Category Archives: user-generated content

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.

[pro-player image=http://www.timrileydigital.com/phddiary/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/twittamentary.jpg width=’465′ height=’308′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6svkZQoqik[/pro-player]

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 Week London – Tuesday

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.

 

Transcription time!

So we’re well into 2012 and I’ve been busy transcribing my interviews since before Christmas along with arranging the last phase of interview participants. Transcribing is a slow and laborious process. I’ve tried plenty of transcription software which managed to recognise words in the recordings (although often not the correct ones) but the real problem was that the words didn’t make any sense when put in sentences! Pretty useless really. It’s what you’d imagine using William Burroughs book writing software would look like. I could use a commercial transcription service to produce them for me but, apart for the fact that it costs money, I don’t think this is a good way of getting a rich understanding of the text. If you transcribe the interviews yourself it enables a greater understand of the themes that are developing within the data. It’s very time-consuming but necessary… I think.

On Monday I conducted an interview Peter Oakley who is well known for his YouTube channel geriatric 1927. He’s been broadcasting his thoughts through self-recorded online videos since 2006 and he regularly gets over 1600 hits for every video he posts. Pretty impressive. He’s a warm, easy-going and very approachable man who’s in the 9th decade of his life and still extremely alert and on the ball. It was a pleasure and a privilege to interview him. He gave me permission to mention him on this blog and to embed one of his videos.

After the interview we compared notes on our experiences of Art Foundation courses and going to Art College in different times and at different ages. Like Peter, my Art Foundation course was one of the most enjoyable and creative periods of my life. Anyway, here is Peter describing his thoughts and the experiences of his art education in one of his videos.

Christmas and New Year’s reading

Having consumed more non-fiction, theoretical and academic books than I’ve ever read in my life, I thought I’d take a break and read a fictional one over the Christmas period. However I wanted to read a book with subject matter relating in some small way to my research.

Just before Christmas I saw a programme on BBC One about the rise of digital books and the decline of printed ones. Under the strand ‘Imagine’ and presented by Alan Yentob the programme asked the question “Books – The Last Chapter?“.

Yentob interviews author Gary Shteyngard about his book Super Sad True Love Story which has a very poignant satirical vision where, as the Guardian reviewed, “the information age has reached maximum insanity. Everyone works in media or credit. People don’t really like talking much any more; they prefer streaming information about each other on their “apparati””. So I thought this was my book for the Christmas brake. But in answer the title of the Yentob TV programme  I downloaded the book from the internet and read it on my laptop.

It’s a very well written book which is told through the two main characters’ communications, the male’s traditional (diary) and the females digital (online), which is used to contrasts their different lives, ages, personalities and personal experiences. It was very refreshing to read some fiction.

Having read finished this I’ve now moved back to the academic books. I’m a great admirer of John Naughton for his straight forward and insightful columns in The Observer and his new book  ‘From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What you really need to know about the internet’ which I’m reading now. It’s a book that is made up of nine ideas about the internet. You may wonder why someone who is knowledgeable about the web and digital media would want to read such a book but this is because of Naughton’s personal interpretation of the subject. Here’s is an interview with him where he briefly explains the ideas in the book.

 

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCklVenEuXU[/pro-player]

Higher Education Academy Art, Design, Media Creative Learning and Teaching Day

Last Thursday I went to the HEA Art, Design, Media Creative Learning and Teaching Day at Ravensbourne.  This was a well attended event that was the first chance to get involved in wider discussions about government polices and the forthcoming education cuts and rise in student fees. But it was also a chance to see the sort of initiatives taken by individuals and higher education institutions in art, design, media creative learning. A brief overview of the event can be seen in the following video.

 

[pro-player image=http://www.timrileydigital.com/phddiary/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/HEA_logo.jpg width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://vimeo.com/33503530[/pro-player]

 

The early morning keynote presentation was given by former NUS President, Aaron Porter, who is now a freelance journalist & higher education consultant. His presentation (below) used statistical data to analyse and show the current state of HE and then to present the (mainly) negatives and positives of the proposed changes to education funding.

 

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://vimeo.com/33684129[/pro-player]

 

There were many parallel sessions through out the day so it was impossible to see all the presentations but one notable and memorable presentation that I managed to see was by James Corazzo, Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design, University of Derby, who put forward the rather provocative statement “Sometimes the best teaching is no teaching at all”. Although on the surface this could be seen as self-defeating James showed that empowering students to use their initiative could be very creatively productive. It reminded me of the ideas of the American adult educator, Malcolm Knowles, in the 1970s and his ideas of self-directed learning that he called ‘andragogy’.

The day’s conference culminated in a keynote presentation by Pro-Vice-Chancellor of  University of Brighton, Professor Bruce Brown who gave a speech that followed the history of creativity and learning from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present day. (below).

 

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://vimeo.com/33489589[/pro-player]

Application to Transfer Interview

Yesterday I had my application to transfer interview. The interview as one would expect was quite tough and a couple of the questions were difficult to answer. The interview started with a review of the parts of my research that worked well but as this was more concerned with critical aspects of the research these were not discussed.

Much was made of a need to be more explicit with my conceptual framework with my regards to my use of motivation within the research. However, the theory and concepts relating to creativity, generations and literacy were judged to be more clearly argued. About half an hour after the interview I was called to be told that the panel had recommended that I transfer to PhD status. This was more of a relief than an celebration.

However I did go out last night. I’d  already got tickets to see my favourite band, The Fall, (left) at the indigO2, a few months back.  This helped take my mind off the events of the interview, although I have slightly wooly head this morning!

Anyway now I can get back to progressing forward with my research without the worry of having to re-apply in the summer.

CAMRI Symposium

It has now become a internal part of being a PhD student that every now and again we have to present our progress and research findings. This takes the form of giving presentations at conferences as with Transforming Audiences 3 (TA3) in the summer and with this symposium that is hosted by University of Westminster each November. There’s doctoral representatives from other media based universities within the London area. The subjects within this field are very diverse within this discipline varying from digital games to the social networks in China.

My presentation went fairly well (below). It was very similar to the TA3 presentation. I had quite a few questions from the audience all constructive and none too difficult.

View more presentations from Tim Riley

Mozilla Festival at Ravensbourne

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been involved in teaching some first year under-graduate students at Ravensbourne over the last few weeks. This has taken the form of the introduction to and production of WordPress websites.

Part of this project was linked in with the Mozilla Festival which took place at Ravensbourne over the weekend. Students were asked to prepare WordPress sites ready to use and for filling with content over the course of the festival. It was heartening to see the multi-disiplinary groups of students firstly grapple with the new software and concept of content management systems and then steam ahead with innovative ways of using it.  Some implementing live feeds and others procured sponsorship and deals with local businesses.

Each team chose a different subject to cover and during the weekend they filmed interviews, edited videos, wrote articles and constantly updated their site with content from the festival. I went along on the Saturday to observe and take in the festival. The project was a very good example of collaboration, networking, pooling skills and resource as well as learning how to work as a team.

Their sites are available here to view:

Ravezilla: audio and video innovation
Children and Education
Mozilla Gaming
Journewlism

Teaching WordPress at Ravensbourne

I’ve been using WordPress since my MA in 2007. It had nothing to do with my studies apart from the fact that it was open-source software and a subject I was covering in one of the modules. I was intrigued to know more about it. I’ve since built and worked on about 10 sites and used it as part of the case study for the Social Media book chapter I’ve just completed. Indeed this diary uses WordPress. It’s so customisable and can be used, amongst other things, to collaborate online and as a content management system. It’s a good example of a data mashup in that it takes data from many different sources and integrates it one site.

It is now being used widely at Ravensbourne College as a way of getting content creation students quickly up and running and using a website to collaborate and create content as a team. This gives them the opportunity to get going, creating content without the need to spend weeks designing and coding a website. Over the last three days I’ve been teaching first year students how to use it. But first I gave them two lectures. The first was an introduction to the Internet and Web and the definitions and practices of Web 2.0. It’s surprising how many don’t know the difference between the Internet and the Web. The second (below) is intended as a bit of background before using WordPress. It describes open-source software and gives examples and definitions.

I spent three days with them and generally there was a very positive response to the use of it.