Institutional inspiration

October 28, 2008

One of the main strands of our work on this project is geolocation — ‘where we are’ — so it felt quite appropriate to kick-start the project with last week’s two-day orientation meeting for all the ‘institutional innovation’ projects. This intensive session helped us to focus on ‘where we are’ not just in relation to the JISC — the wealth of supporting frameworks and infrastructure made available to us, and the rights and responsibilities which must underpin our work — but also in relation to our fellow institutional innovators. That side of things was more about inspiration, an opportunity to see ourselves as part of the wider web, part of a shared vision for more interconnected (and intraconnected) institutional services. It wasn’t all serious and abstract, though; we had a lot of fun visualising the actual and potential links between instutitions with a hands-on creative mapping exercise (and a lot of fighting for the use of marker-pens, which hopefully doesn’t reflect the institutional attitude to other resources!), and most of the real work ofmaking connections with colleagues took place at the dinner-table and in the bar…

Discussions about the themed ‘clusters’ of projects (suggested to us by JISC as a starting-point for collaboration) got a bit heated on Friday morning, as we debated how trusted networks are formed between people, and whether synthetic connections — patterns imposed from outside — can be as strong or effective as the more ‘organic’ communities we naturally grow into. The question remained unresolved, of course, but it’s an interesting analogy for the networked services we’ll be researching and building in our project: are we providing things which people will want to buy into, or will users feel that we’re trying to stamp our own shape on their social networks or their patterns of working? Can we guard against this by listening to our users?