Helping to run and write for the NCL Urban Design blog this semester has been an interesting experience. For most of this semester I feel as though the emphasis has been more on the ‘running’ of the blog rather than on the writing element (and I suspect this is why many of our blogs have been a bit ‘last minute’!) and I have divided my summary between these two:
Running the Blog
To begin with, I shall reflect on my contribution to running the blog. Having never run or written a blog before (nor really anything online longer than 140 characters), I have found this a great learning experience but one where I also tried to stick to my strengths.
The main contribution I made to our blog this year was to create our fourteen (later fifteen) profile pictures, found on the Member’s Page. After a brief experimentation, creating a few variations with a photograph I took of myself, I showed the rest of the group and a ‘blocky’ black and white style photograph was the one which met with the most approval. From the rest of the group came the idea of us each holding up a piece of paper, spelling out (conveniently, fourteen character long) ‘NCL URBAN DESIGN’. I did this on Photoshop with photographs of each of us holding up a pad of paper. The letters were also added in Photoshop and ordered alphabetically by our first names (Sherry was added with the # when she joined us later!) Below is the before and after of one of these (using Tomo as an example):
In addition I feel I helped to contribute in our group meetings, devising our first blog posting schedule for our Charette posts which seemed to be a success, each of us post on consecutive days. As a group I think that we maybe did make a few strange decisions, focusing on things that never seemed all that relevant, in particular our Pinterest boards which dominated mid-semester meetings and never really took off (partially due to technical difficulties and confusion over what to post).
Writing the Blog
Moving on to the blog writing side of things, I think I struggled at first to know how academically to write. Blogs are typically more conversational than essays and although in our first Charette blog, the subject was less academic, the subsequent blogs based on our lecture series were trickier to write in a ‘casual’ way.
We received some advice on Blog writing from members of Newcastle Universities social media team and on of the key pieces of advice they gave to us was to write about what we were interested in. Our practice blog, written about the Charette, was tricky in that the subject matter wasn’t that interesting to me. This blog however did give me the opportunity to write in a way that was less academic and in some ways, a bit more critical. Although I hope that I didn’t come across as too negative in this blog, I did enjoy writing in a way that was a bit more cynical!
My primary goal with my economics blog was to appeal to somebody who knew very little about the subject matter. I tried to make it less academic and a bit more basic and I hope that it was an enjoyable read for anybody wanting to get a wider understanding of the process of constructing the built environment, the lecture we received was certainly enjoyable for me.
In my second blog, focusing on Urban Design and its relationship with mental health I also wanted to get across how much the subject matter interested me. To that end I tried to provide a lot of background information relating to the subject before going in to its relationship with Urban Design. Again I feel that this blog was more aimed towards people with little prior knowledge of the subject as there was only so much information that I could fit in to the rest of the blog. By providing lots of references and external links, I hope that this blog gives interested readers the opportunity to find out more for themselves from other sources.
Throughout all of my blogs I have made an attempt to create some uniformity through my featured image. I created each one with an icon relevant to the subject matter, overlaid onto a figure ground image of my hometown of Blackburn.
All in all I like the blog in principle and particularly the opportunity it has given us to write about, read about and understand the areas of Urban Design which interest us the most. I think the process of ‘running’ the blog was a bit imbalanced and that it has been plagued by an unnecessary complexity which discouraged us from writing for sometime (although it probably doesn’t excuse us for producing many of our blogs last minute). I think the blog also suffered as a result of the priority we have given to our design projects and in a way it would’ve been nice to try and link the two together a bit more, perhaps with the opportunity to blog about our own design projects, which I may do in future.
Overall this blog has been a positive experience and it has certainly encouraged meet to write more blogs about Urban Design and other interests in the future.