wxwm2 – half a review

It’s only half a review of West by West Midlands 2 (hosted in the excellent Spotted Dog in Digbeth/Highgate) as I ducked out at about 9pm. But going by what I saw in the first half it gladdens my heart that Birmingham is fast developing a knack for these self-organising, quick and dirty events that help develop a strong bond amongst those with an interest in social media and its applications.

It’s appropriate that the only pic I could find of my contribution to the evening is the above blurry shot by Jon Bounds. For a start I’d rather not see a clearer picture of me wearing a running headband, singlet and, as you can see, my special running pants. Secondly, the evening was by its nature hazy and meandering, in fact that was its strength. The image captures the spirit then, and leaves the detail to linger in the memory.

But enough of the semiotic deconstruction. I pitched in with an idea for a Birmingham Un-marathon to celebrate mass sporting participation but not before instructing the crowd through some pre-race warm-up exercises. Went down well I think. Next up was Jon Hickman who reflected on the reactions to his MA Social Media proposed at the last wxwm but then expanded to discuss his worries over the relative cosiness of Birmingham’s social media scene. A randomly chosen question from the audience about the visibility of women in the social media scene produced a lively discussion which suggested that we shouldn’t get too wound up by the fact that men and women may talk about different things online but the underlying issues of equality and representation still need to be addressed.

The final talk I saw was from Dynamic Arts in relation to their future plans for Rhubarb Radio (who were covering the whole evening live). Some exciting developments there it seems, particularly around mobile applications and an expansion to FM.

There I left it, hopefully someone else will review part two. I had a blast but my non-social media life beckoned and I had to go water the cabbages on the allotment. Thanks for having me.

Links for May 22nd through May 27th

Some links for you:

  • Birmingham: A Cinematic Backwater – the debate – My ranting on twitter and on my blog turns into an event: “We’ve put together a panel of three of the big film faces from the city (Professor Roger Shannon, Ian Francis and Dan Lawson) to lead a debate on what needs to happen next. How do we cultivate the venues, the audiences and the distribution channels that will open the floodgates for non mainstream film and prevent us from lingering as a ‘cinematic backwater’? What kind of developments can the local market support?” The date and timing of the event isn’t listed – to come no doubt.
  • twopointouch | Surrender! Foucault and Twitter – Superb article – the kind of writing I wish I could do: “…we somehow accept social media networks as empowering, democratic and all about spreading fresh ideas. The reverse may be the case: any given information about ourselves donates some portion of control to another party.” Hat-tip Tom Watson MP
  • Applying for your first job in the music industry – 7 tips | New Music Strategies – “I wanted to share some thoughts on what companies like SoundCloud are ‘really’ looking for nowadays and hopefully provide some useful tips on how you can improve your chances if you’re one of the thousands of people looking to make their first steps into the digital music industry.”
  • YouTube – A look behind the Microsoft Intelligent City Proof of Concept project – “As part of the first steps in making Birmingham the UK’s first Intelligent City, this is a look behind a project to show how digital technology could be employed to make it easier to get round Birmingham. Involving a consortium of partners, including the council’s Digital Birmingham partnership, Coventry University Enterprises, Microsoft and Virtual Earth developer Shoothill, it focuses on bringing together two of the region’s strengths – digital media and transport technologies.”
  • TheHill.com – Why Washington doesn’t get new media – “Those who think new media is about technology fail to grasp the significance of what is happening in today’s media environment. Those who don’t get it will continue to assign new media to the IT division. Those who partially get it will continue to appoint “directors of new media” [….] But none of them, in the end, will “control the message,” that rusted Holy Grail of a rapidly fading era.” Hat-tip Stuart Harrison (@pezholio)
  • Sweeble – Simply brilliant publishing to both print and web for FREE – Saw these guys present at JEECamp: “Simply brilliant publishing to both print and web for FREE (In fact, we help you make money!). Create professional printed newsletters, magazines and brochures plus a free website. Add your own articles, pictures and adverts to sweeble’s free desktop publisher and let us print and deliver.”
  • Events West Midlands | e-business, emarketing, AdWords, Analytics (National B2B Centre) – Tuesday 9th June, Warwick University, Coventry. “Social Media has hit the headlines as celebs flock to use Twitter, the PM broadcasts on YouTube and President Obama gets elected on the back of his Facebook page! Is this just hype or is there something worthwhile in here for small businesses to use?”

This year’s marathon fundraising

Last year when I ran the London Marathon (before this blog existed) I wasn’t going to bother with raising funds for charity but then that nice fella Nick Booth said that if I did, he’d spread the word using social media and see how well we could do. At the same time a work colleague was eager to demonstrate that the old-fashioned way of raising money, hassling work colleagues in meetings and via email, would raise more. I can’t recall which way was more successful but we made about £500 for St Mary’s Hospice in Selly Oak.

So with a short time to go before I run the Edinburgh Marathon I’ve decided to see if I can’t raise a few quid for St Mary’s again. Love to have you donate as little or as much as you like.

Many thanks.


Links for May 14th through May 18th

Some links for you:

Birmingham – a cinematic backwater

(Trailer for Synecdoche, New York. I want to see this NOW)

First some nostalgia: I’ve been a Birmingham cinema-goer for a long time. Get me drunk enough and I’ll bore you to within an inch of your life by listing the films I’ve seen in cinemas now long gone. From The Towering Inferno in the upper circle of the ABC New Street to queuing round the block for Jaws at the Beaufort in Washwood Heath and watching Godzilla double-bills with my Mom at Ward End’s Capitol.

At some point in the mid-1980s I discovered ‘arthouse’ cinema. Or rather my brother did and I picked up his interest. The Triangle was our cinema of choice and it did that repertory thing of combining new leftfield film releases with retrospectives and cult movie double bills (I recall a packed 11pm screening of Taxi Driver and Hardcore).

One of the things I discovered as I combined a love of the mainstream with world/independent cinema is that the former would arrive in Brum on the week of release but the latter always tailed behind. I’d be getting excited by reviews of Tarkovsky’s Sacrifice only to realise that it wouldn’t be showing anywhere near here for a week or two or three after its initial release.

The reasons why were partly about the scarcity of prints and the whims of distributors but also to do with the pattern of regional film theatres established by the British Film Institute in the 1960s which effectively overlooked Birmingham as a regional centre for non-mainstream film viewing (see Terry Grimley’s excellent article in The Birmingham Post last year for more context).

This week I note that nothing’s changed. The list of non-London cities showing Charlie Kaufman’s highly-rated new film Synecdoche, New York in the week of its release include: Sheffield, Nottingham, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle, Norwich, Edinburgh, Glasgow. Birmingham’s not up there. Oh we’ll get it okay – as soon as next week at the superb Electric. But that’s not good enough. I’ve been waiting until next week since the mid-1980s and I’m sick to death of it. It may be just lack of venues and when the MAC is back on stream it’ll all be fine. Or maybe we don’t have the punters, maybe they’re a more eager, cultured lot over in Norwich. If so then let’s get some audience development initiatives underway.

I doubt it somehow – we’ve been seen as a second-run city for cinema for as long as I can remember and I’m really not sure how we can change that perception. Not even publicly subsidised digital distribution has helped. Ideas anyone?

Links for May 11th through May 13th

Some links for you:

  • Unemployment in the West Midlands climbs again to almost a quarter of a million « Observations – "Most worryingly, the rate of the increase in unemployment in the region is double that of England. In the last quarter, unemployment in England rose by 0.8%, whereas in the West Midlands it rose by 1.6%."
  • REd REx – The West Midlands' network for Digital Media, Film Education & Exhibition – "REd REx is the West Midlands' network for Media and Film Education and Exhibition (Regional Education and Regional Exhibition)." New ning.
  • Report from the Independent Spectrum Broker: findings and policy proposals – "In February, the Government appointed an Independent Spectrum Broker to determine whether a series of market led spectrum trades between operators could be achieved to facilitate this objective. The Independent Spectrum Broker has concluded his discussions with industry, the regulator and government."
  • Plans for more than 5,000 new jobs in culture, music and creative industries – "Government plans to create between five and ten thousand new jobs for young people in the culture and creative industries sectors were set out today by Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham."
  • — tweet5k – My worlds of running and social media mesh together – it was only a matter of time….
  • 4iP | Recasting the Net event – "Our second event in the autumn in Birmingham will look at the implications of digital media on politics in the widest sense. Is it enough for politicians to use new digital tools to carry out their existing work? Surely online political communications should be about a conversation not control? People can use the Net to participate in the political process in new ways, but what are the implications of all of these voices making themselves heard? How can the Internet promote transparency, accountability and trust in itself and in political discourse? In the end, does the Internet tend towards extremism or a plural political discourse?"

Links for May 7th through May 10th

Some links for you:

  • Screen WM – Innovation, New Markets & Skills Strategy – Gives you the lowdown on exactly how many projects Screen WM intend to invest in for 2009/2010:
    – Invest in minimum 2-3 flagship 4iP project with national/international reach.
    – Invest in 10-20 small to medium sized projects with innovative business models and content.
    – Support development of minimum 15 projects with 4iP development funds, matched by Channel 4
    – Ensure supported delegates are acting as ambassadors for the region and sharing knowledge via ‘Postcard’ Events and blogs
  • AmbITion Roadshow with Arts Council England, West Midlands – Eventbrite – “We would like to invite you to a day of exploration, exposition, conversation and critical thinking around the digital opportunities for organisations encompassing artistic practice, organisational and audience development and business models in our digital age. This event is an opportunity to share lessons learned from the AmbITion Thrive! project which has been running in the North West region for the past two years and build upon the issues raised at our C:Cubed event in September 2008.”
  • Advertise on Created in Birmingham | Created in Birmingham – CiB’s original funding comes to an end. Is now seeking advertising to help sustain it.
  • Find it in Sandwell – Too much stuff requiring a log-in but: “We aim to boost the Black Country economy by giving local businesses the support and contacts they need to pitch for and win bigger contracts. Join finditinsandwell today and meet people who are interested in supplying to and buying from you.”
  • Charlie Beckett, POLIS Director » Blog Archive » Recasting The Net: A Polis and Channel 4/4iP National Debate – “Polis is partnering up with Channel 4/4iP on a series of national debates to be filmed for a special website on the state of the Internet and the future of online media. Do you want to join in? Here’s the thinking behind this attempt to reboot the conversation on what we want from a digital Britain.”
  • My Tiny Plot » Blog Archive » Your Garden from the Ground – Nice pics. A reminder to myself to try the same thing.

Links for April 29th through May 3rd

Some links for you: