I was also attempting to be selective about the term 'information' - there are a couple of websites I use regularly, almost daily, that are simply for fun (websites such as Buzzfeed, or OMD, which, while they carry lots of information, I use them mostly for entertainment purposes!) I limited the term to sources of information that inform, advise or progress my professional practice, and sources I use to aid my personal and professional development.
By far this is the social media network I use the most often. As mentioned in my blog on Web 2.0 I feel that it is because of the ease of use, the simple layouts, the fact I can chat with my friends at the same time and the speed with which information can be shared.
I usually follow links if they seem interesting, entertaining or relevant to my personal interests. These could be to news articles, blogs, image sharing sites, etc.
I am friends with lots of performers, from the Cabaret industry, those who work as actors and dancers, and those who have moved on from performing into other areas of the arts so there are always interesting articles being shared and linked to. Some of these focus on issues surrounding the performing arts, such as body image, pay scales, audition techniques, etc, but friends also post audition or casting links, write about topics such as feminism or the lack of work for certain people in a particular area of the industry.
Depending on who has posted what, I may or may not comment on a particular post: if I am on Facebook as my performing persona I may not comment for fear of having an opinion taken in the wrong way (It is *so* difficult on Social Media to gauge a persons tone, and therefore their intention. A friend posted a quote on someone else's status once, meant as a joke, and the person in question didn't get the joke at all leading to a massive argument!) I rarely comment on cabaret-related articles as myself, as I want to keep the two persona's completely separate: as previously mentioned, there is still some stigma surrounding burlesque and I don't want the career I have now to impact negatively on a career I may have in the future.
Photographer Credit: Artedinamika, Milan
There is still a stigma surrounding burlesque and cabaret performance, and on Social Media I keep my two persona's separate - my 'character' acts in ways I would not do.
I follow lots of industry specific websites on Twitter, such as The Ballet Bag, BackStage and The Stage. They regularly post interesting articles or links relating to the industry at large and I have found some wonderful blogs and posts through following links these users share. I don't tend to use Twitter as much as Facebook, however: I think this is down to the overflow of information streaming constantly through this network, it can be difficult to isolate or identify relevant posts. I also find that because a lot of the accounts I follow through Twitter are 'performing arts' related, I rarely come across Cabaret specific articles.
Websites such as The Stage allow me to see what developments are occurring in the industry at large but don't have the focussed attention of articles on websites such as This Is Cabaret, or 21st Century Burlesque, which are users I follow through my performer accounts. However, trends in the wider performing community can impact on all areas so it is useful to keep abreast of issues arising, and keeping up to date on significant events will enable me to inform my future professional practice.
"Informal Learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways - through communities of practice [and] personal networks..."
(O'REILLY, 2004: A LEARNING THEORY FOR THE DIGITAL AGE)
Image Source: rackafracka.com
I read a lot. At any given time I will have a couple of books on the go: at the moment I am reading a fiction, a biography, a reference book and an industry specific publication. I get a lot of my information on most subjects from books and couldn't live without my Kindle in my handbag at all times!
However, I realised that I am extremely reliant on the internet even for books! I was recently looking for a book relating to my career path, so searched online for titles relating to my practice, then read reviews, looked at customer feedback ratings, and searched for a good price or free shipping! Without the internet I would have bought the first book I came across in a shop, probably paid a lot more than I did and might not have found the information I sought in that particular book.
When I'm reading fiction I read relatively quickly and I make links as I go along. I couldn't tell you the exact words of the sentence I just read but I could tell you the jist of it! When reading reference books or material relating to my professional practice I read much slower. I often re-read paragraphs or sentences, or go back a page if I haven't made sense of a section by the time I've reached the end. I occasionally make notes in the margin (in pencil of course!) or underline sections. On my Kindle I make use of the highlighter and bookmark tools to refer back to at a later time.
A couple of the books I am reading at the moment to inform my future professional practice!
4) My Personal Professional Network
So much of my information comes from the people I work and associate with. We talk and gossip about work, have discussions about the state of the industry or where it's heading, and argue out act development between ourselves.
Getting other peoples perspectives in a face-to-face way, as opposed to over the internet is an incredibly useful tool for professional development! I don't think the Skype Dance Class is ever really going to overtake time spent with the teacher in the studio, and similarly there's nothing better than a chat with friends while having a cup of tea to help clear things up.
While I was talking with friends a couple of weeks ago I was able to focus my thoughts towards my professional enquiry and sought their opinions on different questions I was considering. The ensuing conversation lasted several hours and I had to send my partner to the shop to buy me a notepad and pen before all the conversation had flown out of my head! (I now keep those on me at all times, just in case!)
"Network Theory [is] a branch of mathematics that has attracted extraordinary interest in recent years. The more people study it, the more relevant it seems as an organising principal to explain how the world really works. Networks crop up everywhere. People network socially. The internet is a network. Transport links form networks. Ecosystems form networks. Computers depend on them. What is really exciting people is how lessons learned in one discipline, such as biology, are feeding into others, such as economics."
(J. FARNDON, 2009: THE OXBRIDGE QUESTIONS, ICON BOOKS)
(J. FARNDON, 2009: THE OXBRIDGE QUESTIONS, ICON BOOKS)
My trusty notepads! I always carry at least one wherever I go!
5) News Outlets
I watch the news every morning as I am getting ready for work, and I read the newspaper on the train as I commute. These are my main sources of information on the wider world outside of Social Media. Occasionally there will be subjects discussed on the BBC news that relate either to my industry or my professional practice: in a recent blog I mentioned how Michael Palin had been talking about his journals, as I was working on the journal writing task!
Newspapers are currently running stories about our reliance on technology and the infiltration of portable technology into our lives: as it is approaching Christmas several companies are producing items of 'wearable tech', gadgets that can be worn as watches and link to social media or email accounts (I can't think of anything worse than having a constant Facebook notification beep going off on my wrist, but then, five years ago, I couldn't imagine having Facebook on my phone, so who knows?!)
My daily breakfast companions - BBC Breakfast News Presenters: Image Source - BBC.co.uk
So these are my five most important sources of information. For reflection and evaluation, my Personal Professional Network is definitely the most useful, and because the network consists of my group of friends and professional peers it is also the most valuable. Because of our disparate connections outside of the immediate group we are able to support, inform and promote each other as well as ourselves. We are able to discuss ideas and share information informally and privately, and having other practitioners to develop ideas with is an invaluable resource.
In terms of access to information, Facebook and Twitter are my most useful tools: I rely on Twitter more than on the news websites for breaking stories (recently a major train station in London was closed at rush hour, the news outlets simply stated this fact, Twitter was able to inform me that there had been a bomb scare caused by a passenger on one of the trains: this was tweeted by another passenger who had observed the incident prior to being evacuated, and then re-tweeted many hundreds of times before the news outlets had picked up on the story!) Because of the 'real time' nature of these networks I find they are more reliable than other media for the swift updating and gathering of information.
I do sometimes feel I am too reliant on Social Media - the ease of access is simply too alluring and the simplicity of sharing links and therefore knowledge and information is unparalleled. The value of Facebook to my professional practice is the volume of practitioners, at all stages of their careers, who I can link to at any given time for information, research, advice and resources.
However I still do rely on print media and the television news for information on a wider scale, and issues that are affecting the world. Because of the in-depth nature of the coverage and the (usually) non-biased reporting nature I still depend on the news channels and newspapers to provide extra background information: after the incident mentioned above, the news channels and newspapers ran stories about it, collating information from a range of sources including eye-witness accounts, on-site reporters and social media to provide more analysis than a Facebook status or Twitter update could.
I stopped using resources such as The Stage when I became more involved in the Cabaret industry as I didn't feel the publication reflected my interests or professional practice. I used to read Time Out Magazine which ran a Cabaret column, but due to budget constraints this column was cut early in 2014. I think this is the limitation of print media: high costs of production with low cost sales and dwindling audience numbers means that there may come a time when printed newspapers and magazines disappear altogether!
And books - I love books! Especially for investigating my professional practise as I feel I can almost interact with a book (as mentioned I often scribble notes or underline relevant sections) in a way that I can't do even with my Kindle (although I love that too!) I have a whole bookshelf filled with publications that inform my professional practice, biographies of famous performers, reference books for the arts, those that allow me to develop my thinking and therefore my career... etc.
As I mentioned earlier, I do believe there will come a time when books in print become obsolete, and I hope I won't be around to see it!