Gazing at Media for Social Change

pic by Siobhan Stevenson

pic by Siobhan Stevenson

If the Syrian conflict is so heavily covered by Social Media, and therefore presumably front and centre in the public gaze, why is it also seemingly the least resolvable? Why has social media not changed anything there? That was the thrust of a question asked at the end of a great morning panel at the Media for Social Change Unconference at Birmingham City University (on Saturday 3rd May 2014). Continue reading

That Littlest Pet Shop version of The Hunger Games that I mentioned at #rethinkmedia

At the #rethinkmedia conference last week (March 25 2014 to be precise) I made the claim that my daughter had filmed a version of The Hunger Games using her Littlest Pet Shop toys. On arriving home I was put right on this and it turns out that despite making over 70 short films involving her Little Pet Shop figures (check out her ever-expanding Youtube channel), my 11 year old has never made  a version of the Hunger Games.
Continue reading

Twitter search – finding old stuff

I was helping someone out with finding old stuff on twitter from a particular user. When I say old, I mean beyond the 3,200 limit of a single user’s tweets (that’s how many it stops at when you do that endless scrolling down on a page). I was also interested in searching hashtags used at particular times.

So this is really about searching between particular dates. The advanced Twitter search page doesn’t show how you can search for dates but you can do so by putting the following in your search:

  • from:username since:yyyy-mm-dd until:yyyy-mm-dd

So the url search for @stephenfry’s old tweets would be:

Or if you want to find a hashtag, word or phrase between particular dates:

  • #digitalbritain since:yyyy-mm-dd until:yyyy-mm-dd
  • digitalbritain since:yyyy-mm-dd until:yyyy-mm-dd
  • “digital britain” since:yyyy-mm-dd until:yyyy-mm-dd

You can also simply adjust the url instead of using the search box. For example, the urls for the above three searches (for dates from 1st October 2009 and until 1st December 2009):

In the url you should notice that:

  • %23 is a hashtag
  • %20 is a space
  • %3A is a :
  • f=realtime is the same as clicking ‘all’ in the search (gives you everything rather than ‘top’ tweets)

Hope this helps (it serves a reminder for me if nothing else). Welcome additions/corrections in the comments


Snow: Hyperlocals 1 – Local Councils 0

Actually, I struggled giving this post a title. I wanted to call it something like:

‘I wish local government communications people would stop self-aggrandising and give credit to their citizens instead’.

There was lots of snow in and around Birmingham on Friday (Jan 18). There was a time when the resultant unfolding narrative of school closures and rush hour traffic chaos used to be played out solely on local radio (oh how we used to gather round the radio praying for our school to be called out). Now we live in different times and not only are other media organisations able to publish updates but local councils can play a part by publishing updates on websites or via social media.

Unfortunately Birmingham City Council’s special website for disruption fell over on Friday morning so proved pretty useless. However, its twitter account (952 followers up to 2754 followers by Jan 22) did a pretty good job of tweeting school closure news as they came in.

Local government communications people seem to like the snow. The idea to come up with a hashtag for gritting (#wmgrit) got them a write up in a SOCITM report, coverage in mainstream media and in a report on Innovation in West Midlands councils (PDF). “By following that hashtag, residents can now see instantly when their council is out working on a cold night gritting the roads to make sure the county keeps moving,” the report says.

But a recent write-up asking ‘what’s next’ for snow-related local government comms seems to sum up a particular problem within local authorities. That is, the assumption that their adeptness in using social media places them at the centre of our communications universe. The role of citizens in this narrative is to ‘complain’ or ‘have a pop’.

The opposite couldn’t be more true on Friday. A hyperlocal website close to where I live, B31 Voices, showed how citizens are more than able to make communications contributions in times of crises that are a world away from ‘having a pop’.

B31 is run by Sas and Marty Taylor who decided at the first sign of snow on 11 January to organise their communications around a hashtag: #B31Snowwatch. It came into its own on Friday 18th with Sas and Marty juggling getting their own kids ready for school whilst tweeting (2464 followers) and facebooking (2324 likes) school closure updates.

Their information sources were both official and unofficial. By the latter I mean that other parents were tweeting updates as well as schools themselves or the council. They stayed online throughout the day and evening, updating on where the buses were terminating and on traffic problems.

But if you stand back from the key coordinating role that Sas and Marty played in this then perhaps more impressive is the contribution of the citizens of south Birmingham. #B31Snowwatch is an exemplar of networked communications innovation and its contributors should lauded for the ways in which they kept south Birmingham moving and communicating in an emergency (well, as much of an ’emergency’ as a bit of snow is).

All I’m suggesting is that it would be nice if professional communicators gave examples like this more recognition.

The storify below covers tweets (not inc. retweets) from 11 Jan to 19 Jan 2013.

Mr Grumpy

I actually have some pyjamas with Mr Grumpy on them. So it comes as some surprise to discover that former local councillor Martin Mullaney (Lib Dem, Moseley & Kings Heath) seems to know something about my nightwear of choice:

Obviously he’s right, the evidence is there on my pyjamas and in my occasional grumpy posts on this blog (entries on Created in Birmingham and on Social Media use by local councils are examples I guess). In general though I do try to produce evidence to legitimise my grumpiness. I’d like to apologise for those occasions when I have failed to do that and just released my grumpiness into the ether, to hang there like a bad smell.

Mullaney had reason to make his accusation because I’d been grumpy about his response to an article on the city council press office website about smoking on TV. It wasn’t so much Mullaney’s protest at the bandwagon-jumping nature of the article that made me grumpy, more his ‘nanny state’ remark in response to it. It’s one of those expressions, like ‘political correctness gone mad’, that’s usually the recourse of someone who has run out of ideas about how to engage in public debate.

I must resist engaging with political types on twitter as it never ends with the non-politician winning. But to a degree I enjoy it; it makes me think a little about what it would be like to enter politics myself…

Anyway, the whole exchange is here:

#hyperwm2012 – a podcast

#hyperwm 2012Instead of my usual class today I took the students to an unconference (a first for almost all of them). This was the third outing of Hyperlocal Govcamp West Midlands which is “for people working or interested in Local Government in the West Midlands to get together for a few hours and talk about their work.”

Given previous events featured discussions about how to make better use of Social Media it seemed a safe bet, and it was, that it would be on-topic for my students (all studying my Social Media as Culture module).

After the event we sat together and recorded some reflections about the sessions we’d attended and the ways in which social media was discussed by delegates. The cast of characters here is very international (three from China, one from Lithuania, one from Brazil and two from here in the West Midlands). Enjoy.

MA Social Media – big tick

The MA Social Media course I run at Birmingham City University has been accredited. It has a big tick from an organisation called Creative Skillset, a body that speaks on behalf of the media and creative industries in relation to skills issues.

Big TickI’m most pleased about this. The course had its fair share of criticism before it even began with my colleague Jon Hickman taking most of the flack (the course documents were even the subject of an FOI request). So many thanks to Jon for designing a course that has now had the recognition it deserves. He thought a balance of theory and practice would work and it does; what’s more the students value it, as Skillset found out when they talked to them.

The student voice played a key part here and credit to Skillset for spending quite a bit of time with them (and with some industry reps) on the day of the accreditation visit. I had both home and distance leaners on hand to feed back and all did me proud. In fact all 25 students who have gone through the course have done me proud.

I suspect the ‘tick’ may help a little with recruitment even if one doesn’t know or care who Skillset are; the concept of ‘accreditation’ travels internationally and offers some kind of assurance that the course is of value. Well here’s hoping anyway.

Social Media in the Public Sector

Here’s a podcast I put together from a conference I chaired today called ‘Social Media in the Public Sector‘. The students on the MA Social Media degree I lead had been doing podcasts last week (ably taught by Caroline Beavon) so I thought I best join in the fun.

The conference was very much of a traditional format, it’s almost as if the unconference approach taken by the localgovcamp movement is happening in a parallel universe. The speakers were good and on the 17 minute recording below I speak to (in order):

  • Jane Postlethwaite, Social Media Officer, Brighton and Hove City CouncilAlex – NHS London
  • Paul Melhuish, Digital News Editor, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
  • Alex Talbott, Communications Officer, NHS London
  • Amanda Coleman, Head of Corporate Communications, Greater Manchester Police
  • Professor Vlatka Hlupic, Professor of Business and Management, Westminster Business School
  • I then speak to a few audience members, two from the UK Border Agency and two from local councils in the south of England.

Hope you find it useful. I always find it interesting to listen to how people are using social media within the workplace.


Copy also on Soundcloud: