Links for June 25th through June 26th

Some links for you:

Towards a Centre for Excellence in Digital Participation

So I tweeted an idea when I got to this part of the Digital Britain report on ‘Getting Britain Online’:

“[it will] will require provision of appropriate support including outreach, skills training, and demonstration of how people can get the most out of the digital revolution, delivered through tailored, local, community-based programmes building on existing networks”

And I thought that’s something I’m always being told Birmingham is ahead of the game at. Take a read of Be Vocal – there you’ll find plenty of examples of tailored, local, community-based. Why doesn’t Birmingham take a lead here, put a marker down? Not to presume a superiority and show everyone how it’s done but, just like the Centre for Excellence in Media Practice does (to which I have a connection and think is fab), provide a resource point for excellence to be nurtured, developed and made useful. That’s why it’s a centre FOR, rather than OF.

Now if you read Digital Britain it talks about Digital Participation in quite a specific way (and in doing so casts aside the much used term ‘media literacy‘). Participation would in effect be the responsibility of an organisation doing the equivalent job of Digital TV switchover and be charged with: “coordination and a clear and co-ordinated series of messages about the benefits [for being online]”. I’m thinking it’s gonna be a bit trickier than Digital TV switch-off which has an extremely compelling offer at its heart (“you won’t be able to watch TV as we’re going to switch off the analogue signal you know and love”). 

So the ‘Centre’ wouldn’t be interested in leading any ad campaigns for getting online. Rather, it’s about thinking through that participation bit. Participate in what? with whom? to what end? I think it would do the following:

  • Identify best practice
  • Nurture digital champions
  • R & D new engagement tools
  • Outline useful strategies for engagement
  • Show how this stuff works on the ground

It would be one way in which those charged with the participation stuff as Digital Britain describes it knew what good stuff looked like. It would give them insight, new tools, compelling stories.

In my mind it has a front door with a receptionist and long opening hours. I’m prepared to be swayed on that one but I’m not sure it should be tucked away on a campus (but I do think universities have a role here – at least one thinks this area worthy of study). Birmingham needs a big front door to digital participation or it does up until the point we’ve got everyone online and participating.

So I’ve had enough people now say, yeah, sounds interesting, let’s talk about it. I now plan to continue talking about it in a way that suggests everybody else has already agreed to it and it’ll be here before you know it. If you see me in the street I might mention it.

Oh and funding – not a clue at present but we’ll see….


Links for June 17th through June 24th

Some links for you:

Links for June 12th through June 15th

Some links for you:

  • Yoosk today! – All Topics – Yoosk Digital Britain page for Birmingham event.
  • The Digital Mission Regional Tour is coming to Birmingham! – "A series of regional workshops are happening around the UK to talk about the Digital Mission series to the USA taking place in Autumn 2009 and Spring 2010. The events are a perfect opportunity to find out more about the Digital Missions, their objectives and talk to those who've had the opportunity to attend a previous mission."
  • MA Social Media – Blog of the MA Social Media at Birmingham City University, UK. It starts in September. Occurs to me that maybe more courses should have their own blogs – not just those that teach blogging as part of the course.
  • The online marketing expert blog – Does what it says on the tin – useful insights into online marketing.

That cinematic backwater thing – maybe I just need to chill

I thought I’d leave a week until I blogged about last Monday’s ‘Cinematic Backwater‘ debate which kicked off the excellent Fazeley Digital Festival. I thought maybe I’d calm down in the interim, that the underlying issue of ‘does it matter that Norwich get cool films before Birmingham?’ would vex me less.

Suffice to say I’m still vexed. And I’m even a bit more vexed because having now aired the topic in public I could see that I wasn’t alone in feeling frustrated at the current state of film exhibition in the city. For those new to me moaning about this take a read of the original post that resulted in this event being created. I was joined by a fantastic panel: Roger Shannon – Film Producer & academic; Ian Francis – film festival curator; Rachel Carter, Film Producer and co-founder of Fullrange Media.

All agreed that yes, it did matter that some films tend to only get to Birmingham on their second-run. Not all in the audience agreed but in general the discussion covered:

  • the dominance of film programming by the few to the detriment of the many;
  • questioned whose role audience development is in the region;
  • pondered the cultural priorities of a city where Digbeth can have three modern art galleries but no cinemas;
  • debated the link between a thriving culture of exhibiting the weird/leftfield/arty/independent and the impact that might have on the films that we produce out of the region.

Roger brought with him a whole bag full of consultants’ reports from the past 20 years that in one way or another touched on the issue of whether Birmingham needs a new arts cinema. He drew our attention in particular to a recent report by Tom Fleming ‘Mixed Art-form and Media Venues in the Digital Age’ (link to PDF).

There was some reference to the Arts Lab/Triangle era and there was much nodding at the suggestion that what we need now is perhaps the best of that (its radical edge for a start) combined with the dynamic and vibrant social media scene that’s currently setting the city apart. That’s perhaps where this discussion should go next.

For me though it still comes back to competitiveness. Those in the city with access to resources and the power to influence decisions need to understand that when Norwich are getting interesting films ahead of us then the time for action is now.

My Dad is definitely not on Twitter

About a year ago I was talking to some work colleagues about an event that was taking place about social media. “It’ll be full of the usual suspects,” I said. “But Dave,” they responded, “you are a usual suspect.”

I suspect that’s how I’m viewed – a usual suspect. Truth is I don’t actually attend that many events. Birmingham Social Media Cafe maybe from time to time but little else. In the last few weeks though I’m aware that I seem to be all over the place. I pitched up at West by West Midlands 2, I chaired a debate about cinema exhibition and most recently I’ve been explaining why my poor dead Dad (30 years gone this year) isn’t on twitter.

You can read elsewhere about the mindmap idea behind the event ‘My Dad’s on Twitter but he doesn’t know why’ at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth. I think I gave a rather dour speech about how Twitter seems to come with a whole set of unwritten rules that puts newcomers off and can be intimidating for organisations. Tolerance towards people’s mistakes was my request. Some useful points were made from the audience. One of them took me to task about my argument that digital doesn’t archive as well as analogue. Digital captures conversation, was his response and what a rich seam to mine that would prove to future historians.

The second half of my talk touched on the Internet of Things. No-one really picked up on this despite my fab example of GusandPenny, the tweeting cat flap. My argument here is simple. Once Twitter gets filled up with objects, rather than people, we’ll realise how dull we are in comparison and how our unwritten rules were naive at best. A Twitter of Things is coming I declared – I’m not sure anyone believed me.

An enjoyable evening overall, some sharp questions from an engaged audience and some drawing to boot.

Fazeley Studios Digital Festival continues throughout next week.

Links for June 6th through June 11th

Some links for you:

Birmingham Half Marathon 2009 is go

Entries are now open for this year’s Birmingham Half Marathon taking place on Sunday October 11th. The route is changed to a flatter south Birmingham one (from last year’s undulating north/west Birmingham one) that happens to go very close to my house in Bournville. There are some undulations as you come into Bournville and it looks like the last half mile is a bit uphill but other than that it’s relatively flat. I’ve mapped an approximation of the route in g-maps:

Birmingham Half Marathon 2009 route

This year’s event incorporates the World half-marathon championships so there’ll be an elite field competing for quarter of a million dollars in prize money. I still have a vague hope that Paula Radcliffe will squeeze it into her schedule as it would form the perfect build up to the New York marathon in November.

Even if she doesn’t show then rest assured I will – my entry is already in. Online entry attracts a hefty booking fee of £3.10 so it may be worth just printing out the form and putting it in the post. The race may well fill up early this year so do get your entries in ASAP.

Links for June 2nd

Some links for you:

  • White Llama: A brief guide to Social Media in Stoke-on-Trent – "So, I was asked to write something to sum up Stoke-on-Trent's social media 'scene'. Tempted as I was to respond "Hey! Stoke is messy! Back off with your straightjackets and your simplification agendas!", I understand that a clean link makes life easier." Brilliant post. I'd actually quite like to see a post like this about Birmingham. A short reflection on where we are now.
  • Mudlark at Mobile Cell, Barcelona « Mudlark – One of the Mudlark team go to the Living Lab near Barcelona. Birmingham has Living Lab status as well with a community based energy project, DEHEMS, running at the moment (with Digital Birmingham as a partner). Be interested to see how we might scale something up to this level.
  • Introducing – Help Me Investigate – Stef Lewandowski gives a detailed run through on pulling together the new 4iP funded Help Me Investigate project.

Fine but show me how the web can solve ‘real’ issues.

There’s a great story over at Pete Ashton’s blog about how his post on the use of street advertising by the Birmingham Rep got a response from the senior staff involved (of both the Rep and the advertising company) and resulted in a solution, an apology and even a donation to charity.

Now the title of this blog post is more to bait comment than suggest that the defacing of a work of art isn’t a ‘real’ issue but I think it might be less of an issue than the systematic decay of the streets where my Mom lives in Alum Rock. I did three things to try to get some movement on this. I wrote to the local councillors for the constituency, I made a request through and I blogged about it. The letter got a response to say it was being looked at, the request got acknowledged by very quickly but with no progress two months later and the blog post got a single comment.

So what’s going on here? How do I work the web in such a way that produces the kind of swift action we saw over the Rep’s adverts?