MIRIADONLINE GROUP (MOG) Meeting 16-12-15: Notes

Next MOG Meeting Date: Wednesday, 13th January 2016, 3-15-4.15pm, First Floor Space, Righton Building. Please pencil it in your diaries 😉

1. Introduction

Present: Lewis Sykes, Jim Aulich, Sam Collings, Gary Spicer, Gemma Meek, Jo Darnley, Chris Hamer, Marianna Tsionki, Lucy Wright, Sara Davies

Apologies: Hannah Allan, Ray Drainville, Michelle Stephens, Martin Smith

Lewis welcomed a healthy gathering… gave apologies from…

Aim of the meeting was to collectively discuss strategies and practical ideas for responding to Jim’s request to develop the ‘community’ aspect of news.miriadonline.info – by featuring more ‘user generated’ content and in the longer term encouraging more MIRIAD PGR, alumni and staff discourse and exchange.

2. Current Usage

Lewis showed that site stats for the main news.miriadonline.info site for the 2015-2016 autumn term are generally healthy – 623 unique visitors for October, 485 for November, 218 so far for December – marginally down but comparable to the same time last year.

People are clearly using the site – but its primary function is as a more dynamic version of the MIRIAD notice board.

David Gledhill’s ‘Looking North: The Arts Ecology in Manchester’ ‘Opinion’ posts generated significant views (5,971) since it was posted in July 2014 – ~5 x the traffic of the next most popular ‘Publication/Project’ post ‘Adopt a Slide: a participatory artwork’ – but generated no comments despite being open for them.

There’s a more comprehensive overview of activity in the ‘MIRIADONLINE – Academic Year 2014-15 Report’ post below.

3. Current Examples of Contributions

Lewis suggested that the most straightforward and effective approach for drawing more ‘user generated’ content into the News site was to ‘divert’ existing content from Social Media services and blogs.

Other elements of MIRIADONLINE provision do have more discourse and exchange – e.g. the MIRIAD Facebook Group and the Writing Matters ’15 blog – but these are currently closed/private.

Lewis has spoken with John Hyatt about accessing the MIRIAD Facebook Group and has started researching the functionality required to embed content from this in to the news.miriadonline.info site. He’ll test simple solutions for maintaining privacy but making some of this content accessible e.g. using a #public tag or [public] label in the post title – to allow current group members to easily mark posts they’re happy to see featured publicly. Lewis will try to implement this over the Xmas break.

4. ‘News From The Network’ 

Posts from some of the blogs that are part of the MIRIADONLINE network e.g. garyspicer.miriadonline.info, alexpearl.miriadonline.info already feature in the ‘News From The Network’ section in the ‘footer’ of the News site. This should be relocated within the site layout to make it more prominent and it should be more comprehensive – i.e. new posts from all public sites that are either part of the network or hosted on the MIRIADONLINE hosting should feature here.

Unfortunately the MIRIADONLINE Portal site which should provide the gateway to these sites is currently down (it wasn’t re-activated after the maintenance work in September ’15 to clean and future proof the WordPress malware hack of late spring 2015 that infected almost all the sites on the MIRIAD hosting) but Lewis will prioritise and action this over the Xmas break.

5. Developing the ‘To Read Later’ section

There are a growing number of MIRIAD PGRs and alumni who have their own independent public practice blogs, research journals and artist websites – and ‘diverting’ some of this content is already happening through the ‘To Read Later’ page – http://news.miriadonline.info/to-read-later/ – but it needs development and a more concerted approach.

MIRIAD PGR Sara Davies has collated a list of active postgraduate and staff research and practice blogs within the Research Centre which she checks weekly for new posts and ‘favourites’ a few to Pocket – an online service that “helps people save interesting articles, videos and more from the web for later enjoyment”.  The latest 10 articles in this running listing are reproduced here. This is a sort of ‘Reblog” – a mechanism which reposts the content of another user’s blog post with an indication of the source – with Sara essentially moderating content which she thinks could be of interest to the MIRIAD and wider Art & Design research communities.

While Pocket displays this selection attractively it requires a login and so can’t be embedded into the News site in a similar way to the Tumbler blog. Also the current method of displaying this content is nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as Pocket. However, a different approach which uses the same functionality for ‘News From The Network’ could draw content directly from the feedspot ‘favourites’ list which populates Pocket in the first place.

A comprehensive list of all the sites that are included in feedspot should be available from the News site. Lewis will action this.

TASK: Sara hasn’t the time maintain this long-term – so we need to share this ‘moderation’ amongst the group and add new sites as they’re discovered. Any takers?

6. “At My Desk/In My Studio”

Lewis introduced an idea discussed with Sara Davies, of a new feature series for the News site in which MIRIAD PGRs, alumni and staff are invited to contribute a 400 word max photojournalistic style piece which ‘snapshots’ their current practice, research interests and writing. These posts would then be open for comment. All agreed to contribute.

TASK: Could someone offer to write a short introductory paragraph and ‘brief’ for this feature series please – email Lewis L.Sykes [at] mmu.ac.uk if you’re interested.

7. Site design

There was some discussion about the current site design. It’s a commercial theme that’s been fairly significantly customised – the ‘Postgraduate’ profiles section in particular took a fair amount of time to develop and probably wouldn’t be straightforward to re-implement in a new theme – but Lewis will tidy up the existing layout over the Xmas break – deleting redundant aspects like the “Latest on Instagram” and “Latest on Flickr” which are inactive/old and reorganising elements within the layout.

Anyone interested in helping think though and action the styling and functionality of the News site is welcome to get involved. Contact Lewis with an expression of interest.

9. Postgraduate/Alumni research activity

Lewis showed the password protected online form that is used to add a PGR ‘Profile’… and explained that a similar approach had been prototyped to collect research activity – ongoing projects in progress, planned research projects (not for publication), exhibitions, publications, papers, conferences/symposia and other events – from MIRIAD staff. While this approach had since been rejected in favour of ‘Research News’ – the email newsletter of research news from MIRIAD collated and distributed by Prof. Steve Hawley, Associate Dean Research – it could still be used for PGRs and alumni.

While the data collection element is up and running Lewis needs content to develop the design and layout of submitted data. The group agreed to act as data collection ‘Guinea pigs’ to test the system. Lewis will send out a link to the online form shortly.

TASK: Please advise initially on whether you think the form needs adapting for PGRs and alumni BEFORE entering data. Lewis will collate and implement suggestions and then advise that the form is ready for use.

10. MOG Conference/Symposium

Lewis and Jim introduced the idea of the MOG group organising some type of regional training event through mechanisms such as the Researcher Development Programme ‘Event Generator’ or better still the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership (NWCDTP ) exploring relevant themes of ‘Digital Research’.

Suggestions included inviting contributions and perspectives from the likes of the Visual Social Media Lab (http://visualsocialmedialab.org) or The Thesis Whisperer (http://thesiswhisperer.com)… but these were only initial ideas.

TASK: Anyone up for being part of an event ‘Steering Group’ should contact Lewis and express interest.

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