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Explaining the Hydrocitizenship Digital Strategy

Tue 16 Sep 2014 15:33:43 | 2 comments
I thought I would write a post explaining the three strands of the Hydrocitizenship digital strategy:

- Four Case Study Satellite Sites

Each of these sites functions (or will) in contrasting and complementary ways. This three strand approach draws from and adapts the online media strategy of National Theatre Wales (NTW) within a specific research context. NTW's innovative online community contains records of its largely site--specific and participatory performance practices throughout Wales since 2010. Artists, critics, spectators and company members share and discuss production processes, engage in debates and discuss future possibilities. This strategy makes use of numerous online platforms with a social network at its centre in order to tie together many diverse community centred activities occurring at local levels in different parts of the nation. 

Hydrocitizenship

This is a three year project involving communities from around the UK, more specifically in Yorkshire, mid Wales, Bristol and the Lee Valley. It involves a range of academics and practitioners in a lots of different fields and disciplines and from a variety of backgrounds. Like NTW, our web presence seeks to provide a corporate sense of identity across the case study areas by providing a main website that introduces and explains the project, this is Hydrocitizenship.

Over the course of the next three years it will grow and eventually contain formal research outputs and an archive of events and other activities. This site is important, because it provides an identity to the project and attempts to tie the various strands of it together. However, while this site will be informative, it is not likely to receive very much traffic on a day to day basis. Also, people don't arrive at the front page of a website like they do the front page of a book. They are as likely to come in through the back door having been directed there by Twitter, Facebook or Hydrocitizens as they are to encounter a page containing a straightforward introduction to the project. 

The web is rhizomatic, by this I mean that there are numerous connections between sites and users don't navigate in an ordered or logical manner. With this in mind, we have developed a digital strategy that enables users to encounter and engage with our work on multiple platforms and with many entry points. This strategy draws upon and creates links and associations between multiple sites and draws upon the voices of multiple authors. This means that we can engage far more effectively through the web than our main site would be able to do on its own. It currently averages about 50 page views a day.


Case Study Satellite Sites
Because there are four distinct case study areas with different issues, concerns and participants, each case study has (or will have) its own separate blog/site. This means that each case study can have its own local identity and can operate within and alongside Hydrocitizenship. Each of these sites can continue along its own trajectory when the Hydrocitizenship project has reached its conclusion. The Yorkshire site is up and running and the other three will follow soon. When all four satellite case study sites are ready they will contain links to Hydrocitizenship and vice versa. These satellite sites may well receive more web traffic than Hydrocitizenship and will likely have more appeal to local community members than the main Hydrocitizenship site which aims to satisfy academics, project partners and the AHRC. 


Hydrocitizens - Online Community
The third strand of our strategy is this online community. It currently has 36 members and is averaging over 500 page visits a day. We are keen to foster and engage in conversations and exchanges about water and related issues with others that are already engaged in the field. Our hope is that we will not only produce a substantial record of our activities and discussions over the course of the next three years, but that others that are not directly involved in Hydrocitizenship might promote their work and engage in debates, making the community their own and enriching our research and their own.

Hydrocitizens is a product of Hydrocitizenship but does not aim to provide a unified authorial voice for the project. Instead, in hopes to do the following:

1) Provide a platform through which multiple voices might be heard. Unlike the main Hydrocitizenship site and the four case study sites it seeks to encourage participation. It hopefully provides a space for dialogue between any configuration of member. All of the pages are public and will turn up in a google search. Over time, it will tell stories of Hydrocitizenship from the perspectives of those that are engaged in the project online.

2) Create a space in which others might share their work in the hope that unexpected conversations and collaborations might occur. This community hopes to help draw attention to the work of others whilst also revealing the day to day processes behind a large interdisciplinary research project. 

3) It hopes to provide a way of linking up the four case study areas at the level of the day to day. Practices, methods and discoveries might be made available in ways that facilitate organic cross fertilisation between case studies throughout the process. The community has already led to collaborative ways of working, with ideas from various case study areas feeding into planning processes elsewhere. As time goes by this could prove to be an innovative framework for geographically dispersed interdisciplinary research.

4) Create a legacy for the project that exists independently beyond Hydrocitizenship. It is hoped that members will configure the community through the nature of their participation and that it will take on a life of its own.

There is also potential to begin engaging with other networks including Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Pinterest, Youtube and others. 

My invitation to new members, particularly those whose practice is outside Hydrocitizenship, is to use the community to connect others up to their work by pasting extracts from their own websites and blogs in their Hydrocitizen's blog and adding links between the two. The voices of others are an essential part of this project.

This strategy is a work progress, an investigation of its own, that will evolve through online collaboration over the course of the next three years. Please share thoughts, ask questions and make suggestions as to what it could be.



Comments

Following some useful feedback from the team I've made some adjustments to the Hydrocitizenship main website.

I've removed the news page. This has been replaced on the front page of the website with a twitter feed. This is hopefully better because the news in the twitter feed is much easier to keep up to date. We can tweet directly from posts in this community and therefore we should always have current content.

I've added a page in the resources section guiding people to the Wiki on this site. We will have to see what happens with the Wiki over time to know if this will be successful as a resource. The mid Wales team plan to use this as tool for gathering and sharing information for WP2 (existing initiatives and practices in the case study areas)

I've removed the timeline page, this can be replaced when and if we have timelines that we want to share.

I plan to add sections on the TEAM page for Community Partners, Project Consultants and others that should be there. These will link to team member profiles on Hydrocitizens.

Hopefully, by streamlining the site a little visitors will find their way more quickly to the case study pages. When these are all up and running and linked back to the main site we can review how this all works in practice.

I've also added a hello bar at the top of each page to direct people to the online community. I may try and create a similar bar for the top of this site to guide people to hydrocitizenship.
Just the other day I met up with Katherine Jones at the national library in Aberystwyth. We made a few tweaks to the front page which hopefully make it a little cleaner. This involved removing duplicate 'home' and 'profile' buttons - significantly reducing the size of the news feed so that it only includes 5-8 entries, and moving the blogs to the bottom of the page. They look better there because you can read part of the content.



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Blogs

All hydrocitizens members can keep their own blog. You can share your research process and practice and anything else that you think might be of interest to other community members.

All blog entries appear together chronologically as part of the Hydrocitizens blog. If you would like to view just your own entries, or those of another community member, then you can access these on member profile pages under the blog tab.

Adding tags (words that capture the main subject or theme of your post) will help people to find your blog more easily.

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