This morning has made the whole Our Digital Planet experience worthwhile for me. The first customer into the unit was Ron, who happily told us he was 84 and had on interest in the internet at all. But he was interested in photography, and had been looking at some of the photos in the exhibition. So, Rachael from Nominet Trust took him on a tour of the images. Ron came back into the Internet Station enthusing about the big image of old Bristol on the side of the unit, and reminiscing about the trams in Croydon where he used to live. So, Rachael showed him some online images of Croydon trams. Ron was pretty amazed about how easy it was to find such things, and, within minutes he was asking us to look for some pictures of himself dancing in a nightclub, which he had been told were on Facebook. We didn’t manage to find them. but we did find images of some of the places where he was due to go on holiday and trip advisor ratings for them, which he found fascinating. Ron’s a photographer and a painter, and, when he realised that he could upload photos and images of his paintings, he left bubbling with enthusiasm and promising to come back.
John Popham is working for us and Nominet Trust in Bristol for the next couple of weeks. He popped this up on his blog last night.
Today was my first day as Internet Station Manager on Nominet Trust’s Our Digital Planet Exhibition. Our Digital Planet is a touring exhibition highlighting the benefits of the internet, and the Internet Station is an portacabin where people whose interest in the internet is stimulated can come to learn more about any aspect they are unsure of. The estimable Lloyd Davis has already done a stint in the role when the Exhibition was on Brighton seafront, and he will also be guiding it in Cardiff, while I will be back in Liverpool and Glasgow. In all this, we are working with the amazing Nick Booth, and his team at Podnosh Ltd.
In truth, it was a fairly slow day, a useful gentle introduction for me to the initiative, and I was fortunate to be working alongside Kieron Kirkland and Vicki Hearn from the Trust who were able to show me the ropes. A Monday in the middle of a shopping centre, was probably always going to be a quiet day. But, already some interesting issues are starting to emerge. This is true Digital Inclusion activity. Some of the people who approached us had very little knowledge of the internet at all. Nearly all were frightened, about giving away too much information about themselves, about losing money to scams, and about breaking something. They faced multiple barriers to getting online, but a common factor was fear engendered by media scare stories.
It was evident as well, that quite a few of the people who came along had literacy problems. It amazes me that many people who promote the digital inclusion agenda fail to take into account that a fairly high degree of literacy is needed to use the internet, and that, many who don’t go online avoid it for precisely that reason. But, there were a variety of reasons for being there, and not all were total beginners; including the young woman living in a hostel who came in to look at photos of her son on Facebook because there is only one, very slow, computer in her hostel. There was the man who wanted to know how to “unfriend” someone who had been sending him threatening messages on Facebook. And there was the man who wanted to know how to search for cheap coach fares to Blackpool, before going to challenge the ticket sellers at the Bus Station to beat the online price.
One of the interesting queries was from the young woman who came in under the mistaken impression that we were selling broadband packages. She explained that she had no internet connection at home because her previous supplier had been too expensive. “I’m not paying that for broadband,” she said; “that’s a holiday”. I helped her search for a cheaper supplier. Which shows up the great irony. How do you search for the best broadband package when you don’t have access to the internet to do so?
The Big Society Awards were set up by the Prime Minister in November 2010 to acknowledge individuals and organisations across the UK that demonstrate the Big Society in their work or activities. The aim is also to galvanise others to follow. David Cameron said this about the surgeries:
“This is an excellent initiative – such a simple idea and yet so effective. The popularity of these surgeries and the fact that they have inspired so many others across the country to follow in their footsteps, is testament to its brilliance.
“Congratulations to Nick and all the volunteers who have shared their time and expertise to help so many local groups make the most of the internet to support their community. A great example of the Big Society in action.”
Thank you for such kind words – to which we responded formally with:
“It’s wonderful to have recognition for everyone who has organised a social media surgery or turned up to volunteer their help. I think the surgeries work because they are simple. They are very easy to organise, fun to do and not in the least bit intimidating for people who want some help. They give active citizens and community groups the confidence and skills to use social media to campaign, organise and hold power to account. They’ve grown because of the passion and energy of bloggers and voluntary groups up and down the country.”
The idea of a social media surgery originated with Pete Ashton – who used them with people who were looking for free help from his consultancy supporting arts organisations. We then applied the relaxed approach in a new way, scaling it up and putting together two sets of people – lovely helpers from the Birmingham Bloggers group (started in 2007) with the fab active citizens I’d had met through Read more
Thank you Kate Hughes for being so kind on your blog post for the seven links blogging idea – one which encourages bloggers to talk about some of their older blog posts and share who they follow and read. I’ve also read Dan Slee’s post on the same, full of more inspiration.,
Not normally my thing but it’s good to do things differently.
So what seven links from back in my blog do I want to share with you under the chosen categories
1 My Most Beautiful Post: Perhaps curious is a better word for Why doesn’t government have reservists. It was written just after Christmas 2008 at the time the Labour government was pouring cash into the economy to try and see us through a recession. The question provoked wonderful, intelligent responses in the comments section, 2 years later the post prompted an invitation to meet Nat Wei (hello Nat) and was re-vamped for the world of big society. It’s beauty? Simple half finished ideas shared is one of the joys of blogging.
2 My most popular post: Read more