I’ve spent most of the last few days at various Social Media Week events in and around London. Yes, I know, social media is happening online all the time but this is a week where the virtual meets the physical. I’ve just got around to writing up the events of the week so this is the first of a number of entries relating to experiences during the week. This first entry is intended as an over view of the week and my first day.
The week is made up of events held concurrently at 21 major cities around the world and also accessible virtually through SNS and live streams. The main drive of the subjects and topics is marketing led but includes discussions on the broader issues surrounding social media and the web. The main theme of this years events was “Empowering change through collaboration”. However, this theme has tenuous links to to the events I visited.
Social Media Week London had a multitude of events with the vast majority free and, in most cases, sponsored my commercial organisation. One of the recurring themes discussed at many of the events I attended was the use of the term ‘Big Data’ and the access to and analysis of large data sets. IBM claim that “everyday, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone” (IBM). Indeed, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated at the Atmosphere 2010 conference that “Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. We [now] create five exabytes every two days. See why it’s so painful to operate in information markets?” (although how this comparison and calculation has been achieved is not divulged). So this is already a well discussed debate and, as the last sentence in the quote alludes, one pertinent to the modern company. With the constant generation of ever larger amounts of data comes the issue of how companies and individuals can harvest it, analyse it and, of course, issues of privacy that are inexorably link to it. “Big data” appears to have moved up the agenda with many of the company presentations at events offering services to digital businesses. However, the impact on privacy and data protection were given little regard.
Given my area of research I tried to limit the events I attended to less marketing led subjects although it became apparent that most linked to this subject somewhere in most events. In Tuesday morning’s Is eyewitness news, news? a panel discussed the impact of citizen journalism through social media and the use of user-generated content on news gathering. This mainly boiled down to issues of trust, authentication and accuracy. Adam Baker of Blottr caused consternation from both panellists and audience when he suggested that if something “trended” on Twitter it was probably true. Many examples were given to contradict his claim but Baker qualified this by saying reports on Twitter would be checked before his site would publish.
In the afternoon Mark Stephens CBE, owner of law firm Finers Stephens Innocent, discussed the legal minefield of copyright and intellectual property in the digital age in Freedom of Tweet: Censorship, Governments, Marketers & The Law. He discussed the recent high-profile cases of super-injunctions to suppress stories and their effectiveness in the age of Twitter and social media’s worldwide reach. Stephens suggested that a more effective strategy for anyone wishing to go down this route in the future would be to employ a PR firm to mitigate and pre-empt the story’s release with favourable news. Censorship and freedom of speech were also covered with reference to the UK’s freedom of speech organisation Index on Censorship, the Electronic Frontier Foundation affiliated online rights organisation Chilling Effects and the recent protest over SOPA.