Wednesday, 16 September 2009

And the winner is.........

Mark Barkaway

Big congratulations to Mark, this is a great picture. We were looking for something that delivered a different perspective on The Elephant Bed and this certainly does that. All the shortlisted pictures are great but this one came out a clear winner when the votes from the panel were collated. Mark's £50 Amazon voucher will be winging its way to him shortly and I'm hoping to record a boo with him in the next couple of days so keep a look out for that. It may even prompt me to write about Audioboo, which I've been meaning to for a while now.

I just wanted to take some time to reflect on the competition. Firstly, I should say that I set the whole thing up really badly. I do have a habit of thinking of an idea and rushing in. We asked people to post photographs on Flickr and to tag them fabricacomp so that we could find them, which was fine but did cause a couple of problems. We asked people to submit a maximum of three images but a few people entered more and during the competition I tried to contact them to reduce the number of images, but the only way to do that was through Flickr comments and that isn't very efficient. The upshot was that when it came to shortlisting, a couple of people had to be disqualified. The second issue was that after we had shortlisted, I needed to be able to put together a document containing all the images to email out to the panel for their votes. Once again we were obliged to contact everyone via Flickr to get a low res version of their image that we could send out. This all took time and has made the process much slower than I had hoped. The next time I think that I'll ask people to email the images they want to enter and we'll post them on Flickr. I think that'll iron out the wrinkles and speed up the process. If anyone has a better idea or wants to point out that I could have used Flickr better I'd be very happy to hear from them I'm clearly no Flickr expert.

I'm discovering that it's difficult to quantify success with social media, so although I blithely said in an earlier post that I'd report back on whether the competition had delivered what I had hoped it would, I'm not sure how to do that. I can talk about the number of entries (135), quality of entries, (v high), people in the gallery talking about it (a lot) and more, but I'm not sure that they are a measure of success when what I'm really interested in is deepening engagement, in driving creative participation. This is a tricky question and something that will undoubtedly need to be addressed in depth at some point but at the moment I'm sort of enjoying the fact that it is difficult to quantify, that no one really knows and that there's no one standing over my shoulder demanding meaningless stats. I'd be interested in talking to Mark about his response to the competition and his relationship to the gallery and I'm sure it'll be part of our boo. One unexpected result is that John Grade has asked permission for some of the images to be used on his website, which is fantastic. There will definitely be more competitions and games coming up so watch this space.

In the meantime congratulations to Mark again.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Shortlisted Photos in competition

Thought it would be nice to post the shortlisted images from the Elephant Bed photo competition, which I blogged about earlier. Will post some more thoughts on how it worked soon. Along with the winner of course.

Sara Ingman

Jo Stevenson

Adrian Powter

Adrian Powter

Perry French

Maura Hamer

Emma Gray

Perry French

Joe Wilkins

Mark Barkaway

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Inhabiting the tangled hedgerow

It's been a while since I posted on here. Sometimes I feel like I have so much to say that I don't know where to begin without it becoming an incoherent mess and I get slightly paralyzed and end up saying nothing. But today I read something that really clarified for me the answer to an issue that I've been thinking about a lot.

I read an executive summary of a report commissioned by HSBC, The future of business: The changing face of business in 21st Century Britain. It's not the sort of thing I normally read, though maybe I should, but I read it because the report names Brighton as one of the five supercities of the future and hey, I live and work in Brighton so it's relevant to me, and once I got past the hilarious and frankly slightly desperate jargon, I learned something.

The issue I've been thinking about is this- How do arts organisations inhabit this new world? This crossover world, the overlapping space between an organisation and the online world, the tangled hedgerow to steal my own analogy. I was at an event called Shift Happens a while back and one of the speakers was Bill Thompson, he's a commentator on The Digital Planet a BBC world service programme about digital stuff and describes himself on Twitter as a hack and a pundit. One of the things that Bill talked about was what he believes is the challenge for arts organisations in the future, which was to pitch camp in that online world, to make it their own. This was the last talk of the event and I chatted with Bill afterwards very briefly and said yes, that's exactly right, I felt fired up by the idea, I may have even have embarrassed myself slightly. Then I left and got on a train and during the long journey home that excitement didn't leave me but the question kept coming up in my mind, but how? How do we do that, how do we pitch camp in that world?

I want to quote a little from the HSBC report-

'How many of us for instance, see social networking sites as a tool for personal rather than professional, g
ain? Yet for many entrepreneurial groups, social networks are now regarded as one of the best ways to develop and maintain new business contacts, test and market new products, organise and manage new business initiatives.'

Now I'm not in any way anti-business but this depressed me slightly. There's plenty more in the same vein and it made me more determined than ever to work out how to make sure that arts organisations are part of this new world, that it's not inhabited solely by businesses who are only looking to make money. Then it occurred to me what we have to do. We have to do what we do. There's no magic bullet, no blinding idea that'll make it happen. We just have to make sure that our work, our organisations are there, online, engaging with people and enabling them to engage with us, to share what we do, what we're about. This is exactly what business is doing right now, and we have to make sure that we don't lose out, that we build a future in which our online presence is as important as HSBC's in the same way that our presence in the real world is as important as theirs. And now, right now is the time to be doing that because otherwise we risk getting left behind and that world may become a commercialized one not open to us or one we no longer want to be a part of.