.

A3 – PG) We aren’t as far ahead as Channel 4, they are leading the way on data and data privacy.

Q4 – JO) Who is leading the way here?

A4 – PG) I think David Abrahms (C4) needs great credit here, CEO understands importance of data science and it’s role in the core business model. And that competitors for revenue are Facebook, Google and so forth.

Q5 – JO) So, trend is to video on demand… Is it also people watching more?

A5 – SP) It has increased but much more fragmented across broadcast, SVOD, UGC etc. and every type of media has to define its space. So YouTube etc. is eating into scheduled programming. For my 9 year old child the streaming video, YouTube etc. is her television. We are competing with a different set of producers.

A5 – PG) The issue isn’t that linear channels do not allow you to collect data. If you have to login to access content (i.e. Pay TV) then you can track all of that sort of data. So DR1, Danish TV channel and producer of The Killing etc. is recording a huge drop in linear viewing by young people, but linear still has a role for live events, sport etc.

A5 – HBG) We do see trends that are changing… Bingeathons are happening and that indicates not a shortness of attention but a genuine change. Watching a full box set is the very best audience engagement. But if you are at a kitchen table, on a device, that’s not what you’ll be watching… It will be short videos, YouTube etc.

To come back to the privacy piece I was at a conference talking about the push to ID cards and the large move to restrict what people can know about us… We may lose some of the benefits of what can be done. And on some data – e.g. Medical Informatics – there is real value that can be extracted there. We know that Google knows all about us… But if our TV knows all about us that’s somehow culturally different.

Q6) Privacy is very high, especially at younger age ranges, so what analysis have you done on that?

A6) Not a huge amount on that, but this is self-reported. But we know piracy drops down where catch up and longer catch up windows are available – if content can be viewed legitimately and it seems that it is when available.

Q6 – follow up) Piracy seems essentially like product failure, and how do you win back your viewers and consumers.

A6 – HBG) A while back I saw a YouTube clip of the user experience of pirated film versus DVD… In that case the pirated film was easier, versus the trailers, reminders not to pirate etc. on the DVD. That’s your product problem. But as we move to subscription channels etc. When you make it easy, that’s a lot better. If you try to put barriers up, people try to find a way around it….

A6 – PG) Sweden has a large piracy issue. The way you compete is to deliver a great product and user experience and couple that with content unique to your channel. So for instance premium sports for example – so pirate can’t meet all needs of consumer. But also be realistic with price point.

A6 – HBG) There is a subtle difference between what you consume – e.g. film versus TV. But from music we know that pirating in the music industry is not a threat – that those are also purchasing consumers. And when content creators work with that, and allow some of that to happen, that creates engagement that helps. Most successful brand owners let others play with their brand.

A6 – PC) Piracy is an issue… But we even use piracy data sources for data analysis. Using bit torrent to understand popularity of shows in other places, to predict how popular they will be in the UK.

Comment – JO) So, pirates are data producers?

A6 – PC) Yes, and for scheduling too.

Q7) How are you dealing with cross channel or cross platform data – to work with Google or Amazon say. I don’t see much of that with linear TV. Maybe a bit with SVOD. How are mainstream broadcasters challenging that?

A7 – PC) Cross platform can mean different things. It may be Video On Demand as well as broadcast on their TV. We can’t assume they are different, and should look to understand what the connections are there… We are so conscious and cautious of using third party data… But we can do some content matching – e.g. advertiser customer base, and much more personalised. A real link between publisher and advertiser.

Q7 follow up) Would customer know that is taking place?

A7 – PC) It is an option at sign up. Many say “yes” to that question.

A7 – PG) We still have a lot to do to track the consumer across platforms, so a viewer can pick up consuming content from one platform to another. This technology is pretty immature, an issue with recommendation engines too.

A7 – SP) We do have relationships with third party data companies that augment what we collect – different from what a broadcaster would do. For this it tends to be non identifiable… BUt you have to trust the analyst to have combined data appropriately. You have to understand their method and process, but usually they have to infer from data anyway as usually don’t have source.

Q8 – JO) We were talking about unreliable technologies and opportunities… So, where do you see wearable technologies perhaps?

A8 – SP) We did some work using facial recognition to understand the usefulness of recommendations. That was interesting but deploying that comes with a lot of privacy issues. And devices etc. also would raise those issues.

A8 – PC) We aren’t looking at that sort of data… But data like weather matters for this industry, local events, traffic information – as context for consumption etc. That is all being considered as context for analysis. But we also share our data science with creative colleagues – that, say, technology will tell you when content is performed/shown. There is a subjective human aspect that they want to see, to dissect elements of content so machine can really learn… So is there sex involved… Who is the director, who is the actress… So many things you can put in the system to find this stuff out. Forecasting really is important in this industry.

A8 – HBG) The human element is interesting. Serendipity is interesting. From neuroscientist point of view I always worry about the act of measure… We see all the time that you can see the same audience, same demographic, watching the same content and reacting totally differently at different times of day etc. And live vs catch up say. My fear, and a great challenge, is how to get a neuroscience experiment valid in that context.

Q9 – from me) What happens if the data is not there in terms of content, or recommendation engines – if the data you have tells you there is a need for something you don’t currently have available. Are you using data science to inform production or content creation, or for advertising?

A9 – SP) The research we are currently doing is looking at ways to get much better data from viewers – trying things like a Tinder-like playful interface to really get a better understanding of what users want. But we also, whenever there are searches etc. capture not only what is available on that platform but also what is in demand but not yet available, and also provding details of that search iss to commissioning teams to inform what they do.

A9 – PG) There are some interesting questions about what is most valuable… So. you see Amazon Prime deciding on vale of Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear team… And i think you will increasingly see purchasing based on data. And when it comesto commissioning we are looking to understand gaps in our portfolio.

A9 – PC) We are definitely interested in that. VOD is a proactive thing… YOu choose as a view… So we have an idea of micro genres that are specific to you… So we have say, Sex/Pervert corner; we have teenage american comedy; etc. and you can see how micro genres are panning out… And you can then telling commissioners what is happening on a video on demand side… BUt that’s different to commissioning for TV, and convincing that

A9 – HBG) I think that you’ve asked the single greatest question at a data science conference: what do you do if the data is not there. And sometimes you have to take a big leap to do something you can’t predict it… And that happens when you have to go beyond the possibilities of the data, and just get out there and do it.

A9 – SP) The concern is such that the data may start to reduce those leaps and big risks, and that could be a concern.

JO) And that’s a great point to finish on: that no matter how goos the data science we have to look beyond the data.

And after a break we are back… 

BBC – Keynote from Michael Satterthwaite, Senior Product Manager

I am senior project manager on a project called BBC Rewind. We have three projects looking at opportunities, especially around speech to text, from BBC Monitoring, BBC Rewind, and BBC News Labs. BBC Rewind is about maximising value from the BBC archive. But what does “value” mean? Well it can be about money, but I’m much more interested in the other options around value… Can we tell stories, can we use our content to improve people’s health… These are high level aims but we are working with the NHS, Dementia organisations, and running a hack event in Glasgow later this month with NHS, Dementia UK, Dementia Scotland etc. We are wondering if there is any way that we can make someone’s life better…

So, how valued is the BBC’s Archive? I’m told it’s immeasurable but what does that mean? We have content in a range of physical locations some managed by us, some by partners. But is that all valuable if it’s just locked away? What we’ve decided to do to ensure we do get value, is to see how we can extract that value.

So, my young niece, before she was 2 she’d worked out how to get into her mum’s ipad… And her dad works a lot in China, and has an iphone. In an important meeting he’d gotten loads of alerts… Turns out she’d worked out how to take photos of the ceiling and send them to him… How does this relate? Well my brother in law didn’t delete those pictures… And how many of us do delete our photos? [quick poll of the room: very very few delete/curate their digital images]

Storage has gotten so cheap that we have no need to delete. But at the BBC we used to record over content because of the costs of maintaining that content. That reflected the high price of storage – the episodes of Doctor Who taped over to use for other things. That’s a decision for an editor. But the price of storage has dropped so far that we can, in theory, keep everything from programmes to script and script notes, transcripts etc. Thats hard to look through now. Traditionally the solution is humans generating metadata about the content. But as we are now cash strapped and there is so much content… is that sustainable?

So, what about machines – and here’s my Early Learning Centre bit on Machine Learning… It involves a lot of pictures of pandas and a very confused room… to demonstrate a Panda and Not a Panda. When I do this presentation to colleagues in production they see shiny demos of software but don’t understand what the realistic expectations of that machine are. Humans are great at new things and intelligence, new problems and things like that…

Now part two of the demo… some complex maths… Computers are great at scale, at big problems. There is an Alan Turing quote here that seems pertinent, about it not being machine or humans, its finding ways for both to work together. And that means thinking about what machines are good at? Things like initial classification, scale, etc. What are humans good at? Things like classifying the most emotional moment in a talk. And we also need to think about how best we can use machines to complement humans.

But we also need to think about how good is good enough? If you are doing transcripts of an hour long programme, you want 100% or close enough and finish with humans. But if finding a moment in a piece of spoken word, you need to find the appropriate words for that search. That means your transcript might be very iffy but as long as it’s good enough to find those key entities. We can spend loads of time and money getting something perfect, when there is much more value in getting work to a level of good enough to do something useful and productive.

This brings me to BBC Rewind. The goal of this project is to maximise the value from the BBC Archives. We already have a lot of digitised content for lots of reasons – often to do with tape formats dying out and the need to build new proxies. And we are doing more digitising of selected parts of the BBC Archives. And we are using a mixture of innovative human and computer approaches to enrichment. And looking at new ways to use archives in our storytelling of audiences.

One idea we’ve tried is BBC Your Story which creates a biography based on your own life story, through BBC Archive content. It is incredibly successful as a prototype but we are looking at how we can put that into production, and make that more personalised.

We’ve also done some work on Timeline, and we wanted to try out semantic connections etc. but we don’t have all our content marked up as we would need so we did some hand mark up to try the idea out. My vision is that we want to reach a time when we can search for:

“Vladimir Putin unhappily shaking hands with Western Leaders in the rain at the G8, whilst expressing his happiness.” 

So we could break that into many parts requiring lots of complex mark up of content to locate suitable content.

At the moment BBC Rewind includes speech-to-text in English based on the Kaldi toolset – it’s maybe 45% accurate off the shelf – but that’s 45% more of the words than you had before, and a confidence value; Speech-to-text in the Welsh language; Voice identification; speaker segmentation – Speech recognition that identify speakers is nice, but we don’t need that just yet. And even if we did we don’t need that person to be named (a human can tag that easily) and then train algorithms off that; face recognition – is good but hard to scale, we’ve been doing some work with Oxford University in that area. And we get to context…. Brian Cox versus (Dr) Brian Cox can be disentangled with some basic contextual information.

Finally, we have an exciting announcement. We have BBC Monitoring – a great example of how we can use machines to help human beings in their monitoring media. So we will be creating tools to enable monitoring of media. In this project BBC are partnering with University of Edinburgh, UCL, Deutsche Welle and others in an EU funded Horizon 2020 project called SUMMA – this project has four workstreams and we are keen to make new partnerships

The BBC now runs tech hack events which resulted in new collaborations – including SUMMA – more hack events coming soon so contact Susanne Weber, Language Technology Producer in BBC News Labs. The first SUMMA hack event, will be end of next year and will focus on the automated monitoring of multi-media sources: audio-visual, text etc.

Lets try stuff faster and work out what works – and what doesn’t – more quickly!

Unlocking Value from Media Panel Session – Moderator: Simon King, University of Edinburgh

Our panel is…

Michael Satterthwaite – Senior Product Manager, BBC
Adam Farqhuar – Head of Digital Scholarship, British Library
Gary Kazantsev R&D Machine Learning Group, Bloomberg
Richard Callison – brightsolid (DC Thomson and Scottish Power joint initiative)

Q1 – SK) Lets start with that question of what value might be, if not financial?

A1 – GK) Market transparancy, business information – there are quantitative measures for some of these things. But a very hard problem in general.

A1 – AF) We do a lot of work on value in the UK, and economic impact, but we also did some work a few years back sharing digitised resources onto Flickr and that generated huge excitement and interest. That’s a great example of where you can create valuge by being open, rather than monetising early on.

A1 – MS) Understanding value is really interesting. Getty uses search to aid discovery and they have learned that you can use search to do that, to use the data you are capturing to ensure users access what they want and want to buy quickly. For us, with limited resources, the best way to understand value and impact is to try things out a bit, to see what works and what happens.

A1 – AF) Putting stuff out there without much metadata can give you some really great crowd data. With a million images we shared, our crowd identified maps from those materials. And that work was followed up with georeferencing those maps on the globe. So, even if you think there couldn’t possibly be enough of a community interested in doing this stuff, you can find that there really is that interest and who want to help…

A1 – MS) And you can use that to prioritise what you do next, what you digitise next, etc.

Q2 – SK) Which of the various formats of media are most difficult to do?

A2 – MS) Images are relatively straight forward but video is essentially 25 pictures per second… That’s a lot of content… That means sampling content else we’d crash even Amazon with the scale of work we have. And that sampling allows you to understand time, an aspect that makes video so tricky.

Q3 – SK) Is there a big difference between archive and current data…

A3 – RC) For me the value of content is often about extracting value from very local context, And it leads back to several things said earlier, about perhaps taking a leap of faith into areas the data doesn’t show, and which could be useful in the future… So we’ve done hand written data which was the only Census that was all handwritten – 32m rows of records on England and Wales and had to translate that to text… We just went offshore, the BPO outsourced… That was just a commercial project as we knew there was historical and genealogical interest… But not so many data sets like that around.

But working with the British Library we’ve done digitisation of newspapers both from originals and microfilm. OCR isn’t perfect but it gets it out there… The increase we have in multimedia online trigged by broadcast – Who Do You Think You Are? triggers huge interest in these services and we were in the right place at the right time to make that work.

A3 – GK) We are in an interesting position as Bloomberg creates it’s own data but we also ingest more than 1 million news documents in 30 languages from 120k sources. The Bloomberg newsroom started in 1990 and they had the foresight to collect clean clear digital data from the beginning of our work. That’s great for accessing, but extracting data is different… For some issues like semantic mark up and entity disambiguation… And huge issues of point in time correctness – named entities changing meanings over time. And unless someone encoded that into the information, then it is very difficult to disambiguate. And the value of this data, it’s role in trading etc., needs to be reliable.

I kind of don’t recognise Mike’s comments on video as there is object recognition available as an option… But I think we get more value out of text than most people, and we get real value from audience. Transcription and beyond… Entity recognition, dialogue structure, event extraction… A fairly long NLP pipeline there…

A3 – AF) The description of what you want to identify, those are very similar desires to those we want in the hunanities, and has additional benefit to journalists too. Is text search enough? Not really. They are an interesting way in… But text isn’t the best way to understand either historical images in a range of books, but also isn’t that useful in the context of the UK Web Archive and images in that. Much of what may be of interest is not the text, but perhaps better reduced to a series of shapes etc.

Q4) There has been a mention of crowd sourcing already and I was wondering about that experience, what worked and did not work, and thinking back to Mike’s presentation about what might work better?

A4 – AF) We found that smaller batches worked better… People love to see progress, like to have a sense of accomplishment. We found rewards were nice – we offered lunch with the head of maps at the British Library and that was important. Also mix it up – so not always the same super hard problems all the time

A4 – MS) I was going to give the BL example of your games machine… A mix of crowdsourcing and gamification.

A4 – AF) It’s very experimental but, as mentioned in the earlier panel session about the Tinder-like app. So we’ve worked with Adam Crimble to build an arcade game to do image classification and we are interested to see if people will use their time differently with this device. Will they classify images, help us build up our training sets. But the idea is that it’s engagement away from desktop or laptops…

A4 – RC) We have tried crowdsourcing for corrections. Our services tend to be subscriptions and Pay as You Go. But people still see value in contributing. And you can incentivise that stuff. And you see examples across the world where centrally or government websites are using crowd sourcing for transcription.

A4 – GK) You could argue that we were innovators in crowd sourcing at Bloomsberg, through blogs etc. And through tagging of entities. What we have learned from crowdsourcing is that it isn’t good for everything. But hard when specialist knowledge is needed, or specific languages needed – hard to get people to tag in Japanese. We aren’t opposed to paying for contribution but you have to set it up effectively. We found you have to define tasks very specifically for instance.

Q5) Talking about transposing to text implies that that is really possible. If we can’t do image descriptions effectively with text then what else should we be doing… I was wondering what the panel thought in terms of modalities of data…

A5 – MS) Whatever we do to mark up content is only as good as our current tools, understanding, modalities. And we’d want to go back and mark it up differently. In Google you can search for an image with an image… It’s changed over time… Now it uses text on the page to gather context and present that as well as the image back to you… If you can store a fingerprint to compare to others… We are doing visual searches. searches that are not text based. Some of these things already exist and they will get better and better. And the ability to scale and respond will be where the money is.

Q6) The discussion is quite interesting as at the moment it’s about value you define… But you could see the BBC as some form of commons… It could be useful for local value, for decision making, etc. where you are not in a positiion to declare the value… And there are lots of types of values out there, particularly in a global market.

A6 – MS) The BBC have various rules and regulations about publishing media, one of which is humans always have to check content and that is a real restriction on scale, particularly as we are looking to reduce staff. We ran an initiative called MCB with University of Edinburgh that opened some of the idea But ideally we would have every single minute of broadcast TV and radio into the public domain… But we don’t have the rights to everything… In many cases we acquired content before digital which means that you need to renegotiate content licenses etc. before digitising etc.

A6 – AF) Licenses can be an issue, privacy and data protection can be an issue. But we also have the challenge of how we meet user needs and actually listening to those needs. Someone we have to feel comfortable providing a lower level service, and may require higher skills (e.g. coding) to use… That can be something wonderful, not just super polished services required. But that has to be a service that is useful and valuable. But that’s super useful. And things will change in terms of what is useful, what is possible, etc.

A6 – GK) For us it’s an interesting question. Our users won’t say what they want, so you have to reverse engineer then do rapid product development… So we do what you (Micheal) suggest – building rapid prototypes to try ideas out. But this isn’t just a volatile time, but a volatile decade, more!

Q7) Can you tell us anything about how you manage the funnel for production, and how context is baked in in content creation process…

A7 – GK) There is a whole toolset for creating and encoding metadata, and doing so in a way meaningful to people beyond the organisation.. But I could talk about that for an hour so better to talk about this later I think.

Q8 – SK) How multilingual do you actually need to be in your work?

A8 – GK) We currently ingest content in 34 languages, but 10 languages cover the majority – but things changes quickly. Used to be 90% of content ingested was in English, now 70-80%. That’s a shift… We have not yet seen the case that suddenly lots of data that appears in a language where there was previously none. Instead we see particularly well resourced languages. Japanese is a large well resourced language and many resources in place, but very tricky from a computational perspective. And that can mean you still need humans.

A8 – MS) I probably have a different perspective on languages… We have BBC Research working in Africa with communities just going online for the first time. There are hundreds of new languages in Africa, but none will be a huge language… A few approaches… Can either translate directly, or you can convert into English, then translate from there. Some use speech to text – with Stephen Hawking type voice to provide continuity.

A8 – AF) Our collections cover all languages at all times… an increasingly difficult challenge.

Comment  – Susanne, BBC) I wanted to comment on speed of access to different language. All it takes is a catastrophe like an Ebola outbreak… Or disaster in Ukraine, or in Turkey… And you suddenly have the use case for ASR – machine translation. And you see audience expectations there.

A8 – MS) And you could put £1M into many languages and make little impact… But if you put that into one key language, e.g. Pashtu you might have more impact… We need to consider that in our funding and prioritisation.

A8 – GK) Yes, one disaster or event can make a big difference… If you provide the tools for them to access information and addt their own typing of their language… In the case of, say, Ebola you needed doctors speaking the language of the patient… But I’m not sure there is a technological solution. Similarly a case on the Amazon… Technology cannot always help here.

Q9) Do you have concerns that translations might be interpreted in different contexts and be misinterpreted? And the potential to get things massively wrong in another language. Do you have systems (human or machine) to deal with that?

A9 – AF) I won’t quite answer your question but a related thing… In some sense that’s the problem of data… Data becomes authoritative and unless we make it accessible, cite it, explain how it came about… Then it becomes authoritative. So we have large data collections being made available – BBC, BL etc. – and they can be examined in a huge set of new ways… They require different habits, tools, approaches than many of us are used to using, and different tools that e.g. academics in the humanities. And we need to emphasise the importance of proper citing, sharing, describing etc.

A9 – MS) I’d absolutely agree about transparency. Another of Susanne’s projects, Babel, is giving a rough translation that can then be amended. But an understanding of the context is so important.

A9 – GK) We had a query last week, in German, for something from Der Speigel… Got translated to The Mirror… But there is a news source called The Mirror… So translating makes sense… Except you need that outside data to be able to make sense of this stuff… It’s really an open question about where that should be and how you would do that.

Q10 – SK) So, a final question: What should ATI do in this space?

A10 – RC) For us we’d like to see what can be done on an SME level, and some product to go to market…

A10 – GK) I think that there are quite a lot of things that the ATI can do… I think there is a lot of stuff the industry won’t beat you too – the world is changing too rapidly for that. I think the University, the ATI should be better connected to industry – and I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

A10 – AF) As a national institution has a lot of data and content, but the question is how we can make sense of it… That large collection of data and content. The second issue is Skills – there is a lot to learn about data and working with large data collections. And thirdly there is convening… data and content, technologists, and researchers with questions to ask of the data and I think ATI can be really effective in bringing those people together.

A10 – MS) We were at an ideas hack day at the British Library a few weeks back and that was a great opportunity to get those people who create data, who research etc. and bringing it together. And I think ATI should be the holder of best practice to connect the holders of content, academia, etc. to work together to add value. For me trying to independently add value where it counts really makes a difference. For instance we are doing some Welsh speech to text work which is work I’m keen to share with others  in some way…

SK: Is there anything else that anyone here wants to add to the ATI to do list ?

Comment: I want to see us get so much better at multilingual support, the babelfish for all spoken languages ideally!


Closing Remarks – Steve Renals, Informatics, University of Edinburgh

I think today is something of a kick off for building relationships and we’ve seen some great opportunities today. And there will be more opportunity to do this over drinks as we finish for today.

And with that we are basically done, save for a request to hand in our badges in exchange for a mug – emblazoned with an Eduardo Paolazzi inspired by a biography of Alan Turing – in honour of Turing’s unusual attachment to his mug (which used to be chained to the radiator!).

Sep 282015

Today I am at the National Library of Scotland for a Clipper project workshop (info here). Clipper is a project to create a content creation tool for multimedia, with funding from Jisc.

After an introduction from Gill Hamilton Intro it’s over to John Casey who will be leading this through the day…

Introduction – John Casey

The tagline for the project is basically Clipper 1. 2. 3: Clip, Organise, Share.

We want your input early on in the process here but that means we will be trying out a prototype with you – so there will be bugs and issues but we are looking for your comments and feedback etc. The first outing of Clipper was from 2009, as a rapid development project which used Flash and Flex. Then it went to sleep for a while. Then we started working on it again when looking at Open Education in London

Trevor: I’m Trevor Collins – research fellow at the Open University. My background is very technical – computer engineering, HCI but all my research work is around the context of learning and teaching. And we have a common interest in HTML5 video. And my interest is working, with you, to ensure this will be helpful and useful.

Will: My name is Will and my background is engineering. Originally I worked with John on this project in Flash etc. but that’s really died out and, in the meantime HTML has really moved on a long way and with video in HTML5 we can just use the browser as the foundation, potentially, for some really interesting application. For me my interest today is in the usability of the interface.

With that we have had some introductions… It is a really interesting group of multimedia interested folk.

John Casey again:

This project is funded by Jisc as part of the Research Data Spring Initiative, and that is about technical tools, software and service solutions to support the researchers workflow, the use and mangement of their data. Now it’s interesting that this room is particuarly interested in teaching and learning, we are funded for researcher use but of course that does not proclude teaching and learning use.

The project partners here are City of Glasgow College as lead, The Open University and ?

So, what is Clipper? One of the challenges is explaining what this project is… And what it is not. So we are punting it as a research tool for digital research with online media / time-based media (ie audio/video data). The aim is to create a software toolkit (FOSS) deployed in an institution or operated as a n national service. We are about community engagement and collavorative design delivering a responsive design. And that’s why we are here.

So, why do this? Well time-based media is a large and “lumpy” data format, hard to analyse and even harder to share your analysis. There are barriers to effective (re)use of audio and video data including closed collections (IPR) and proprietary tools and formats. So we want to be able to create a “virtual clip” – and that means not copying any data, just metadata. So start and stop points on reference URI. And then also being able to organise that clip, to annotate it, and group into cliplists. So playlists of clips of excerpts etc. And then we can share using cool URIs for those clips and playlists.

This means bringing audio and video data to live, enabling analysis without breaking copyright or altering the soure data. We think it had streamlined workflows and facilitate collaboration. And we think it will lead to new things. It is secure and safe – respecting existing access permissions to data and does not alter or duplicate the original files. And it creates opportunities for citizen science/citizen research; user generated content – e.g. crowd sourcing etdata and user analytics. Colleagues in Manchester, for instance, have a group of bus enthusiasts who may be up for annotating old bus footage. The people who use your archives or data can generate analytics or para data and use of that can be useful and interesting as well.

So Clipped is… An online media analysis and collaboration tool for digital researchers (ie it supports human-based qualitative analysis, collavoboration and sharing. It is not an online audio/video editing tool. It is not a data repository. It is not using machine analysis of time based media. 


John: The best way to understand this stuff is to demonstrate and test this stuff out. We are going to take you through three workflows – these are just examples: (1) One source file, many clips, (2) Many source files, many clips, (3) Many source files, many clips, and annotations.

Over to Trevor and Will for examples.

Trevor: Hopefully as we work through these examples we should get more questions etc. and as we look through these examples.

Do bear in mind that what we will show you today is not a finished product, it’s a prototype. We want you to tell us what is good, what needs changing… You are the first of our three workshops so you get first say on the design! We want clear ideas on what will be useful… We hope it is fairly straightforward and fairly clear. If it isn’t, just tell us.

So, Workflow (1): Analysing a source file – the idea is an app developer (researcher) interviewing a user when testing an app. So the flow is:

  • Create and open a new project
  • Add the source file to the project
  • Preview the file – to find emerging themes etc.
  • Create clips – around those themes.
  • Add clips to cliplist

Now Will is demonstrating the system.

Will: I am going to create a new project, and I can edit the details later if I want to. And then I go in to edit the cliplist… And one of the collections included here is YouTube, as well as the BBC Collection (looks like their journalism trainee stuff), etc. I can choose a video, preview it, then I can choose to create a clip… I do this by watching the video and clicking “start” and “end” at the appropriate sections of the clip. I can then give the clip a title, and add a description and save it. Then close it. And any clips I create are kept in a “Project Cliplist”. Behind the scenes this is also getting saved to a database behind the scenes…

Trevor: So here we use the original source file, and we select a stop and start point… All the examples are based on video but the same player will do the same thing for audio. The intention is to support both audio and video within the same video.

Q1: What happens if you have a clip on a password protected Vimeo, etc.

Will: You have to have access permissions to the video… So it would attempt to play a video, and then that would be stopped.

Q1: But you would want students to be able to login, perhaps

Will: Would the tool then direct you to login, to anticipate that up front when you watch the list

Trevor: If you are signed in to Google, or signed in to your VLE, then as they would elsewhere in the browser, it will play clips. But if you are not logged in, no it won’t work. It would be nice to offer a pop up for sign in when needed. But we’ve tried that with private YouTube (only) so far.

Q2: Is there a way to separate out audio and video to save to different channels… So that you can strip down to just the audio… Maybe you just want to capture that.

Will: It’s not something that can be done in the browser, that’s more a server side function…

John: You could mark up the audio and video in Clipper. And then use that server side to extract the audio… And put the time references onto that.

Comment: Could hide the video, and play the sound…

Trevor: Hadn’t heard of that… But viewer is under our control… Could put a black filter over the video for a section.

Q3: The clips you are generating, can you tag them?

Will: Yes

Trevor: Thinking of ways to tag them, and to scale that up, is something to think about…

Workflow 2: Analysing Multiple Files

  • Create and open a new project
  • Add multiple source files to the project
  • Preview the files
  • Create clips
  • Add clips to cliplist

And the scenario we have in mind here is labs reviewing results across a distributed research team.

Will demonstrating a clip creation process using a Wellcome Collection video. 

Will: For some of our videos we can create thumbnails but that varies depending on rights etc. so instead we have a generic icon at the moment. And, as you can see, you can combine videos from multiple sources. So no matter what the resource you can create groups of clips.

Workflow 3: Adding Annotations to clips

  • Create and open a new project
  • Add multiple source files to the project
  • Preview the files and create clips
  • Add annotations to clips
  • Add clips to cliplist
  • So the example scenario is representations of climate change in mass media.

Trevor: Now this is where we’d particularly appreciate your comments on structures or tagging or approaches that might work, and that might scale.

Over to Will to demo again.

Will: So, when I have selected a clip I can click to annotate, and add an annotation to that clip at that moment. These annotations can then be associated with a particular second or moment in the video. And that is added to the clips metadata. And so we have time based annotation. And we will be adding a play button that enables us to jump to that moment in a video… And that information can be sharable – the clip,  the annotations, and the jumping to a moment in time.

Trevor: So it’s fairly light weight and pretty much wire framed… But hopefully enough there to understand the functionality.

Q4: Will annotations pop up when you reach them?

Will: Could highlight the clips…

Q4: Would be really useful, somewhere on the screen.

Comment: Even just a scrolling panel.

Q4: But also thinking about how it plays in fullscreen…

Will: Have seen demo on full screen video…

Q5: If you wanted to annotate a whole video would you have the option to do that as one clip?

Will: Yes, just use beginning and end of the video for a clip.

Q6: Would be useful to be able to use the hashtag or keywords etc. that a researcher wants to use – to easily find all the clips…

Will: So you could tag an annotation, or search for a keyword.

Comment: And see spread of tags etc.

Q5: The different ways the researcher wants to catergorise things.

Q7: All the moving image content on our site is only licensed for one site… Would this sit on the organisations site.. Where is it going?

Trevor: The YouTube videos are on their server… Played with this tool but the file stays on your server. Rights wise it would depend on how it is phrased. If hosted on your domain, then this would break it… But you could do this in house on your own system… Installing this software.

Q8: What if you have a video that specifies only the servers/IPs that can be used – which you can do on Vimeo – how would that work with Vimeo?

Trevor: I think it would work the same way… So if the user accesses the video from an appropriate IP range, it should work etc. But examples like that would be great to hear, so that we can address this.

Q9: How does transition between clips work?

Will: We can determine end of a clip, and fade out, fade in… But there are some buffering challenges potentially.

John: In the tool being tried out, the clips are on a host site… They are out on the web… Not on our demo site. Wellcome, BBC, YouTube is all coming in from different sites… So transitions have to take account of that.

Will: I am using the open source VideoJS player here… It does fire off nice events that allows us to indicate where clips begin and end… with a bit of jQuery.

John: Colleagues in North West Film Archive want to join clips up fairly seamlessly… But a gap or clear demarcation may be interesting.

Will: On the original flash version, to mask interruption, we took description from next clip and displayed that to smooth the transition.

Q9: Should leave to end user.

Trevor: Should maybe leave to end user for two or three options….

JOhn: We have been discussing options for end users… Because of how it is coded, it would be very feasible to have different options. Do I want to see the annotations this way or what… That flexibility does seem like it should be on the road map.

Trevor: May need to be decided at point of viewing.

Q10: Is this something Final Cut Pro could help, in terms of approach?

Will: Could be…

Trevor: Range of options is good.

Will: Almost drag and drop there…

Q11: Can you reorder the clips?

Will: That’s the intention, so yes. And likely drag and drop.

Q12: What about a web resource becomes available… And disappears… Hyperlinks can disappear and that would be a concern when I come to share it… And when I invest that time. And it’s quite likely… If a web link is dead, it’s a problem.

Trevor: With the Clipper server thing… If it was NLS, or a service based with the archive might be more trusted?

Q12: Not about trust, but fragility of web links…

Trevor: If we can surface the availability of content – if a source we know expires – we can show this.

Q12: I think that notifications would be useful here. But maybe also something that can be cached or kept so there is a capture of that.

Trevor: You don’t create the clip of video… But the annotation can be retained… And it can be saved and downloaded. So that even if the clip disappears, you might be able to switch the video URL and reapply that annotation.

Q12: Notifications would be really important.

Trevor: Managing a service that pushed out those emails could be really useful.

Will: We discussed that it would be possible to have video, captured by fancy proprietary video – once converted to e.g. MP4 – to annotate, but then also direct back to the original format.

Q13: You are pulling things through from websites elsewhere. If you make your own interview, can you upload it here… Or do you upload elsewhere and pull in URL?

Trevor: You can refer to a file on your own machine, or a repository, or on a private YouTube. But annotating a video that sits on your own machine is a good one for some researchers, e.g. on sensitive work etc.

Will: We have one challenge here… A fake path is used in the browser, and that can change… So you might have to browse to recreate that fake path…

John: But markup should transfer when you upload a video somewhere else – and upload a Clipper document that matches up with it…

Now watching a locally stored example – school children’s perceptions of researchers…

Q14: Question from me: Can you display rights information here – they should be available in metadata with video and/or APIs and are really important to indicate that.

John: We do take in that information, so it should be possible to display that… And we could do that with icons – e.g. Creative Commons symbols etc.

Q14: You might also want to include icons for locally hosted items – so that the playlist creator knows what can or cannot be seen by others (who likely won’t be able to access a file on a local machine).

Comment: For our collections the rights information is available in the API so it should be straightforward to pull in – that will apply to many other collections too (but not all)

Trevor: In addition to those indications it could be useful to foreground where rights information isn’t available.

Q15: My question is a bit different… Maybe how the clip is created… There are so many people who share clips and compilations of video items…

Trevor: We get to the same place really, but without reediting those videos etc.

Q16 – Me again: US vs UK copyright, particularly thinking about Fair Use content which might be legally acceptable in the US, but not in the UK.

John: Increasing ubiquity of video and audio online makes this stuff easier… But legal issues are there…

Q16 – Me again: In a way that level of usage, and so that issue would be a great problem to have though!

And now we are moving into testing out Clipper… So things will be quiet here… 

Comments on Demo

C1: You’ve only got one timestamp for annotations – would be useful to have end point too. And being able to annotation a particular frame/part of the frame to annotate as well. There are plugins for VideoJS with Overlay HTML. Being able to link annotations – link one to another would be useful.

Trevor: We thought about clips as URLs, and playlists as URLs. But we could also think about annotations as URLs.

C1: Version control on annotations would also be useful.

Trevor: Useful to think of that…

C2: A slide for the beginning or the end with credits etc. generated in the system would be useful. Would help with rights information.

Will: Also in Overlay VideoJS as well.

C3: General comment – do not understand technophobia of your audience. Web based service is a real advantage. Not many options, nothing to download, that is important. Capitalise on that… At the moment it looks more complex than it is. Has to not just be simple, but also look simple and user friendly.

Trevor: Absolutely. And that interface will change.

C4: I was wondering about nudging start and stop points…

Will: Set to read only now, was thinking about nudge buttons.

Trevor: Would you want to type or to have forward/back nudge buttons.

C4: probably both.

C5: I think you will need real usability testing to watch people using the tool, rather than asking them… And that will highlight where there is any misunderstanding. When I chose a video for a collection. How do I do anything creative with those clips… To merge or play all etc…

Trevor: Some of that sounds like video editing… If for those clips you want to change the order… You can shuffle them. You can’t merge them…

C5: Maybe you’d edit down elsewhere… Something to do with the content I have.

John: Are you wanting to select clips from different clip lists and then use in a new one?

C5: Yes, that’s one thing…

Will: That’s come up several times, and we do feel we need to add that to a roadmap… Perhaps creation of new video file maybe as compilation…

C6: From a users point of view you need confirmations on screen to highlight things have been created, saved, etc. For creating a clip, start and end, I didn’t get any visual confirmation. Need that to make it clear.

Trevor: Those are critical important things… Hopefully as we go through these workshops we’ll add that functionality.

Will: Notification systems might be useful in general within the system.

C7: It would be helpful to have maybe a pop up, or information symbol to remind you to cut off the clip. Thinking about the likely users here. Would be useful to have reminders.

Will: I think there is a lot to do on annotations.

C8: Searchable annotations would be really useful. And find all the relevant annotations. Things like NVivo do that.

Will: If anyone has looked on the JSON, I’ve had a tags property on the clip, but I can see we need that on the annotations.

John: On the annotations, people from Arts and Humanities suggest that an annotation could be an essay or an article. Several projects want storytelling tools using archives… The annotations side is potentially quite big in terms of length, and function it plays. From a rights point of view, an annotation could have it’s own rights.

C9 (me): That issue of annotations, also raises the issue of what the playback experience is. And how annotations etc. are part of that…

C10: How do you publish this content? Do you share the playlist? Do you need a Clipper account to view it?

Trevor: Well it may be the document of different clips… Maybe for projects you can invite people to join that project. Talking through the workflow might be useful. Sharing the link out there is something to think about.

Will: It may be just having a player, with a pane to the annotations. With a URL that works through the playlists, just as read only view. So we hope to have a sharable published HTML document to share. And could be maybe cached/saved for the long term (but not including original videos).

John: Could also have an embed code. Clipper fires information to a database, also into directories as HTML documents. If the database goes down, you still have reclaimable HTML documents. And you can send an embed code OR the HTML documents. Very transportable and friendly to Web 2.0 type stuff. But because in HTML, could deposit into catalogues etc. So good for long term.

Trevor: Any other ideas or comments please note them and share them with us – all of your comments are very welcome.

Now, after lunch we will have more discussion which includes implications for data management, service development and policy, etc. And then we’ll talk a bit more about technical aspects.

And now, for lunch… 

Discussion: Implications for Data Management

John: When we are looking at data management and implications: whose data? where stored? how is it stored and managed? why store and manage it? formats? retention? archive/deep freeze (available but maybe off site/harder to get to)?

Trevor: So, in your tables have a chat at your tables. And then we’ll feed back from these…

We’ve been discussing this so now for responses/ideas/comments… 

Table 1: If it’s research data a lot of this will be sensitive, and have to be within your control and your own students…

John: May also be issues of students data.

Table 1: We do use some cloud based services for student data though, so there must be some possibility there.

John: There is some of this in the paper economy, e.g. with assessment. But we find ways to do this. We are transitioning paper based to digital model… Perhaps we see problems as bigger than they are… And how long would you want to keep for a long time?

Table 1: Some for long term, some quite short.

Table 2: Some funders will have requirements too. But we were also talking about non-public video content… Maybe need two systems with permissions lined up… Asking students to sign in twice can be confusing. Institutional single sign on might be useful – map permissions across. But can the system recognise right to access data.

John: It could, and single sign on as a solution.

Comment: My students have access to very private recordings that have to be secure and has to be retained in that way, and keep it secure.

John: This can work as creating annotations, and can share pointer to the video clips… Outsider could view the annotations… It’s both a technical and policy issues. So you would tell students about protective identities etc.

Comment: password protection, encryption etc. might be important.

Comment: security of annotations may also be quite important.

Table 3: A question really: if it is someone else’s data and shared under CC licence (ND) – do clipper clips count as modifications or not?

Trevor: We think not but we should look at that.

John: But it might be fine, you are just excerpting the content, not cutting it. But could risk “passing off”.

Comment: You are still only showing part of a video, the whole video is available.

Comment: Could ensure links to full video… to ensure context is there.

Trevor: Again about how we present the content and it’s context, rights, etc.

John: It’s a user education issue, and a policy issue…

Table 4: We didn’t get beyond “whose data” and were particularly thinking about researcher data, and whether that data should be available to reuse by the institution, the funder, other researchers etc. And what are the funders requirements for that data etc. So really about how Clipper might be used inside that data environment.

Trevor: Funders are requiring data – some of it – to be made available openly.

Comment: Although not totality of data, it’s usually what supports publications. But open access aspect is certainly important. Clipper could find its way into that kind of environment and could be a good tool to show off some of your research.

John: And to do that in an efficient way… Maybe that FigShare concept of sharing data, even if not successful… Could have optional access to wider data sets, to the compressed video for easy viewing but maybe also HD huge files too…

Discussion: Policy

John: So what we’ve talked about already leads us to policy implications for service development. This may be legal issues (e.g. copyright, IPR); user generated content; licenses; access management; content management; data protection; data ownership and institutional IPR. Traditionally publishers owned the means of production and distribution and have high status with the University. But those issues of data ownership and institutional IPR are not well thought through. And that user generated content has issues of rights, license, access management.

After a lively discussion…

Table 1: How much do you need to worry about, how much is for institutions to worry about. Like data ownership etc. But you may need to worry about as a platform.

John: But we may need platform to support that, and therefore need to understand local platforms.

Table 1: And for access you’d want a lot of granularity of who might access these things, might be a large group or public, or might just be you, or just be a small group.

John: Clarity that that is possible could be a big winner.

Table 1: Having users fill in a field where they can state what they think the copyright is.

Trevor: A statement of intent?

Table 1: Yes, something that allows you to have a comeback is a collections owner comes back…

John: So it’s good for tracking, for due diligence. And maybe good for institutional procedures – for research projects where you need to know the rights involved. Might help raise awareness.

Table 2: Policy implications wise, there aren’t really any cases that shouldn’t already be covered by institutional policies. Licenses, derivative works, etc. should already by covered by institutional policies. Maybe some special cases…

John: Are the policies fit for purpose?

Comment: It is usually awareness not existence of policies which is usually

Table 3: Possibly a pop up indicating license and appropriate usage, so you know what you can do. Second aspect, if you can legally modify videos – why not do on desktop system offline, if not then how can this comply. Only the making of copies that this removes the issue for. Sorry for a super defeatist comment but how does this differ from what else is there.

Comment: I come at this from two places… Both the way into lumpy content, interrogate, search it, etc… And then also this more creative tool where you make something else available on the internet – alarm bells start ringing. For the creative side, why not use iMovie etc.

Comment: It’s not a video editing tool, it’s annotation. So clearly not that…

John: Useful to use, to make sure we describe it appropriately. It’s a challenge. We need to make it clear what we think can be done with it. We’ll take those comments on board and blog about it to try and make this all clearer.

Trevor: If you were just making clips.. .but in the context of research it’s more about annotations and descriptions etc. But when you have gone to that effort, you want it to look nice.

John: One of our original ambitions was to make it as easy for researchers to quote video and time based media as for print…

Comment: For digital preservation… preserving video is relatively difficult and is an ongoing process. Clips are basically JSON descriptions – easy to preserve.

Comment: A very good content. But I think being very clear on what this thing is for… And making it really good for these things. Really focusing on the annotations and textual aspects more.

Discussion: Service Development Implications

Trevor: Now for our final section we will talk about service development implications: scale – should it be individual, institutional, regional, national, international? Why bother? Benefits? Technical challenges – storage (e.g. 132 MB/s or 463 GB/h), transcoding and archiving; costs; metadata and data models.

Again, much discussion… 

John: We talked about scale of this system… There may be a role here for an individual service… For many here will be institutional… But may be national or international. Bandwidth could be an issue depending on resolution.

Table 4: Embargoes, on metadata, and issues of privacy, access, and license for annotations for the same reasons.

John: What about bandwidth?

Table 2: It depends on the video delivery…

Table 1: It’s not your issue really. It’s for content providers…

Trevor: It’s more institutional stuff then…

Comment: The system depends on you having a consistent URI for a playable version of a video… That may be an issue depending on how files are held.

John: What about a Service Level Definitions around persistent URIs? Would that fly?

John: And what about the role of cloud providers?

Several in the room indicate they are using them… 

Comment: Making annotations public will help others find your data.

John: Annotations coming up and up as being the things.

Comment: Costs wise it needs to be open source for people to import themselves? And if so, how can you skin it and brand it. And how often does it need maintenance and updates.

John: We are looking at sustainability options, that’s something we want to look at.

Trevor: This is currently funded under Jisc Research Data Spring initiative, and that is done in 3 phases… First stage is reaching out to show there is demand. This phase we are in now is developing our prototype it. And the third phase is to look at sustainability, things like support, update, development community, etc.

Trevor: The last bit for the day is to cover some technical stuff and go through some of that…

Technical Overview – Will

The system generates and stores HTML5 documents. And generates sharable URIs of playable clips and cliplists. JSON data structures (import/export CSV or XML). PHP scripts data handling with MySQL database and JavaScript interface. Responsible layout – computer, tablet and phone (already tested on iPad). And actually as you use a video on your system you can take a video in situ on tablet/phone. Will be free and open source software – the code will be posted to: https://gthub.com/reachwill/clipper.

So, just to demonstrate, when you have a playlist you hit “publish” to publish your playlist in various formats. At the moment generates JSON data. A nice quick way to describe data. Annotations are becoming very important so we will need some comma separated tags, and access privileges as well.

Comments: Is there documentation for the code so far?

Trevor: Not yet but software and documentation

Will: Does anyone have any questions about technology elsewhere. We are using VideoJS. We are hosting this in a WordPress installation at the moment – that’s for logins and id generation as well.

Comment: API for Clipper? So others can use the annotations etc.

John: Also discussing a metadata editor for those creating their own annotations.

Comment: If sensitive data, and videos, then annotations might also want to be private… Rather than being on your server..

Trevor: We’d suggest an institutional instance.

Comment: Or could they get a private instance from you?

John: We are not at that stage yet, but that could be an option.

Complex: We haven’t talked much about searching capabilities.

Will: Anything in this text content should be searchable… Might be able to searchable across the board… Might be that when sensitive and private you might have to request access rather than seeing it.

John: Worth making the point that it has to be easy to import data into Clipper, and export data out of it. If this is in a library or archive… We could ingest catalogue information… Could ingest metadata and then come up with an instance to point to. So, e.g. for Scottish Screen Archive you could use shotlist to create clips automatically. So lots of potential when metadata rich environment. So could take in metadata to help generate your collection.

Trevor: Within a project you can search within that project, or more when at the higher level… So we want search to be contextual…

Comment: I think for effective searching you are going to want to have a more complex annotation data structure – so you can do filters, indexing etc. so less computationally taxing and more accurate for users.

Comment: Does the system log who has created which annotation? So you can track who does what on a research project.

John: And with that we will bring it to a close… Thank you all for coming.

Thanks to John, Trevor and Will for today’s workshop and to Gill and the NLS for hosting. If you are interested in attending the next Clipper workshops you can register/find out more here: http://blog.clippertube.com/

Sep 172015

This afternoon I am attending a seminar from Gregor Kennedy, University of Melbourne, organised by the Digital Cultures and Education research group at University of Edinburgh.

As usual this is a liveblog so please let me know if you see any typos, have corrections to suggest, etc. 

My background is in social psychology and I decided to change fields and move into educational technology. And when I started to make that change in direction… Well I was studying with my laptop but I love this New Yorker cover from 1997 which speaks to both technology and the many ways in which Academia doesn’t change.

I also do a lot of work on the environment, and the ways that technology effects change in the wider world, for instance the way that a library has gone from being about physical texts to a digital commons. And my work is around that user interface and mediation that occurs. And in the first 15 years of my career was in medical technology, and in interfaces around this.

Now, the world of Digital Education is dominated by big platforms, from early to mid-2000, enterprise teaching and learning systems that provide, administer, etc. Platforms like Blackboard, turnitin, Moodle, Echo. And we have tools like Twitter, blogging tools, YouTube, Facebook, Second Life also coming in. We also see those big game changers of Google and Wikipedia. And we have companies/tools like Smart Sparrow which are small adaptive learning widgets with analytics built into them. And we see new big provicers of Coursera, EdX, Future Learn, the mass teaching and learning platforms.

So, as educators we have these fantastic tools that enable us to track what students do. But we also can find ourselves in an Orwellian place, where that tracking is all the time and can be problematic. But you can use all that VLE data in ways that really benefits education and learning. Part of that data enables us to see the digital footprints that students make in this space. And my group really look at this issue of how we can track those footprints, and – crucially – how we can take something meaningful for that.

Two of the early influential theorists in this space are Tom Reeves and John Hedberg. Back in 2003 they wrote about the problematic nature of auditing student data trails, and the challenges of doing that. Meanwhile there has been other work and traditions, from the Intelligent Tutoring Systems in the 1970s onwards. But part of the reason I think Reeves and Hedberg didn’t think meaningful interactions would be possible is because, at their most basic level, the data we get out of these systems is about behaviour which is not directly related to cognition.

Now we have to be a bit careful about this… Some behavioural responses can be imbued with a notion of what a student is thinking, for instance free-text responses to a discussion list; responses to multiple choice questions. But for much of what we collect, and the modern contemporary learning analytics community is talking about, that cognition is absent. So that means we have to make assumptions about students intent, motivation, attitude…

Now, we have some examples of how those sort of assumptions going wrong can be problematic. For instance the Amazon recommendation system deals poorly with gifts or one off interests. Similarly Microsoft Clippy often gets it wrong. So that distinction between behaviour and cognition is a major part of what I want to talk about today, and how we can take meaningful understanding from that.

So I want to start with an example, the Cognition and Interaction project, which I work on with Barney Dalgarno, Charles Sturt University; Sue Bennett, University of Wollongong. We created quite flat interactive learning objects that could work with learners who were put in an fMRI machine, so we could see brain activity. For this project we wanted to look at how learning design changed cognition.

So, we had an “Observation Program” – a page turning task with content screens and an introductions with background terminology. They saw changes in parameters being made. And an “Exploration Program” where students changed parameters themselves and engaged directly with the material. Both of these approaches were trialled with two examples: Global Warming adn Blood Alcohol. Now which one would you expect to be more effective? Yup, Exploration. So we got the results through and we were pretty bummed out as there was very little difference between the two. But we did notice there was a great deal of variation in the test scores later on. And we were able to use this to classify Students Aproaches:

  • Systematic Exploration – trying a variable, seeing the result. Trying another, etc…
  • Non-Systemaic Exploration – changing stuff all over the place.
  • Observation group – observation

So we re-ran the analysis and found there was no difference between the Non-Systematic Exploration and the Observation group, but there was a difference between the Systematic Exploration and the other groups.

So, why is this interesting? Well firstly students do not do what they are supposed to do, or what we expect them to do. The intent that we have as designers and educators is not manifest in the way students engage in those tasks. And we do see this time and time again… the digital footprints that students leave show us how they fail to conform to the pedagogical intent of the online tasks we set for them. They don’t follow the script.

But we can find meaningful patterns of students behaviour using their digital footprints… interpreted through the lens of the learning design of the task. These patterns suggest different learning approaches and different learning outcomes…

Example 2: MOOCs & LARG

One thing, when we set up our MOOCs, we set up the Learning Analytics Research Group, and this brings people together from information technology, informatics, education, educational technology, etc. And this work is with members of this group.

So, I want to show you a small snapshot of this type of work. We have two MOOCs to compare here. Firstly Principles of Macroeconomics, a classic staged linear course, with timed release of content and assessment at the end. The other course is Discrete Optimization which is a bit more tricksy… All of the content is released at once and they can redo assessments as many times as they want. There is a linear suggested path but they are free to explore in their own way.

So, for these MOOCs we measured a bunch of stuff and I will focus on how frequently different types of students watched and revisited video lectures across each course. And we used State Transition diagrams. These state transitions illustrate the probability of people transitioning from State A to State B – the footfall or pathways they might take…

We created these diagrams for both courses and for a number of different ways of participating: Browsed – did no assessment; Participated – did not do well; Participated – did OK; Participated – did well. And as outcomes improve these transitions/the likelihoods of state transition increases. And the Discrete Optimisation MOOC saw a greater level of success.

So, again, we see patterns of engagement suggesting different learning strategies or approaches. But there is a directional challenge here – it is hard to know if people who revisit material more, do better… Or whether those who do better revisit content more. And that’s a classic question in education, how do you address and help those without aptitude…

So, the first two examples show interesting fundamental education questions… 

Example 3: Surgical Skills Simulation 

I’ve been working on this since about 2006. And this is about a 3D immersive haptic system for e-surgery. Not only is the surgeon able to see and have the sensation of performing a real operation, but the probe being used gives physical feedback. This is used in surgical education. So we have taken a variety of metrics – 15 records of 48 metrics per second – which capture how they use the surgical tools, what they do, etc.

What we wanted to do was provide personalised feedback to surgical trainees, to emulate what a surgeon watching this procedure might say – rather than factual/binery type feedback. And that feedback comes in based on their digital trace in the system… As they show novice like behaviour, feedback is provided in a staged way… But expert behaviour doesn’t trigger this, to avoid that Microsoft paperclip feedback type experience.

So, we trialled the approach with and without feedback. Both groups have similar patterns but the feedback has a definite impact. And the feedback from learners about that experience is pretty good.

So, can we take meaningful information from this data? Yes, it’s possible…

I started with these big buckets of data from VLEs etc… So I have four big ideas of how to make this useful…

1. Following footprints can help us understand how students approach learning tasks and the curriculum more broadly. Not so much whether they understand the concept or principle they are working on, and whether they got something correct or not… But more their learning and study strategies when faces with the various learning tasks online.

2. If we know how students approach those learning tasks and their study, it does give us insight into their cognitice and learning processes… Which we can link to their leanring outcomes. This method is a wonderful resource for educational research!

3. Knowing how students approach learning tasks is incredible useful for teachiers and educational designers. We can see in fine detail how the educational tasks we create and design are “working” with students – the issue of pedagogical intent, response, etc.

4. Knowing how students approach learning tasks is increadibly useful for designing intervantions with students. Even in open and complex digital learning environments we can use students digital footprints as a basis for individualised feedback, and advise students on approaches adopted.

So, I think that gives you an idea about my take on learning analytics. There are ways we can use this in quite mundane ways but in educational research and working across disciplines we have the potential to really crack some of those big challenges in education.


Q1) For the MOOC example… Was there any flipping of approaches for the different courses or A/B testing. Was there any difference in attainment and achievement?

A1) The idea of changing the curriculum design for one of those well established courses is pretty difficult so, no. In both courses we had fairly different cohorts – the macroeconomics course . We are now looking at A/B testing to see how potential confusion in videos compares with more straightforward “David Attenborough, this is the way of the world” type videos, so we will see what happens there.

Q2) What

A2) There is some evidence that confusion can be a good thing – but there is productive and unproductive confusion. And having productive confusion as part of a pathway towards understanding… And we are getting students from other disciplines looking at very different courses (e.g. Arts students engaging with chemistry courses, say) to cause some deliberate confusion but with no impact on their current college courses.

Q3) On that issue of confusion… What about the impact of learning through mistakes, of not correcting a student and the impact that may have?

A3) A good question… You can have False positive – provide feedback but shouldn’t have. False negative – don’t provide feedback but shouldn’t have. With our system we captured our feedback and compared with a real surgeon’s view on where they would/would not offer feedback. We had about 8% false positives and 12% false negatives. That’s reasonably good for teaching excercise.

Q4) How do your academic colleagues respond to this, as you are essentially buying into the neo liberal agenda about

A4) It’s not a very common issue to come up, its surprising how little it comes up. So in terms of telling teachers what they already know – some people are disheartened by you providing impirical evidence of what they already know as experienced teachers. You have to handle that sensitively but many see that as reenforcement of their practice. In terms of replacing teachers… These are helper applications. The feedback side of things can only be done in a very small way compared to the richness of a human, and tend to be more triage-like applications that forms a small part of the wider curriculum. And often those systems are flagging up the need for a richer interaction or intervention.

Q5) Most students think that more time on task maps to more success… And your MOOC data seems to reinforce that… So what do you do in terms of sharing data with students, and especially students who are not doing as well?

A5) It’s not my research area but my colleague Linda does work on this and on dashboards. It is such a tricky area. There is so much around ethics, pastoral care, etc.

Students with high self efficacy but behind the pack, will race to catch up and may exseed. But students to low self efficacy may drop back or drop out. There is educational psychology work in this area (see Carol Dykal’s work) but little on learning analytics.

But there is also the issue of the impact of showing an individual their performance compared to a group, to their cohort… Does that encourage the student to behave more like the pack which may not be in their best interests. There is still a lot we don’t know about the impact of doing that.

Q6) We are doing some research here with students…

A6) We have a range of these small tasks and we ask them on every screen about how difficult the task is, and how confident they feel about it and we track that along with other analytics. For some tasks confidence and confusion are very far apart – very confident and not confused at all although that can mean you are resistent to learning. But for others each screen sees huge variation in confidence and confusion levels…

Q7) Given your comments about students not doing what they are expected to do… Do you think that could impact here. Like students in self-assessments ranking their own level of understanding as low, in order to game the system so they can show improvement later on.

A7) It’s a really good question. There isn’t a great motivation to lie – these tasks aren’t part of their studies, they get paid etc. And there isn’t a response test which would make that more likely. But in the low confusion, high confidence tasks… the feedback and discussion afterwards suggests that they are confused at times, and there is a disjoint. But if you do put a dashboard in front of students, they are very able to interpret their own behaviour… They are really focused on their own performance. They are quite reflective… And then my colleagues Linda and Paul ask what they will do and they’ll say “Oh, I’ll definitely borrow more books from the library, I’ll definitely download that video…” and six weeks later they are interviewed and there is no behaviour change… Perhaps not surprising that people don’t always do what they say they will… We see that in learning analytics too.

Q8) [Didn’t quite catch all of this but essentially about retention of students]

A8) We have tried changing the structure and assessment of one of our courses, versus the first run, because of our changed understanding of analytics. And we have also looked at diagnostic assessment in the first three weeks of a course as a predictor for later performance. In that you see a classic “browsing in the book store” type behaviour. We are not concerned about them. But those who purchase the first assessment task, we can see they can do well and are able to… And they tend to stick with the course. But we see another type – a competent crowd who engage early on, but fall of. It’s those ones that we are interested in and who are ripe for retaining.

 September 17, 2015  Posted by at 1:16 pm Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Aug 202015

Today I am back for another talk which forms part of the IFIP Summer School on Privacy and Identity Management hosted in Informatics at the University of Edinburgh.

Today’s talk is from Angela Sasse, Professor of Human Centred Technology at University College London, and she also oversees their Computer Security group (her presentation will include work of Anthony Morton). She is also head of the first research group in the UK researching the science of Cyber Security. Apparently she also authored a seminal paper in the ’90s entitled “Humans are not the enemy” which addressed mismatches of perceptions and behaviours. That motif, that users are not the enemy, is still something which has not quite yet been learned by those designing and implementing systems even now. 

I think my title gives you a good idea of what I will be talking about: I will be starting with talking about how people reason about privacy. That is something which is often not accounted for properly, but is important in understanding behaviours. Then I will be talking about why current technologies do not meet their preferences. Then I will look to the future – both some dystopian and utopian scenarios there.

So, how do people reason about privacy? Some work with Adams (2001) looked at this and we used the crucial subtitles “protecting users not just data”. There we pointed out that there is a real difference between how the law treats this, and how people understand privacy. Individuals are pragmatic in their choices, they are thinking about the risks and the benefits – they trade those off. Some of this stuff came out of early internet networking, video calls, etc. but it has stood the test of time as these things have become commonplace.

There has been a raft of research over the last 15 years, not just by computer scientists but also social scientists, ethicists, economists. And we have come to a place that we understand that people do trade risks for benefits but that is not always efficient in an economic sense, it is not always logical… And there are a number of reasons for this: they may not be aware of all risks and consequences – around secondary level information; and around secondary and tertiary usage, aggregation with other data sources; their perception may be skewed by hyperbolic discounting – entirely dismissing things with low risk; there is a paradox here as people do belief in privacy and security but their actions are not always reflective of this.

So, why don’t people act in line with their own preferences? Well there is “Confusology” (Odlyzko) which I’ll come back to. Hyperbolic discounting is about risk in the future and potential, vs rewards that are immediate and tangible (sometimes). Sometimes users say “they know this anyway” – there is no point obfuscating information as “they” know this stuff already – they are just testing honesty or willingness. When you have done a lot of work on financial disclosure this arguement comes up a lot there. It also comes in with ISPs and perceptions of surveillance. Sometimes this reaction is plausible and logical, but sometimes it is much more of a Cognitive Dissonance defense, something of an excuse to minimise workload. That is also why we really do need to work on the public discourse because the more false information is in the public discourse, the most this encourages individuals to make choices in that way. The more we allow that kind of nonsense to be out there, the more it undermines important dicussions of privacy. The final reason is that technology does offer protection people want – but they still want the benefits.

Back to Confusology (Odlyzko 2014), I really recommend Odlyzko’s work here. He talks about several factors: inadvertant disclosure – complex tools make consequences of actions hard to predict; there is too much work – rules and legal jargon make privacy too much work, and people are loathe to expend effort on tasks they see as secondary to their goal. Legal jargon is practically an orchestrated campaign, “I agree with the terms and conditions…” is the biggest lie on the internet!; lack of choice (so consent is not meaningful) – I challenge you to find a provider who offers genuinely meaningful terms of consent; the hidden persuaders – temptation, nudging, exploiting cognitive biases… encouraging users to think that sharing more is the preferred option. I have seen Google encouraging researchers in privacy to work on “opinionated design” because they have tried everything to get people to click through in the right way – they make warnings different every time, hide other options etc. I think this is a slippery slope. In the privacy area we see this choice as pretty fake, particularly if you hide and obscure other options.

The inadvertant disclosure stuff is still happening. Many users do not understand how technology works and that can catch users out – a key example is peer to peer file sharing, but we also see this with apps and the requests they make of your device (use of contacts, data, etc) and there will be lots more inadvertant disclosures associated with that coming out.

Too  much work leads to over disclosure. Once you are in the habit of doing something, you don’t have to think about it too much. It is less work to fill in a form disclosing information you have given before, than to stop and think about what the implications of sharing that data actually are.

We also see successful adopted technologies that fail on privacy. Platforms for Privacy Preferences (P3P) was far too much work to be useful to many people. It was only IE that implemented it, and they did so in a way that websites could systematically escape cookie blocking. It was too complex and too ambiguous for browser vendors. And there is absolutely no means to verify websites do what they say – 5% of TRUST -e “verified” websites had implementation errors in 2010. This is a place where cognitive dissonance kicks in again – people fixate on something that they see as helping with one form of security and don’t necessarily look at other risks. Meanwhile DoNotTrack – users of this are identified more quickly than those who don’t through web finderprinting. Advertising circumvent with Supercookies.

So, it really isn’t clear what you need to do to ensure that the privacy people want is enabled in websites and tools.

To change tack slightly it is worth reflecting on the fact that privacy preferences vary. It can be useful to frame this in a Technology Adoption Framework – TAM offers a useful framework but privacy needs do vary across cultures, and it varies between people. You need to speak to different people in different ways to get the message across. Westin is a three point scale around privacy that you could use, but that is too coarse-grained since it basically only differentiates between hardcore secure users, pragmatists, and those unconcerned.

However there have been various studies with the Westin Scale (see Berkeley Survey 2009; Harris Poll 2003; Harris Poll 1999) and most users fall into the Privacy Pragmatists category. But behaviours, when studied, consistently DO NOT match their preferences! So we need something better.

There have been attempts to improve the Westin scale but there has been limited scope of other alternative measures of privacy concern, e.g. IUIPC (Malhotra et al 2005) and CFIP (Smith et al 1996). And people engage in information seeking behaviours (Beldad et al 2011), since people seek trust signals (trust symbols and trust symptonms) (Riegelsberger et al 2005). Asking people about the provider of a service, and their trust in that provider is important in terms of understanding their behaviour and their preferences.

So my PhD student (Morton) looked to work on development of the Westin scale to better align preferences and behaviours, using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods, investigating subjective viewpoints. He has been interviewing people, analysing their statements, and ordering those statements with research participants asking them how well those statements reflected their views. The number of participants (31 offline, 27 online) is relatively small, but the number of statements generated by them was into the thousands – so this is a really complex picture. So, participants ranked statements as important or unimportant with a Q-sort process (a version of card sorting task).

Morton has found that people sort into five categories:

  • Information Controllers – those really aware of the data, looking at the data and what it says about them. These are skeptical people and do not have a high trust in the cloud and want control over the collection, use and dissemination of personal information. For them things that are not important include: organisational assurances; others’ use of the technology service.
  • Security Concerned – their principal focus is on security of the technology platform, providing organisation;s security processes, potential impact on personal security and finances. They are trading off the benefits and risks here. They are less interested in the technology in abstract.
  • Benefit Seekers – are those happy to trade off the risks
  • Crowd Followers – trust in others’ use to make decisions about privacy and security
  • Organisational Assurance Seekers – they look for the organisation to say the right things, disclaimers etc. They expect bad things to happen, and want assurance against that.

Now I think that work is quite interesting. And we are now undertaking a large scale study with 1000 participants in the UK and US with all participants sorted into one of these categories, and several scenarios to assess. The first 300 participants’ contributions already suggest that this is a better model for connecting preference with behaviour.

I did want to talk about why we need to make privacy more salient. Ultimately privacy is about relationships. People manage relationships with other peoplel through selective disclosure of information – that is a fundamental part of how we engage, how we present different personas. As more information is disclosed, the more that is undermined. And that is most obviously taking place in University admissions or potential employer searches for individuals. The inability to make selective disclosures can undermine relationships.

For exampe: a chocolate biscuit purchase: seeing someone buying chocolate biscuits buys the main shop on card, then buys biscuits in cash. It turns out this person’s partner is a health food nut and manages the finances tightly. So that person and their child agree to the healthy food rules at home, but then have access to chocolate biscuits elsewhere. This is how people manage relationships. That sort of lack of disclosure means you do not need to revisit the same arguement time and again, it helps illustrate why privacy is so fundamental to the fabric of society.

We do have ways of making privacy cost more salient. There is this trade off around privacy – we are often told these things are “for your own good”. And without a significant push for evidence that is hard to counter. We don’t force accountability of promised/stated benefits. CCTV in the UK is a great example. It took almost two decades for any investigation into that investment, when there was research it was all pretty damning (Gill and Spriggs 2005; Metropoliton Police Review 2008 – CCTV only contributes to prevention or resolution in 3% of crime, it is costly and there is only 1 crime per 100 cameras). And we have had misuse of CCTV also coming through courts. Investigations into inappropriate behaviour by the London Met Police over a year show inappropriate disclosure – like the CCTV case – a huge percentage of that issue.

We have the extension of the state into something of military surveillance. We see the rise of drones, robots and autonomous vehibles. There is an increasing number of networks and devices – and we see mission creep in this “deeply technophilic” industry. We also see machine learning and big data being advertised as the solve all solution here… But as Stephen Graham notes “emerging security policies are founded on… profiling” of individuals, a Minority Report state. David Murajami Wood from the Surveillance Studies Network talk about automatic classification and risk based profiling as adding up to “social sorting” and we see this with tools like Experian MOSAIC and ACLU Pizza. We must not let this happen without debate, push back, and a proper understanding of the implications.

Odlyzko raised the issue of who controls the information – it is often big global mega corps. The decline of privacy actually undermines the fundamentals of capitalism and the dynamic nature of the market system – a truly dystopian solution.

So, do people really not care? Post Snowden it can seem that way but there are signs to the contrary: the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled GCHQ surveillance to be illegal; major tech companies are distancing themselves from government, putting up legal resistance; and deploying better security (encryption) and we see talk of a Digital Charter from Tim Berners Lee, progressing this debate. Privacy protection behaviours are not always obvious though.

We also see the idea that “Digital Natives Don’t Care” – now that is not true, they just care about different things, they engage in “social steganography” hiding in plain sight (boyd 2014).

So, in conclusion: technology has profound impact on privacy, in many ways that people don’t understand – at least not immediately; people often eagerly assume and over estimate benefits and under estimate and discount risks; we need to counter this by better communication about risks and benefits; communication needs to relate to what matters to people with different preferences.


Q1) It seems to me that some of the classical social science sources about relationships, what information to ignore and which to note… It seems those sources can be updated and adapted to the modern world and that you can analogyse up to the point

A1) Yes, you look at this area and there are really three people I always go back to from the 1960s: Goffman, Lumans and Giddon.

Q1) And more recently Henry Jenkins too.

Q2) From your presentation many people make poor decisions around privacy, but those are pragmatic choices. But I really do think we don’t see people understanding the impact of surveillance – there is a lack of understanding that not only might they look for terrorists but of the other implications of machine learning, of other use of data, and that that is a level of data use that is not proportionate the problem.

A2) That is the debate we need to see in the public discourse so urgently. There is a pushing out of tools without any consideration of those implications. Using the language of cost and waste around data can be useful here, but some want a story of the negative consequences in order to make sense of this – for instance someone being denied a job because of errors or disclosure.

Q3) Do you think that education institutions in the United Kingdom have any role to set an example or themselves or others, by practicing what academics would advise.

A3) Online privacy protection is part of the national curriculum now. If I was running a school I wouldn’t want to turn it into a prison – metal detectors etc. But there is also the tracking of learning behaviours and activities, data mining to identify individual learning paths – risks there are also something to think about. It is often the most mundane and banal stories that often hit home: what if someone is worried to search for treatment for a disease, lest their own status be disclosed by that? Being tracked changes behaviour.

Q4) The detection rate of terrorism is so low that it is not just a waste of money, it is also ineffective method.

A4) But then it is more convenient to sit behind a computer than to actually be out on the street facing direct human interaction and risk, that may also be part of it.

Q5) Going back to the topic of education. there are quite a lot of primary schools in the UK where they are using apps, ebooks etc. Is there

A5) There are three technologists who did a fantastic study. They found it makes kids more obedient, and they start to behave like people in prison which is damaging to individuals as well as to society. This will foster rather than discourage criminal activity.

Comment) Emmerline Taylor, in Australia, has done a book on how kids respond to technology in schools.

And with that we close a really interesting talk with clear relevance for some of the findings and recommendations coming out of our Managing Your Digital Footprint research work.

Aug 182015

All of this week, whilst I am mainly working on Managing Your Digital Footprint research work, there is a summer school taking place at the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics on Security and Privacy with several talks on social media. This afternoon I’ll be blogging one of these: “Policing and Social Media Surveillance : Should We Have any Privacy in Public?” from the wonderful Professor Lilian Edwards from University of Strathclyde and Deputy Director, CREATe.

I come to you as a lawyer. I often say what I do is translate law to geek, and vice versa. How many here would identify themselves as from a legal discipline (about 10 are), I know most of you are from a computer science or HCI area. What I will talk about is an overlap between law and computer science.

So, a nice way to start is probably David Cameron saying: “In extremis, it has been possible to read someone’s letter, to listen to someone’s call to listen in on mobile communications,” he said. “The question remains: are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply is not possible to do that? My answer to that question is: no, we must not.

I’m going to argue that encryption, privacy, etc. is a good thing and that there should be some aspect of privacy around all of those social media posts we make etc. Now, what if you didn’t have to listen to secret conversations? Well right now the security services kind of don’t… they can use Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter etc..

So, a quick note on the structure of this talk. I will set some context on open source intelligence (OSINT), and Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT). Then I will talk about legal issues and societal implications.

So, SOCMINT and OSINT. In the last 5-7 years we’ve seen the rise of something called “intelligence led” policing, some talk about this as the Minority Report world – trying to detect crime before they take place. We have general risk aversion, predictive profiles, and we see big data. And we see “Assemblages” of data via private intermediaries. So we see not only the use of policing and intelligence data, but also the wide range of publicly available data.

There has been the growth in open source intelligence, the kind of stuff that easy to get for free, including SOCMINT – the stuff people share on social media. You can often learn a great deal from friends graphs, their social graph – even with good privacy settings that can be exposed (used to always be open) and that is used in friend of friends analysis etc. The appeal of this is obvious – there is a lot of it and it is very cheap to get hold of it (RUSI and Anderson Report 2015), 95% of intelligence gathered is from this sort of “open source” origins, the stuff that is out there (ISC 2015). There have been a number of reports in the last year with increadibly interesting information included. Another report stated that 90% of what you need to know if from this sort of open source, and it’s great because it is cheap.

In terms of uses (Barlett and Miller 2013) are various, but worth noting things like sentiment analysis – e.g. to predict a riot etc, apparently very useful. Acquiring information from the public – have you seen this robber, etc. is very useful. Horison scanning is about predicting disturbance, riots etc. We are also seeing predictive analytics (e.g. IBM Memphis P.D.; PredPol in Kent) and that is very popular in the US, increasingly in the UK too – towards that Minority Report. Now in all of these report there is talk of predition and monitoring, but little mention of monitoring individuals – but clearly that is one of the things this data usage enables.

These practices are rising policy challenges (Omand 2012) of public trust, legitimacy and necessity, transparency. And there is the issue of the European Convention on Human Rights: article 8 gives us the right to a private life, which this sort of practice may breach. Under that article you can only invade privacy for legitimate reasons, only when necessary, and it the level of invasion of privacy can only be proportionate to the need in society.

So, looking at what else is taking place here in contemporary practice: we had the Summer Riots in 2011 where the security services used #tweets, BB texts etc. and post riot reports really capture some of the practice and issues there; Flickr stream of suspect photos leading to 770 arrests ad 167 charges, Facewatch mobile app During the 2012 Olympics the police wanted to use social media data, but basically did not know how. So issues here include police managerial capacity; there is sampling bias (see “Reading the Riots”) as Twitter is a very partial view of what is occuring; And there is human error – e.g. in crowdsourced attempts to identify and locate the Boston Bombings.

So I want to talk about the possibility of using public social media posts and question whether they have any protection as private material.

An individual tweets something, says she didn’t intend for it to be seen by the police, commentators online say “What planet is this individual on? Her tweets are public domain” and that is the attitude one tends to see, including in the law courts. e.g. “a person who walks down the street will inevitably be visible” (PG v UK 2008 ECt HR). In the UK that seems to be the standard perspective, that no reasonable expectation to privacy when expressing yourself in public.

In the US there is even less privacy of social media posts, e.g. see C.f. Bartow (2011) who says “Facebook is a giant surveillance tool, no warrant required, which the government can use… with almost no practical constraints from existing laws”. There is no idea of privacy in the US constitution effectively.

You’d think that the EU would be better but where are our traditional concepts of when “reasonable expectation of privacy arises?” Is it in our body, our home (Rynes ECJ 2013), car, what about our data “relating to you” vs “public sphere” (Cf Koops).

So, what are the legal controls? Well the Data Protection law seems obvious but there are strong UK exemptions around detection and prevention of crime – so there is no need for consent.

How about the European Convention on Human Rights article 8, the right to a “private life”. So, the start of my arguement is Von Hannover ECtHR (2004) about intrusion by press rather than police – Princess Caroline of Monaco was being followed by the press in all of her activities. The Court says, seminally, that this is absolutely an invasion of her private life – even though she is a public figure in a public sphere. So we have a concept of privacy being beyond the bounds of your home, of being able to have a right to privacy when out in public.

Now, that was an important case… But it hasn’t had that much impact. So you have cases where the police take photos of people (Wood v Metropolitan Police 2008) or CCTV (reapplication by JR38 for Jusicial review (2015). In the case of Wood a serial activist was going to a corporate AGM, expected to cause trouble, so police followed him and photographed him. Judge said that he was an activist and well known, and could expect to be followed. The arguement was that the image was a one off thing – that not part of ongoing profile.

The most recent case, which was in Northern Ireland, was caught on CCTV during the NI equivelent of the London Riots. The person in question was 14 year old and images were circulated widely, possibly including to the Derry Journal. Again he uses, but in an interesting way. There are at least three judgements.

Lord Kerr says “The facet that the activity… Is suspected to be criminal… will not alone be sufficient to remove it from… application of article 8”. That’s a big deal – suspicion of criminal activity isn’t enough for your rights to be exempt. However in this case the second test, whether the intrusion is justified, was found to be the case. And they took very little time to decide it was a justified act. Under proportionality of rights of individual, and rights of community to protect itself, they felt this intrusion was justified. They say that he’d benefit too – saying that that 14 year old might be diverted from a life of crime. They lay it on a bit but they are under pressure to justify why they have not stigmatised this youth through sharing his image. So, an interesting case.

So, there is some expectation of privacy in public but even so interference can be justified. Interferance must be justified as necessary, proportionate and according to law. But security usually seems to win in UK? (Wood, JR38). Even if no reasonable expectation of privacy, may still be part of “private life”. But all of this assumes that you know you are being surveilled, of your information being accessed. But you may not know if your data is being used to build up profiles, to build up an airport stop list, etc.

Now, in response to Snowdon, we have something called RIPA – an envisioned “digital” scheme to cover surveillance of personal data. This scheme covers real time interceptions of emails, warrant from secretary of state needed. But social media isn’t part of this. They just seem to be making up how they manage that data.

Now I want to argue that use of SOCMINT shouldn’t have any special excemption…

Demos in 2013 asseted “open” SOCMINT collection (and processing) needs no authorisation of any kind. Why? They argued that no expectation of privacy so long as user new from T&C that public data might be collected, especially via API. I think that is just egregiously stupid… Even if you believed that it would apply to the platform – not for the police, the rest of the world, etc.

The other argument is the detailed profile argument. And that is that even if we admit that this material is “public” there is still part of ECHR which is that detailed profiles of this sort need to be treated with respect – that comes from practices by the Stasi and concerns around the possibility of a secret police state, Juris Prudence (Rotaru v Romania) covers this.

So, my perspective is that there is a real difference between structured and unstructured data… Even if in public is SOCMINT an autoamatic dossier? With Google most of the internet is a structured dossier. With that in mind ECtHR case law has seen structured dossiers maintained ver time as a key threat – Rotaru v Romainis dictum: “public information can fall within the scope of private life where it is systematically collected and stored in files held by authorities”. So does the Rotaru distinction between structured data in files held by police, and unstructured data hold up in the age of Google and data mining (e.g. Google Spain (ECJ 2014), UK RIPA case (2015).

As we move into the internet as the main site for key publishing of data, and as the internet of things and smart cities come online


Q1) Should we be able to do data mining on large sets of social data?

A1) Big data, data mining and the internet of things can be seen as the three horsemen of the apocalypse in a way. And that’s the other talk I could have given. The police, using this sort of data are using data in a different context, and that isn’t ok under ECHR art 8.

Q2) I remember a paper about a year ago about the distinction between what an individual can do in terms of asking about others etc. They have more right that the police in some contexts.

A2) There is this weird thing where if you are not looking at specific people, you aren’t as restrained. That’s because it used to be the case that you could find out very little without investigating an individual. That has changed considerable but he law hasn’t been updated to reflect that.

Q3) A lot about us is public, so don’t we just have to deal with this. I see the concerns of a police state, but I don’t understand where you are drawing the line on legal controls on policing. If they can only do the same as a member of the public then there shouldn’t be an issue there…

A3) You’ve given that answer yourself – the power dynamic is asymmetrical. They have capacity to join data up to their own databases – which may include your being a witness or victim of crime, not always suspect or perpetrator. There is a lot of black boxing of data here…

Q3) What controls are you proposing?

A3) Honestly, I don’t know if the quick answer. But if we look at the requirements for intercepting letters, email, telephone are strict, searching homes, pretending to be friend etc. are less strict… But that scooping up of mass data is something different in terms of implications and we need some form of safeguarding around that, even if less strict than some other approaches/interceptions.

There is overwhelming evidence that young people don’t realise the potential implications of their sharing of data, and see these spaces as a private space away from other areas of their life in which they find themselves surveilled. So there is a reasonable presumption of privacy there.

Q3) I think there is a need for appropriate controls on police activities, I agree with that. If I share things only with friends on facebook and police look at that, that is an investigation. But if I tweet something it is public

A3) This is the classic liberal argument I don’t agree with. Tweeting is a bit different. Facebook is the new mall, the new social space, they use openness to serve them socially, believing it will only be read by peers. So they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Part of Bartett and Millar work is about the use of the word “rape” – in gaming culture it is being used to take a game. Imagine that being crunched. That’s the sort of issue that can arise in big data. I’m not saying police needs a warrant for all Twitter data capture, I’m saying we need to think about what is appropriate.

Q4) There is a perspective that taking the UK out of the EU Human Rights Act is a red herring to distract from other legislation.

A4) Even if we left the EU Human Rights Act, the UK Government would find many of its protections are embedded in other part of EU law, so it would still require appropriate respect of individual rights to privacy. But that’s a political conversation really.

Q5) So, in terms of the issues you have raised, how do we understand what is private and what is public data?

A5) I think essentially that we need to safeguard certain points in what has become a continuum in privacy around human rights, something that will set some barriers about the types of interventions that can occur, and what kind of oversight they require.

And with that Lilian’s excellent and information-packed talk is done. Really interesting and there were clearly plenty more questions arising. Particularly interesting for me thinking about the Digital Footprints work, and the legislative context for the research we have been undertaking on student expectations, experiences, practices. 

Aug 122015

Today I am at the West College Scotland Information Technology Symposium at the Erskine Bridge Hotel in Paisley. I’ll be part o the e-Resources break out sessions this morning, and this afternoon but when not talking about MediaHub or Digimap for Colleges, I’ll be blogging the keynotes and presentations that are taking place in the main conference room.

As usual, because this is a live blog so there may be typos, spelling issues or the occasional error – please do just let me know if you have any corrections etc. 

Welcome – Audrey Cumberford

I am delighted to welcome you all here today. We are also videoing the event for some of your colleagues who are unable to attend as student inductions are also taking place today. Using innovative technologies is core to what we do and we want to lead in the use of technology to enhance how students learn, that’s our ambition and today is all about that. And if we do not do that we may end up with disengaged students and we don’t want that to happen, so we want to give you a sense of what is possible but also to show you what we are already doing in this area. We are already doing a lot and you can see what others are doing, and how you might do that too. For instance this afternoon we have a session on Augmented Reality, and there are some schools and colleges already exploring how augmented reality can transform learning.

I know there are challenges about how we do this, we have challenges here around skills, competence, experience so we need to ensure that you are trained, equipped and supported to be able to take on those challenges. But those challenges are not an excuse not to take this innovation agenda forwards!

I also want to thank the team behind the event today, to Erskine, and to our sponsors. So, enjoy today and thank you!

As we turn to our next session my Twitter handle has been spotted on the event hashtag: #WCS_WITS.

Putting the “e” into e-learning – Becky Barrington, Head of e-Learning and Innovation at The Cornwall College Group

I have been at Barrington just a week, so much of what I say today will be reflecting my previous experience, most recently at South Devon College. I’m going to talk about a lot of possibilities but these are free, easy to use and very practical things! And this will be an interactive session – with some paper and device stuff.

I’ll mostly be talking about Enabling, but I will also be talking about Exciting and Extending.

I was going to use an app called Remote Mouse but due to wifi issues that won’t happen. However, I recommend it!

So, first up I am going to ask you to play “barrier bingo” – this is about removing barriers… We’ll draw a 2×2 grid and I have some things we hear a lot about barriers:

Access – “I am never in a computer room”

Skills – “I don’t know how to do it”

Time – “I don’t have time to do it”

Confidence – “It always breaks for me or goes wrong”

Ideas – “I don’t know what to do”

Now, I’ve loaded those five terms into a tool called class tools.net that will let you randomly pick a term… And the virtual fruit machine picks… 


Often people want to know everything first… But that much information in a training session, that’s too much to take in sometimes. So you need to start small – don’t try and learn everything at once! You can also put the students in control, letting them work together to figure thing out – so you both do the things you have expertise in.

Another tool you can use here – Quizmasters (like Block Busters) allows to create games and quizzes for the classroom. The way that it works is that you have 2 teams. Team 1 have to get four questions right, team 2 have to get five questions right – works well for different abilities of students or unequal group sizes. So, when I use it teams take turns to ask each other questions…

Back to the fruit machine… 


The confidence bit is about practising an knowing the its you want to do well, rather than trying to know everything. You can also get yourself a buddy – a student or a colleague. That can build confidence in the sense of “I will be there in case it goes wrong”.

Back to the fruit machine… 


Try to do things that don’t require huge amounts of work ahead of time. Getting students making resources for you can be really useful. I have split classes into groups to create different quizzes, games, etc. It’s great for them as they have to think about the questions, and want to find difficult questions. Another great tool is the glossary tool in Moodle – a searchable bank of information that students can add too. So I will give students common words that will come up in a class. And they can then type in the information – whether to a light or very complex level of detail. That then becomes a resource for the rest of the year, but students also retain their understanding of the word(s) that they have looked up and added. And the glossary does automatic linking, so pop ups show up whenever that word occurs.

Also think about group working that you can just get up and go with. So two I’d recommend there are Padlet and Twiddla. Paddlet is a virtual pin board basically – can be used in class or as pre-work/homework. It embeds nicely into Padlet too. I can plan and create in advance, but I can create a Padlet ad hoc. And anyone can access that, either from their own device, or from a shared main computer/presentation machine in the room. Twiddla is similar – this can work better for remote activities as it has a chat room and has a white board type space. You can make private Twiddla spaces, but you can also do this ad hoc too.

Back to the fruit machine… Possibly someone will shout Bingo! now… 


An IT room enables use of IT, but not necessarily needed for learning technology. You don’t always need one computer per student. Most teaching rooms will have a computer and projector these days, and there is a lot you can do with that. Again some games activity work well for this sort of set up, for instance Penalty Shoot Out (£250 for a site license) lets you set up a multiple choice question as part of a “penalty shoot out” – getting a question right, lets you attempt to score a goal!

Another tool you can use is Flip Quiz… This lets you set up a quiz with various scores available…

Our side of the room picks General Knowledge for 500 points… And the question is “What does SQA stand for?” (deemed a wee bit too easy!). The other side picks Technology and also 500 points and gets the question “Name your plagiarism software?”. Now back to our side… Teaching and Learning for 500 points, the question is about which theorist has a taxonomy based on levels of understanding, which is of course Bloom. Back to Team 2 – which is the closest loch to the hotel? It’s Loch Lomand… And then get a bonus question to which the answer proves to be Jisc. A nice illustration of the engagement of these quizzes. 

So, that’s one way to deal with access. You can also get students to use their own devices. There can be concerns abut risk, but you can work around that. If you are worried about distractions, only use it at the end of the lesson. Or you can get students logged in early, then leave them on the table and only have them pick them up again as needed.


This is what today is all about!

So, how do we Excite our students? Lots of options. I’ve been working on gamifying lessons. For some students they can only aim for an A as the highest achievement, but for students for whom that isn’t a realistic goal gamifying means you can use class points, issue badges for achievements etc. to put people on a more level playing field in terms of motivation, and highlighting and celebrating students’ skills. And in general that highlighting and celebrating has huge value for students, and for potential employers.

So, another thing you can use here is Kahoot.it. You set up a game. To set up a game you go to getkahoot.com – you add in questions and answers to automatically create a game. Players use their own devices to login, using a pin, and then questions appear on phones, and you find out if you are right or not. (Number of players in this room is 136 ish). So a question shows up, you pick a colour on your device… And on the main screen the number of correct/incorrect answers shows… What happens at the end is you can download the results and see who has gotten which question right or wrong – it means students are not embarrassed by what’s on the big screen but you get a sense of how students are getting on. (Cue questions whizzing past). At the end of the quiz each player sees their score, and then as asked for feedback on how the quiz worked. That’s all free, very easy, and works well but relies on access to the internet via mobile devices or computers.

I also wanted to mention Classtools.net which enables students to use in their own work and self-assessment. You don’t get feedback but students get feedback on their performance. You can provide questions etc. and then the student can choose which of several games to engage with those questions.

So, thinking about Extending learning, I want to talk a bit about Moodle. Moodle really can extend learning beyond the classroom. You can set things for the student to get on with. We tend to think about putting content online in Moodle, but there is much more you can do. For instance depending on grade you can release additional information to the learner. You can track progress, to manage students learning, and for students to understand their own learning. Particularly for Flipped Learning model, where homework is ahead of class, you can see how students do ahead of the lesson to inform your teaching and to understand what the students are and are not understanding.

So, the things we’ve seen:

  • Teachers Direct
  • Gamesbusters
  • Kahoot
  • Classtools.net
  • Padlet
  • Twiddla
  • Poll Everywhere

I’m going to finish with Poll Everywhere. This is again completely free – for up to 40 responses. You can pay for more but for most classes 40 is a reasonable number. So, for our example, which idea will you be using in your classroom? The answer resoundingly seems to be Kahoot.

And with that Rebecca concludes her presentation and hands over to… 

RSA Animates – Jamie Cook, Head of RSA Scotland

It sounds grand, but I am the only member of staff at the moment! As an organisation we have been around for over 200 years, and have fellows across the World. We have many interests but pinning it down I would say we are fascinated by ideas, and how we respond to problems. It emerged from the coffee shops of the Enlightenment. We used to set “premiums” – prizes to solve those problems that arose – for instance successful growth of particular crops; machinery to clean chimneys so that children did not have to do this, etc.

We want to use technology, and innovative ways to solve problems. But how can we take the ideas we have and share them to maximum success. One of our solutions to this came from sitting down for a coffee. At our headquarters in London we have over 150 talks a year from experts on a variety of topics, they are live streamed to the world but that is not particularly innovative. We were wondering how to engage people with these ideas – there is so much to engage with, how do you identify which ones you should engage with yourself. Those videos are maybe 40 minutes, and although we have an app, they are not always as easy to access. Sitting and listening to talks on complex ideas are not always the best way to get information flowing. At that coffee meeting someone suggested that it would be lovely to just draw the talks, and one of our fellows, an artist, said “yes, I could do that”. And that has become our “RSA Animate” videos. These are the idea of taking lectures, condensing them, and putting them across to a condensed form. The speaker is still there, in edited form, but you also have a visual way in.

My favourite is “21st Century Enlightenment’ and our director Matthew Taylor used his annual talk in 2010 to talk about this concept of a 21st century take on the enlightenment. There was a really interesting reaction about the balance of philosophical and political content in his talk. They didn’t entirely get it. We then produced the animate, of 10-15 mins and what was interesting was that the use of those cartoons made all the difference, they got what he was talking about.

We have hundreds of staff, thousands of fellows – we are not that big – but we now have the most YouTube subscribers of any non-profit organisation. We have over 484k subscribers, and nearly 70 million YouTube views. These videos are being used in classrooms, apparently Yoko Ono tweeting about us, and the US Department of Defence is now using animate as a form (but we are not sure what they use them for).

That has been a fantastic success, but the popularity of Andrew and his team, who makes these, means we can only really do 2 animates a year. But also like anything we have to keep innovating… What is the next animate? So we now have a new series called “RSA Shorts” – these are even shorter videos (2.5-3 mins) to summarise key ideas coming out of key pieces of work. One of the key aspects of the shorts is that they can be a variety of formats and styles. We have had competitions at RSA to produce these. This is an interesting way to engage people who would not otherwise engage with us. Those shorts are, as we put it, an “espresso of the mind”.

These shorts are also changing how we present ourselves to the world. What we do is now set out in a short video. It’s not just about portraying information or being gimmicky, but also to explain what we do and what we are about not only to the outside world, but to ourselves. These are snapshots that capture what we do.

Please do have a look and feel free to make use of these resources in your own work.

And with that, we head to a quick coffee break… 

WCS Showcase – WCS Staff

YES: Your Essential Skills – Grant Taylor, Head of Essential Skills

I’ve created a short here to explain why we do… This is for the 7 people who didn’t know what YES was earlier on.

The video is outline the portal, which is system that West College Scotland students can use to understand required essential skills, that matter as much as academic and subject areas to employers. We use a universal language of skills, having that universal skills of what are important, that covers these 40 skills areas, enables a really global language.

The portal acknowledges that students learn in different ways, at different paces. Students have different skills, they may coach each other, they may do something more practical… They may all have the same lesson but we all experience that differently, so the ability to self reflect and your experience of learning at that moment, gives you a real chance for ownership and understanding. And you can articulate your skills in the language of the wider world, of employers etc. Students have ownership and puts learning back in the hands of owners. We want to try to change educational culture, a long term view across the whole of Scotland. Those essential skills have parity across the board, and are so important for jobs and for employers.

A student notes that it is hard to know you have those skills, but reflecting on those enables you to say what skills you have, to understand those skills, to tell employers what you can do.

WCS Sport: how we use Turnitin AKA The Helensburgh Incident – Pat Shearer

The Helensburgh Incident was known locally as “Hurricane Bawbag”… At the time we had a student that took about 2 and a half hours to get into college through all the disruption just to hand in a piece of written coursework. I felt really bad for them and so we started looking at an easier way for them to do that. So, we started off looking at Turnitin software, which is a tool for “fighting against the internet” and the plagiarism it had enabled.

I’m a bit of a pragmatist: technology has to help the student, and has to help me otherwise it would be a waste of time. We’ve now been using Turnitin for the last 4 or 5 years but I was surprised that few in the college use it yet. We use it particularly in HNC and HND work, particularly for the written assignments, reports and presentations. We use it conveniently enable them to upload their assignments so that they can submit 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world.

Once they have submitted we do 4 or 5 things. We don’t have huge amounts of paperwork for our subject, this system helps us capture all of our students work in one easy to explore place. It also means our wonderful course admin Debbie doesn’t have to be inundated producing time and date evidence. And actually this system helps us reduce paper and printing costs. The last thing we really use it for is to check for people trying to cheat – and that isn’t just about catching them, it’s about helping them to understand that they can’t just paste text from the internet, and to understand why. Before Turnitin we were finding that issue arising more, and being more challenging to do that. So we use Turnitin as a reference, so they understand how an assignment should be putting together an assignment, what’s expected of them at university etc.

So we use it for sustainability and for plagiarism detection and education. I also have a break out room – come and find out more!

Weekly Class Websites – Riona Rushton

Weebly is a way to build websites, for students to build websites. It’s a free tool –  as long as you go to education.weebly.com – and you get 40 student accounts for free (so you have to delete and start again each session or use the paid for version). You can manage those sites but students can create sites, show evidence of research, etc. You set up your own account, set up classes and students within each class. And you have control of what they can and cannot post.

Once you have set up your account you can use templates and PowerPoint like tools. Students can create a blog, share things they have made, add content etc.

So, you set this up yourself – so good to have a standard format for naming those students in a consistent way. Students can change their password, but you can also reset as needed.

It’s a very simple process to use. Students take ownership and do their own creative thing… And students enjoy using it.

You can choose whether you want those sites to be public, or private which means behind a password. Students can only set up 5 pages – but they can be quite substantial, for instance one page can be set up as a blog. Students can choose the format they use – whilst a lot is in written form they can also embed and link to other types of materials.

Using Weebly as a reflective portfolio space encourages self direction and organisational skills, how to group information by topic etc. And provides some IT skills and experience for students.

Viewing a student site here we can see a student of Games Design share their five pages, things they are experimenting with, etc.  (and it looks lovely).

The Use of Virtual Patients in Pharmacy Education – Suzanne Thompson, Science Team 

Our pharmacy education course at Greenock requires students to ask patients about their needs, but many students do not like role play, which is what we would usually do. So, in 2013 I undertook some work to look at alternatives and I will be talking about some work, based on Keele University tools, that enable students to engage with real patients. These enable students to consider the interaction, the way that questions were asked. There are also activities to test and use underpinning knowledge. They can also then use that knowledge and experience to decide what kind of medication a patient requires. This helps students improve their knowledge and understanding but also to understand patients ongoing needs.

At the time of the study there was huge use of this tool – including away from the classroom. And these activities improved confidence in role play – which helps to prepare students for assessment which includes aspects of role play. Students also understood the reason for those role plays, and how to engage in them more effectively. And that tool is now embedded in the course as a core tool, and the students are really enjoying and benefitting from that.

And an excellent use of Powtoon for that presentation there!

Breakout 1 

I’m presenting in the e-Resources session but will summarise anything exciting later.

What do our students want? – Goerge Jonson, WCS

We ran a survey of our students and had a very good response of 685 participants, it was a really good sample from across the college and included both full time and part time students. I’m just going to talk a bit about some of those responses.

We asked students what type of learning students wanted, and they were keen on some or wholly online, that’s a priority for them. In terms of supporting their learning students want to use their laptop in class, online activities, but also face to face interaction. They want to use smartphones in class (about 85% have smartphones) and to use social media in teaching and learning.

There is a fair amount of blended learning going on – and about 66% of students felt their area of learning used technology effectively. We also saw that 75% use Moodle and most were very positive about this experience. We also asked about devices and 75% had a laptop, 58% owned a tablet, 88% owned a smartphone (fairly even iOS and Android split, a few other operating systems in minority use). The students did identify opportunities but also barriers for the use of smartphones (slow network connection and battery life were top concerns there).

In addition to the survey we also ran focus groups with our students and messages coming through there included: issues with reliable access to IT; lack of awareness of Office365 and their cloud storing there; effective use of Facebook groups – this came out of every campus.

So, some conclusions: there is demand among students for a blended approach to learning and teaching; there is widespread but not universal ownership of smart phones; and there is opportunity to do more with students own devices.

Angela Pignatelli – Creative Industries, WCS

I am going to talk a bit about the experiences our students have, and drawing upon Marc Prensky’s work on Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, but first a show reel here about how technology is the norm (Currently watching this – sequence of images collaged together and making effective use of the Humans title theme music).

[Note here that, as usual, I’m capturing the speakers comments in this post, something that mention of Marc Prensky always reminds me to flag up as I share the widespread concerns about the problematic nature of the Natives/Immigrants work. It’s worth reading some of that critical commentary, not least Prensky’s own more recent writing].

So, we have 3D printing becoming commonplace, robotics and augmented reality are all here. We were all raised in an education system with a start, middle and end, but these students coming in have a very different experience… As they arrive take a moment to see that you are tapping into those students cognitive processes: we have an unprecedented level of technological development, we need to make sure students are learner centred, are able to contribute and share their own voices. In some work we’ve been doing with Glasgow University, we’ve found that “digital natives” have “twitch speed” – swiftly understanding ideas; random access; parallel processing; image first; play orientated.

There is huge amounts of theory on games design and the theory of game design. I’m not a gamer but we apply that experience of being a gamer to their educational experience, to our curriculum design. Complex levels, structures in gaming are familiar and comfortable with. So how can we give them ownership to understand short, medium and long term goals. And we talk about pedagoguey, but we also need to talk about whotagoguey.

This image shows my 9 year old relative who is creating their own exercises whilst face timing her friend. We have to be prepared for students who operate like this.

There are various tips and techniques for dealing with digital natives. But be professionally discerning about what is applicable to you and your teaching and learning context.

And I’ll end on a quote from Steven Johnson, author of “Everything bad is good for you” who points out that many of the new technologies make more demands on us, improving our capabilities.

Making a difference in the short term for today’s and tomorrow’s students – Jason Miles Campbell, Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland

I’m not particularly an expert in teaching and learning but I can tell you, from my perspective as Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland, what others are doing, what works well…

So I will talk about how you can make a difference in your students’ lives. So…

1. Take the quick wins

Do the things that are achievable. One small change that is put in place can make a huge difference. For my example… Is an image of the three rail lines that run near Edinburgh Airport… Can you get a train there? No! There was a huge expensive diversion plan that didn’t happen but if they’d just put in a path or a shuttle bus, that would be great. So… Do what you can! Do what makes sense!

2. Rely on the Internet

Things can go wrong with technology, and sometimes you have to find a work around, but as long as you can divert, adjust, be flexible, it will be fine.

3. Listen to your IT people

Jisc, as you may be aware, provides the internet for your college. Your needs change and so we are always working to ensure we are fit for the future. And I would say that you should listen to your IT people. There are a huge amounts of attempted hacks etc. so if someone tells you that you should change your password every 6 months, then there’s a reason.

4. Use what you’ve got

We have students with smartphones and tablets, there are cheap tablets available… use what you’ve got. And there are Jisc resources you can use, there is Creative Commons stuff you can use, there are free things – like Beccy said, that you can use.

5. Take Risks

There are many ways we take risks every day… We do it when we speak in public. We do it when we use technologies that can fail. Sometimes we can be far too risk averse, when we are better benefitting from what we have available. We allow power tools on College campuses, but can be over restrictive on copyright?! I’d rather take my chances with copyright than power tools!

6. Immersion therapy

Try things out, experiment, immerse yourselves and see what ideas comes to you. My colleague spent an hour with Google Cardboard triggering huge amounts of ideas and excitement. You can use these sorts of tools to more literally immerse yourself – to look virtual patients in the eye for instance.

7. Use your students

Ask them how they want to learn, what they want to do. A great source for ideas, inspiration, etc. is to just directly ask your students. Students can also tell you the tools that they like using, and which are suitable and accessible to them. One of the advantages of Bring Your Own Device lets the students decide what they need, and set up in the way they like.

8. Embrace shared services

Now I would say that, Jisc is essentially a huge set of shared services. They enable co-operation, shared use of technologies etc. Even quite simple technology can be useful.

9. Enable, enthuse, inspire

There is so much potential in smart phones and there are such ideas there to play with. Mobile and home internet connections enable virtual meetings, web cams, mics, etc. You can access the world essentially, without even needing to travel. Technology can free you up to focus on what matters.

And that’s me… To find out more do get in touch!

Now onto Joe Wilson, who our compare feels strongly has the best Twitter avatar in the world… 

Open, Collaborative, Sharing Practice in the FE Sector – Joe Wilson, Chief Executive of CDN

I’m an old codger in FE terms (I remember working for local authorities), which means I’ve seen lots and lots of changes and I’ve always used technology. I started off with photocopiers, OHP projectors, epidiascopes, electronic typewriters…

But soon word processors arrived and, soon after, similar commands let me use webpages… So back in 1996 I was able to share links and presentations and materials on my (demon.co.uk) website. By 2000 I was playing with Blogger, to blog to share ideas… All I do, maybe once every two months, is sit and reflect on stuff. Sharing what I’ve learned, what I’ve taken away… You build up a community. I started to work with Jisc and started using Jiscmail in 2001. It amazes me how few colleges who don’t know or engage with the communities on Jiscmail. You will find a huge range of communities who are sharing resources all the time…

All the things on my list here, I still use now. So I am still using delicious to capture groups of links… Built up over time… collected and curated. Pinterest is great – my kids do it all the time. Think of the subjects that showing a good weld, or a merit in cake decorating might look like… This is all about co-creating. Your head would spin if you looked at it all. I always think free is good. I started off as an adult literacy in Arden, outside of Comely Bank. They were quite cut off… But this isn’t about being technology, but what you do with it. I think that you should be on Twitter to build up a personal learning network – share good stuff, you get better stuff back. It’s about sharing and working globally, not only engaging locally.

Looking at the NMC Horison Report 2015 highlights major developments. The future, at the moment, are blended learning. All the statistics here about the take up of smart phones, tablets, broadband.. the challenge for us and our learners is to address the issue of the digitally excluded – those without internet, tools etc. But that should not hold us back, even if we are also looking at how we bridge that gap.

If you think about where learners are going, and what they want… Students want learning on demand to fit work and life schedules. They want self paced learning, and learning from home. They want to know that what they are learning is relevant to their career and life now and for the future. We need to reflect global learning and local needs, which means it has to be more collaborative. And we need to be meeting and listening to experts – high value but good value.

We also need to take our heads out of the sands and address the facet that education is changes. In terms of who is doing best Universities probably lead right now. Colleges were doing well, with VLEs, but all the changes and restructuring they fell behind  little. Schools are moving on now, Glow is getting bigger and can be a great way to build a personal learning network.

So, for an example, I’m going to mention the Glasgow ? of Art. You also have things like Phonar – an open undergraduate photography class – not a Scottish example but a great one, this guy just opened up his class online.

Another example, Tute… When I was a head of education you’d get asked to tutor struggling students. I have a friend in Glasgow, and this example down south, who provide tutoring online, they pay the same as other tutors, they work through Skype etc. So questions that might have come to you, may be going there already.

I also wanted to talk about OER and ukoer vision, and I’d like to encourage you to share your learning resources online. But it’s not just Scotland or the UK, it’s global. The drivers are various but the idea of education as a common good. If I can share my materials and benefit other people for free, that’s great. And there is loads of content coming, I want Scottish content in there. I chaired the UK FE Skills Window down south, and I’ve seen some of the content that is coming.

We also see the FELTAG objectives pushing a strong aspiration for content to be partially available online. That is making a big difference even though theses sorts of top down initiatives are not always successful.

There is so much out there already, and we should use them, but it should be us creating soon.

Open Scotland is a cross sector initiative that aims to raise awakeners of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefits all sectors of Scottish Education. Universities in Scotland will be capturing lectures and sharing on YouTube, and there is so much you can do with this.

And Opening Educational Practices in Scotland – this is from Caledonian University, take a look. Publications are increasingly open, and teaching materials can also be shared that way, and should be.

See also: Re:Source – a repository to deposit and find stuff; glow; ushare – collecting useful websites etc; Mozilla open badges.

But what can you do in the future? What can you do this sugar to provide additional support for your leaners? How can students create things themselves. I think in the the University of West of Scotland might be useful here. I suggested they should talk to West College Scotland… And I’ll say the same again – why don’t you start that conversation.

Think about what you can do to promote open practice across institution and figure out business model? And as an individual practitioner, how do you start the learning journey, and building your personal learning network.. How do you begin that process? In this college you have three big sites, so you are part of the way there already! For me, on Twitter, I’ll ask a question and all these people come back and tell me, it’s brilliant!

Things you need to think about, are you ready? Do you have a social software policy – and which are yours (and your students) personal and professional digital identities; think about digital literacy and digital participation for all – thats the closing the gap part (and students can tell us their needs here); think about who your digital leaders are? Some will be leaders in the staff room, some will be leaders in the classroom but this is less about learning technologists and more about social learning. Do you have any open practitioners? Which apps do you use? (There are some great ones out there!). And where and how do you share, reuse and remix? It’s not about trying to copy Harvard, it’s about smart reuse and remixing of relevant materials.

Now, I have to do the promotional thing for College Development Network – we can help you get there! Increasingly you don’t need to come in person to Stirling to see us, as we will have lots of online webinars and other ways to engage. We have 31 development networks all connected up here, and those communities can all help and support you and share experience. And colleges are in a great place – that’s been clear today. As colleges we make people who fit into the future… You can do this.

Through places like Re:Source locally, and other things beyond, we can crack this.

Going back to my hardworking classes in Arden, we created a local history book and they got communication by stealth around communication! But what would they do now? Well they would have a choice of any book they wanted quickly. That information would be through Wikipedia pages, and they would be talking to the world. They would be doing something real. Some would be engaging with blogs but all would be participating and creating. We might even have a YouTube or similar. It would be so different – and we can do this now! So, do it! We will be with you all the way, hopefully leading with you all the way!

Breakout 2

Again, I’m presenting in the e-Resources session so the blog will go quiet for a bit…

Plenary and Q&A – John Collins, Speakers and WCS Senior Management Team

Q1) Becky, you showed us loads of examples today, where can we find those all?

A1 – Becky) I’ll send my slides to WCS and then that includes all of those resources.

And with that we are out of questions, mainly because things a somewhat overrunning, so finally it is back to 

Thank you to our main sponsors Prometheus, to our other sponsors. Thanks also to our guest breakout session presenters from Borders College and EDINA, to all of our external speakers, and to all of our West College Scotland presenters. And thank to John for his MCing today. Last but not least thank you to George Johnson and his team working to organise today.

Today is just the beginning!

And with that, we are all wrapped up… Thanks to West College Scotland for having me along to talk about MediaHub today, and to all who came along to those sessions! 

 August 12, 2015  Posted by at 9:45 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with:  No Responses »