An Audioboo asynchronous conversation (almost)

For some time, I’ve been thinking about how to use Audioboo in a non-broadcast sort of way.  Think about it.  It’s like radio but with an audience of one or not many.  Most of us use Audioboo in ‘broadcast mode’ meaning that we are making a piece of what used to be callled ‘sound radio’.  We make it, they listen to it [eof].  But it doesn’t need to be like that.

The Audioboo site recognises this in that once you’ve listened to a Boo; you are encouraged to comment in text.  But you could BooBack (hah) which is what I did with Rory.  Here is his Audioboo:

And here is mine in response:

Now, it’s not a conversation yet – but it could be.  Rory tweeted this:

A conversational element
A conversational element

The following day, I made another Audioboo

Which is relevant.  But there it stops.  A conversation that never developed.  But it could.  It still might.  ‘Think on Lad” as my Yorkshire Grandma used to say.

b.tween09 global collaboration – how it felt

A real collaborative project.
We started something yesterday.

Peolpe talk on different levels
People talk on different levels

Feeling about it – a very odd feeling seeing how the work came back where somebody, I don’t know who or where, has worked on it adding ideas and their own thinking.  If the work  had changed dramatically, then we might have had a problem.  As it was, it had changed a fair bit from our original idea but it hadn’t gone a long way; not much time.  If there had been a bifurcation and they’d gone off in a totally different direction.  If we’d got it  back and thought “That’s absolutely not what we were thinking.”  then there might have been the potential for conflict.  They couldn’t know our pattern of thinking and we had no communication with them; all they got from us were a few slides.

We’ve actually come up with quite a good idea.  But the issue emerges – how do we continue it?  What mechanisms do we have for sustaining that type of collaborative work.  I’m hoping that other people around the world will be thinking about how we implement.

Here is one version of our reworked material (others here):

b.tween09 Collaboration interspersed with shopping

colllabInsights from collaboration experience

Really good discussion with interesting ‘play’ between arty publishing people on the platform and ‘geek-ridden’ audience.

A lot of the geekier people want to use lots of wizzy social media tools.  Speakers suggested it might be a good idea to sit round a table and talk to people before haring off doing systems development.  One thing I do agree with is the need and importance of chemistry – between the people  – in making collaboration work.  Session a bit on the ‘rose tinted’ glasses side of things.

b.tween09 – big ideas

btween09
10-12 June 2009

A fabulous event in Liverpool that still has me thinking about the issues and means that I have to blog about it.  This event really does try to ‘boundary cross’ – between the arts and technology, social media, music, geeks, non-geeks (not many!) and businesses (could be more).  Overall a great event and I learnt a lot.

Here is some stuff on the opening and on the importance of narrative. The importance of stories keeps coming up in events.  Especially events that have someting to do with social media.  We neglect stories at our peril!

Can the Internet win the next election?

Bloggers think ‘No, but it can probably lose it’

Last week’s elections and the political fallout have placed in context, for me, the event I went to at the Frontline Club on 28 May about how the Internet might play a part in the next election.  The participants were:

  • Iain Dale, Conservative blogger at Iain Dale’s Diary
  • Alex Smith, recently appointed Editor of the LabourList.org
  • Adam Boulton, Political Editor, Sky News (Chair)
  • Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes)
  • Matthew Macgregor of Blue State Digital (the company that worked for the Obama campaign
(l-r) Iain Dale, Alex Smith, Adam Boulton, Paul Staines, Matthew Macgregor
(l-r) Iain Dale, Alex Smith, Adam Boulton, Paul Staines, Matthew Macgregor

I made contemporaneous notes and also some Audioboo content which is available here.  A bit of background to the event here:

Everyone in ‘Broadcast Mode’ needs to ‘get with the program’

iain-dale
Iain Dale - political blogger

Iain Dale  (pictured left) believes that the internet will impact individual MPs (mostly through revealing things they don’t want revealed I suspect) but that the overall ‘systemic’ effect of the internet will be small.

He agrees that the next General Election will be the first where mobile phones and social media will really begin to play a part and where bloggers will cause changes in the news cycle:

“We get more hits every day than all the 3 main parties put together”

He said referring to the traffic generated by his blog and by Guido Fawkes’.

The problem is the main parties are in ‘Broadcast Mode’ and that given British politics is driven by ‘controlling the message’ the level of interactivity of social media is a challenge.  As Matthew Macgregor said “The internet is a tactic not a strategy” and that it lowers the barriers to communication (especially inbound to the Party) but how real is the commitment to ‘openness and transparency’.  The reaction of the media to policy discussions driven by social media will, Matthew believes, be instructive; will the shutters come down once the media starts talking about ‘splits’.

“There’s nothing to click on other than ‘Unsubscribe'” – Matthew Macgregor

Alex Smith believes that “The Internet will play a crucial role in the next election” – he mentions viral video and the possibility of debate being shaped by the internet.  He argues that the internet has “already effectively removed one of the Prime Minister’s closest political aides” and that the next election will to some extent be driven by stories that will “break on the web”.  Alex believes that Paul and Iain have a huge impact on the media cycle and thinks that this will be an important factor.  All the panelists agreed that the Internet strategies of the main parties were poor at best.

Boulton’s shock hashtag confession

At one point when talking about social media and the internet Adam Boulton said he didn’t know what a hashtag was (and I don’t think he was joking!) and references to the internet seemed to feel like references to some kind of monolithic bloc.  Alex picked up the point that realtime interaction driven by things like Twitter might be important.  Adam seemed to think that a Sky news team would always be faster on the ground.

The next Boo starts with the voices of Alex Smith (interesting references to Alan Johnson) and then Iain Dale.  I round off with a few thoughts.

The next Boo has ‘reportage’ – skip it if you feel you have enough of a flavour from the text above.

Reflections and implications

The format worked well with a fairly formal panel session followed by various panelists joining tables and moving between courses.  The informal part of the event was really good – we had Iain Dale and Alex Smith and the comments and discussion were very engaging.

The event would have been improved by a more discursive (and less ‘Question Time’) approach by the chair.  Also, having a chair who seemed quite cheerful to admit that he didn’t ‘get’ the internet seems odd – but then presumably Adam ‘Hashtag’ Boulton was a draw for the ‘punters’ (especially the non-geeks)!  All in all though a minor criticism.

There were two main things I took away to think about:

  • The importance of internet aggregation in realtime and increasing symmetry of communication,
  • The potential for independent candidates to harness the power of the internet to disintermediate the major parties.

More thoughts in the next Audioboo:

Sometimes it needs stating . . .

There was a bit of noise on Twitter both during media140 and after it on the extent of ‘obvious stating’ going on at the event.  Much of this comment was of a critical nature – ‘they don’t get it’; referring to the somewhat Twitter-sceptical journalists in the room.  The bigger players there (Sky and the BBC) indulged in a bit of un-necessary and rather tedious sparring.  Both of them, I suppose, feeling secure in their knowledge that their respective ‘market’ power and ‘broadcast’ mode will leave them largely unchanged by the openess and pervasiveness of social media generally and Twitter in particular. Hmmm.

Following media140, I’ve been reading blogs and the press coverage – reportage mostly; who said what and with little commentary or analysis about what it all means.  Perhaps it’s too scary for the Potential Legacy Media (currently known as MSM) to think about?  And sometimes that means the obvious needs a bit of stating.

Wordle based on media140 liveblog

As part of the ‘post match’ coverage there was an interesting if largely self-referential segment on pods and blogs on R5Live with journalists and a thoughtful comment from Mark Jones of Reuters who also provided some excellent comment and analysis on his Reuters blog.

Realtime coverage

I used Audioboo and Scribblelive at the event.  I also generated the wordle above based on my liveblog.  You can find the liveblog here and ‘hat tips’ to contributors here.

Those of you who liveblog events will know the level of concentration it needs.  Using Scribblelive actually increases the level of complexity as you try to bring in other people’s tweets, try to avoid too much duplication (most sole tweeters at events do so in realtime and there’s often duplication in the aggregated stream).  Trying to join in, provide some realtime feedback and combine inputs is ‘not for the faint-hearted’ as the Scribblelive people say!

In the next sections, I provide some thoughts on media140 after reflecting on the issues, the coverage and my own liveblog and Audioboos made at the time; I name the presenters in the Audioboos and you can also refer to the Agenda.

The 140 Character story

This panel kept bouncing off the argument – they had a silly discussion about whether Twitter was journalism or not.  And we kind of forgot the ‘realtime news’ tagline of the entire event.  What was missing for me was:

  • What the aggregation of information carried across Twitter enables (the analogy from Bill Thompson of the Twitter  ‘seismograph’ is insightful);
  • The speed at which news can propagate through memes and hashtags and the level of self-organisation enabled by this form of cooperative production (Retweets, comments, links to blog posts, realtime and near realtime video streams and websites); and,
  • The need to filter true signals from the sheer noise and volume of the information available.

Sources, editorial control and workflow

The panel did discuss the risks of ‘opening up’ the news process and the potential impacts on the way news is made and perceived.  I wonder what happens to the ‘news cycle’ in a General Election when many of us have access to realtime video production on our mobile phones or can report events directly as they happen over Twitter?  We’ll find out soon!

The panel focused on the risks.   An example of the risks seems to have been happening while the event was on, but I’m not sure anyone realised it.

twitterspam Skynews.com used Coveritlive to add a Tweetstream to their site.  There seems to have been no filtering so there was lots of spam.  And seemingly little editorial control over the Tweets.  Just what risks Sky may have been running can be imagined; the links to ‘goldencasinoflash’ could have been links to anything.  Anything at all….

untibpc-spamtMy Tweets were being carried live by Skynews also – even though I was effectively doing competing realtime coverage using a rival platform to Sky.  I don’t know to what extent there was active editorial control of the Tweetstream – the amount of spam they let through might suggest very little?

Frontline Journalism

One of the few times in the event when the room went really quiet and people listened really hard was when Guy Degen, freelance journalist and a member of the Frontline Club, played some audio and video footage from Tblisi.  He was sent there on his own for Deutsche Welle; he had no gear and no time to get any, no crew and used a mobile phone to cover a riot. Frontline indeed.

Kevin Anderson was insightful on the impact of social media on reporting on a roadtrip style assignment in the USA.

Local and human

Local news = newspapers? #fail

Joanne Jacobs ably chaired the final panel session and brought the whole event back pretty much on time so kudos to her.  It was an interesting and stimulating panel – and you can pick up some of the flavour of the discussion from pp 6-8 of the liveblog.

Given what’s happening in local and regional news, the discussion after the short presentations seemed to spiral into being about newspapers.  But surely local news is going to be much more than papers – but I can see there’s a painful transition to go through for a lot of people.  Some of the more ‘gung ho’ social mediarati might like to think about that.

No-one mentioned the ‘backchannel’

The backchannel (what happens in the social media space during an event or presentation) didn’t get a mention.

Here’s an example from media140:

Use the backchannel!
Use the backchannel!

I first came across the backchannel in tech conferences in the USA about 5 years ago – using chat room software over local wireless networks and, in some instances allowing external participants ‘listening-in’ to audio streams to interact with the chat.  All these messages were projected on a screen behind the speaker so it was generally impossible both to present to the audience and watch the backchannel at the same time.  The backchannel often had more stimulating and interesting stuff on it than was happening on the panel.  And dangerous sometimes for both speaker and audience.  I remember taking my PowerBook onto the stage and using it in a panel session both to contribute to the backchannel and comment on what other panelists were saying.  Apparently, this was unusual at the time.  The audience reaction was interesting!

So it seems to me that the Potential Legacy Media faces the same risks as a pompous or tedious speaker in perpetual broadcast mode with an active backchannel.  Like a politician giving the answer to a question the interviewer didn’t ask, the risks of audience alienation are high.  And when the real backchannel turns against you, as it has for our MPs recently, life can get very unpleasant.

Being Human and Connecting

Jeff Pulver over a quite good Skype video link finished off on an optimistic note.  We can move from a position where the one-way broadcast mode can become much more interactive.  It has to be more than ‘promotion’; it must be much more about connection.  Above all, it’s about being human and taking that humanity with us into social media spaces and connecting.

Dystopia, myopia, fatalism?

Can we ‘hack’ our way to Environment 2.0 or are we too Human 1.0 to cope?

Adam Greenfield’s talk at Futuresonic last week was insightful; how cities will look and how we will use them once networked sensors are embedded in pretty much everything, pretty much everywhere.   I liveblogged it using scribblelive here.  You can see the way he developed the argument and the way some of the tweeters to #futr09 reacted.

Photo credit: Aeioux
Photo credit: Aeioux

But what really galvanised the audience and set the tweets flying was an apparently casual remark right at the end of his session in response to questions.  What most of us thought he said was along the lines that sustainability wasn’t possible and we should all just do our best to make whatever time we have left valuable.

bombshell5

This rather punctured the somewhat gung-ho ‘tech can solve it’ bubble blown by Jamais Cascio in his heckled-by-a-drunk-person and subsequently much-blogged opening keynote.  You can see a liveblog by Martin Bryant here which gives you a ‘feel’ for the gala event.  The idea that we can ‘Hack the Earth’ in some massive geo-engineering intervention is a big, scary idea and was presented in a deliberately provocative  way.  It seems to me that we’ve already hacked the poor old Earth about rather a lot.   Tech-driven re-hacking of what is a deeply non-linear system where we’re not too certain we can model next week’s weather carries perhaps a few additional risks.  But rather than get dragged into that, what I really want to focus on was both the reaction to Cascio’s thinking and the much more stunned interpretation of Greenfield’s remarks as being ‘we’re all doomed and there’s no point trying’.

The false poles of optimism and pessimism

We got back to Greenfield’s remarks at the end of Roland Harwood’s session on Deciphering Trust in Networked Innovation where there was some discussion and I raised the issue of ‘the guy from Nokia’ when Adam’s name went right out of my head at the crucial moment (sorry Adam!).  The following extract from the indefatigable Martin Bryant’s liveblog illustrates the point:

harwood1

And from then on, we ended up labelling those who believe that we can ‘fix it’ with the support of wizzy technology, like Cascio, ‘the optimists’ and anyone holding a negative view, like Greenfield, ‘the pessimists’.  It wasn’t really possible to develop the arguments from then on – the labels stuck and the polarity increased.  Which was inevitable, I suppose, but a shame.

Deal with it ‘in the now’

Greenfield was trying, I think, to make a much more subtle and nuanced point – that feeling we ‘might not make it’ shouldn’t stop us doing the right thing.  That the future vision of the City with its open sensor-based networks and connected people could flip into dystopia.  That ‘optimisim’ could actually be myopia and unwillingness to confront the reality of our situation.  There is much more to this than ‘hacking’ our way into the Earth’s geocode; Cascio points out the risk of hubris in that.  The idea that we have enough control of ourselves, let alone sufficient understanding of the potential system impacts of what we do, to be effective may be an illusion.  So perhaps, the best we can do, is deal with what we can deal with and make sure we keep our values in mind.

Adopting digital behaviours in real life . . .

How do currents develop?  How do we not lose stuff?
Where does everything go?

img_0813Artist Lanfranco Asceti gave a charming presentation on how, when we are creating a record in the flow of information through digital behaviour, we create the potential for conflicts with ‘real life’.

Lanfranco uses a transmedia artistic approach to investigate the intersections (or not) between the digital world and the real world.

His presentation began with a video made as part of his artistic process in seeing how messages are transmitted.  “How can we understand the flows of messages?”.  He has thrown a message in a bottle  to his friend Henry Jenkins, a Professor at MIT, into the sea in Istanbul.

The question is?

Will Henry Jenkins hear about it?

The most compelling image for me is of the bottle being thrown into the harbour and then ‘bouncing’ back out and into the thrower’s hand.  Made me think of e-mail bouncing or of servers being repeatedly ‘pinged’.

We are throwing bottles in the sea with a message to Henry Jenkins as well as throwing a message in the sea of the information of social networks on Facebook to see if Henry Jenkins will stumble upon the event online first or will receive the message in a bottle. The object of the game is to see if and how he will find out about the project.

I’ve also been thinking for a while now about ‘where do all the tweets go?’ and what ephemera now means in the Digital Age.  And as the ‘digital noise’ in our social media environment increases how do we deal with what is likely to become a decreasing ‘signal to noise’ ratio.  I see the development of new kinds of social media tools – ‘inference engines’ that help us to locate what they think we might be interested in.   Prioritising our attention will become a key skill in digital engagement.  Lanfranco suggests that the issue of voice and the need for a very varied network is important in ensuring that no one voice can speak with unquestioned authority.  This will be an interesting and innovative driver of behaviours across the world.

Digital squatting the Googleplex –
artists occupying  digital space

googleplex

Lanfranco is also a ‘Digital Squatter’, running exhibitions on ‘Google’s territory’ in virtual space.  Who owns the virtual space?  Layering information over Googleplex.  He also squatted at Tate Modern and a few others.  Just to see what happened.  You can find out about it here.

He argues that the ownership of digital space needs thinking about – and talked about how there are dangers in the alerting and reporting of activity in digital sapace, he says

“reporting” over the internet is the moral equivalent of the Stasi

And that we will all be turned into ‘digital informers’ as we monitor our digital ‘neighbours’ through our Net curtains.  One to think about that.

Futuresonic 2009

100 Years of Climate Change

midnight-flowersWe piled into the mini-bus after the opening event at www.futuresonic.com in Manchester.  About 15 of us and the artists behind the project.  The idea is to experience the same temperature change caused by 100 years of climate change (about 2 degrees) by walking through a Manchester microclimate.

We arrive in a street in Trafford and are given mp3 players which will guide us through the experience.  We walk and the somewhat hypnotic voice guides us.  Also does good jokes!  It’s light-hearted but striking.  You can hear a bit of a recording I made using Audioboo here as we went on the event.  And my thoughts this morning here.

Thanks and congratulations to Yara El-Sherbini, Drew Hamment, Carlo Buontempo and Alfie Dennan.

digital-citizen.co.uk

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