Event Announcement: Co-Creative Communities Forum and Lab


I may have mentioned at some point that I’m one of several
Chief Investigators on an Australian Research Council Linkage project called Community Uses of Co-Creative Media which aims to connect Australian community arts and broadcasting via digital storytelling (and other things); I’m crossposting this from that project blog.

The research has been very busy over the past several months conducting background survey & interview research with key project stakeholders, as well as completing the Digistories sub-project –  a broadcast distribution experiment conducted in collaboration with 31 Digital and well worth a blog post on its own at some stage soon.

A lot of energy has also gone into planning for our first major project event, which combines a future-oriented public forum with a workshop/lab-style activity targeted specifically at selected co-creative community media practitioners looking to improve knowledge, gain skills and develop new partnerships.

Details below, please pass them on to all who might be interested!

Co-Creative Communities: Storytelling Futures for Community Arts and Media

Thursday 8 November – Friday 9 November 2012

Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

How are community media and arts organisations responding to the challenge of digital convergence? What is the role of storytelling and storytellers in this evolving landscape?

This two-day event brings together storytellers, broadcasters, filmmakers, artists, cultural workers, activists and researchers to discuss the challenges and opportunities that digital convergence and participatory media present for communities.

Thursday 8 November, 8.30am – 5pm

Broadcast Yourself?

Find out how public and community media innovators are responding to the challenges, changes and potential of participatory media. Speakers include Sue Schardt (Association of Independents in Radio, USA) Cath Dwyer (ABC Open), Jodie Bell (Goolarri Media Enterprises), Kath Letch (Community Broadcasting Association of Australia) and Indu Balachandran (Information & Cultural Exchange).

Impact Effects Evaluation

Leading researchers, practitioners and activists discuss the different models and best practice principles for working with communities to help tell their stories and creative positive change. Speakers include Sam Gregory (WITNESS, USA), Mimi Pickering (Appalshop, USA), Andrew Lowenthal (EngageMedia), Dr. Lachlan MacDowall (University of Melbourne) and Change Media.

Platforms & Publics

Explore how arts and media organisations are connecting with communities across new platforms, and how they might harness the power of next generation broadband. Speakers include Feral Arts, Assoc Prof. Jean Burgess (QUT), Colin Griffith (Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation) and Helen Simondson (ACMI).

Storytelling Futures

We consider the enduring appeal of storytelling, the role of the storyteller and storytelling institutions in a changing media landscape, and the importance of community-based storytelling. Speakers include Prof. John Hartley (Curtin University), Scott Rankin (Big hART), Jesse Cox (All The Best, FBi) and Elias Nohra (CuriousWorks).

To book tickets to the forum and to download the full program visit the ACMI event page.


Friday 9 November, 10am- 2pm

A half-day lab for selected participants to workshop new projects; receive feedback, advice and support from our national and international speakers; participate in peer-to-peer mentoring; and make new connections across community arts and media.

Participation is via application. For more information on how to get involved or to register your interest in the lab, email digitalstorytelling@acmi.net.au

This event is presented by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the Queensland University of Technology with support from the Australian Research Council, the Australia Council for the Arts, Goolarri Media Enterprises, Swinburne University of Technology, Curtin University, 31 Digital and the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia.

ACMI will also be hosting a Digital Storytelling express workshop in conjunction with the forum on Saturday 10 November, 10am – 5.30pm. More info at the ACMI website.

PhD scholarship in Digital Storytelling and Co-Creative Media

I’m one of the Chief Investigators on a project called Community Uses of Co-Creative Media (for short), and we’re offering a scholarship to support a PhD student commencing in 2011. Please pass this information on to anyone who may be interested and eligible!

The project

Applications are invited for a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Faculty-based scholarship to support a PhD project (3 years) that investigates the links between community arts, media, storytelling, and creative participation. This Research Higher Degree (RHD) project will be undertaken in conjunction with an Australian Research Council-funded Linkage with industry. The successful applicant will work with Creative Industries Faculty Chief Investigators – Drs Christina Spurgeon, Helen Klaebe, Jean Burgess, John Hartley and Brad Haseman – to devise and undertake a research project that will contribute to establishing and improving ‘best practice’ knowledge of co-creative media in Australian community media and arts networks. The candidate will participate in project activities including fieldwork, experiments, and symposia, contribute to scholarly outputs of the project, and will have access to a team of nationally and internationally recognised researchers, as well as national and international academic and industry networks.


The scholarship will be awarded in the QUT 2012 scholarship round which closes on 14th October 2011. Potential applicants should contact Dr Christina Spurgeon (c.spurgeon@qut.edu.au ) well before this date, and allow sufficient time to complete the application form. The successful applicant would be expected to commence between January and March 2012.


The Scholarship will be equivalent to a QUT Postgraduate Research AWARD (QUTPRA) and is valued at $22,860 pa (2011 rates, tax exempt and indexed annually) for 3 years. QUTPRA rules will be apply. Further information about QUTPRAs can be accessed from here: http://www.qut.edu.au/research/rhd/scholarships/qut/info/qutpra.jsp

Research Information

The ARC Linkage Project focuses on digital storytelling as a means for propagating creative productivity across the broad population. It investigates the extent to which existing agencies and networks in community arts and community media use co-creative techniques such as digital storytelling to achieve their own aims. The research explores the tensions between new media and existing infrastructure, amateur and professional creativity, and the role of community-based agencies in extending digital literacy, especially among at-risk, remote, and under-served populations. In cooperation with the project’s Industry Partners, we will devise a model for evaluating best practice in the production, adaptation and use of non-professional innovation in creative content. Industry partner organisations are the Australia Council for the Arts, The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Goolarri Media Enterprises, Queensland Community Television and the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. Additional information about the project and participants can be accessed from here: http://digitalstorytelling.ci.qut.edu.au/linkage


The scholarship is open to domestic students and tuition fees will be covered by the Government’s Research Training Scheme (RTS). The successful applicant is expected to hold a First Class Honours Degree (or its Australian equivalent) in a relevant area. International applicants may be also be eligible if their tertiary education is deemed equivalent to an Australian First Class Honours Degree. The proposed research project must align with the ARC-funded project. Applicants must qualify for entry to a PhD program with the Creative Industries Faculty.

How to Apply

If you are interested in this opportunity please contact Dr Christina Spurgeon in the first instance (email: c.spurgeon@qut.edu.au) by 23 September, 2011. The scholarship application form and instructions can be obtained from here: http://www.qut.edu.au/research/rhd/apply/

Other information

The successful applicant will be based at the Creative Industries Faculty at QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus, Brisbane, Australia.

Travel Gazette 1: Ankara & Istanbul

I’m still near to the beginning of a five-week research trip through Europe – I get home at just about the end of October. I’m going to do a series of gazettey blog posts, both as an aide-memoire and a way of sharing my trip given the patchiness of internet connectivity that goes hand in hand with travel (and hence the inability to tweet incessantly!).

So, John Hartley and I spent most of last week in Turkey at the very kind invitation of our colleague and PhD student Burcu Simsek, who is both a member of staff at Hacettepe University in Ankara, and a CCI doctoral candidate. Thanks to Burcu we had an excellent tour of both of Hacettepe’s campuses, as well as all the must-see tourist stuff: museums, the older bazaar streets, and plenty of excellent food.

The main purpose of the trip for John and me was to do one keynote presentation each, as well as a joint panel on Digital Storytelling, at Bilism 2010, a big national IT conference. My presentation on YouTube discussed the ways we might use YouTube’s 5 year history and its competing futures to think about current controversies concerning the future of the Internet more broadly – tensions between various nationally-specific ideologies of ‘openness’, in tension with equally different norms of ‘control’ was what I tried to boil it down to. Of course giving a paper on the popular uses of YouTube in a country where it is currently blocked by official legislation was slightly surreal, but given the number of people who were already familiar with Charlie Bit my Finger and Susan Boyle, (and how easy it is to bypass the block), I think it went OK.

John, Burcu and I also presented a joint panel on Digital Storytelling, which Burcu has introduced to Turkey via a very productive partnership between Hacettepe University and the womens’ organisation Amargi. The digital storytelling workshops she has run so far are also the primary fieldwork component of Burcu’s PhD on digital storytelling and womens’ participation in the Turkish public sphere. In fact the panel was kind of the first public launch of digital storytelling in the Turkish context, so it was pretty exciting to be part of that.

At the end of the conference all three of us flew to Istanbul for the most intensive day of touristing I have ever experienced, including among many other things 2 hours of awe and wonderment at the Hagia Sofia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (video below), and the Sultan’s Palace.

After all that (and of course more food), we survived what has to be the world’s best example of Extreme Shopping: the Grand Bazaar; and finally, a brief dip into Istanbul’s extremely lively nightlife, finishing up with a gig (part of the Akbank Jazz Festival) at Babylon, a pretty important insitution in the local music industry, with its own magazine, record label, and so on.

Next up: Urbino, where I’m writing this!

Short courses in digital storytelling at QUT

The Creative Industries Faculty at QUT is now offering short continuing professional education courses in digital storytelling and co-creative media, with an option to gain academic credit for the course. The course includes hands-on training in a workshop environment. There will be three courses run this year – there is likely to be strong demand so if you’re interested, get in quick!

See the website for more details and to register.


Digital Storytelling is a powerful means for enabling communication and social participation. Ordinary people work with expert creative practitioners to create first person narratives for a wide and growing range of purposes, including community building, cultural engagement, brand identification, education, and public communication. This form of co-creative media takes advantage of newly accessible technologies but is based in the ancient and universal tradition of storytelling.

A digital story usually combines 15-30 still images and a recorded script of 100-250 words to create an original personal digital story in the form of a 2-3 minute digital video. Creative Industries Faculty researchers at QUT have an internationally recognized track record in adapting Digital Storytelling to a variety of contexts and purposes including poverty reduction, public history, and youth engagement. From 2009 this expertise is made available to the wider community through Continuing Professional Education courses.

The workshop is aimed at arts managers, media and communication professionals and professionals in other service industries (for example, health and education) who wish to develop and update their applied knowledge of how digital media can be used to engage clients and end-users. Prior knowledge of digital media applications is not necessary. The program is suited to people who would like to:

  • develop their skills in creating short, story-based, digital multimedia presentations
  • use co-creative media techniques to facilitate the creative participation of ordinary people in digital media projects
  • apply digital storytelling techniques in community development and engagement activities, in government, non-government, community and commercial contexts
  • become a digital storytelling workshop facilitator
  • learn more about digital storytelling and co-creative media practices

Responses to the Apology: Digital Stories Now Online

I was recently involved in a collaboration between the State Library of Queensland, a large and diverse team of participants and facilitators, and QUT. The project aimed to capture responses to the 2008 Apology using participatory methods, and the digital stories produced out of the project are now online. Links to all of the stories can be found here.

Along with several other digital stories from the Queensland Stories collection, they’re also on YouTube. Here’s one from broadcasting legend Tiga Bayles:

I’d like to personally thank everyone who shared their stories or helped out with making them, as well as the State Library of Queensland for running with the idea.

What is Flickr Video For?

So Flickr finally ended the years of rumour-mongering and actually rolled out video. I was interested to see the way the official announcement carefully positioned the purposes of video on Flickr within the company’s (tasteful, cosmopolitan, playfully grown-up) brand identity, and its focus on self-created content:

we thought long and hard about how video would complement the flickrverse. If you’ve memorized the Community Guidelines, you know that Flickr is all about sharing photos that you yourself have taken. Video will be no different and so what quickly bubbled up was the idea of “long photos,” of capturing slices of life to share. [emphasis added, which possibly comes across as me being a bit pedantic]

They even give a carefully diverse range of quotidian examples–covering cats, places, events and people, of course.

There’s some really interesting protest going on within the sections of the Flickr community who are really invested in capital-P Photography, including this well-populated anti-video group, with some surprisingly hostile comments about the company. A lot of people seem to be worried that somehow the introduction of video will directly cause a ‘flood’ of banal, crass, and unlovely content, and will turn a photography-oriented community into ‘just another YouTube’. The controversy is tremendously interesting to me in its own right, of course–there’s technological determinism combined with symbolic boundary work and a fair amount of amnesia about Flickr’s mundane origins–at least as far as I remember there was a lot more emphasis on lifelogging using the (then) newly available camera phone than there was on digital camera arms races, fine art techniques, and so on.

So, controversy aside, how is it turning out? What do you really get when you start with a mature online social network with social and cultural norms increasingly organised around ‘quality’ content, introduce the ability to upload very short video clips (but only to Pro members), presented within the often carefully cultivated ‘photo streams’ of individual users, combined with a way of accounting for value that takes into account far more than the number of people who been tempted (or tricked) into viewing a particular piece of content?

I’m sure there will be some silliness, and unlike the Fotografrs who are protesting the move, I also really hope there will be some very cute cat videos.

But there will also be lovely slideshows designed to curate and exhibit small sets of photographic images, like this beautiful video–which is much more than a slideshow–by Timo Arnall [thanks anne, again]

And, I will bet, increasingly elegant innovations on observational and personal photography like what Photojojo is calling the ‘long portrait’:

The thing about the best portraits is how they capture the essence of a person.

Maybe the wrinkles on their hands, or the expression in their eyes, tell you about the life they’ve had.

So what if you had 30 seconds to capture that person, instead of a nanosecond shutter-click? And what if the person could talk? Whoa. Crazy, we know. We call it a long portrait.

Which sounds a lot like a micro digital story: a focus on the personal and first-person, within elegant aesthetic constraints, done with attention to detail and respect for the co-creator. Photojojo even links to the interviewing guide on the StoryCorps website to assist newbie micro-documentarists in learning the art of capturing these snapshots of individual human lives.

I really think the idea of the ‘long portrait’ is quite brilliant.

Aside from that, the collective shaping of the meanings and uses of video within Flickr’s existing community of practice is going to be extremely interesting to watch.


I haven’t been blogging regularly, so this is a news dump. I’ll preface it with a bit of commentary, though…

As a research fellow in an ARC-funded research centre I have had certain things drummed into me–not least by virtue of hanging out with actual ARC heavyweights from time to time. Especially in the lead-up to the now defunct Research Quality Framework, one of the things I had drummed into me was the difference between research outputs and research outcomes. Outputs, I have learned, are (merely) the things you make out of your research–products, publications, patents and processes. We all scramble to produce enough ‘outputs’, to the point that I am often at a loss to figure out where the time to process ‘inputs’ (like, reading books) is meant to come from.

But the productivity agenda is only half the story. Outcomes, apparently, only occur when the outputs get taken up and used for something in the ‘real world’–this is what the RQF framed as research ‘impact’. Despite the limits of ‘impact’ as a metaphor, which doesn’t really capture very well the slow and difficult to trace dynamics of diffusion that actually characterise the influence of humanities-based research, the pragmatist in me likes the idea that I might have some kind of direct usefulness, one day. Clearly, I have travelled a long way from the Oxbridge-esque imagined future in which I would be musing over great books by a cosy fire in Hobbiton, absorbing and transmitting knowledge via osmosis.

Anyway, in the last 6 months I’ve produced some ‘outputs’ that have now seen the light of day. Most exciting: some digital stories about biodiversity in Queensland backyards, and some more about the experiences of refugees who have settled in Queensland, both projects undertaken with the Queensland Museum, produced with a team run by my long-term collaborator Helen Klaebe, from QUT. I’m not sure if they’re outputs or outcomes, since they are clearly evidence that the digital storytelling idea is being taken up with a fair bit of enthusiasm around the place. There’s also some more digital stories about the history of the gold coast (during the course of which project i discovered the wonder of margarine sculptures, among other things), and some about the gay history of Brisbane, both of which I think will be launched in a few weeks.

Last: Joshua Green and I have sent the manuscript of our YouTube book off to the publisher, where it has now gone to readers. I hope to make a more celebratory announcement in the very near future. And we’ll be presenting on the major content survey that underpinned parts of the book at the ICA conference in Montreal next month–hope to catch up with some of you there!

my first crush

Wow, really nice combination of original animation with edited audio from oral history-style anecdotal interviews in this sweet short film by Julia Pott. It’s one of a few YouTube videos that won selection at the SXSW film festival.

Oh, and while I’m embedding YouTube videos, I also found The Great Trafalgar Square Freeze sort of beautiful:

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KGUV Digital Stories Now Online

I’ve just returned to my office, full of scones and lamingtons and date loaf, after the very well-attended launch of the second Kelvin Grove Urban Village Sharing Stories exhibition at the Creative Industries Precinct at QUT. As part of the launch we screened the digital stories from the 2006 workshop, which I co-ordinated with project leader Helen Klaebe. These stories (and the 2004 batch) are now available for you to view online.

It was great to catch up with the participants (many of whom brought along family, friends and neighbours), to have a laugh (or to be teased about why I haven’t finished my PhD yet) and to share their sense of occasion, pride and achievement. Some of the participants bumped into and reconnected with people from their pasts as a result of the connections made during the project – very cool that this can be a spin-off effect of a project like this, but it gives me a buzz every time it happens. And it amazes me how the audience laughs and cries in the ‘right’ places in every story, every time.


JumpCut is another new player in the “creative online community” business – the idea is to not only upload, share, and discuss, but also edit, collaborate and remix images and video online.

You can automatically import sets of images from flickr, too.

After having a quick play around with the editing interface, it seems pretty powerful and elegant. It’s set up to make quite sophisticated slideshows, with control over individual image duration (by manually entering values, though) and transitions, so it would also be relatively straightforward to use JumpCut to make and publish a very simple digital story using stills and an uploaded voiceover track.