Posts Tagged ‘New Media’

Digital scrutiny: the web’s the tool

Posted on 12th May 2010 by

While I’ve watched the election drama unfold over the last few days I’ve been busy trying to finish off the first stage of my digital scrutiny project – which is looking into how it might be possible to use the web to help the public scrutinise local government.

My idea has turned into a blog – Where Can We Swim – that I’m busy trying to develop as a sort of laboratory for the scrutiny of swimming pool provision. At the heart of my idea is a basic belief that we – the public – in all our great unwashed glory, might be able to help to run public facilities – not just as volunteers, but because we’re clever and can actually come up with new ways of doing things.

A reappraisal
When I started the project I hoped to develop a kind of tool kit for scrutiny. I even imagined I’d be scraping data in order to provide really good quality information. But my assumptions were totally off. By posting about my swimming pools idea on Podnosh I’ve learned of the work that Plings has done to find out all the local authorities providing free swimming to under 16s.

The Where can I swim for free site

This has made me think about how this provision will continue in the future. I’ve also realised the mines of local information that exist from websites locally, like the Moseley Road Bath’s excellent updates on swimming pool news in Birmingham and are helping to keep an eye on how the city council runs its pools.

Swimming around the web
And, when I first encountered the daftness of the Active Places data set run by Sport England (the store for all the country’s public sporting facilities), I imagined I’d spend my time trying to unlock the data, but it turns out that the folk at Rewired State have already had a crack at it.

What all this is beginning to prove is that my idea of a tool kit makes no sense whatsoever. Instead it’s pretty simple really: the web’s the tool. The real trick – something I’m only beginning to understand – is learning to use it to make connections between you and other people who have the same idea. And, if you do that, then suddenly all sorts of clever things begin to happen.

What happened at the May Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery

Posted on 12th May 2010 by

May Social Media Surgery

After some very busy surgeries recently, May’s was small, but perfectly formed. Emma Neil and Hannah Severn from The Birmingham Conservation Trust got help from Gavin Wray and Nick Booth with their blogging work for the trust. Both Emma and Hannah are volunteering for the Trust and have been doing some really interesting stuff since coming to the Central Birmingham surgery a couple of months ago.

They’ve both been blogging assiduously for a while now, on a variety of different subjects for the Trust, as you can see here and here. They also write reviews of local history books, which allows the trust to raise small aounts of money through the Amazon affiliate system.

This time they learned, in particular, about Google Analytics because they’d been worried that too few people were commenting on their posts on the site, as this video interview with Hannah (left) and Emma (right) explains.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32uCoQvtxDs]

Emma and Hannha weren’t the only people to come down – even if we happened to pick the moment the UK got its first coalition government in 70 years. Anna Watson, from Localise West Midlands, was down for her first surgery – and seemed to really enjoy it. Heidi Blanton, who was down to help as a surgeon for the second time,  helped Anna to learn about Twitter, WordPress and other forms of social media.

We also had a visit from Dr Monika Metykova – who is a media and communications research associate at Goldsmith’s. Monika is conducting some really interesting research into changes in media consumption and production – and was down to learn about what we’re doing at the Social Media Surgery. She also got a little bit of help from Simon Gray on setting up a Twitter account. Monika said she was particularly surprised how quickly it is possible to make some really significant, useful steps towards understanding social media at a surgery.

In the video she explains a little bit about the context of her research and how her visit to the Social Media Surgery fits into that.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DC8RxuVrkv8]

Review: March’s Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery

Posted on 12th March 2010 by

Jamie and Jean work on the Civic Centre Residents' Association blog

At another brilliant Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery in thestudio we saw a host of exciting and interesting projects either getting off the ground or being developed still further. (more…)