David McGillivray

Professor, interested in events, culture, digital participation & sport.


Social media and the medical model

Last week, a UWS colleague, Jennifer Jones (@jennifermjones), and I delivered a social media ‘surgery’ at CCA Glasgow (@CCA_Glasgow) as part of the hugely successful UWSCreative student showcases held in this venue. At UWS we’re trying to think creatively about how we can engage staff and students with the theme of social media without resorting to the rather dry (and, to date) largely unsuccessful ‘workshop’ or ‘lab’ based forum. Our answer (well Jen’s) was to exploit our societal love of medicalisation by promoting our session as a ‘surgery’ (though it could just as easily have been a clinic).

We were, of course, emphasising the positive features of the surgery model – short appointments, drop-in facility, one-to-one attention with a resident ‘expert’ etc, etc. People are used to surgeries we thought and will be comfortable mingling with others whilst they wait for Dr McG to be free. The CCA provided the ideal ambience for these informal sessions and the personal touch certainly eliminated many of the barriers that are erected when you mention the term ‘social media’. As a means of gathering end user data on what they need, how they want to use social media and their skill gaps this is an effective model. We are told that to be ‘scalable’, to borrow from the discourse of business, requires a less time intensive approach and more standardised delivery format’s. However, I would argue that the strength of social media (philosophically as well as practically) is its openness, fluidity, immediacy, playfulness and powerful ability of create being innovations forth. To stifle that in the name of standardisation, systematisation, regulation, ‘training’ and risk management could, in the long run, be counterproductive. In the medical world there has been a shift towards a discourse of patient-centred care, empowerment and choice. Let’s enshrine similar principles to the collaborative pursuit of digital literacies in the HE sector.

David McGillivray • June 3, 2011

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