Hanging about on the wrong side of the curve

Just thought I’d get this down as it’s an issue raised in the meeting I’m sitting in as I type this now:

“Are the city’s creative industries too far on the other side of the social media curve that they’ve forgotten how to engage with everybody else?”

The meeting is generally made up of representatives from businesses (big and small), support agencies, funding agencies and the like. I gave a brief presentation on social media and how the wider business sector might make more use of it (much like the one I gave at Aston Science Park in January).

One of the points made after my bit was that although the Creative sector is well ahead of the game, and ahead of the curve, in taking up social media technologies they’re in danger of cutting themselves off. Specifically, cut off to those seeking to enter the sector. The argument being that creatives have become harder to find and communicate with, particularly to those who lack developed digital literacy skills or indeed access to the internet. It was clear behind the query there was concern about the diversity of the creative sector.

Does this ring true? Or is it actually easier now in that once you’ve found the way in you get opened up to a very wide range of contacts much quicker than previously? Thoughts welcome.

6 thoughts on “Hanging about on the wrong side of the curve

  1. As a relative latecomer to social networking I do sometimes get the feeling that some users of the latest technology like the elitist element, and being in the avant garde. This can put off some of the potential later adopters. Excusivity can be attractive, but it does exclude people – including potential clients. That’s why it is important to see digital social networking as complimentray to traditional human networking – in person, on the phone and so on and not replacing it. …..Crusty rant over 🙂

  2. Interesting talking point this, although I don’t agree with the comment made after your talk – how does a company become harder to reach by putting themselves online more? If anything it should make them easier to contact – there’s no hiding from Google.

    I suppose the point is people are marketing themselves online to the detriment of traditional means. Maybe that’s a conscious choice those companies have made – it’s one I took when I set up Osiris Licensing.

    However, even if it is a problem I’m not convinced it’s a big one – I’m pretty sure only a small part of Birmingham’s creative sector is ahead of the social media curve. Being plugged into those networks I’m sure we can name some good examples but it’s far from being everyone.

    I say that because, as I start develving into dance (westmidlandsdance.com is my new project), I’m finding so many orgs that wouldn’t know an online social network if it bit them on the ankle. Actually I find it harder to find them – without a reasonable online presence I’m having to rely on word of mouth to find out who’s out there and what they’re doing. That’s a lot slower and more haphazard than an afternoon on Google.

    As a slight aside, my big thing about CiB is that 2000 readers (approx) might seem a lot, but compared to the potential audience it’s miniscule. In terms of numbers, the sector as a whole (let alone the rest of the city) doesn’t read it.

    The diversity thing is a biggie though – for such a multi-cultural city, most events I go to are incredibly white and middle class. I’m not sure what to do about that but it’s worth restating.

    John’s first point that some seem to prize exclusivity is a good one. I like to try out the latest thing but I do that to find out what uses it may have and how it can help me achieve something. When someone writes off a service because it becomes popular (ie Facebook) then you have to wonder whether they prefer the social interaction or the shiny object.

    I pretty much agree with John’s last point too. It’s not necessarily essential in every case, but using online stuff to enable real life stuff (going to events, meeting up, etc) is one of the most interesting things for me.

  3. I’m a bit puzzled as to why the question was asked in the first place, as in what’s the thinking of the person asking? Is there a judgement, or defensive posture, in there?

    Certainly there are issues of access, and early adopters tend to have the better kit, the know-how, the time and so forth. So maybe there should be more equitable distributions of those opportunities. The question then becomes one about who provides those opportunities.

    Given that some people are better off doesn’t mean they are exclusionary. Volunteer-run Social Media Workshops show that ‘ahead-of-the-curve’ types are engaging with a broader public – in ways that our beloved democratic institutions and unelected quangoes cannot match.

    So a big part of the answer should focus on who shares, and why, and how. Is it Council services, public-spiritied volunteers, charities, or businesses?

    To recap: yes, some people will be too far ahead, but others will be making efforts to bring about wider participation. The appropriate questions are about whether insitutional bodies are doing their bit. Are they teaching twitter in schools, promoting Facebook among staff, providing pysical and technological resources to those who want to share, and learn?

  4. Probably more a defensive gesture – you’re right to spot that the activity happening in the social media scene scares the hell out of them. Although it may be that if they don’t read blogs in the city they may not know what’s going on. The stats tell us that creatives are a big sector in the city but is their presence in regional media significant enough? Should we tell stories about the good work in as many media channels as we can? One day a week in the Post – that enough?

  5. Mmm. Dunno that that story is in need of that kind of telling. Following my earlier narrowboat of thought I’d say reporting on the ways creative activities diffuse into the wider community would help set out a bigger picture that doesn’t promote the sector as something unto itself.

    As an aside, thanks for coming up with this kind of discussion point. As with your post about CiB, it’s keeping the public discourse alive in an accessible way. I’ve even penned an imaginary blogpost about it. (But as I’m not tooled up or ahead of the curve, it’ll have to stay imaginary.)

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