Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mad For Arts : Culture Online Gives In And Advertises Flickr.com

(Above The Post Culture Online Censored Feb 6th 2007 was put back on the 7th after protest but navigating to it is almost impossible anyway )


From Our Correspondent On the Mental Health Arts Feb 6th 2007

The long running saga of the MadForArts (run by the Community Channel) Mental Health Users "rebellion" through parts of 2004 until Feb 2006 when MFA finally closed its narrowly run and restrictive "mental health arts " website, was partly about User's not forming the service THEY required.

The Govt funded site was Top-Down in flavour.

Culture Online its backers, allowed the Community Channel, the main project managers, to try and turn Mad For Arts into a model of a traditional media "virtuous circle". That was a phrase used in one of Culture Online's own reports . This meant the fairly (and ideally) TV-like pacified user-audience were fed a diet of prizes for choosing "public arts". They were supposed to debate the public arts as well, like good little online museum goers. It was all very "socially shaping" to create more museum attendances. That was one of Culture Online's open aims ..

This "Prizes for public arts choices" was a bone of contention amongst some mental health User artists since many mental health User artists who joined the MFAS "arts" website were mental health Users who were not supposed to be stigmatised against. Mental Health Media, subcontractors of Mad For Arts and the so called originators of the now largely "disappeared" anti stigma toolkit in 2004 were supposed to ensure that.

In fact Mad For Arts Users were victims of stigma since their arts were not chosen to be judged for some prizes.

They were second best to "Public Arts". That was voiced a number of times by Users amongst themselves and openly . The criticism was suppressed though .

An attempt was made by mental health Users of the Mad For Arts website to broker a way forward and cash money (£150 in total) was put up in Feb 2005 by Users themselves to plug this stigma-gap left by Culture Online and the other Charity subcontractors Mental Health Media and Rethink.

It fell through because the Community Channel had vilified the critical Users and barred them on spurious claims from the Mad For Arts website. Even the MFA moderators had stirred up arguments against them on the website ..

Later on as the Mad For Art website had its further trials of in-fighting amongst posters and further complaints by several Users that even reached the minister David Lammy M.P., the originally barred Users offered better art and mental health sanctuary to their User-colleagues on the failing Mad For Arts website at the free account giant site


Mad For Arts however did not give in with its obdurate attempts through 2005 beyond its intial funding, to remain in place taking up more and more funding . The Charities which backed it, Mental Health Media and Rethink, were also still in the picture for a time but Rethink withdrew because Mad For Arts could not get any further funds. It took enough though .

By about the March of 2005 Mad For Arts had taken up some 370+k of public funds and now Userwatch can report that has risen after contact by a source to 424k . The VAT is still being enquired about through the Freedom Of Information Act . That figure comes from a document signed by Nicholas Holgate the Dept Of Media Culture And Sport, Chief Officer .

There will be more to report about figures in the future of this costly Culture Online sponsored failure .

There was a late 2005 - 2006 Users migration over to FLICKr and that was, to repeat , initiated by Mental Health Users themselves being contacted by the original Users who had "emigrated" to the then Canadian run private site (later purchased by YAHOO) and all the mental health Users were making friends and many contacts .

The ex Mad For Arts Users who migrated later in 2005 had also formed their own small groups :

Here and Here and Here

And they have merged into the wider community too. Flickr is more hygenic unlike Mad For Arts which saw moderators crawling all over it with a degree of anxiety according to some Users which was necessitated by its uncompartmentalised design .

Users (some Users often joked) were made up into MFA "sheriff's" or police. It was a kind of typical anxious U.K. BBC modelled board - too small, overcontrolled, slightly Blue Peter-ish and it created a feeling of claustrophobic classes all over again ..Prefects, and the British liking for social ladders of importance. It was in fact infantilising .

Flickr was experienced by the migrated Users as freedom from that with the power for any User to delete anyone or their comments on their own spaces without interfering with other's rights to belong to Flickr elsewhere .. In other words the User-sherriffs were not so immediate and active . They did not have to be . Flickr's board was designed right . It designed out conflict far better than the Mad For Arts 100+k costed website

One of the original Users barred from Mad For Arts got in touch with Culture Online as Mad For Arts was closed down in early 2006 because it had no exit strategy that helped those who had depended on it. That User asked a Culture Online officer about putting Flickr.com as a reference on the remaining website for an avenue of arts-link opportunity for other Users who came by and saw the rump of the Mad For Arts website ..

Culture Online never did that . Why would they ? It was like accepting criticism ...

Now the State and the Charities that tried to own the public and mental health Users have been left behind but are trying to catch up and own some of the action even though they help to shut others free speech down .

Mental Health Mad For Arts Users though were followed by the project manager of the failed MFA project Jennifer Topping who they recently discovered had migrated also to Flickr after her Barbados holiday which she posted a few snaps of on Flickr in April 2006 - perhaps to keep an eye on them and tell the culture carcass examiners who should maybe be called "Vulture Online" where the Mad For Art "revolutionary maggots" had got to so it could feed its limp de-feathered frame once more on the example of their free efforts ..

Culture Online now has given in flapping after quietly gaining space from its critics which it could not own up to , and it is now advertising Flickr.com and My Space . The site on which this information is posted though claims to be a "Blog" .

Noooooooo.........Its a Vulture Online .....

In fact by going HERE YOU SEE its Culture Online's own feathery little "friendly-ised" site :

Culture Online

55 Blandford Street London

T: 020 7487 7200
» Click here to e-mail Culture Online
» http://www.projectsetc.org

No references ofcourse on this "Blog" site to Culture Online's learning curve, the pain it caused others by helping to deny free speech, and the waste of public money it spent on the Mad For Arts fiasco that still needs looking at ..

Finally Culture Online are still part of a London-culture that tries to suppress open discussion about its networking functions and costs . The top picture of a screen capture of a comment placed on their "Blog" was not published by them tonight even though that was attempted twice before another comment post was allowed by the same poster - because it was judged to be less critical no doubt .....A day after this protest and after a further unpublished protest on their own "Blog" it was published but navigating to it is a thicket job...

So democratic criticism is moderated now in the UK . That's clear . It was the same on Mad For Arts . Nothing changes .


Did we-the-Users of Mad For Arts convert Jen Topping to a version of freedom from Top Down media rule over an "audience". Partly I think Users had a lot to do with her growth whereas she just ran a tight ship that became intolerant of criticism that finally even evolved her...

From the Guardian Jen Topping and below :

"It's all about creative swiping: about reinventing, mashing up what's been done by others, to match your audience and your budget," says Jen Topping, now head of Channel Four's Video on Demand project. Until recently, Topping was head of new media at the Media Trust, which provides professional communications skills to the voluntary sector.

There are three key ways SMEs can keep costs down, according to Topping:

· Follow in the wake of larger organisations that can afford to test new technologies: see what works for them and adapt it

· Use free or low-cost software creatively

· Use blogs and podcasts - cheap to set up and run - to reach out to new audiences.

Topping believes organisations need to understand and get into new media techniques in order to widen their appeal and reach new audiences, particularly younger people. Charities need to reach out to new volunteers and donors; small businesses need to reach out to new potential buyers.

"These younger audiences cannot be reached using traditional media," she points out.


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