Category Archives: Participatory Media

Social Media Week London – Friday

And so to the last day of Social Media Week London. I only made it to two events on the final day. First was The Future of being Social hosted by the Like Minds Club in which a panel of five distinguished media professionals grappled with what amounted to an impossible and unwise subject to predict. No one really knows the answer but the room where we were seated was packed to the rafters, reflecting the audiences desire to get some insight.

The panel traded jovial banter and disagreed over the perfect analogy for social media. First the ‘village’ was put forward, presumably taken but not referenced from Marshall McLuhan’s “Global Village”, and then ‘bazaar’ taken and referenced from Eric S. Raymond excellent book about the rise of open-source software, The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Perhaps the most articulate and succinct was Alan Moore, describing himself as, innovator, entrepreneur and mentor, who spoke about how our society needed to be more participatory. He’s also the author of the publication No Straight Lines: making sense of our non-linear world which discusses, amongst other things, “the emancipation of our information-behaviour”.

An interesting debate ensued but no one came close to sticking there neck out to predict the future of social, and nor should they because doing so could make them look rather silly in a few years time.

Next it was off to the other side of the City and Farringdon for the Twittamentary, a hour long documentary about everyday people who use Twitter. It’s directed by Tan Siok Siok, who crowd-sources the stories and videos for the project. The film is essentially a road movie accoss the United States that shows the diverse uses of Twitter from buying a pizza, stock trading and travel journalism to sex workers and homelessness.

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Social Media Week London – Thursday

Thursday began with three events at the Design Council. The first, The Future of Sharing discussed whether web users future will “embrace a world of ubiquitous sharing, or come to reject added noise and clutter”.

The event was prefaced with a consumer survey presentation by digital agency Beyond which looked at the future trends in online sharing.

The Current State of Sharing

The definition of online sharing within the context of this survey is very broad and can mean anything from sharing a link to your recently uploaded YouTube video or to the automatic sharing of your online activity. This is a term know as “frictionless sharing”, which posts your online activity through the use of applications directly to your profile without the need of a “like” or “share” button. Frictionless sharing was widely discussed as a social marketing tool. I question, however, its value to the social media user as it creates unnecessary noise and clutter and can interfere with the online conversation. This was backed up by a straw poll of the audience where only 4 people out of a room of around 170 wanted more frictionless sharing. However the assembled panel of marketeers recognised its value realising that recommendations from friends and colleagues are more valuable for selling products and services than traditional advertising and marketing are. Indeed this issue seemed to identify the course of the day’s attention.

The full survey can be viewed and downloaded at Beyond’s Future of Sharing web page.

Later in the morning there was a panel discussion entitled The Psychology of Online Influence. This event is also the title of a forthcoming book  by Web PsychologistNathalie Nahai who gave the first presentation concerned with new insights from the fields of neuropsychology and neuroaesthetics. The main angle of her presentation was discovering how we can apply these fields of research to “influence and communicate persuasively online”. Again this event was heavily weighted towards marketing and the value of social media tools and online communities to it.

Thursday afternoon began with massively oversubscribed Google@SocialMediaWeek, which was an interesting mix of both academic study and the features of Google+. The event started with a presentation from Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University. He is the person to whom the phrase “Dunbar’s number” derives. It’s a reference to the number 150, which Dunbar claims is the “cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships”. Professor Dunbar’s presentation, titled “Why the Internet won’t get you anymore friends”, was academically orientated, as one would expect, and full of valuable and interesting research conducted over many years. His conclusion suggested that the reason we “won’t get anymore friends” on the Internet is the size of our brains and the behaviour we carry forward from our primate ancestors. This was followed by Alex Bentley, Professor of Anthropology at Bristol University who used some of Dunbar’s data to ask the question “Does the Internet really change how we interact and decide?” which looked at the mapping of social behaviour and “how ideas, behaviour, and culture spread through the simple means of doing what others do”. This is a question that I think that will be ongoing for some considerable time to come.

However, these two academic heavyweights were just a prelude to the main Google+ presentation. As I mentioned earlier in this post, much of what interests marketers about social media is the high value placed on personal recommendations and the ability for these recommendations to be converted into sales. Mobile Sales Director at Google UK, Ian Carrington qualified this by revealing an astonishing statistic that individuals are 300% more likely to make a purchase if someone they know has recommended it to them.

This led on to the main theme and big idea of the session, the development of “circles” on Google+ and the use of the “plus 1” (+1) button that’s becoming ever-more prevalent on blogs and webpages (indeed, this blog already has one, below!). The idea being that everytime one of your friends, or someone in one of your circles, clicks on the +1 button this will personalise your Google searches to reflect your friends/circles choices. Personally I think this sounds annoying and there appears no way of turning the feature off. It certainly takes the serendipity out of searching the web. This reminds me of a book I read recently, The Filter Bubble by Eli Praiser, which discusses invisible algorithmic editing on the web and its potential implications.

The event ended with a very entertaining (and brave!) live demonstration by Beth Foster, Senior Google+ Strategist of how Google+ ‘hangouts’ works.  It was a bit like a conference call or a multiple Skype call except the experience felt more like being in a room with your mates…. only one that would allow anyone to come in. Very impressive and lots of fun.

As darkness fell I made my way into Soho and Londata II: Taming the firehose – putting data to work in social media, an event hosted by data management company Media Science. To my pleasant surprise there was an array of free alcoholic drinks (sponsored by Windows Azure) including, tastefully, some organic pale ale which was very much to my liking. After a bit of networking and a few drinks we were given three presentations on the merits of social media, data modelling and management (I wouldn’t blame you, dear reader, for thinking that drinking alcohol would’ve been a mandatory requirement before listening to three presentation on this subject, but this was not the case).

And so to the final event of the evening. I’d  managed to get one of the last batch of tickets for the Social Media London Official Closing Party at The Penthouse on Leicester Square. Again there was a generous free bar and food arrived at regular intervals on trays. This was purely social but in the physical sense although there had been a good use of the Twitter #smwldn hashtag all day… as you would expect from an event like this. Suitably stimulated both mentally and physically I made my way home.

Social Media Chapter & TVam reunion

Now that the Transforming Audiences 3 conference is finished I’m using this week to finish a book chapter I was asked to write back in the Autumn of 2009. There have been plenty of re-writes since then. The book is entitled The Digital Media Handbook. 

A member of staff from my previous MA, Digital Media course  is overseeing and editing the book and it’s final deadline is approaching. The chapter, titled ʻSocial Media: Sharing and Collaboration Onlineʼ, positions the contrasting views of media and academic commentators against a historical and descriptive background and links them to a pedagogical case study.

The chapter is in two sections. The first part is a historical and academically orientated study of the rise of social media and the second part is a case study that relates to the preamble. I’m collaborating with the course leader at Ravensbourne College as he wrote the course that we are using. The book is produced in association with Department of Applied Social Science at London Metropolitan University and is slated for publication in spring, 2012.

After many changes and iterations the chapter is now finished and currently with the editors for integration with the other chapters. I’m glad it’s done as I need to clear the desk for my last year,  although there will, no doubt , be more changes!

Last night I went to a TVam reunion where I worked in the early 1980s. It was organised via Facebook. TVam was the first commercial breakfast TV channel launched in 1983 and the reunion was to mark the anniversary of the industrial action that lost all 230 of our jobs back in the late 1980s. At least that’s what I thought it was, although on reflection it’s a strange thing to mark.

The event was held at the Elephant Arms in Camden Town just across the road from the old TVam building in Hawley Crescent, now the studios of MTV. There was a fairly average turn out and still the factionalised department cliques of the past, the graphics team (left) included. The event was a bit limp, uninspiring and slightly banal. There again, that’s what most reunions are, (sad) reflections of the past.

Transforming Audiences 3 conference

Last week University of Westminster hosted Transforming Audiences 3 conference which is held bi-annually. I was one of a number of PhD students helping with the organising. One of my tasks was to take photos, some of which are included in this post. A conference programme including list of events can be found here.

Unfortunately David Guantlett, the lead organiser, had to miss the conference due to the imminent arrival of his second child but sent a message to the conference (below).

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There was a list of high-profile and internationally known keynote speakers throughout the two-day conference, notably; Nancy Baym, author of Personal Connections in the Digital Age; Jean Burgess (left), co-author of YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture; Adriana de Souza e Silva, co-author of Mobile Interfaces in Public Spaces and Net Locality and Patricia G. Lange, co-author of Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out.


Nancy Baym (right) was the first keynote speaker on Thursday. She gave a very engaging presentation on the the relationship between audience/fans online relationship with musicians titled: Biting and Feeding the Hands that Feed, Audience – Musician Interactions Online. Download her presentation here.

It must be noted that Nancy’s book, Personal Connections in the Digital Age, has been evaluable to me in the groundwork of my research.


I made two presentations at the conference. The first was for the pre-conference COST Actionʼs Working Group 2. Iʼd been asked by them to give a 25-minute presentation that links my industry experience to my research project. I gave this the title ʻFrom Punch-cards to Social Media: A Digital Lifeʼ. It tracked my 30-year association with digital technology via broadcasting to the digital tools available today. The second presentation related directly to my researched and was delivered in the ʻuser-generated contentʼ parallel session at the main conference. This initiated much positive feedback and comments and really the first time I had enjoyed presenting. Both of these presentations served as a very useful experience not only for the opportunity to communicate my research project but also for the feedback and comment from the audience.

Above: Lunchtime and delegates discuss the conference and share media

The conference was subtitled Online and Mobile Media, Everyday Creativity and DIY Culture which was reflected in the wide variety of subjects covered in many of the parallel sessions throughout the two days of the main conference. Abstracts can be downloaded here.

As you would expect with a conference about transforming audiences the conference adopted the Twitter hashtag #TA3. This was used extensively and to great effect. It helped give an added source of comment and discussion during the presentations. It was also a good way for people who weren’t able to make it to keep in touch with the proceedings. I took and uploaded photos of the keynotes on my phone and these were shared too.

Multi-tasking and Testing My Phone at The Coronet

I’ve been very much multi-tasking this week. Earlier on this term I agreed to be seminar tutor for UoW’s Network Society and the Media module which is every Monday morning. It’s been a great experience. The first hour I listen to really knowledgeable and experienced speakers deliver lecturers to about 200 students. Then I take two 1 hour seminar groups and discuss the subjects in more depth. This week’s lecture was on Campaigning and Digital Activism. The difficult part comes in a couple of weeks when they hand in their first assignment and I have to mark and give feedback on 55 essays of 2000 words.

I’m still doing some teaching at Ravensbourne College. The college has moved to a new building next to the Millennium Dome and is experiencing the inevitable teething problems. On Tuesday I give some Flash and WordPress training on the BA Multiplatform & Video for the Web course. Some of the rooms still don’t have internet connections which makes teaching difficult as database driven websites like WordPress need one to be accessed.

On Wednesday I visited a friend who works at TNS Research International, a commercial research and marketing company. I wanted some advice and an understanding of how commercial companies conduct research to see the similarities and differences in sourcing and collecting data from participants.

The rest of the week was spent preparing for my imminent symposium presentation next Friday so by Friday I felt I deserved a night out. A friend had bought tickets months back to see Four Tet, Caribou, James Holden,  Nathan Fake, Rocketnumbernine at The Coronet in Elephant and Castle and the event was now totally sold out. I love all the electronic artists on the bill and it is rare to see a such a strong line-up all in one night. I’d never seen Caribou or Four Tet live before so this was a great opportunity.

This was also a good opportunity to give my new HTC Desire a thorough work-out to see what it could cope with from a social networking, photo and video uploading, sound recording perspective. Luckily the venue had a good phone signal and during Nathan Fake’s set I was able to post a photo to my Facebook account. More or less immediately my friend, Dene, posted a rely saying “get closer mate!”. This was a rather revelatory moment.

So I then tried recording some sound and uploading that to my ipadio account and then some sound recording and video of Caribou to my posterous account. The phone sent all the files successfully. The sound was was very distorted but it was loud in there. This activity left my phone very warm to the touch and considerably depleted the battery. I had just enough power to take and upload some photos of Four Tet’s fabulous set (above).

My HTC Desire passed all the tests with ease. The only minor issues were the battery power life and the audio recording quality. What a great way to end a varied week. A very enjoyable night was had by all and I arrived home at a nostalgic 5am via the night bus.

Young people’s media use and creative participation

Yesterday I went to the Young people’s media use and creative participation event hosted by my university Westminster. The event was introduced by David Gauntlett with a short presentation that outlined his soon to be published book, Making is Connecting in which he cleverly links to the symposium.

First up is Fatimah Awan with a presentation which forms part of the culmination of an AHRC funded project on Young People’s Mediaworlds she worked on with David. Much of the research was conducted using creative methods which in this case involved young people building 3 dimensional ‘identity boxes’. Fatimah’s presentation concerned her work at a school on Cumbria. The project diary and videos can be viewed here.

There were presentations from OFCOM, University of Oxford along with University of Tampere in Finland. However Ranjana Das from LSE, and someone I had met at the Summer School recently, delivered a very relevant presentation for my research entitled ‘Digital natives’? Divergence and consensus, similarities and differences. Ranjana discussed in her paper  how the, so called, digital native are seen as technological literate but lack critical understanding of the internet and technology. This is becoming an increasingly relevant issue which questions much of what has been assumed and analysed by media commentators like Don Tapscott.

Summer School Day 8

After the one and only day off it’s back to the programme again. This morning starts with a workshop on Action Research in Journalism by Ebba Sundin which references the work of Jean McNiff. It’s the second time that action research has been discussed in this programme so we’re able to connect with the subject.

Tobias Olsson is next up with a lecture that is closely related to my research project What’s so ‘social’ about social media?: Critical reflections on the emerging media ecology of participation. I’d been looking forward to hearing his take on Social Media. In the lecture he discusses the ‘media ecology of participation’ and the notion of a ‘convergence culture’ as described by Henry Jenkins and the ‘co-creative environments’ of  Burgess and Green. But then at this point Tobias asks us to remain critically aware of these ideas.

He asks us to reflect on three points. Firstly that what appears to be genuinely ‘social’ can in fact be produced by professional organisations as part of their marketing. Secondly, that here are in essence social and participatory features to most media. And finally that all media use is social.

After an expansive and clear explanation of these points he concludes that it is a long step from technological possibilities to social realities.

The afternoon lecture begins with a stimulating lecture by Bart Cammaerts from the LSE entitled Having a Laugh? Activism, Mediation and Protest Tactics. Annette Hill‘s Made to Measure: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Media Audiences workshop continues throughout the afternoon. This involves discussion and a workshop that explores the advantages of communicating with researchers from outside of your own discipline to help identify problems and develop new strategies.

Summer School Day 5 & the weekend

The Summer School has continued throughout the weekend with officially only half-a-day off, this morning (Sun). The European Union funding rules stipulate that students should be engaged in study for the whole 12 days. Slave drivers!

Many people, myself included, were rather fragile on Friday due to our first night exploring the bars in the city. Thankfully we went on a visit to an NGO in the centre of Ljubljana in the morning and then to the Slovene Ethnographic Museum in the afternoon where the  lectures took place. Michael Bruun Andersen gave the first on The Meaning of Form in Journalism: The case of television news. It was a hot day and the museum had no air conditioning so along with the after effects of last night’s alcohol many people didn’t make the afternoon sessions. Indeed, I left after Michael’s lecture and spent what was left of the afternoon meandering around the city.

Saturday is an early start again with a abstract writing workshop for the whole morning given by Nico Carpentier.  Nico gives us lots of advice and gives us a picture of what academic research entails.

Saturday was also the day when the first group of lecturers leave and new ones arrive. So we went down the student discount bar in the city centre and gave them a good send off (left) then back down to the bohemian Metelkova district again. This time the bar was playing some rather dated punk music.

Sunday morning and early afternoon was officially a rest period. Most people too the whole day off although there was an optional lecture in the afternoon. I sent the day going round the Sunday flea market and then a walk up the hill to Ljubljana Castle with Virpi and Julia. The castle has a fabulous 360 degree view of the city

Summer School Day 4

This morning I gave my presentation on my research subject Social Media: Three Generations of Sharing, Creativity and Collaboration (left). On the whole I think it went fairly well. I timed it just about right and finished just a few seconds ahead of time. My main self-critisicm of the presentation was that I ended the last few slides by reading them out word for word without elaboration. It’s what is known as the Karaoke delivery. But this was due to me not wanting to go over time and end with my final slide.

My three respondents were Ates Gursimsek (student) Francois Heinderyckx and Nico Carpentier (flow manager). Generally the proposal was met with a positive response. The panel thought that the subject matter and area of research was appropriate and agreed that this was a subject that had not been addressed sufficiently and that it was “our duty (as researchers) to look at this subject”.

All three thought that my proposed two-step methodology was well developed. There was a comment from Francois that suggested that I might find it more difficult than I envisaged to get enough participants for the first phase of the research. Francois also raised issues about certain wording within the proposal. Using phrases like “reaches maturity” he felt were inappropriate. He challenged the Chris Anderson quote “When the tools of production are available to everyone, everyone becomes a producer” as this implies uncritical and partisan thinking.

`Part of this research will address Media/digital literacy from a technical and critical standpoint. Francois suggested that young people may use digital media intuitively but they “know it in a certain way” lacking critical understanding. “Technology helping generations get back in contact with each other”. This is an area to explore further.

The issues of how I define creativity, the meaning of creativity and how I measure it were raised but I was expecting them. Francois and Nico also thought that the use of Sharing, Creativity and Collaboration may be too much for me to cover comprehensively in my PhD. They suggested it may be better for me to concentrate on one. They thought my presentation suggested that my primary focus was ‘Creativity’. ‘Collaboration and Sharing’ should have a lower emphasis in the research. I should work on my research question to reflect this. There was a lot to take in but this will be invaluable advise to take home.

In the afternoon we had a lecture by Heiner Stahl on Getting the Sound of Radio out of the Archive: European Broadcasting History in a Transnational Perspective. I’d spoken to Heiner earlier in the week about our love of Krautrock bands of the early 70s like Can, Faust, Neu!  Cluster, Amon Düül II and Tangerine Dream so this lecture really interested me.

The evening was the first real night out for me. I felt I’d deserved a few drinks after the presentation and ended up in the artist area of the city and a bar that was playing Dub Reggae and a very bohemian looking clientele. Left is a picture of Ates, my student respondent, and myself at the bar.

The temperature out here is now in the late 20s centigrade. So it’s still quite warm with no need for jackets. The beer is ok but it is all lager. This bar is very cheap though.

Left the bar about 1.30 am and walked for about half-an-hour from the city centre back to the accommodation.

Social Media Venn Diagram

I was recently sent a link to this humorous Social Media Venn Diagram design for a t-shirt, available from here.

It’s a A Venn diagram showing the psychological forces at work among users of social networking tools — a new shirt from the satirical Despair, Inc.

I found an associated copy line that reads “Unlocking the Awesome Potential of Behavioral Disorders”. Nice!