Traditional games, digital spaces: USQ + Queensland Museum Network

In 2017, I spent six months developing special community engagement projects for the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).

I had a wide remit to find new ways to connect with the local community, pilot external partnerships, and encourage innovation in line with a new service model being rolled out across the university’s Scholarly and Information Services division (SILS).

During that time, among other projects, Dr. Kate Davis and I won & delivered the division’s first external tender; SILS partnered with the university’s radio school to pilot podcasts bringing together academic experts, artists, and professionals from across Australia; and we joined forces with Ann Arbor District Library in the US to offer coaching & professional development.

This week saw the announcement of another project coming to fruition: a partnership between staff on the university’s Toowoomba campus and Cobb+Co Museum, the local site of the Queensland Museum Network.

Cobb+Co’s Learning Officer Tony Coonan worked with SILS’ Zoe Lynch and Shane Gadsby to develop a browser-based version of Burguu Matya, a traditional game attributed to the Wiradjuri people.

The game had been available to play in physical form at Cobb+Co’s Binangar Gallery, dedicated to Aborginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Zoe and her team of media designers, invited to explore external partnerships, proposed developing an online version which could be played on devices both within the museum and statewide.

The successful small-scale pilot tested the SILS in-house media design team’s capacity for work with external clients,  strengthened relationships between the university and its local community, and explored the opportunities for USQ to enrich the cultural and learning offer for both the people of Toowoomba and users of the wider Queensland Museum Network. The future relationship between the university and the museum will be structured and enhanced by a memo of understanding.

You can read more about the project at the USQ website.

Politics and youth participation in the digital age – interview with @PhilippaCollin, pt.1

On the blog this week, I’m joined by Dr. Philippa Collin, a Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University’s Institute for Culture and Society. Philippa is a social scientist who previously worked at www.reachout.com, the world’s first online suicide prevention initiative aimed at young people. She researches the role of digital technology and media in young people’s lives, including a focus on political participation, identity, and exclusion.

Portrait of Dr. Philippa Collin
Dr. Philippa Collin

I hear a lot of concern from public institutions about the notion of “making better citizens” right now. Political upsets, fear of ‘fake news’: the powers that be are concerned about the nature of citizenship in the digital age.

Institutions could adapt their structures to meet the needs of people they perceive as “disengaged”. Or, instead of the institution adapting, they might try to help people develop the skills & capacity to engage with existing structures.

What pitfalls are there for organisations seeking to engage the (apparently) disengaged?

I come from a community of scholars who have actively argued against the normative framing of ‘politics’ and ‘participation’. For example ‘politics is about what happens in parliament’ and the ‘good’ forms of participation are to vote, join a party or get involved with set activities or processes – usually all designed by adults! Read more

The USQ Podcast

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has piloted a new podcast at the end of a six-month community engagement project with their School of Information and Learning Services.

The chatshow-style podcast offers a new medium to bring university experts together with a wider audience, to explore new ways of sharing knowledge, and to stimulate conversations between USQ staff and peers in other institutions.

Staff and students from USQ’s radio school joined forces with REDTrain, the university’s Researcher Development and Training Team, to identify USQ researchers who could speak to contemporary issues for a wide audience. We then partnered USQ speakers with peers in museums, the arts, sciences, and other universities to broaden the conversation and stimulate debate.

Three pilot podcasts were recorded in late 2017, with the first episode launching to mark USQ’s Astronomy Festival.

A second edition celebrating women in academia has just gone live.

Visit the USQ podcast platform, Whooska, to hear more.

IX: Design Thinking and Beyond feat. @katiedavis / Part 2

Last time in this series we talked with Jerome Rivera of New Zealand about the messy realities confronted by frontline staff in libraries around the world. You can see some of that ongoing discussion via the #CodeBrown hashtag on Twitter.

What does an appreciation for messiness and uncertainty mean for the design of future experiences in libraries and their sister institutions? How can we best meet the information needs of the communities we serve?

Joining me this time is Dr. Kate Davis, my colleague at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). Kate is a social scientist based in USQ’s Digital Life Lab, carrying out research into social media and the qualitative analysis of information experiences.

Kate Davis.jpg

Kate, I’ve heard of UX – user experience – but never IX. What is “information experience” all about?

IX is about understanding how people engage with information. It’s relational – focussed on the contexts in which people need, seek, manage, give, and use information. Read more

What’s next

From May, I’ll be joining the University of Southern Queensland for six months supporting “proactive, strategic, and sustainable engagement with key stakeholders and communities internal and external to USQ.”

Working with Professor Helen Partridge and her fab team in USQ’s Scholarly Information and Learning Services division, I’ll be acting as a coach and catalyst to raise awareness, understanding, and capacity in maintaining a sustainable community engagement program.

I visited USQ last year to talk about community engagement, healthcare, storytelling, digital media, and what really listening to people and technology in Australia might entail.

This new adventure is going to be cracking good fun – but there’s still a few more exciting things to come out of my extended residency with the State Library of Queensland, so watch this space.

We The Humanities: Reflections

I just finished a seven-day stint at the rotating Twitter account @wethehumanities, where scholars, researchers, and practitioners from across the arts and humanities get to share their work and thoughts with around four thousand people online.

If the humanities are a creative and critical conversation about what it means to be human, who are “we” having those conversations with?

What opportunities do scholars create for members of the public to have a go at what they do? And to *fall in love* with what they do?

I wrote on these questions, and my experience at the helm of @wethehumanities, for City University London, here.