Say it with a cartoon: what is social media?

[Summary: Reducing complex ideas to < 50 words and three frames… with an easy online tool]

The cartoon is a maligned medium (well, I've certainly been guilty of maligning cartoons in the past…). But I've recently discovered how effective a medium the basic cartoon can be for expressing ideas in an accessible way. Or to put it differently:

The value of cartoons

The cartoon above was put together in a few minutes using It's doesn't quite allow one to achieve the lightness of touch of Dave Walker, or the visual feast of a Joe Sacco cartoon – but it does make it easy to create a quick cartoon online and get an image you can download and use.

Much in the same way that I found the self-imposed limits of the one page guides (more coming soon, I promise…) to help me clarify what mattered about particular online tools, I've found the space limits of just three frames and a couple of speech bubbles is really helpful in boiling down an idea to what is essential about it.

Of course, sometimes ideas resist such boiling down – which is the challenge I'm facing with trying to sum social media in a quick cartoon. I'm writing a guide about the use of multimedia and social media in youth participation, and am trying to set out how the two relate, but are distinct. My first attempt at a cartoon to explain it below:

Multimedia and Social Media

I'm not quite sure that captures it, so I'm heading back to the drawing board to have another go – but I thought it would be good to throw the challenge of 'Explaining social media in a cartoon' out to others.

How would you explain social media in a cartoon?

You can create your own cartoon at without any need to sign up, just hit the 'Create Strip' button…

If there are enough cartoons emerging, perhaps we could create a little gallery?

(BTW: If anyone knows of any other cartoon generating websites – I'd love to hear about them… specially any that offer a more diverse range of characters…)

Socially Responsible Investment for Oxford

[Summary: I like campaigning success. SRI a step closer for Oxford's Investments]

I spent a lot of my time at Oxford working on the University Socially Responsible Investment Campaign – trying to convince Oxford University and it's colleges to make sure their £2bn worth of investments were doing good in the world, and were not invested in weapons manafacturers and other companies with missions completely counter to the values of most of the University body.

Just before I left in 2006 we suceeded in getting a resolution of University Congregation (the top governing body of the University) to create a Socially Responsible Investment committee. We succeeded (long story… ask me about it some time…) and all went quiet.

Oxford SRI Campaign

So I was rather happy to get a note today from my co-campaigner Richard Ollerhead telling me that finally, two years later, the Committe has been created. That doesn't mean Oxford University Investments are out of the Arms Trade yet – but it does provide a much needed opportunity for the University community to have a say over what is done with the money invested in their name.

The full resolution is below, and I've resurected a mirror copy of the old campaign website from 2006 here where you can read a bit more about why Socially Responsible Investment matters…

From the Oxford University Gazette

(a) Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee

In Council Regulations 15 of 2002, concerning committees reporting directly to Council (Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4634, 16 October 2002), insert new regulations 3.81–3.85 below and renumber existing regulations 3.81–3.114 as 3.86–3.119:

'3.81. The Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee shall consist of:

(1) a Chairman appointed by Council who is not a member of Council;

(2) the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research, Academic Services and University Collections) or the Pro- Vice-Chancellor (Education) as shall be determined by Council from time to time;

(3) a member of the Donations Acceptance Review Committee appointed by Council;

(4) a person appointed by Council who shall not be the holder of a teaching or administrative post in the University, or in any college, society, or Permanent Private Hall, and shall bring recent and relevant expertise of investment management to the working of the committee;

(5) a member of Congregation elected by Congregation from members of the faculties in the Divisions of Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences and of Medical Sciences;

(6) a member of Congregation elected by Congregation from members of the faculties in the Divisions of Humanities and of Social Sciences;

(7) a student member appointed by the Executive of the Oxford University Student Union from among their own number.

3.82. The committee shall review the University's policy on socially responsible investment and its implementation at least every five years and submit to Council any changes it may wish to propose.

3.83. The committee shall consider representations concerning the policy on socially responsible investment and proposals to invest or disinvest submitted to it as set out in (1) (a)–(c) below to ensure that they are consistent with the policy statement, seek the views of the Investment Committee on the efficacy and costs of implementation where appropriate, and make a recommendation to Council where appropriate.

(1) Representations concerning the policy on socially responsible investment and proposals to invest or disinvest may be submitted to the committee as follows:

(a) by Council, the Investment Committee or any other committee reporting directly to Council;

(b) by twenty or more members of Congregation;

(c) by a majority resolution of the Council of the Oxford University Student Union.

3.84. The committee shall make such recommendations to Council as it thinks fit on positive or negative screening, or on engagement strategy, in respect of its investments.

3.85. The committee shall make a report to Council annually on the proposals considered under regulation 3.83 (1), on an assessment of the University's investments against its defined policy statement on Socially Responsible Investment and on any other relevant matters, through the General Purposes Committee of Council.'

[These regulations, approved on the recommendation of the Socially Responsible Investment Working Group appointed by Council, establish a new committee to implement changes agreed by Council on 22 May 2006, following the submission of a twenty-member resolution. The committee will (i) act as a conduit for views on Socially Responsible Investment policy, (ii) make recommendations to Council on positive or negative screening, or on engagement strategy, as part of the University's policy on Socially Responsible Investment (published in 'Notices' below), (iii) consider individual investment proposals with a view to making recommendations to Council, and (iv) report annually to the General Purposes Committee on its activities.]

Oxford Internet Institute / Youth Work and Social Networking

Challenges in Youth Work and Social NetworkingOn Monday I gave a presentation to the Ofcom/Oxford Internet Institute seminar on Social Networks about some of what we have discovered so far in the Youth Work and Social Networking research project.

A few people have asked me for the slides – so I've put them up on the project blog over here.

More results from the research will be available soon…

Update: a webcast of the presentation is now online here. My piece starts 59 minutes into session 1.

An invitation to UK Youth Online gathering: 17th May 2008

BarCamp UK Youth Online - 17th May 2008[Summary: you are invited to join in a free informal conference to talk about young people, the internet, opportunities, challenges, and change]

I've been struck again this week by how many people are thinking about young people's use of the internet, and the opportunities for engaging with young people online – but also by how disparate much of the action to move forward on those thoughts is.

More than ever we bring together the different threads of work to see if:

  • We can shared learning between different groups;
  • We can foster conversations across professional boundaries and between sectors;
  • We can build stronger shared understandings of where the world of young people online is heading;
  • We can find spaces to pool efforts and have a bigger impact;

That's where the BarCamp style gathering 'UK Youth Online' taking place on the 17th May comes in. And you're invited. (download your invitation here…)

And you're invited to let others know about it too.

(Oh, and if you do have any links to possible London venues we could use for the event please do get in touch. We're looking for somewhere with space for 50 or so, a couple of break out rooms and internet access. BarCamp's are participant organised gatherings, so right now we're on the look out for where we actually gather…)

Attachment: UK Youth Online – Gathering and conference – 17th May 2008.pdf

7 Cs of Social Media for Participation

I've been thinking a lot recently about the role of technology, multimedia and social media in youth participation. How goes a video project really engage young people? What role does the video play? What about an online forum or a twitter-network? How can we make sure multimedia and social media really enhance the voice of young people in decision making? So, on a delayed train yesterday I sat down to sketch out the different ways in which technology and participation can mix.

The result was the 7 Cs of social media for participation.

7Cs of Social Media for Participation

Multimedia and social media can be used for:

  • Context setting – well prepared online videos, presentations and serious games can provide young people and adults with insights into an issue.

    For example: Creating a common craft style 2 minute video to explain a local area agreement process; Getting the young people from last years youth council to record a training video for next years youth council.

  • Creative expression – Article 13 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child gives young people the right to “receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the forma of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.” In other words – young people a right to share their views through rich and creative multimedia presentations rather than long and boring reports. Social media and multimedia tools afford massive opportunities for young people to share their views and their stories authentically and creatively.

    By preparing a creative high-impact multimedia presentation for a local authority or management board in advance, a group of young people can be sure their message won't get lost on the day.

    For example: Instead of a Q&A session with young people and bosses, recording a podcast interview with them; Exploring different ways for young people to share their stories online and to help decision makers understand how policies and practices affect them;

  • Consultation – it's not just about online surveys. Multimedia consultation might involve electronic voting at events, text-message questionnaires, choosing between options in an online power league, or responding to context-setting audio and video to express a view. Multimedia platforms massively increase the range of ways in which you can ask a question and get in answers from young people.

    For examples: Inviting young people to prioritise an organisations spending using a Power League; Using online maps to consult on where to build new youth provision; Creating dynamic online survey about the local area including pictures and videos to explain each question; Building a 'consultation widget' that can collect ideas from young people across a wide range of websites.

  • Conversation – in consultation you ask, you listen, you (hopefully) act. In conversation, you ask, you listen, you get into the details, you talk some more, you explore ideas and you come up with creative new solutions. Blogs, online discussion forums, web chats and video conferencing all provide ways to open up the conversation to a wide group of young people and create a great record of the conversation for all to see.

    For example: Using an online discussion forum to develop an agenda and campaigns with a youth parliament.

  • Collaboration – youth participation should involve young people sharing in decision making – or should involve young people developing and leading their own projects (with appropriate support). The involves collaboration. And providing platforms for collaboration is something social media is good at. Whether it's a TakingItGlobal project site used to co-ordinate meetings, a facebook group used to send updates to project members or a Google Apps account used to put together a document or presentation – collaboration tools abound online – and provide new opportunities to transparently and participatively build upon conversations and to build towards action.

    For example: Using a project collaboration website to keep work on an issue going between face to face meetings; Developing presentations and documents collaboratively online.

  • Campaigning – social media provides a wealth of ways to communicate a campaign message with a wide audience, and to get people involved in calling for change. Online petitions and pledges, viral videos, online campaigning toolkits, linking with and learning from other campaigners – all are ways in which multimedia and social media can be used in campaigns.

    For example: Creating a viral video to spread a campaign message; Creating an online pledge to gain community support.

  • Change – you can't have a list related to participation without having Change. Especially not a list of Cs. Using the latest and greatest tools for youth participation only means something if there is the possibility of, and movement towards, change for the better for young people.

    Of course, change is also on this list for another reason. You should certainly make sure you video, blog, podcast and photostream your stories of change as an inspiration to others…

So – what do you think? Would you add any more Cs? Have I got too many? What, for you, is the value of social media and multimedia for participation and engagement?