Research at the Exchange

March 14th, 2013 by Tamara Edyta West in Creative Networks | no comments

I only joined as Caroline’s Research Assistant on the Creative Networks strand of the Creative Citizens project in January this year. February has been quite busy, so I thought I would give you a bit of an update about what’s been going on here in Birmingham.

In mid February I began some fieldwork in the coworking area of the Moseley Exchange. Initially I spent a week working from here to get a feel for the place, introduce myself and our project further to the coworkers, and observe the various activities within the space. Like many people I was new to the concept of coworking, so wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s a very friendly environment, with people there not only to work but also to interact. The means of interaction varies- from making cups of tea and having a chat through to seeking or sharing ideas and advice. In addition to the coworking space, the other floors in the Exchange also welcome various community groups and activities- from poetry and philosophy groups to yoga classes, to the exhibition of local artists in the coworking space (see photo below), through to housing the Local History Group and the amazing images they have of ‘old’ Moseley and its beautiful architecture. Sometimes the different spaces within the Exchange can appear separate, though by nature they interconnect, for example, in terms of the people using them and the localities they traverse or the creative activities in which they engage.

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After the initial week at the Exchange, I began to undertake interviews to add to the ones Caroline conducted last year. So far I have interviewed six coworkers, a former coworker who now rents office space in the building, and- as I’ll explain a bit further in a moment- one of the organisers of the annual Moseley Festival. The purpose of the interviews was to explore how the coworkers connected both online and offline with each other, within their businesses, within Moseley (and the region) and beyond. We still need to transcribe and analyse the data, however, there were some interesting responses regarding participants differing usage and perceptions of social media, and also about the notion of creativity in general. Some interviewees saw themselves as engaged directly in creative activities and within creative spaces, whilst others did not. In some cases this rested on differing individual definitions of what constituted creativity and creative spaces and this is by no means straightforward. We’ve also been looking at the Exchange’s use of social media- in particular Twitter- and how it attempts to bring together the different communities and activities within (and beyond) Moseley.

I mentioned that I had interviewed one of the organisers of the Moseley Festival. The Festival (www.moseleyfestival.org.uk) takes place in July. Amongst the many activities it will also involve an Arts Trail element in which the Moseley Exchange is to be involved. The organisers forwarded us a few photographs of the street fair form a previous festival which I’ve included below. We will be around at the festival this year and take some photographs of this year’s event- and the Exchanges role in it. It’s an ideal time to experience the diverse communities, businesses, and creative activities in Moseley. Caroline is also exploring some of the other festivals organised in Moseley such as the annual Jazz and Folk Festivals.

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In addition to the interviews, we have had the Creative Citizens filming at the Exchange for the AHRC Media showcase this month, and we have also arranged our first workshop with people from the Exchange which will take place this week. We’ll update you on this soon.

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