American accent – unh!
American accent – unh!
That’s what I kept asking myself, and I wasn’t alone. Other members of the Birmingham bloggers’ group who’d registered to cover the conference were also considering what they might write, if they should right anything. Why were they there?
I know why I was there. Because I was invited.
It a huge occasion and I’m delighted I went. One blogger has described this invitation to local web folk as a charm offensive. Well charmed I have been. Partly by the warm and relaxed welcome from Rishi Saha, the Conservative’s head of social media, but also by the sheer scale and energy of the event. It is the first conference in Birmingham I’ve found with such a huge fringe. Events leach into the rest of the city centre. One massive conversation, much of it in very high heels.
It is also the only conference where it is not just up to us as a city to make a good impression. Sure we need to be our normal hospitable self, but equally the Tories need to make a good impression on us.
I’ve been to Conservative party conferences before as a BBC political reporter. I’ve covered huge events in Birmingham – notably the G8 conference. That was easy. I knew my job was to tell the overall story – the mainstream consensus. If possible I should also find an exclusive something – but that something still had to satisfy a mass audience – or rather the editors who judge what interests that audience. This time it was harder.
Then it dawned on me why a blogger should got to any political party conference: to write about the things they normally write about.
My niche is that curious overlap between active citizenship, citizen journalism, social media, mainstream journalism and local government.
It is a mishmash of a place and any party conference is riddled with material that fits my normal area of interest. Oddly this only occurred to me late this afternoon.
Tis the fringe stupid: Bloggers are perfectly suited to one particular part of a major conference – the fringe. It is there the fit happens, the wider the range of blogging interests present the greater the depth of coverage we will get from these events.
So tomorrow I’ll be back to share a story or two and hopefully they will be the things my normal readers want to to read.
I’ve got real concerns about this (see the bottom of the post). According to this news release it will:
• establish a comprehensive public information and awareness and child internet safety campaign across Government and industry including a ‘one-stop shop’ on child internet safety;
• provide specific measures to support vulnerable children and young people, such as taking down illegal internet sites that promote harmful behaviour;
• promote responsible advertising to children online; and
• establish voluntary codes of practice for user-generated content sites, making such sites commit to take down inappropriate content within a given time.
“Every parent will know that know that video games and the internet are a part of childhood like never before. This is extremely positive; giving kids the opportunities to learn to have fun and communicate in ways that previous generations could only dream of. But it can also present a huge challenge to parents and other adults involved in the welfare of children.
“That this why we need industry, regulators and parents to work together to protect children against the risks. Setting up UKCISS was a key recommendation in my report and I’m delighted that the Government along with industry, education, law enforcement, and the children’s charities have acted so promptly to make this a reality. “The Council will be a powerful union of some of our key players giving support to parents and guidance to children as they come more and more accustomed to the virtual world – it will also give families, teachers and most importantly children and young people the ability to input experiences and concerns. The UK is a world leader on internet safety for children and I look forward to others adopting this partnership approach.”
I’m worried this organisation will be risk averse, burdened with the pr fear of any internet abuse being laid at it’s door. Already the government has been looking for ways to police the internet.
The country that manages to balance the risk/opportunity that the web represents for young people is the one that will be best placed to enjoy the economic benefits on offer. Having run a quango once, I know that you don’t create an energetic and imaginative attitude to risk by creating a new quango.
However it is easy to carp. I think UKCCIS should start with teachers. If we can warm them up to the possibilities that come with an open attitude to the internet, rather than a closed or mistrustful one, we then have a hope of encouraging them to teach children to manage risk rather than run from the slightest suggestion of it. Until teachers have high levels of digital literacy we’ll struggle to have schools that are anything but freakishly fearful of the web.
A simple summary from Steven L Clift about key ingredients for government websites if they are to help strengthen democracy:
The typical e-government experience is like walking into a barren room
with a small glass window, a singular experience to the exclusion of
other community members. There is no human face, just a one-way process
of paying your taxes, registering for services, browsing the
information that the government chooses to share, or leaving a private
complaint that is never publicly aired. You have no ability to speak
with a person next to you much less address your fellow citizen
browsers as a group. As I’ve said for years, it is ironic that the best
government web-sites are those that collect your taxes, while those
that give you a say on how your taxes are spent are the worst or simply
do not exist.
In summary he says websites should be like streets with places to meet and talk. I suppose Steven means government sites should be social objects in their own right.
According to the FT the Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, thinks he may be able to not just control product placement in TV programmes but also on the web!. To quote from Neville Hobson’s blog post (nice spot Neville)
Andy Burnham, culture secretary, said the government had an economic interest in protecting standards in UK broadcasting because they were “part of Britain’s brand when it comes to world markets”.
No worries, you might think, there’s always the internet. But they’ve got that covered, too:
[...] And in comments that may alarm the digital media industry, he suggested that the government should have a role in ensuring the same standards were met on the internet as on television and radio.
“If a clip on YouTube gets a million hits, it is akin to broadcasting and it doesn’t seem to me to be too difficult to have an alert on that clip, an alert for violence or for sex,” Mr Burnham said.
Oh dear. Someone somewhere is confused.
So what are they gonna do? Count every time every online video is watched? Which ones – the ones made in the UK, uploaded to the UK, available in the UK? Just the ones on Youtube?
Then what? When a video reaches a certain popularity a crack team of digital nano cleaners (perhaps we could call them Civil Surf) will swoop into the interwebs and pixelate out any potentially placed product – or maybe re-arrange the ones and noughts so they look like Andy Burnham?
Or they could ban British production companies from putting products in video which may appear on the web – and in the process kill one of this countries fastest growing wealth creating industries.
Overall a sad, sad, idea.
Perhaps it does reveal how government is already thinking about ways in which it should/could control the internet when it no longer is able to regulate the media through the current mechanism of owning the bandwidth.
Update: Sunday 15th. Here’s a link to the speech itself: Some quotes:
With so much of the online world untrusted, I feel we should preserve standards of accuracy, impartiality and trustworthiness, rather than dismantle them. People still use the internet and TV for different reasons and with different expectations and we mustn’t forget that.
But the penetration of the internet to all of our lives, means that I think that people don’t want it to feel like the wild west. Things some people accept as inevitable in terms of governance, I believe we should question.
Why? Because as, for example, Tanya Byron finds in her report there is a climate of anxiety, as well as opportunity that surrounds new technology.
You do have to stop and think when you read a quote from a nine-year old boy in Tanya’s report about whether we are sufficiently controlling this online world in which our children are roaming. It’s funny but it does make a very important point. He said: “I’m worried I’ll get lost on the internet and find I’ve suddenly got a job in the army or something.”
It made me laugh and I’m glad it made you laugh too but I think it makes an important point.
I think it’s well worth a read. He’s thinking through some important problems – yet the instinct to control rather than educate is the wrong one. It goes back to the simple reality that we should teach our children to cross the road – not prevent them going anywhere near a road.
I’ve just played the online consultation game from the Department of Children and Families. You can find it here www.dcsf.gov.uk/playspace. Sorry to the folk at the department if I’ve slightly skewed the result. I ticked the over 13 button (which is true) as were the rest of my answers.
I expected to be very dismissive of the game but I was instead interested. It was an intelligent way to use a simple game to narrow down who was sharing their opinions. Allowing choices of things to go on the playground as a reward was a good idea (I immediately chose the treehouse, tunnel and den – why wouldn’t you!). The main problem with the game as a tool for consultation is I have no real incentive to work my way through to the the end. However it might work as a social object – to encourage a group of people to talk about what they want from play areas. It is also only one game – so inevitably won’t be well enough targeted for different age groups.
There is a separate online questionnaire, which I imagine is where the department is really expecting to get useful data. This, and all the other information could do with being more smoothly integrated. At the moment the game has it’s own set of pages, the rest simply appears on the web in a way which suits the department internal bureaucracy rather than the user. The game ought to have it’s own site with all the other information radiating out from that. It also would work best as w widget or some sort of onlne object which can be integrated into other people’s sites, myspace pages etc. Then the audience can distribute the consultation.