Case Studies/Communication in the New Economy
Media audiences are no longer merely active producers of meaning. They are now demonstrably interactive, and this newfound productive capacity has profound consequences for mediated communication and the broader possibilities of social participation, models of organization and production, and economic development. — KCB101 Unit Outline
KCB101: Communication in the New Economy is an undergraduate unit offered by the Creative Industries Faculty at the Queensland University of Technology which encourages students to explore the possibilities opened up by content reuse and collaborative frameworks. The unit introduces students to contemporary theories of the new economy, examining salient issues and trends in media and communication disciplines, industries, and professional practice. It considers the emergent challenges of Intellectual Property, access and equity, and ethical professional conduct. Approximately 250 students take this unit each year.
Media and communication professions (including advertising, public relations, journalism, marketing communication, interaction design and media research) are situated as vital creative inputs into the wider creative economy. Class activities are designed to promote students’ literacy, advocacy, and oral and written communication skills in a collaborative environment appropriate for the new, creative economy. Through an iterative and interactive assessment process, students create an innovation commons, and submit written proposals for a creative industries project to be funded by the business or local council of the hypothetical Queensland town of ‘Ipskay’.
The innovative element of KCB101 emerges through the structure of its assessment requirements. Students work in small groups of three to five, to prepare a project proposal which ‘will help to extend the cultural, social and economic benefits of creative industries in Ipskay’ (KBC101 Unit Outline). Proposals may be for arts or public culture initiatives, for creative industries research and professional development programs, for establishing social or professional networks, or for ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ infrastructure or services which enhance the creative industries in the region. With student consent, these proposals are then released back to the class under a Creative Commons licence for use in the final assessment. The web page this which students access proposals from is called the KCB101 Innovation Commons.
As their final piece of assessment, students choose a project proposal from the KCB101 Innovation Commons (other than their own) to evaluate. They write a short analytical essay and make recommendations to the Ipskay funding bodies on whether the proposal should be supported. This assessment is undertaken individually. Students are once again invited to return these essays to the KCB101 Innovation Commons so that they can see which proposals have captured their peers’ attention, and the range of student-identified strengths and weaknesses of proposals.
Even though open access to the student work maintained on the KCB101 Innovation Commons is restricted by the limits of the Blackboard system (that is, only QUT staff and students can gain access) this application of Creative Commons Licensing provides open access to student work in ways that have previously been extremely difficult to achieve. Two additional major advantages arise from open access being provided to the assessment documents. The first is that peer-based transparency of student work encourages a design orientation to critique insofar as student effort is directed at identifying and contributing to improving good ideas. Second, it allows an archive of students’ previous written project proposals and analytical essays to be maintained on the unit’s Blackboard site, allowing students to build on the past whilst retaining the attribution of others’ work.
Students’ work in KCB101 is made available to current and future class members under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 2.5 Australia licence. Written proposals are licensed under CC to ensure that students are acknowledged for their submissions and to enable the archiving of active documents. Students are informed that they are allowed to cite previous project proposals in their own work (as per normal academic referencing requirements) but cannot copy and/or paste from any works published on the site. This referencing and review process facilitates the creation of an innovation commons in the classroom.
A primary objective of KCB101 is to provide an applied, practice-led understanding of the importance of free culture and open education in achieving rapid cycles of innovation. By asking students to engage in the review of previous intellectual endeavour in the form of past assignments, the unit demonstrates that creativity always builds on the past and that cultural assets should be made available to the community. In their application for funding, students are especially encouraged to submit pilot projects and feasibility studies which use the granted funds as leverage for further developments, which therefore also encourage the combination of incentive funding with other sources. In this way, the open, iterative process is underscored. This exercise also provides students with an opportunity to apply the ethics and norms of co-creative innovation in processes of interpersonal, organisational and mediated communication.
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