Omnium. The Conversation on Notes on Design

Notes On Design invited Rick Bennett and I to talk about our experiences of long-distance and global online creative collaboration within the Omnium Research Group. We suggested that some of the more interesting conversations we have had have been over a couple of beers in informal settings, so we decided to have a public conversation and publish it online.

You can read the first part of The Conversation over at the Notes On Design blog. In it we talk a bit about our first experiences and thoughts about online collaboration from ten years ago (hard to believe it’s been that long) in the context of what now seems commonplace: social networks and online communities.

The second part, concerning emerging cultural trends and Omnium’s outreach projects follows soon – I’ll post an update here when it’s up.

UPDATE: The second part is now online.

For Education The Future Isn’t What it used to Be

A few weeks ago I gave a talk called The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be to the Associate Deans over at Northumbria University. I thought I’d blogged about it with the podcast of the recording I made there, but it seems I forgot.

In the talk I wanted to draw together some emerging and converging trends, which, if they do all happen at once, could really turn higher education on its head. If you mix in some of the other threats such as an aging population and the subsequent fall in student numbers it becomes clear that a radical re-think is necessary.

Rather than double-post, I ll point you to where I posted it over at the Omnium blog where there is a direct download, slides and a embedded player version of it.

Collabor8 – Creative Waves 2008


The Omnium Project will be running another global online creative collaboration project under the Creative Waves banner from 28th April – 20 June, this time convened by Ian McArthur and Rick Bennett.

This time the project, called Collabor8, will see design students and lecturers from Australia and China join forces for eight weeks, with project convenors, teachers and special guests worldwide, to work collaboratively and fully online.

The project theme is about creating awareness about the importance of cross cultural design practice and sustainability in design. It will do this by challenging students to work together to design graphics for contemporary, environmentally friendly and sustainable ceramics, textiles, products and environments.

Participation is free and I believe there is space to squeeze in a couple more people, even though the website says the deadline is mid-April. If you are interested, you can apply here.

If it’s any kind of incentive, I’ll be doing a special guest podcast and hosting a thread called “What good is service and interaction design for saving the planet?” in which I’ll take a look about how ‘network thinking’ – something inherent in interaction and service design – is essential to solving some of the complex problems facing us.

Of course, that might be a disincentive for you, in which case just ignore my part and enjoy the rest of the special guests in there.

[tags]Omnium, creative waves, COFA, Australia, China[/tags]

Interview on WorldChanging

World Changing

A quick pointer to an interview about the Creative Waves VIP Project with Rick Bennett and I on the very excellent

If you’ve been wondering what it’s all about and why it might be interesting to take part, then have a read.

Thanks to Regine for writing it too.

p.s. If you haven’t bought the WorldChanging book, go and do it right now. It has everything you need to live with a smaller environmental footprint. It’s the stiletto heel of life.

Omnium software released as Open Source

Omnium V4.0

Last night the new v4.0 Omnium software that runs all of the Omnium projects, such as the Omnium Creative Network and the forthcoming Creative Waves 2007 (as well as all of COFA Online’s courses ) was released as a beta.

It is a massively upgraded version, although much of the effort, as always, has gone into making things simpler not simply adding new things for the sake of it ‘Word-style’. (Of course re-writing and packaging it as open-source took a great deal of time too). There are loads of improvements, including a brilliant admin interface.

It looks beautiful and if you have ever struggled with the likes of Blackboard or WebCT (or even Moodle) then you’ll enjoy this. If you are a creative or research group collaborating in any way (especially involving images and other rich media) and prefer an interface that feels like someone has thought about it rather than a ‘view on a database’, you’ll love it.

Download it now from the Omnium Open site.

The Omnium Blog

Omnium Blog

I’ve written before about my work with the Omnium Project and the Omnium Creative Network, but it has been needing another home…

My colleagues from Omnium and I met up in Berlin for a conference and worked out lots of exciting plans for the future, which will steadily unveil.

One big change is that the Omnium Interface has been massively overhauled (with some very cool additions) and will be released as open-source. We hope people will start contributing some cross-funcitonality with other platforms too (like Moodle, which although it has some great management elements and is also open-source, is pig ugly).

So the new home for many of my thoughts and writings about education, is Omnium’s blog that we have finally got up (about three years late). It’s pretty vanilla at the moment, but we hope it will give a bit of a window on the interesting work going on.

Online Educa Berlin 2006 workshop

Online Educa Berlin 2006

My colleagues and I from The Omnium Project will be conducting a workshop at the Online Educa 2006 Conference in Berlin on the 29th November and it will be introduced by the renowned E-learning specialist, Professor Gilly Salmon. We would love to see you there and make contact.

Our workshop is called Small World – Global Classrooms: Exploring the Potential and Advantages of Fully Online Global Learning Communities and essentially details the projects and research that we have been involved in over the last seven years or so as well as looking into the future. It’s divided into four parts:

Part One: Research:
Enabling Collaborative and Creative Education Through Fully Online Global Learning Communities

Part Two: Teaching and Learning: Preparing and Teaching in a Fully Online and Communal Context

Part Three: Postgraduate Supervision: Hosting Local and Global Online Communities to Enhance the Postgraduate Experience

Part Four: Life-Long Learning: Education Meets Professional Practice via Fully Online Global Communities

Part Four is the section that I am presenting at examines at the rapidly changing nature of professional (and pro-am) life, the rise of social networks and online communities, etc. and how these affect education enormously.

For example, what are the educational expectations of a 18 year-old who has instant messaging friends all over the world, has their own MySpace page and blog and for whom Google and Wikipedia are the first authorities on anything in the world? The Academe has long tried to educate students about the values of refereed publications and reputable sources, but perhaps it is academia that is out of date. What is more influential in reality – an obscure journal with a expert readership in the hundreds, or Google with a user-base of millions?

Google and UNEP Map Environmental Change

Deforestation of Rondonia in the Amazon

Google and the United Nations Environmental Programme last week launched an addition to Google Earth called the Atlas of Our Changing Environment, which allows people to view images of environmental change and information overlaid onto the satellite images.

You can access them from the ‘Featured Content’ section of Google Earth, or you can look at the web version.

I find this convergence of interaction/information design and environmental/sustainability issues really interesting because a large part of the problem is making this stuff meaningful and visible to everyday people and hooks into the work we’re trying to do at the Omnium Creative Network. It goes to show that good visual design (and of course the data) can really have an impact.

I’ve known about the scale of deforestation in the Amazon for years, all the stats on football pitch sized patches being destroyed every hour, etc. But it’s not until you see an image like this (and you can get the 1970’s image overlaid too, to compare) that you really appreciate how awful it is. Most of these images from Rondônia are from about 500 miles up too. From the overlay info:

In 1975, the region was still relatively pristine, with much of the forest intact. By 1989, the distinctive fishbone pattern of forest exploitation had appeared and by 2001 had expanded dramatically.

Shocking. As are almost all of the before and after images.