Monday, 28 May 2012

Painting finished, planning future

Painting is finished.  We also took photos for Jubilee, and made plans for olympic puppets, and pressed flower bookmarks over coming weeks.

Saturday, 26 May 2012


For Near Neighbours evaluation event. 'Stories of Encounters' we asked everyone to look closely into a stranger's eyes.  It was part of a grouping game, initially dividing everyone into three groups of people based on eye colour.  We then made three groups of people based on fashion, music, and the last one done in silence - food.  Basically it was an exploration of prejudice - prejudice we all have, often based on visual clues.  It  brought up some interesting insights into why and how we form groups:

Reflected in comments throughout
Flash mob - Gathering of the Unions, 1832 over 100,000, no mobile in sight
the day, we all form groups based on who we feel comfortable with, and where we feel welcome.

In forming and developing networks (like I've been trying to do for Hall Green Arts Forum), particularly where people identify themselves by their different beliefs, that spirit of welcoming, and of feeling comfortable can make a network - Teachmeet Brum and Social Media Surgeries are excellent recent examples locally of how to run a network to meet up, share ideas and learn from each other:

TeachMeet is an organised but informal meeting (in the style of an unconference) for teachers to share good practice, practical innovations and personal insights in teaching with technology. (Wikipedia)

Podnosh recently won a 'Big Society Award' from David Cameron for their innovative approach to supporting local community and voluntary sector organisations in using social media using locally based surgeries.

How comfortable you feel or welcome you are is mostly determined by the spirit of the group and of individuals in it, but I'd say it helps if the format can reflect and support that.  Both Teachmeet and Podnosh use digital stuff very effectively, but I think they also make good choices in the format to attract new people and develop the network.  They avoid some of the pitfalls of using traditional meetings and conference format for networking:
  • Agendas give the chair control over what is discussed (and no one else) and there's never enough time for the interesting 'Any Other Business' bit at the end.
  • Presenting from the front - traditional meetings and conferences can actively encourage competitive spirit between people to dominate the limited time the chair (or speaker) allows them.
  • Traditional meeting and conference format reinforce heirarchy - a top down approach to knowledge.
  • The closed door - a meeting behind an anonymous door is never going to attract new people.  Add to that the awkward late arrival, uncomfortable search for a chair, and then you sit on someone's handbag.
It's not to say there is never a place for traditional meetings or conferences, but I think their role in attracting people and developing a network is pretty limited.  Does Seth Godin's analogy about parking meters apply here?  Were meetings and conferences more essential for disseminating information in the past?  I go to conferences and meetings as much to meet people as to listen to the presentations, but meetings and conferences just aren't designed for that, so I make the most of the coffee breaks and lunchtime to catch people I want to talk to.

New technology might be influencing, but is not making change.  Emails, texts, blogs, facebook, youtube are ways to share information quickly, but I don't think the purpose of meetings and conferences has completely changed - it doesn't require new tech for a networking event.  Many conferences include workshops, effective use of postit notes, extended debate, and aspects of Open Space technology, which predates the social media revolution by some 20 years.

I've got to thank Nick Booth and Steve Philp, not just for introducing me to social media, but to opening up the possibility of making meetings better (and to apologise for nicking their ideas).  Look out for Hall Green's Art Surgeries - next one is Picnic in the Park, Friday 22nd June, and 'Artsmeet' sometime soon!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Drones on your doorstep

Thanks John, Marylin, Margaret and Mike:

Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, are a recent development of military technology. First used in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, they have become much
more sophisticated and are used by both British and American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Yemen and other countries. They became notorious during the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, when drones were in the air above the city, people not knowing when there would be a sudden strike.

There are two basic types of drones. First, drones are used for surveillance, where they can stay in the air for many days, and secondly, they are used for attack on targeted individuals. Drones may be as small as a bird or as large as a small aeroplane. The drones are launched on the battlefield, but then their flight and action is controlled from a US air base near Los Vegas in Nevada.

Drones are used to carry out extra-judicial killings, and are quite clearly illegal in terms of the rules of warfare. They make war easier, since there is no risk to the personnel, who sit in comfortable chairs thousands of miles away. Their operations are secret, since governments say that to release details of their operations would be to aid terrorists. The truth is that they are a terrible form of computer game, played for

There is a factory in the West Midlands that makes the engines for drones. It is the UAV engine factory in the village of Shenstone near Lichfield. The factory is owned by an Israeli armaments company and supplies both the Israeli and the UK governments.

On Friday 11 May, Marilyn and I, together with Margaret Healey Pollett and Mike Cross, all members of All Saints Church and representing the Social Justice Action Group of the church, took part in a vigil to protest against these horrible weapons. We were part of a crowd of nearly fifty including three children. People had come from Redditch, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Oxford and other places, and included Christians and Muslims.

For a whole hour we stood outside the factory, mostly in silence, offering prayers to the God of peace and justice. We understand that the people working in the factory need the work, but we believe that the drone is a form of distorted military science, and skilful people can find other work which builds up humanity instead of destroying it.

After the vigil we moved to the nearby Methodist Church for a discussion, and many of us stayed for a public meeting in the evening, addressed by the well-known peace activist, Christopher Cole.

Drones will proliferate unless people like you and me are prepared to say “Not in my name”. There will be more vigils against the drones, and we hope that the fifty will grow to be five hundred. Will you be one of them?

John M Hull
16th May 2012

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