In this blog, James Morwood talks about a recent opportunity, through our new peer-to-peer support project, Ampersand+, to hear from other Amps on how to make online creative workshops more engaging.
After seeing the announcement for Ampersand+ (Creative Dundee’s new sharing project) I was excited to listen and share with others on a topic that has been on my mind over the past year, how can we make creative digital workshops feel like real spaces.
Claire Dufour from Creative Dundee reached out shortly after I submitted my topic (through this short form here) and we decided to have a small group discussion. On the day I hopped into the video call with Claire shortly before people started to arrive, within 5 minutes we had a full room of 12 people all enthusiastic to share their experiences and thoughts on digital workshops. Claire moderated and guided the discussion through a format that worked wonderfully in my opinion, with everyone getting a chance to learn and share from others.
During introductions we had people from many backgrounds, including a public space designer, ceramicist and dance instructor. Everyone mentioned how they prepared for the discussion, many cups of tea and coffee, some fabulous unicorn notebooks and last minute technical difficulties. I think this spoke to something I have appreciated about meeting online, we have the chance to create a physical space around the digital that is comfortable for us in a way that many traditional meeting rooms are not.
We then split into small groups and shared our thoughts, I heard from three participants about how they had participated in and organised various online events and workshops. Some notes I took highlighted the barriers that a video call creates for many people, little things like making sure that participants think about muting/unmuting their microphone or trying to angle the camera correctly to share something on their screen. There were also positives to the virtual environment, echoed by several people, such as being able to attend further afield events that would otherwise be inaccessible or the ability to join in the background with no voice or video as an observer.
Below are my main takeaways in response to the question of how we can make creative digital workshops feel like real spaces, not all of them will apply to every situation but hearing the different experiences and ideas really inspired me to try something new for my next online workshop.
As well as these main insights I gained into little changes I can make to my digital workshops, there were still some unanswered questions raised by the Amps taking part in this discussion. One that stayed with me was – how can we make the experience of coming across a digital event or workshop feel spontaneous like walking through a public space and finding a market or being in a museum and seeing an activity happening. Often the softwares we use are built for office meetings rather than creative workshops and so there is no way to create a space out with the video call.
For the past few months I have run the Virtual Zine Jam with a Facebook page for each event where people can share images and comment without any video or voice interactions, it is very different to being in a physical space with people but allows for slower conversation without the pressure of being on video for an hour. I look forward to taking some of the insights from the Ampersand+ discussion and incorporating them in my next zine jam.
Thank you again to Creative Dundee and Claire for facilitating the discussion and for everyone who attended. If you have any questions you can reach out to me by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the Amps Community and take part in our creative sharing project Ampersand+, which enables you to swap small favours and arrange informal conversations with each other to share your experienced-based knowledge and skills, benefit from constructive feedback on specific projects, discuss a topic that matters to you, or simply connect with someone new.
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