CSM My Digital Life Workshop

1de6f1d880cc11e2a49722000aaa05c4_6Chrissy Kelly from UAL IT said ‘I just wanted to feedback what a great event this was and how fantastic the students were with their research. I thoroughly enjoyed it’ She even wrote a poem in response to the event!

This was a fantastic event, with 4 excellent presentations by CSM MA Innovation Management students. After the presentations we broke into groups to discuss key themes that were raised. We talked about the relationship between digital and paper based note taking, the Apple monopoly (and how CSM is or isn’t supporting it), and how to successfully collaborate with peers online. The students have kindly agreed to share their presentations – check them out in the posts below…


Using digital tools to support collaboration

CSM My Digital Life Workshop, Tuesday 26 February 2013, CSM

GROUP 1: Using digital tools to support collaboration: Marie James, Caroline Truyol, Khin Tye, Shih-Yu You. The group used Tumblr to put their presentation together – it can be viewed here: http://futurecollaborations.tumblr.com/. The group also showed a short video:

Khin has created a great related blog post here too: http://mainnovationmanagement.co.uk/2013/03/04/future-collaborations/ 

Thanks to Mehreen Talpur who provided the following notes:

The breakout group wanted to discuss their own projects and what digital tools they might use to better connect, manage, and engage their collaborations.

Tatiana Alisova is part of 100WordPilgrimage, a collective of 20 + illustrators who connect remotely to develop projects and stage events. She noted that is can be difficult to establish who manages different elements of the collective and avoid overloading one person.

This was seen as a common problem – people can get lost on online/remote collaboration when things are left open, without clear deadlines and delegation.The MAIM students had researched several solutions, including Trello, a website that allows group collaborations and single view accessibility to Dropbox, YouTube, and other sites used for collaboration. It enables video conferencing, and includes a percentage meter that indicates how close a project is to completion. Its task management system is viewable to everyone, so you can clearly see what tasks have been assigned to you and when you need to complete them by. It offers a summary daily email that outlines all work completed, which especially benefits part-time students.

(This raised the issue of how time conscious part-time students feel, especially in comparison to full-time students – PT students feel that they have to be highly task oriented with the time they are allocated.)

Facebook collaboration is popular within courses, because it’s likely that many students have an account and are acquainted with how the tool works. Facebook’s read receipts and notifications are a great way to make sure team mates will view a message.

One participant was having difficulty managing a collaboration with a team of programmers based in Spain. He couldn’t connect with his team as they all spoke Spanish and were in the same room together. The group suggested making a video diary, or finding a point of connection so that both sides could get to know each other through their interests, likes/dislikes, different counties, etc.  MIT used icebreakers such as ‘show us what’s in your pockets’ to start a conversation and establish a human connection between everyone in the MA Textile Futures collaboration with MIT MediaLab.

In summary, remote collaboration benefits from:

– A task management system

– Agreeing on a project management or self managed system (people prefer self managed in remote connection situations)

– Time management for meetings, and agenda items to discuss during a video call.

– Smaller breakout groups in large video conferencing

– A sensory indicator, for when people want to interrupt or want to speak (no current system in play, although chats have little indications as do messages on Facebook that provide read receipts)

– Learning to see a working colleague as another fellow human being with struggles and challenges, and getting to know them on a human level.

– Physical interactions, which allow you to perceive people’s moods. The live and instantaneous feedback of some digital tools like video conferencing can make it difficult for people to appreciate the struggles or difficulties it took for attendees to make the meeting.

– Video diaries are a great way to show people your working process and evidence connectivity.


Observing the note-taking behaviour in a learning environment in an arts and design context:

CSM My Digital Life Workshop

GROUP 2: Observing the note-taking behaviour in a learning environment in an arts and design context: Laura Lutz, Sharan Sethi, Alexandra Safronova, Joon Lee.

Thanks to Peter Hope who wrote up the following notes from the group discussion:

This group observed and interviewed students across a range of postgraduate courses at CSM to investigate their methods of note-taking. The objective was not only to compile statistics regarding choice, but to gain insights as to why specific methods were selected.

It was found that across all courses pen and paper remains by far the most popular method. Reasons for this varied and included simplicity and speed, the range of form (sketch, chart, writing) and the cheap cost. It was also perceived that the act of writing enhanced the ability to recall and that the tactile pleasure of the process aided this.

Those that chose a digital form did so because of the ease with which the notes could be edited and organised. The most popular software was Evernote because of its capability in combining type, web pages and photos. Students lacking the typing speed to keep pace appreciated the ability to photograph slides in class and combine these with notes.


Irrespective of method, notes were rarely revisited and were seen more as part of a learning ritual and validation of this process.

The more academic a course (eg. MA Innovation Design) the higher the proportion of digital note-taking. On more ‘expressive’ courses (eg. MA Screen Acting) laptops and tablets were actively discouraged by staff and note-taking in general was less frequent.

Current technology lacks the immediacy and breadth of form that pen and paper allows which in itself offers an opportunity for development.

Audio recording is seldom used.

Why do CSM students use (paper) notebooks?

CSM My Digital Life Workshop, 26 Feb 2013

GROUP 3: Why do CSM students use (paper notebooks)? Ningyi Jiang, Kerilyn Tacconi, Ana Laya, Leo Qin

This group presented using Prezi – link to follow shortly!

Thanks to Althea Phoenix for taking notes in the group discussion after the presentation. The following is an edited version of her notes (done by hand then typed!)

Taking notes was seen as part of the learning process, whether done digitally or by hand. People have very personal preferences and affections for their note taking, and it was clear that there is a significant emotional aspect at play. For some people digital devices are less intimidating than a blank piece of paper – for others, it’s the other way around. It was noted that digital tools can be barriers unless you know how to use them.

One person described liking the ritual of writing with a fountain pen, another was proud when their writing was described as ‘clean’, and another stated their preference for a particular type of Moleskin notebook.

The group discussed the ‘human’ qualities of handwriting, which was seen by some as an art in itself. Understanding writing as an art form is perhaps culturally contingent – for example, one student from China stated that written characters carry the ‘scholar’s manner’. The group questioned whether certain cultures, such as Arab cultures, that are proud of their calligraphy, would have a different perspective on digital technology replacing writing.

One group member said that he went digital because he had problems carrying his physical notebooks around due to airline restrictions. Having a digital notebook was a way to keep his practice going within the practical limitations of his life.

Some people felt more secure with having a hard copy back up of their notes – notebooks are precious, personal things. One student said she does not like to leave her notebook (as she clutched it to her chest).

It was noted that having lots of laptops in lectures can be intrusive.

The group questioned the assumption that paperless = more sustainable. Data storage in the cloud requires enormous use of water and resources to power the cables that go across the world to connect the Net.

And finally….Evernote changes lives!

Need vs. Desire: The Apple Cult

CSM My Digital Life Workshop, 26 Feb 2013

GROUP 4: Need vs. Desire: The Apple Cult Rita Fernandez, Liam Buswell

Thanks to Laura North for taking notes in the group discussion after the presentation. The following is an edited version of her notes:

Following the presentation we discussed the ‘Apple monopoly’ – the extremely widespread ownership of Apple Macs, iPhones and other products both at CSM and in culture more broadly. Does it matter? What are the socio-political and ideological implications of conforming to the Apple monopoly? How is CSM as an institution supporting the monopoly? (At CSM, there is not a requirement to own a specific product, but students are advised to get Macs rather than PCs for their course work).

The group suggested that the strong desire for Apple products is created in part through the company’s excellent marketing, and it was noted that Apple use quite obvious, pseudo-religious language in their ad campaigns. We discussed whether the desire to own a Mac product is about capability, or style/trend/inclusion – the inference being that the latter is more important to consumers.

We also talked about how easy Apple have made it for people to create a technological ecosystem by syncing their devices – and conversely, how hard it would be to disentangle yourself from this ecosystem.

It was noted that paradoxically, Mac products which were originally marketed as providing a creative alternative to the office worker’s PC, are now so ubiquitous that they no longer represent creativity and independence, but conformity. Following this, people are starting to customise their Apple products. The group were sceptical, however, about how meaningful these customisations are beyond a surface or aesthetic level. It was noted that customising the actual operating system is a much more difficult and specialised thing to do.



One participant noted that the Macbook Air is so light that she once accidentally threw hers in the bin amongst a pile of papers!


CSM My Digital Life Workshop

Mac cake

I’m really looking forward to the next My Digital Life event – this time in the fabulous new CSM building at Kings Cross. It’s going to be an informal and enlightening evening, with four groups of CSM MA Innovation Management students presenting insights from their recent research activities. Their presentation topics are:

  • Need vs. Desire: The Apple Cult
  • Why do CSM students use (paper) notebooks?
  • Using digital tools to support collaboration
  • Observing note-taking behaviour in a learning environment in an arts and design context

MA Innovation Management is a new postgraduate course at CSM that explores innovation in relation to services, products and user experiences. As well as checking out their website, you can follow the MAIM students on Twitter.

There will be opportunities for group discussion and feedback following the presentations. Cakes and (non-alcoholic) cocktails will be provided throughout! Places are limited so if you want to come, please email me: mydigitallife@arts.ac.uk

Image: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 CarbonCUBE