Postdigital Journal #2: Setting up Slack

Our program “Researching and Designing the Postdigital World’ advanced rapidly on Tuesday. This was thanks to a three-hour immersion session with collaborators at London College of Communication.

A big thanks, in alphabetical order, to Amira, Ania, Atlana, Azy, Indigo, Jade, Lola and Phoebe for their meaningful contributions.

Four workstream channels

We have begun organising our Slack workspace into clear channels. The four we created are:

  • Community — for the purpose of creating a safe space and sense of community for the research programmes participants
  • Insight — for the purpose of designing and conducting research tasks and activities
  • Storytelling — for the purpose of providing a narrative to the program
  • Visualisation — for the purpose of providing visual inspiration and for designing communication

Using Slack as a collaborative research tool

A postdigital mindset asks: ‘what is the right tool for the job?’

Slack is great for running a research project. It can host activities and discussions, and provide tools for coordinating a globally distributed team.

We discussed a few of the design affordances of the platform:

  • Permissions can be set so that admins can control the homepage. This allows for an experience of well curated content
  • Notifications can be managed so that members can set ‘not active’ times. This allows for participants to create boundaries between their work and life
  • Casual and personal conversations can easily happen . This allows interpersonal relationships to develop
  • Bookmarking is a feature that lets you save interesting posts. This allows members to create a personal archive of useful content
  • Pin is a feature that posts to the top of a channel. This allows the admin team to easily highlight key instructions and resources to the discussion group
  • External media, such as YouTube and Google Docs, integrates well. This allows for research tasks to involve a variety of data types
  • Emojis allow a gamified experience to happen. This increases feedback and motivation of members
  • Channels can be named in accordance with conventions. This allows for clear sections, such as ‘zones of understanding’, to be created and discovered

Research Task: Postdigital Photo Forage

We designed and conducted our first research task on Tuesday. It was:

In this exercise, take and share pictures of your environment that make you think of the term ‘postdigital’. We encourage you to have an open mind, and to practice serious noticing of your surroundings

As a group, we decided to call the term ‘foraging’. This word connotes a search for food: such as looking for berries in a bush, or squirrels collecting nuts. It also has military associations with the words ‘hunt’, ‘plunder’ and ‘pillage’.

The activity of taking a photo is a way to show others what you notice about the world around you. It can spark discussion because it is simple to ask: “why did you choose to take that specific photo”?

Here are some of the pictures, with reflections, below:

  • On co-working spaces: these are physical spaces where people engage in a variety of work activities, such as solo-digital work, social discussions, networking, and quiet introspection with books. As a space, there are sofas, solo pods, and shared tables. A key concept is zoning, as the space must be designed to facilitate different activities. Culturally, we might look back at the history of the coffee-shop, and how it emerged in the 18th century, to further understand these spaces.
  • On CD’s: a photo showed a tower of CD’s on a desk amidst colourful vases, candlesticks, assorted stationary and plants. Underneath the desk, a stack of books. If the picture was a slightly higher resolution, we might have been able to see the names of the CD’s (something impossible with music streaming platforms or MP3's). In this picture, CD’s, and, by extension, cassette tapes, allow music to exist as an object, something present, observable, and alive.
  • On the past: imagine an old Walkman or camera, found amidst the junk in an attic, or passed down to us from an older family member. It contains the memory of past use, it is sentimental. From this perspective, the distinction between people and objects becomes more porous. There is a Maori term, Hau, used in anthropology that helps us understand this spiritual value of gifts.
  • On the old digital: we move through generations of new digital products in a constant quest for the latest and greatest tool. But now, digital items have a history. One picture showed an old digital camera which has its own vintage colour scheme; it can be used in place of a ‘fancy smartphone’

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