I had some good news at the end of 2013. I was successful in applying to the Communities and Culture Network (CCN+) for some funding to run a project about how hyperlocal web publishers play a role in developing new networks of knowledge about their communities. Or to give it its grand title:
New Knowledge Networks in communities – the role of ‘hyperlocal’ media operations in facilitating everyday digital participation.
The project will enable me to spend some time understanding the operations of the B31 Voices blog which covers several suburbs in south Birmingham and is run by Sas and Marty Taylor with help from a small network of local writers. I’ve been interested for a while in how they operate across a range of digital platforms to gather up information from their readers and turn this into useful news and information. They seem really astute at tapping into citizens’ everyday use of social media. The new knowledge created offers a challenge, I think (and have mused on before), to ‘official’ knowledge.
In terms of method, I’ve become increasingly interested in the work of Sarah Pink. She argues for new approaches to Internet/Digital ethnographies. I’m much taken with this quote from from a paper about new forms of ethnography (co-written with John Postill):
“the movement of the digital ethnographer involves traversing interrelated digital and co-present contexts, for example, sharing a bus ride with activists, a Facebook collaboration or a smartphone image over coffee”
(Postill, J and Pink, S. Social media ethnography: The digital researcher in a messy web [online]. Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, No. 145, Nov 2012: 123-134.)
In this project, the equivalent of ‘sharing a bus ride’ is to set up and run two Social Media Surgeries in B31’s patch. We’re being helped with this by Nick Booth’s company, Podnosh, who help coordinate volunteer-run social media surgeries across the UK. These take place in mid-March (I’ll write a separate ‘call to action’ post for those shortly).
Although the project is small in scope I hope it’ll have much to say about the intricate web that hyperlocals weave and the everyday active citizenship they promote. As the project progresses I’ll post occasional updates.
You can read the whole Case for Support (effectively the bid document) if you’re interested in some of the detail and academic rationale. Podnosh and B31 were brilliant in helping me bring together the bid.