Week 1


I keep telling myself to post a field report and then it gets pushed under the table, because like Claudia and others I have not found very much down-time! So I thought I'd go ahead and post some stuff I wrote up in my first few days with a few updates.

I've jumped right in to my work here and have hit the ground running (or at least I'm trying!). In my first couple of days I worked on getting up to speed on Miro and Miro Community, and trying to do a little bit of research on tech-related stuff that I'm less familiar with, like CSS, so that I can know the vocabulary that's being used. My supervisor and I spent some time brainstorming ideas for language simplification on the Miro Community sites, and also coming up with more long term things we'd like to see - I've been doing more of that this week as it becomes a priority to develop features for the sites. I've been getting introduced to PCF folks and sitting in on a few related meetings to get a sense of the context of our work, and to learn to explain what I'm doing!

One of the first things my supervisor suggested that I do was decide on a community that I could make a Miro Community site for, which I could moderate and build so that I would be able to get a better sense of what's needed and how things work. I guess this is a little like running through a curriculum in order to know how to improve it, except that in building up the site I'll also be leaving behind an infrastructure that someone else, or ideally many someone elses, can take over when I'm gone. I came up with a bunch of ideas for communities (this is why the Miro Community project is so cool - it has so many potential applications!). A few that I considered were an Americorps site (there is a surprising amount of Americorps video out there!), a site having to do with poverty and community programs, and one related to groups I've been involved with, like the Lesbian Herstory Archives and the NYC Grassroots Media Coalition. However, I decided that for this it would be best for me to focus on something I'm pretty familiar with and could really dig into, with the idea that more could be built later. So we agreed that I would focus broadly on feminist video, and within that I would particularly focus on the practice of fanvidding, hopefully working with the Organization of Transformative Works. This is something I'm really interested in, and while it doesn't directly contribute to the "end poverty" mission, I think it will be a space where I can learn a lot and get a lot of more widely applicable ideas. I also see a lot of potential for coalitions and partnerships, including ones related to poverty. So far I've reached out to a couple of contacts about this and they're excited - it's starting to come together in a way that's really energizing.

Things move very quickly here, and I'm a little worried that I'm not getting enough done/ not keeping up well enough. But I'm trying - reading up on some blogfeeds my supervisor suggested and really just jumping in on developing the Miro Community sites. I tried to set up a call with one group and have been a little disheartened at the lack of response, but we'll keep trying. My supervisor and I met with several groups last week about building partnerships, and it was really valuable for me to hear what their concerns were as well as the potential uses they saw for the project. One thing we heard a lot of, especially from the Public Access folks we met with, is that their supervisors are very wary of new technology until they hear about it externally (so, they don't get why they might want a site like Miro Community but they're really into Twitter because they're heard about it in the news). There's also a lot of concern about adding extra work and anxiety about prioritizing core functions because of the financial crisis. One thing I feel we really need to focus on with these folks is the importance of building sustainable systems so that they can come out of this recession stronger than ever, otherwise I think this could be a near-fatal blow.

I also decided it would be beneficial to attend the NAMAC conference and am working on setting that up - has anyone else heard from the volunteer coordinator? I found Bolt Bus tickets NYC-Boston for $1.50 each way, so I'm pretty happy about that.

Well, I think I should get back to work now, but that's a taste of what I've been up to so far! I've loved hearing about how things are going for you all, too - keep it coming!

Comment from Ben Sheldon on August 17, 2009 - 4:17pm

That's really cool (and smart) that you're starting small and really trying to target one particular community to build.

The Cable Access crowd is always a tough nut to crack. Because of their super-local focus, the majority haven't built a culture of sharing. And since their money comes from franchise fees (rather than donors) they focus more on political issues (since the fees come through the city and are regulated at the state and federal level) rather than developing community competencies. If you haven't already, talk to our VISTAs John Haffner at CMAP, or John Montgomery at Deproduction, since they are doing collaborative partnerships between Access Stations.

Don't get disheartened: it sounds like you've already done a lot!

Comment from Anne Jonas on August 17, 2009 - 4:26pm

Thanks, Ben! Actually, one of the places we're talking to is Medfield, so I think Jason was happy to hear I was part of DAScorps. I'm pretty optimistic about things, though it's kind of funny to see how there are such different cultures - we have a very tech culture at PCF, I think, and it's very different than the traditional nonprofit culture. It should be interesting!

By the way, do you know if Colin Rhinesmith's master's thesis on public access in the age of youtube is available somewhere? He seemed like someone you might know.

Comment from Claudia Escobar on September 1, 2009 - 7:53pm

Anne: If this was your first week, I can't wait to read what you have done in a month!