Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blog doubt and lack of focus

I've been reading a lot of other peoples blogs lately and becoming more inclined to comment on what they've got to say. This has led me to reflect on this blog which has been ticking a long for the last couple of years with occasional spurts of activity and then longer periods of inactivity. I've been beginning to think what's it all for? Who exactly am I writing this for? who benefits and is any of it of any interest or value to me or to anyone else? Perhaps the fact that I am questioning this in the first place is a sign.

So this posting is based on that reflection and for me to consider and re-state (for my own benefit) the purpose and scope of this blog. I think originally it was to accompany my research, get some comments and feedback from other folks working in the field. I guess also to help me reflect on all the stuff I 'take in' through reading, interviewing people and generally absorbing through my work and life. The benefit to me is that it is a non-academic environment to write freely.

Perhaps I am in a state of flux? I am a little unfocussed, I work on a number of research projects, usually related to gender or enterprise or the creative industries and if I am lucky they collide and in so doing have relevance to my PhD stuff. When reflecting with colleagues about another project (wellbeing and work/life balance stuff) I realised that my own work/life balance is shot. Ah you see - I am way off topic! Or perhaps there is a link here. The point really is that I am currently so overwhelmed with all the various projects I am working on that I am struggling to focus on the big one. This blog was intended to help me focus on my personal research and right now it is not working. So what to do? Give up? (Anyone who knows me knows I am pretty crummy at giving things up - although a blog is hardly a vice - unless I suppose if it is coming from some sort of narcissistic position - will have to ask psychologist friends).

One of the benefits of this blog is that it has introduced me to a bunch of people and opportunities I wouldn’t have had previously, and which relate to my research. On that basis it would be worth continuing. It has also offered me the opportunity to try out some ideas or describe them at least. However whether I have anything interesting/of value to say right now is an issue. I am interested - why do other people blog? What do they get out of it? How often do you doubt your blogs purpose? And why do we need to share? i.e. why am I going to click the publish button right about now?!?

For now I am done.

Incidentally I lasted three days when I gave up coffee last week - so expect a posting by the end of the week.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Might be of interest

There is some stuff about La traviata and other shows I've been to in the last week on my personal blog it is a little off topic for here but might be of interest.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Last Friday= Michael Wolf talk + Plus party

Friday night I went along to the very chilly Wild Building in Digbeth (Birmingham UK). Here a large and drafty warehouse with all original fixtures and fittings housed the Plus design festival. I was heading along to the Michael Wolf talk and energy permitting (and I knew it would) the end of show party and launch of Blink magazine.

The contrast between the large drafty environment and the slick (and by this mean tight, professional often beautiful) design stands was powerful. It was one of those moments when you feel like you could really be in any uber cool, urban, down-town art/design thing, anywhere in the world. Although I did have a few encounters with some Nathan Barley types.

Michael Wolf was also pretty cool - I'm not sure what I was expecting - but as I perched, rather recklessly on a bean bag with my legs buckled under a tiny coffee table in - did I mention it was drafty - in a cold spot, I didn't even notice the hour or so of the talk pass. For me it was reminiscent (the talk not the environment) of sitting at my uncle Charlie's (an artist) kitchen table listening to him and my dad (a graphic designer) disseminate pearls of wisdom about art and design and what's good, bad, the history and future of and all sorts of anecdotes.

However enough of that the format took the form of local designer Stef Lewandowski chairing a panel who directed questions to Michael (apparently he prefers this format as it requires less preparation).

Here are some points and thoughts that struck me:

- He spoke about the need for designers to be taught (I guess as students - so listen out HE ) about how to articulate the value of their contribution. 'What is your contribution worth to the client?' This is something I recall from my own distant freelancing days. Getting your head round the idea that a piece of design might be the making of a product success - so what is its value in that context?

- Recognising that new designers struggle sometimes to have the confidence to say how much they 'cost', he suggested role-play and the sort of experiential learning that I have advocated many times. He was suggested young designers (or old for that matter) role play amongst their colleagues and rehearse.

- He also spoke of being 'real' - this was a bit spooky for me after various 'authenticity' rants I've had in the last few weeks.

- Interestingly when I asked about how the UK were fairing in the context of increased competition from 'emerging economies' he spoke of the only real competition being with oneself - you're only as good as your last piece of work etc.

- When I pursued this with questioning this further and in the context of 10 years of governmental policy aiming to support and grow our creative industries he suggested that things were a little bleak. But that ultimately the issue was that companies (and by this I understood clients) were 'rather boring now' and the 'need for creativity to throughout a company'. This was an interesting perspective in the work that I am involved in as it sort of suggests a much more holistic approach is needed.

There was much much more however..

After the talk I loitered for the party. It was like being at an animated version of Facebook - I am always struck by how generally, people are much more attractive in the flesh - not just to look at but much more friendly somehow. The atmosphere was upbeat with free beers and cocktails and some delicious food from the patisserie in Kings heath (Chorizo sausage roll! I know I never even thought of it before but it really works). There was also a band of very cute/cool teenage girls who looked vaguely familiar I think they may live round my way. I really liked them and felt like there was something very cool and sort of constructive/creative and professional about their whole vibe - especially as they were pretty young and the place was packed full of the great and good of Birmingham's arts mafia. I missed the last few hours as sought refuge in the pub.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Authenticity and influence

I have been struggling recently to write this blog, sort of have half arsed ideas that I write about but lack cohesion. So I have a bunch of postings in draft of the rambling variety. But there are some observations and things I have been thinking about related to my research (I can almost hear the yawns -I know I find myself tedious don't worry about it) that I'd like to share.

Here's the thing: there is a word I have heard used in a couple of different scenarios. I have subsequently used it in order to influence an individuals perception of the validity of a piece of work I have been involved in. The word is authenticity. I will no doubt find myself writing about this more formally as my methodology chapter takes shape. As someone who is heavily immersed in the world of storytelling and capturing stories I am always aware of the power of the authenticity of a story told, I perhaps have just not articulated this much yet. As I say this is pretty early days thinking and I have recently discovered colleagues in my own institution who know a great deal more about this stuff. I guess it is similar to what the press experience in terms of 'human interest' type stories.

The second time this word was used was yesterday when attending a 'Influencing and negotiating' training day - it was okay as these things go, 8 hours of pop psychology in 8 easy to do group work activities. It was fun, no it was funny, belly laughs, mirroring each others body language etc etc learning the tools of influence and possible manipulation. But again what came up was this: if you pretend to be someone other than yourself you will probably not be trusted - this was not, incidentally, what the facilitator told us to be true, more our collective realisation of the value of authenticity. Strange it is pretty hard to figure out your authentic self - but that is a whole other topic.

Okay. As is often the case in this blog I am not exactly sure where I am going with this stream of consciousness. But what I find is often the case is when you start to see patterns in what people are saying around you then you are on the verge of discovering or at least making sense of or understanding something, However as a researcher of the qualitative variety recognising the value of the real-lived and authentic experience in terms of research data is important.