Memories and Mediascapes
Memories of water was the theme of Memories and Mediascapes,
a recent collaborative project for 50+ learners by Bristol’s Pervasive Media Studio/Watershed, supported by European funding from Gruntvig.
I first learned of the project by attending an ‘open studio friday’ talk and later asked questions about the learning outcomes with the project coordinator Hannah Higginson as well as a participant and a volunteer who were all in the studio during the day.
The participants, all but one women, were selected from across Europe had been recruited through their social networks for the week’s workshop. Some had no previous experience of using computers but were supported by volunteers who’d been trained by the Pervasive Media Studio and Watershed team to help with creative tools allowing the older learners to share their stories and create a soundscape in locations around Bristol Harbourside.
Participants were pre-briefed with the project theme and their challenge was to use the workshop and the expertise of volunteers to learn some new ways of using technology creatively, so that they may be able to tell their stories about water, from many different cultural and emotional perspectives.
“Participants will work together to create a simple audio walk around the Harbourside, in which new technologies will enable recorded memories, to play on mobile phones at specific locations. The piece will run on Calvium‘s PIRL platform and will be accompanied by an online map, enabling participants to easily share their work with friends and family at home.”
Calvium, formed by a team previously from HP development labs in Bristol, have been busy developing a suite of online tools and services that will make it easy for designers and other content creators to build mobile apps for iPhone and Android devices.
There was a buzz in the studio when I entered and much excited talking between participants. They had clearly enjoyed the whole experience. Hannah introduced three projects completed during the workshop and the creators and authors were later invited to share their reflections on the project’s outcome with the assembled audience.
From one “Stepping on a boat is like a metaphor for life… saying goodbye to someone…something…”
From another “I am a performance poet but I needed a creative kick start”… “I am part of an App!”
The iPhone 4 was used to record images and sounds which were mixed to provide the location-based PIRL enabled content. One participant had subsequently ordered an iPhone to continue her practise using the new skills she had learned.
“I am going to do more with it, more than make calls and receive texts.”
On reflection, I began to wonder how the learning of the participants could be supported over the next few weeks, months or even years? As we get older, how typical it is to forget what has been learned through lack of practice. I once tried to teach my mother how to use a Macintosh Computer and patiently explained some basics over a three day period, only to realise the lessons learned were not being remembered from the previous day.
Speaking to Hannah through my Service Design lens, I was curious to explore with her this quesion of the ongoing legacy of the workshop and how, if at all, Gruntvig could be encouraged to contribute financially to the design and development of a simple-ish social media website, where future participants of this ind of initiative could be encouraged to revise their learning using online training tools and film and share their creative problems and solutions with their new cross-european connections furthering the spirit of collaboration, which such online tools enable?
From one of the relatives of the project’s participants, I was particularly struck by this comment on the blog: “I can not believe that everything came to an end. As much as I want her back home, I know that she was very happy with you there…”
It made me reflect on how the over 50’s are the fastest growing demographic in the UK, and are projected to make up over 50% of the adult population by 2030. Surely inclusive projects like this one can be scaled-up to include a whole ‘lost’ generation, who were reluctantly left behind in the technology explosion of the early 1990’s. Think of all the opportunities for creating new social and intergenerational bonds between young and old, if supported by social policy thinking from the top down and by bottom up social innovation initiatives, providing a rich source of ideas and an implementation framework that supports this part of our society to lead fuller lives?
It seems to me that to not provide these newly stimulated over 50’s participants with the opportunity to continue their learning would be a social opportunity missed. The workshop learnings could be shared, scaled up and spread across Europe, allowing the over 50’s to engage in the creation of culturally rich content, and provide a timeless legacy of their knowledge and life experiences for their children and grandchildren, well into the future?
ⓒrichard louis arnott 2010