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A bird in the hand …

Vulnerabilty and the feeling that at primary and secondary school levels ‘we’ hold their education in the palm of our hands

Few people know what they are doing with PowerPoint

Fig.1. It’s like being in a train looking out of the window while someone is talking to you

They produce a set of cards or stepping stones, then gives these out as hand-outs.

But where is the narrative, the building of the argument of the nuanced slowing down or speeding up to change emphasis – let alone the question from the floor, or the ad hoc additional thought.

Visuals in a presentation should complement what is said – one would be far weaker without the other.

Very, very rarely when I have attended a conference or lecture I have received a handout that is, give or take (though the presenter didn’t read from it), the notes they used to talk the audience through the images.

When someone says ‘there is a handout’ and provides copies of the slides that is ridiculous.

It is like being in a train looking out of the window while someone is talking to you – you want want they said, not what you were looking at.

 

Assistive technology to create access to education and work

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Fig.1 Assistive technology for people with no vision

I am familiar with all of many assistive tools and use them regularly though I am not dyselxic, rather I have found them to be assistive tools for everything I do as a writer, from scanning in printed content, creating mindmaps, recording, uploading and transcribing interviews and notes, as well as reading back what I have written.

Similarly, all the low option assistive technologies I have and still use, from a digital recorder and a PDA that become a PSION or handheld ‘palm top’ wordprocess to the iPad and Smartphone I have today. Working with colleagues with Dyselxia I started to produce documents for them on coloured sheets.

Trackballs, footpedals and head pointers take me into a new area, though I do use a footpedal to control the playback of interviews as it makes transcription or analysis far easier. Trackballs and tablets I have used in video edit suites as alterantive and better ways to interface with the various digital asasets you are juggling. Headpointers and joysticks in this context are quite new to me, though I will be familiar with reports and documentaries on their use.

Some of the virtual screen tools are also unfamiliar, though word prediction in some sense is something many of us will have experienced with predictive text.

Speech input I have used, but clearly my context and that for a disabled user are going to be very different – my use an indulgence or supra-human tools that enhances what I can naturally acheive, whereas for a disabled person it creates access at a basic level.

Alternate keyboards like any prosphsis, unless tailored to the user, will be a compromise – it depends on the person, their needs, circumstances and resources as to whether a large keyboard for one hand keyboard will be a benefit to them.

Clearly as we start to consider tools for people with no vision or no hearing the level of sophistication and specialisation of the device increases.

Creative Problem Solving Techniques

24/12/2012

Problem, opportunity, challenge, issue, concern …

I’ve been professionally lodged in calling everything a problem to be solved. I may think this through and stick to this concept. I was introduced to the Creative Brief at JWT, London in the mid 1980s. Through Design & Art Direction (D&AD) workshops, then a year, full-time at the School of Communication Arts the ‘problem’ as the preferred, indeed the only term, was reinforced.

The advertising Creative Brief goes:

What is the problem?

What is the opportunity?

Who are you speaking to?

What do you want to say?

How do you want them to react to this message?

What else do you need to know?

I have seen no reason to change this, indeed some 135+ video productions later, information films, training films, change management, product launch, lecture, you name it … the same set of questions, answered on a SINGLE SIDE of A4 governs the initial client meetings. If we cannot get it onto a single sheet, then we haven’t the focus to deliver a clear response. Back to the drawing board.

It works.

From the agreed Creative Brief I then write a synopsis or two, the ideas are shared and I go off and prepare a treatment or two; I offer alternatives. Then, with agreement on the treatment, based always on how well it lives up to the brief, I go off and write a script. Sometimes the script is visualisation and dialogue (voice over, interviews transcripts even dramatisation), usually very little needs to be changed at this stage; the script is a direct expression of what was agreed in the treatment. We then produce (shoot, post-produce) and review the end result. Once again, a fail-safe process that only sees the product improved upon at each stage.

It works.

So why is this page of this chapter an Epiphany?

I guess, because I know that some clients struggle with the term ‘problem’. I stubbornly refuse to accept an alternative and argue my case. Yet apparently there is a case. Or is there? VanGundy (1988) rightly suggests that

p18 ‘Each of these different terms expresses its own metaphor for what is involved and suggests its own slightly different ways of working’. Henry et al. (2010:18)

To be a problem there needs to be a ‘gap’ between what is desired and the current position. VanGundy (1988:04)

Why would I change what has always worked?

When I bring with my argument decades of experience from the most successful, persuasive and memorable communicators of all? This ‘Creative Brief is an industry standard.

My view is that if there isn’t a problem, there is no need to do x, y or z. Anything less than ‘problem’ diminishes the nature and ambition of the communications challenge (here I argue that internal and external communications, PR, marketing and advertising, are all on the same spectrum: you are trying to persuade people).

Think of problems and solutions as part of an extended hierarchy.

We then get into ‘Gap Analysis’

p19 ‘The imperative that drives creative people can transform the theoretical ‘what could be’ into a more powerfully motivating ‘what should be’.

Then drift away from the challenge when the ‘problem’ is no longer (in my view of things) considered a communications issue.

p24 The problem exists in the overlap between ourselves and the situation … this means that solutions can often be as much a mater of changing ourselves as changing the external situation’.

  1. Change the situation
  2. Change yourself
  3. Get out
  4. Learn to live with it

As an external supplier, a communications problem fixer, then only point 1 can apply, which becomes an argument for the extensive use of external suppliers. Think about it, do you want someone to address the problem/challenge you take to them, or shilly-shally about, making do, dodging it or making themselves absent?

p26 ‘Play’ – the dynamic gap between vision and reality.

Activity 2.1 (p16)

Frustration over having an audio-cassette to listen to. By sharing the problems it was resolved.

Cause: keeping up with the technology

Ans: A problem shared is a problem halved. Ease of relationships.

p17 ‘A densely interconnected part of a huge web of issues and concerns that change and develop over time and may transform radically in appearance depending on your viewpoint’.

Spend a few minutes identifying some of the features of this story that might perhaps generalise to other situations and that:

  • helped to generate the challenge
  • helped to overcome it.

Solving ‘problems’ however, is not as clear-cut as a specific problem relate to communications.

I need more of VanGundy. Is he free from the OU Library? Or even an not too expensive download as an eBook to the Kindle and iPad. Despite admonitions to spend less time reading and more time addressing the practical side of Block 2, I feel I have to read on, to investigate an issue (oops, problem, I mean) that has bugged me for more than 25 years.

REFERENCE

Henry, J., Mayle, D., Bell, R., Carlisle, Y. Managing Problems Creatively (3rd edn) 2010. The Open University.

VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of structured problem solving (2nd edn), New York: Van Nostran Reinhold.

Dragon Speaking not so naturally? Speech recognition and natural human language

English: Unipart House, Cowley, Oxford, Englan...

English: Unipart House, Cowley, Oxford, England. Headquarters of Unipart Group Limited, and some subsidiaries. Also used by many other companies for rented offices. Beyond Unipart House, part of the Unipart Logistics warehouse frontage can just be seen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I first used Dragon Speaking Naturally, the voice recognition software, when it first came out in 1997. The CEO of Unipart Group of Companies John Neil was trialing it. This and the Internet were his passions (indeed all new technologies he insisted on exploiting for their potential).

Between 1994 and 1998 I spent between one and three weeks a month working here as an outside supplier to the communications team directing regular video news and training ‘films’ that were distributed internally, to suppliers and to shareholders i.e. all their ‘stakeholders.’

Today I find I am still drawing upon the insights I gained on Learning & Training Development at that time. Unipart, lead by John Neil, were the advance guard, pushing employee development further than any other business I was aware of.

Back to Speech Recognition

At the time my only use for it was to read back scripts. Am I talking about the same thing? There was something on my Apple too that by writing phonetically you could have it speaking in a Geordie accent. I recall spending some time trying to ‘teach’ voice recognition software to understand me. My spoken voice is, despite being brought up on Tyneside, recognizably RP … even dare I say Public School / Oxbridge (so no doubt meeting the requirements of my highly aspirational middle class parents). I think it was still ‘tuned in’ to an American intonation.

Why I gave up?

I find the delay (there is some) between the thought and my fingers on the keyboard works, whereas voice recognition was taking it raw from my mind. Stream of consciousness at this Proustian ‘volume’ would then require editing and interpretation, which rather defeated its purpose. My late father on the other hand, a solicitor by training, would dictate letters word perfect, first time. (His mentality and training).

Play time

A decade on I am taking it seriously.

I record notes into a digital recorder that could be podcast content for my swim coach blog, by using Dragon Speaking Naturally this can be quickly converted into text and images added.

Its called reader choice

The idea is that poolside a coach needs to have their eyes on the swimmers (rather like a driver having their eyes on the road). If I have offered some simple spoken guidelines on a set, key points and tips, these can be reviewed in situ. Notes on specific swimmers too.

We’ll see

I was woken by the dog, otherwise even I wouldn’t be up this early. I ought to be reading a book rather than doing this … there are ways to ease yourself back to sleep. I tell you, my mind is going like the clappers. I should be mining my dreams right now. Much of the time I am tussling with the content of this blog, the 1200 pieces I’ve ‘dumped’ in my OU eportfolio MyStuff and a desk strewn in white papers, reports, catalogues, directories, hand outs and leaflets from Learning Technologies 2011.

Earlier (see LT2.1) I wondered about a walk around Learning Technologies in the company of a camera on a steadicam. Easier still would have been an informed walk around with audio, as a podcast, with the Floor Plan and pictures.

Next time

When am I going to offer this as a podcast? Is there something to be gained in this? Something lost?

On Verra

Meanwhile I click through 34 voice recordings labelling and deleting.

There is a period here where I deliberately record all, or most of , a swim coaching session, both notes to myself in situ, and my instructions to the swimmers. I’ve done this as an exercise to understand what value can be gained from ‘recording everything.’ That very fact that I am listening to this three weeks after the event indicates one problem. The next is ‘chunking’ the content into manageable pieces, something I did in part while recording (to protect the identities of people I am working with). In practice I can see that such ‘chunking’ should be done at the time … rather like stop starting a dictaphone.

So I learnt something. Whether I record, verbatim, other chunks of my life is quite another matter.

You record 8 hours of material in a day, how many days is this going to take to process.

It reminds me of a story of a diarist who appeared to spend his day writing about writing his diary.

Remind you of anyone?

P.S. Renewing my relationship with Unipart a decade on by clicking through their website I decided to apply directly to their Human Resources department to see about joining them as a consultant.

 

Collaboration in all things

Engestrom came up with Activity Theory to explain collaboration

Experiences here, lessons learnt and studied, has me now appealing to friends and colleagues to collaborate on all kinds of things.

What strikes me, having spent a few years buried in my writing and alone with the task, is how I have always worked best in a team, if only in a team of two. I do well as number two, I like to have someone working to, for or with me, I like constructing larger teams.

The intention therefore is to throw several balls into the air, but rather than juggling alone there will be a troupe. These will be formed into formal teams (businesses, projects) and less formal ones (writing, thinking teams and partnerships).

The outcomes?

  • Results
  • Credits
  • Reputation
  • Income
  • Contentment
  • Pride

Whilst supported online I know too that for the sake of cohesion and commitment there will need to be face-to-face meetings and shared offices. As soon as I can get an office in town, I will do so. I am looking for a space at the University Innovation Centre and for the first time in a decade will get an address in the West End, back to Newburgh Street or Newman Street, or in Covent Garden.

Ask me in 12 months time how 2011 has been.

Either way I’ll keep you posted here.

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