Tag Archives: social art

Social Artists – a new podcast with @artistsmakers

This morning I had a skype conversation with my friend and oftentimes collaborator, Dan Thompson. We talked about what we’ve been doing and stuff and then got into the subject of social art, what it is, how you pay for it, who can do it, etc. It’s not a conversation that’s finished, we’ll be doing more of these, I’m sure.

Download the podcast (29.4MB)

Show Notes

Exploring Collaborative Social Art

Come and experience making social art together at the Centre for Creative Collaboration next Wednesday evening (15th December).

Please book on Eventbrite – it says “Free” but that means “pay on the day” :)

My definition of social art is “The process or product of skilfully bringing people together in such a way as to create a sense of beauty in those that see or participate in it”

I’m going to run a workshop from 5.30pm to 7.30pm on what I’ve learned so far about making social art in a collaborative environment.

The kinds of work I’m talking about usually has a significant online component but works to complement offline activity. Examples of my social art include Tuttle itself, Tuttle2Texas and Most Interesting

You will come away afterwards with:

  • a new idea to work on or progress on an existing idea
  • an understanding of the key elements of such a project – especially how to get started
  • an appreciation of the work and roles involved
  • a set of social tools ready for you to get started
  • an action plan for starting your own collaborative social art project

As this is a brand new workshop I’m offering it on a “pay what you think it’s worth” basis – bring your cheque-book :)

Curses!

It wasn’t supposed to be like this… an invoice was “supposed” to be paid on Friday and ease some pressure, but that won’t happen till next Friday now – and this week is the turn of the month when a few things fall due.

I had a great week of adventure last week – donations made, micropatronage, albums sold, meals bought for me, all accompanied by great conversation, love and support, thank you all very much.

I mostly enjoy this style of living, but occasionally I still get a cold sweat when it looks like it’s not going to work out the way I want it to and I’m going to have to face some embarrassing loss of face about not being able to keep a commitment. I was having one of those a minute ago, that’s why I’m writing now.

More suggestions welcome. Still open to bits of work as detailed last week (nothing came of this – interesting, don’t know if it’s that people can’t pay that immediately, or they just don’t have stuff for me to do).

Donations & micropatronage do work best for me when direct to my bank – avoiding the paypal clearing cycle.

However, purchasing stuff still helps too.

And just feeding me earns you a well-bent ear.

Integration rather than compromise

I was talking a while ago about compromise in the context of concentrating on social art and being a social artist – recognising that I had to do this, it was no good going back and compromising with other work because I’d only end up back here again trying to find an answer.

I am at the moment though just starting a few new things that at first glance look a bit more like standard social media consulting assignments.

Am I compromising? I don’t think so, I prefer to see it as integrating art and commerce, making something new. I can’t guarantee I’ll get it right, but I’m having a go.

I think I’ve seen where I needed to make a shift – to move from avoiding the bits of social media consulting work that I’m qualified to do, but which aren’t obviously social art towards taking more of an artistic approach to clients and prospects who ask for advice.

One of the first lessons in consulting I got was “Always reframe. Never take any assignment as given” So I’m now committing to taking on assignments with the caveat that I will always turn them into some sort of social art. That I will talk about them in those terms, I will reframe briefs and open them up to the network. After all, my perceived value most of the time is that I am part of a large network (although along with that sometimes comes some confusion over network dynamics, talk of influentials, etc)

Obviously this has to be in collaboration with the client. I don’t want to keep the process hidden from them but neither can I simply expose every brief wantonly to everyone I know. But I think it’s important to show people how we work, showing by example how to engage with a network as well as telling them what they should do.

Do as I say *and* as I do.

The Social Art of Travelling across the USA

tuttle2texas

Hmmm… that feels like a big title for something important. Well I suppose it is. In a way it’s what I’m thinking about all the time – how might I repeat the adventure of last March? Do I want to? (yes) Why do I want to? How to do it differently? What do I want to keep? What to I want to avoid?

And answering all those questions feel like issues of control. And what I learned last year is that what’s interesting in this space is what happens when you let go of control. What happens when you simply put yourself in a place with a few rules and structures ie where you can have only minimal control over what happens next? What happens when you willingly conspire with yourself to create an adventure where you end up in a hotel room in New York, writing on your blog that you don’t know where you’re going to stay in 3 days time when you arrive in New Orleans? What do you learn? What can you do differently if you come across this situation again.

Where’s the wisdom literature about this? Well it turns out that the great spiritual works boil down to life being a journey into the unknown and how you deal with the pitfalls along the way – but they do it at a very abstract level. There are principles in there that are useful, about staying in the moment, letting the process (God, the Tao, Flying Spaghetti Monster) happen, letting the universal power do it’s work and getting out of the way, surrendering to that power.

And then there’s movies. A much more socially acceptable way of exploring these ideas in the 21st Century than reading the Bible :) Pretty much everything is a Hero’s Journey, but some are more literally about a journey than others. Frankie and I asked on twitter the other day for favourite examples. We got:

Wild at Heart
Easy Rider
Apocalypse Now
Road to Perdition
The Odyssey
O Brother, Where Art Thou.
Jason & the Argonauts
39 Steps
North by NW
Africa United
Two-Lane Blacktop
Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid
Midnight Run
The Blues Brothers
Kings of the Road
Paris, Texas
Thelma & Louise

Just a random Friday afternoon selection – chuck some more in – when we’ve got a fuller list and an idea of which are most useful, I’ll run some screenings/conversations to explore this idea a bit further.

Umm… so why might this be important beyond simply making something beautiful?

Well, consider you’re an established FMCG brand for example. You know you want something like the Old Spice campaign. You buy the *theory* that you should be involving customers and engaging them beyond a 2010 version of a caption-writing contest, but you also know that this means ceding some control.

Yes, the C-word again. It’s what freaks the bejaysus out of people in businesses like that – we’ve all seen it: they want to do the new cool thing, they want to play in this space, but they sit at the edge of the playground afraid to join in.

But what if there was a safe way of doing it, of practicing it in such a way that you could bring it into your every day work – mightn’t that be a way of sliding along the spectrum towards real engagement? What if you didn’t have to do it at all, but you could just hear the story of someone else doing it, not in a packaged, polished, rationalised case study after the dust had settled, what if you could watch the people doing it in real time (and maybe join in and give them a hand if you had something they needed)?

Maybe?

Last tenner

I just broke my last tenner buying stuff for breakfast tomorrow. Hmmm… it wasn’t supposed to still be like this but the truth is that it isn’t a sob story, it’s just the way things are for today and things can change very quickly. [UPDATE: micropatrons & postcard buyers have saved the bacon for now... thankyou! proper update later]

I was reminded of this today when I found myself telling the #tuttle2texas story again, to a bunch of people who knew very little about me or the social web. I talked, as usual, about how I learned to keep asking for help and keep trusting that the right help would turn up. They were primarily gobsmacked that I took the accomplishment of traveling the breadth of the USA, fuelled by social capital so lightly, that I didn’t talk about how proud I am of what we did or speak with more enthusiasm about how amazing it was.

It *was* amazing. Lots of you helped make it that way. I could not have done it without you. But here’s something: I don’t think I’ve acknowledged for myself yet that you might never have done it without me.

Same goes for Tuttle as a whole. It isn’t about me, it never has been, I couldn’t do it on my own. But the people who are interested in the social web in London (and Birmingham, Cornwall, Long Beach etc) probably wouldn’t have otherwise done something quite the same.

That’s one of the insights I’ve been given as a result of asking for Linked-in recommendations. There’s stuff hanging about in this world that wouldn’t be here if I had been around. Good stuff, that people like and value. Not necessarily big stuff, but stuff that’s important to those people whose lives it has touched.

To those who’ve been trying to tell me this for years, I’m sorry, I’m a bit slow to catch up.

And then there’s the invisible stuff. A common thread in some of the recommendations I’ve had this week is the idea that you might not see what it is that I do.

David Jennings says “His craft works so well… that it’s almost invisible – ditto his leadership…”

Johnnie Moore puts it like this: “… one of his finest qualities is his humility and reluctance to show off and put other people in the shadow.” and “He will help make connections and realise the potential of networks and he’ll do it so skilfully that you might not notice him doing it.”

Jo Jacobs uses the ‘c’ word: “His work… has been the catalyst for so many other collaborative ventures and meetings”.

Nathalie McDermott says: “Lloyd… provides the perfect conditions for others to meet, spark off each other and make things happen which is a rare talent.”.

But if you can’t see it (unless you get to know me and look up close), how do you know whether it’s really there? How do you distinguish this from the Emperor’s New Clothes? And if you didn’t pay for it and it went away, how would you know? Would you really miss it? What difference would it really make?

No other earth-shattering insights for now. If you can see something obvious that I can’t, please do point it out.

If you’re reading this you’ve probably dipped in your pockets or helped in some other way already. Thank you. If you’re inclined to do one more thing perhaps you could encourage others to do the same as you did for me.

If you’re just catching up you can find other posts about it here and here.

macro works too

I’ve asked a number of people to write recommendations for me on linked-in – it’s been a(nother) humbling experience to see myself as others see me.

This snip from Dave Briggs has grabbed a few folks’ attention:

“Lloyd has the bravery to make himself and his life an integral part of his work. He literally lives and breathes this stuff. If I had lots of money, I would give a pile of it to Lloyd to just carry on being him. You should, too.”

So if you’ve avoided micropatronage so far because it’s just not big enough, listen to Dave ;)

You can see my linked-in profile here

Backstory: The A-levels

I know you were completely hooked on the Audit Commission Crhonicles (*yawn*) but today was A-level results day here. There was a flurry of chat about it on twitter and I said what results I’d managed 23 years ago: Two Ds and an E. And when someone asked me privately “How did that happen? You’re such a clever guy.” I gave my stock answer, which is that I discovered the joys of beer and girls in my sixth form.

But because I’m thinking a lot about extending narratives and backstories, it occurred to me that there was more to the story than that – I mean that is the truth, that’s something that happened then, but it’s not the whole reason that I got two Ds and an E. There’s much more to the truth than that. So I started looking at what it was really about – what I don’t normally want to talk about, what I cover up with the stock answer.

Because lets face it, having a laugh about the joys of beer and girls is much more comfortable than looking at the whole truth.

So here’s some more of the truth.

First off, there’s more to the results – I also got an A in General Studies but I miss that out because it doesn’t fit with the story and because it’s too easy to get into an argument about whether General Studies counts or not and it doesn’t seem to matter whether people did it or not, they’re equally divided about it’s value, mainly on the basis of what grade they or someone they know got. So that gets left out. But it tells you something. It tells you that I do have some natural ability, some curiosity for current affairs and good general knowledge across a range of disciplines. I’m a good generalist. That’s more widely valued these days than it was in 1983 but if you started hiding it back then, it seems a little weak to bring it up now…

What else was going on? I was studying German, French and Latin. Yeah. How did that come about? Well specialisation started earlier then, I think. When you chose your O-level options before the fourth form you narrowed a lot, but also in the school I went to the timetable was less flexible – classes in the third form were based around it. There were 10 classes of about 30 kids each in my year. The “top” two were the ones who did Latin and modern languages. The middle ones were more technical and scientific and the lowest ones completely manual – technical drawing, metal and woodwork for the boys, girlie stuff for the girls. We all did a bit of music and art and RE but clearly being able to do languages was important and Latin was a badge of honour with teachers and disgust with other pupils.

I got a lot more positive attention, far more easily for having a talent for languages than I would have done if I’d had a natural talent for art or making things. So that’s what I chose. I didn’t have to work too hard at all and I got through.

That’s the beginning of the mistake, if you like, trying to take the easy way. But it cut me off from an important bit of me, the space to be creative. My only option was extra-curricular drama (no not knife fights in the park. Hamlet, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Real Inspector Hound.) And I hung on to this, knowing that being creative was something that was really important to me.

So when it came to choosing A-levels, I wasn’t going to do Maths, Physics or Chemistry, I’d jettisoned everything else and because I fell out with the head of English, for the reasons that headstrong and arrogant 16-year-olds fall out with tired, middle-aged men teaching in a Midlands comprehensive, two years of English was a no-no. So I ended up doing a triple-whammy of translation and heavy literature.

Essentially decisions I made at the age of 13 together with the demographics of the time and the inflexibility of the timetable led me to an extremely constrained position five years later.

And I completely lost the will to work at any of it. I didn’t see the point in studying literature and I couldn’t be bothered. And it was a means to an end that I wasn’t interested in either (although I couldn’t admit that either). When it came out that I was applying for drama degrees, I had a long discussion with the headmaster who told me that a career in the arts was a ridiculous waste of the education I’d been given and that I should join an amateur dramatics group while doing a Modern Languages degree. He didn’t know that I already felt I was compromising but didn’t know how to get out of the ridiculous bind I was in.

So I did the only thing I could do to save myself from doing something I didn’t have the heart to do nor had the guts to refuse. I simply didn’t do the work. In particular, I didn’t read very much of the German, French or Latin literature that is (was?) a core part of A-level study in those subjects. So Goethe is still a mystery to me though I remembered “Kennst du das Land wo die Zitronen bluehen” when I went through the Brenner pass last summer. I couldn’t tell you what La Chute was about except a guess that a guy having some existential breakdown in Amsterdam and while Aeneid VI is one of the more engaging books, Pliny and Ovid left me totally cold. And those are the ones that I can remember the titles of. I was never going to get the two Bs and a C that would condemn me to 3 years in Aberystwyth.

Result!

So I spent the next year still in Bromsgrove. Laying about on the dole. No! That’s another stock answer, that covers up what I was really doing. What I really did in the 12 months before I left home in September 1984 was that I became a political activist, learning rhetorical speaking and camaraderie and ways of organising people around passions – how pointless is that if you want a real job? And I spent the rest of my time working as a volunteer at the Swan Theatre in Worcester, effectively as an unpaid Acting ASM learning a bit of my trade as an actor, which of course although relevant to me spending three years at the Guildford School of Acting couldn’t possibly prepare me for doing something useful once I was over 40. Yeah, I didn’t do anything in my lazing-about year.

So there you go. More truth. Is there any more in there? I don’t know at the moment, perhaps there is. What other “cover stories” and “stock answers” are there?

Who’s next for a Social Artist?

#c4cc buzzingI’ve been Social Artist in Residence at the University of London’s Centre for Creative Collaboration for four months now. I love it. It’s great to have somewhere to focus my practice around – not just so that I have somewhere to park myself to work, but to contribute to a mission while doing my stuff.

I set out here to make new connections between the centre and the various communities that I have a presence in; to create synergy between the work of the centre and other projects I work on; and to encourage others to join in by writing about what I’ve done and speaking about it widely.

It’s been more successful than I’d anticipated (I know, for example, that the majority of people who’ve come through the doors of the centre have done so because of my efforts), which is great, particularly given that this is a startup environment which doesn’t officially launch until later this month. We haven’t talked yet about what happens to my place here after the initial six month agreement, though I’m hoping to stay involved in some capacity.

I’m now looking for another residency to complement it. I’m interested this time in finding something that’s different. I’d like to try what I’m doing in a differently challenging environment, one where there’s an established status quo – somewhere regimented, hierarchical and silo-bound. An organisation that’s struggling to make sense of or come to terms with a shift in their market or operational environment. In short somewhere where I have something to push against.

Any ideas?

Most Interesting…

120920091927I set this up this morning – Most Interesting

It’s a group posterous blog collecting the “most interesting” pictures that people have posted to Flickr. For those not in the know, Flickr has a measure of interestingness and I’ve been fascinated to watch how “interesting” some of my pictures are measured to be by this algorithm.

I was wondering how you might collate the most interesting pix from a group of people and get them to reflect on what comes up. Thankfully posterous.com has been developing faster and faster of late and I was able to set up a site in a few minutes to capture this. Now that it allows posting by anyone (with pre-publication moderation) and has static pages, it’s really easy to set something up for whatever it is that we now call user-generated content.

There are instructions here for how to submit something. Basically you just send a specially formatted e-mail. Kyle McRae (who knows a thing or two himself about curating UGC!) was the first to contribute, even before I thought I’d publicised it at all. But have a go. Of course you may not have a flickr account or you might not have very many pictures there – a very good reason to get one and start adding to it!

I’ve also added a Facebook page that it will be autoposted to for those of you who like to see stuff within that particular walled garden.

Let’s see how it goes.

[UPDATE] Anjali points out that it’s a similar idea to pixtories Yes – I think it’s nice though to have people’s thoughts on things that they own, but which have been picked out for them, rather than things that they think are interesting themselves.