Monthly Archives: November 2009

Social Reporting the Internet Governance Forum: Multiple Knowledges

Social Reporting in the Youth Corner

Social Reporting in the Youth Corner

I’ve just come back from a fascinating five days working with a team of young Egyptians and fellows of the Diplo Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme at the 2009 Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Amongst other things, one of the key things I was up to, working with Pete Cranston and Dejan Dincic, was training and supporting the youth team and Diplo fellows to use various digital online tools to ‘social report’ the IGF. The work was funded IKM Emergent – a project focussed on new perspectives on Knowledge Management (KM), particularly looking at ‘multiple knowledges‘.

In the process of working with a diverse international group at an incredibly diverse and complex event, we gained many insights into social reporting for multiple knowledges – and I’ve tried to unpack some of my reflections and learning below:

Social Reporting for multiple knowledges
One of the great transformations brought about by online digital media is that just about anyone can now create and share rich media to offer their own view of events or issues – and this media can be published where many of the worlds population with an Internet connection will be able to see it. As Deirdre from St Lucia pointed out, it’s not long ago that getting more than one news channel’s coverage of even major events was near impossible.

The main sessions of IGF09 were well recorded, with UN Webcasting in video or audio from every session or workshop, and live transcripts of many sessions available. Formal write-ups of each session will be available in due course. However, with social reporting our goal was not to duplicate these formal records of the event, but was to offer each participant, and particularly the youth team and Diplo fellows (henceforth referred to as ‘the social reporting team’), the chance to report on elements of the event of interest to them. And to do that, we were using simple, near-instant, online social media tools.

The idea of multiple knowledges is of course a complex one, and has many layers – but at IGF09 our core focus was on just one element – supporting the capture and sharing of different perspectives on the event from different actors in the event.

Reflection 1: Train in techniques, as well as tools

Few of the social reporting team we were working with had used twitter, online video or blogging before as a reporting tool. Before the IGF got started, Pete & Dejan ran a short afternoon’s training with some of the social reporting team, explaining how tools like Twitter worked, encouraging team members to sign up for accounts, and getting particpants to practice using Flip camera digital video recorders. They also introduced the team to the Social Reporting at the IGF handbook we had prepared.

However, whilst the handbook does offer a short introduction to the concept of social reporting itself, and mentions a few practical techniques for video interviews, it was only later in the week that we started to do more to demonstrate different techniques and to talk about ‘conceptual tools’ for creating social reporting content.

For example, the five interesting things about approach can be a very good technique to help new bloggers move away from replicating a ‘list of things that happened’ in a session, to capture a ‘list of interesting elements’ or a ‘list of controversies’ for social reporting.

It would be worth exploring in more depth the range of different techniques (and templates) that can help new (and experienced) social reporters to capture multiple knowledges in their reporting – and to explore how best to train and equip social reporters to choose and use these approaches.

Reflection Two: Let reporters choose their tools – and then build up multi-tool use

Picture 41A social reporter who is comfortable with many different digital tools, and who is covering a particular conference theme, may start by sharing some insight or quotes from a session by Twitter. They may follow up by catching the panelist who the quote came from, and asking them to share more of their views in a short video interview. They may then upload that video interview, keeping a copy on their computer to edit into a later remix, and when the video is available to view online, they would use Twitter again to alert others to the fact it has been published, actively alerting (by using the @username convention) anyone who expressed an interest in the earlier twitter messages on this topic. Later in the day, when things are quieter, they may embed a screen-shot of the original tweet, and a copy of the video, into a blog post in which they draw out a key message from the video, and link to other blog posts and websites which relate to the topic under discussion.

But – getting from no use of social media tools and no experience of social reporting – to that sort of platform-hopping mixed-media reporting in just a few days is a tall order. In fact, rather than trying to get new social reporters to be platform-hopping from the start, a quick show-and-tell, or hands-on demo of the different tools available, followed by an invitation to each member of the social reporting team to choose which tools they want to explore first, or which they feel most comfortable with, seemed to generate far better results.

Reflection Three: It helps to know your audience

It’s tricky to write when you don’t know who you are writing for. It’s a lot easier to carry out a video interview when you have a sense of who might watch it. And it’s often easier to allow yourself to be present in your own reporting when you know your main audience will be a community you are part of. We all present ourselves differently to different audiences, and so to capture multiple knowleges, it can be useful for a social reporting team to think about multiple audiences.

We didn’t get much time to explore with our social reporting teams who they saw as the audience for the content they were creating, nor to think about the different spaces the content could be published or aggregated to in order to reach out to different audiences – but I have a sense this could be a valuable additional part of training and preparation for social reporting. At first we found all the reporting was talking place in English, but we encouraged our social reporters to create content in whatever language they felt most comfortable with, or that they felt was most appropriate for the content in question.

There were a number of ‘remote hubs’ following the IGF via the web cast, and participating in discussions through Skype and Webex, and in our debrief we’ve reflected on how it may be possible to pair social reporters up with geographical or thematic remote hubs – giving each reporting a strong connection with a specific audience.

Reflection Four: Quick clips cannot capture all knowledges

Quick Clips

Quick Clips

The Internet Governance Forum is a complex event. Not only does it deal with some complex issues (socially, technically and culturally), but it also is comprised of a vast array of actors, from governments and industry, to individuals and civil society. As a non-decision making body the spirit is neither of consensus, nor of conflict – and black and white statements of positions are rare. The presence of all different shades of opinion, and of the experience of actors from many different countries and contexts, appears to make IGF the idea place to explore multiple knowledges. Yet at the same time, the complexity of context and content makes capturing the multiple perspectives on IGF in ‘social media snippets’ a challenge.

In video reporting, the social reporters needs to have a reasonable domain-knowledge in order to be able to ask questions that illicit insights from interviewees. In quick twitter based reporting, capturing the most relevant points without reducing them to soundbites can be tricky – or can lead to only the most ‘tweetable’ and no neccessarily the most interesting or important ideas being shared. In blogging, the lack of definitive positions to ‘side with’ in writing up a session or theme can mean the social reporter needs to pick a path through many different subtlely different perspectives and to express them in text.

Reflection Five: When the event ends, then things are just getting started…

Screen Capture of NetVibes Aggregator

Screen Capture of NetVibes Aggregator

On the last day of the IGF I hastily put together this ‘Social Reporting after IGF’ handout for our teams – as we realised it was important to make sure that, for the social reporters, the end of IGF09 was not neccesarily the end of their use of social media tools to capture and share ideas. (I’ve also created a ‘Social Reporting’ group over on the Diplo Internet Governance network). Having invited many of the youth team, and the fellows from Diplo, to sign up with various online spaces, including Twitter, for the first time, we also had a reponsibility to make sure they were aware of the implications of continued use of these tools.

But ensuring new social reporters know how they can continue to use social media tools to capture content and create networks is only part of the legacy of social reporting at an event. With the creation of a significant amount of content, there is some obligation upon us to do something with it.

During the IGF we were using a public NetVibes page as an aggregator of all the content being published, but this does not act as a longer-term archive of the content, nor does it allow us much flexibility to curate and contextualise the content gathered.

So, over the coming weeks we’ll be thinking about ways to aggregate, archive and curate the content we gathered – and thinking about whether any content can continue to be used in useful ways over the coming year.

There is little point in equipping people with the skills to capture multiple knowledges, and going some of that capture, if the skills are left un-used in future, and the content captured and the knowledges it expresses disappear entirely into Internet obscurity.


I am sure there are many more reflections and learning points from other membes of the team – which they will undoubtedly share in due course.

To find out more about Diplo and the Internet Governance Forum visit: http://www.diplomacy.edu/ig/ and http://www.diplointernetgovernance.org/

To find out more about Practical Participation – my work focussing on Youth Participation and Social Technologies visit http://www.practicalparticipation.co.uk

And to explore social reporting more in the context of IGF – please join the Diplo Internet Governance communitie’s Social Reporting group here: http://www.diplointernetgovernance.org/group/socialreporting

Delete – The Virtue of Forgetting in a Digital Age

Delete - Virtue of Forgetting in a Digital Age[Summary: New book provides great discussion starters for youth groups on online content sharing and digital footprints]

Last week at the OII we were treated to an enchanting presentation by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger on his new book ‘Delete – The Virtue of Forgetting in a Digital Age‘. You can listen to an interview with Viktor talking about the book here.

The key thesis of the book is that, whilst in the past, forgetting was the default. Humans forget things. In a digital age, remembering is default. Computers, with cheap storage, can keep a copy of just about everything.

It is that new default, the default of remembering, that lies at the heart of many of the social challenges the Internet might present. The Facebook photos from teenage years that surface during job applications. The news report of a misdemeanour that appears top of Google searches for an individuals name, even though the midemenour took place years ago. The digital footprint that only grows and never shrinks. The comments on message boards that come back to haunt you.

This default of remembering is technical, legal and social: the technical choice of service providers to keep content indefinitely; the legal defaults that mean an individual can’t easily request information about them to be removed from what is now a very accessible public record (compare the news report indexed online and available with one click of a search button, to the news report which, though stil theoretically accessible years after being published only available on microfiche); and the social defaults of sharing content about other people without their consent, and of, as an individual, not going back to audit, and potentially remove some of, the content one has put online about oneself.

In ‘Delete’ Viktor explores a range of different responses that could move us back to a better equilibrium between ‘remembering’ and ‘forgetting’ – and at least one involves us each changing the way we think about keeping and deleting the digital content we are responsible for.

Youth work potential
‘Delete’ offers a great entry point into thinking about the Internet in youth work contexts. Not least

  • Using examples from ‘Delete’ to discuss online content with a youth group
    • Ask group members when they last deleted content online;
    • Ask if anyone has ever asked a friend to delete photos, videos or comments online;
    • Talk about whether the default should be remembering or forgetting, and what the pros and cons on each side are
  • Exploring your ‘Delete’ policy
    • If you use digital media with your youth groups, how long do you leave it online for?
    • How do you agree this with the group? Is it a discussion point?
    • Memories are not usually there one moment, gone the next – but they fade and become trickier to access over time. How can your archives fade, rather than be deleted? (For example, you might remove individual photos from a project website, but keep group photos after a set time; or you might replace full project details with a project summary on the web – but keep a digital copy of content in the project’s archives).

If you use ‘Delete’ as the basis for work with young people, make sure you share the story of what you did with others over on Youth Work Online.

Social Reporting the Internet Governance Forum

Tomorrow morning I’m heading out to Egypt to join the Diplo/IKM team to help facilitate youth-led social reporting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

We’ll be tweeting on the #igf09 tag, blogging on the Diplo Internet Governance Ning, and hopefully bringing it all together with some live-blogging, video interviews and webcasting on this NetVibes page.

To support our team of Social Reporters I put together this quick handbook, and I’ve tried to make the first few pages more ‘general purpose’ that just for IGF. It’s uploaded under Creative Commons of course, and I’ll put together a revised version based on how it goes down in the next few days.

I’ll try and post with a bit more background and more links to interesting goings on at IGF in the next few days – but for now – back to packing.

Just published: Social Media – Youth Participation in Local Democracy

Social-media-youth-particip[Summary: Introductory guide on youth participation with social media now available]

One of the curious things I’ve discovered in seeking to equip practitioners to engage with social technology is that, the more I explore about digital media, the more I end up creating printed resources, or at least, resources based on a book/handbook structure.

That’s the case with a new resource that was published today by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) that is the product of learning from the Network Participation action learning set I co-facilitated earlier this year.

Drawing on theory and case studies explored during that action learning set, ‘Social Media – Youth Participation in Local Democracy‘ is designed to step through some of the issues that practitioners need to consider in exploring the use of social networks and social media in youth participation.

It’s available to order from the LGIU Website, and for online purchase via Central Books.

(P.S. If you’re interested in more practical resources to support youth engagement and youth work uses of digital technology – keep your eyes open, as I’m in the midst of working on a new toolkit hopefully ready early in the New Year…)

Don’t Just Buy. Do. Reflections on Fair Trade Futures

[Summary: Reconnecting Fairtrade with activism, thinking about Fairtrade and data, and how social reporting can transform events]

The Fair Trade Futures conference that took place in Oxford on Saturday has been well reported and captured, but, before I head over to start tidying up and re-posting the fantastic content created by Amplified on the main Oxford Fairtrade website, I thought I would add just a few quick reflections on the day.

Don’t just buy. Do.
As inscribed upon a banana by @oxfordsing, this ‘slogan’ captures the tension at the heart of the Fairtrade movement right now, and a thread running throughout the day. As Fairtrade reaches the mainstream, the connection between Fairtrade and activism, and the importance of linking Fairtrade with Trade Justice can become dilluted. Fairtrade is about building ethics into purchasing decisions, but, it’s also about building ethics and justice into trading relationships. That was a point made well by People Tree founder Safia Minney who spoke of how we need to push companies to respect principles of Fairtrade throughout the production process, not just in the inputs they buy.

The challenge, for the Fairtrade movement, is being in the mainstream, being a set of standards, but also being the first step for people on a pathway to engagement with wider global issues.

Data, data everywhere
I spent a lot of the day in conversations about the digital dimensions of Fairtrade. After a morning including presentations from Dorothea and Ian of the Fair Tracing project, and inputs from Steve Bridger and Pete Cranson on social media and Fair Trade, we spent one of the afternoon open space sessions talking about ‘Fair Trade 2.0′.

Asides from discussions about how social media could lead to greater disinter-mediation of supply chains, we also discussed the transformation of trade as being ‘trade in stuff’, to being ‘trade in stuff + data’. That is, the move, led by retail giants like Wall Mart, to enable every individual product in a supply chain to be tracked from origin to consumption, with vast collections of data on products and customers collected and created. How does Fairtrade, which is in one sense, a very simple bit of data for consumers about the conditions in which a product was made, engage with this environment?

As firms may be compelled to collect more data on each product, to come into line with safety regulation, how can we ensure ethical information is embedded alongside the other data that may follow a product on it’s journey? And how can that information be made meaningful and useful to time-pressured shoppers? Are ethical criteria needed to account for fair trading in the data that might travel with a product – so it does not become a source of commercial exploitation? And can the rise of a data-rich supply chain be subverted in the cause of ethics?

Amanda Gore, who was blogging with the Amplified team, has further notes on the discussions here. This was a session full of questions – but one raising issues I’m sure will be cropping up more in discussions of Fair Trade in future.

Amplified Events
There were quite a few experiments going on with the Fair Trade Futures conference. It was the first time many of the organising team had experienced any Open Space sessions, and for most delegates, the first time they had been at an event being actively digital reported.

I was a little nervous about the digital reporting – as I’ve seen it work well at technology events, and in youth events, but I’ve not experienced digital / social reporting in action with a community for whom social media is not part of the everyday. Yet it worked fantastically. And by the end of the day, many delegates were won over to the potential of social media to help capture, curate and continue conversations started at an in person event.

There is still much to learn about how best to use social reporting to catalyse online community (for example, I would love to work out how best to equip delegates new to social media to try their own blogging and twittering from sessions, without spending too much time training them up, or distracting them from participation in face-to-face discussions), but the team from Amplified certainly demonstrated that we need to be adding digital dimensions to many more events outside the social media mainstream.

(Co-incidentally, Amplified are currently setting up as a non-profit, able to marshal teams of digital reporters to all manor of events, so if you’ve got projects and events coming up that could do with an online edge, I would certainly recommend getting in touch with the Amplified team.)

Where next…
Fair Trade Futures was the follow on event from a Fair Trade conference held in Oxford five years ago. I have a feeling it may not be quite so long before the next events are held here – and I would love to see an event taking place soon dedicated to the digital dimensions of Fair Trade. No plans yet… but if you might be interested, do get in touch…

Fair Trade Futures: Online Coverage Today

If you’re reading this before 6pm on Saturday 7th November – then head over to the Amplified website to catch some of the blogging, tweeting and AudioBoo coverage from the Fair Trade Futures conference – taking place throughout the day.

If you are reading this after 6pm on Saturday 7th November. Well, you can still head over to see what they’ve captured – digging deep into what Fair Trade means and what the future of Fair Trade is in the niche and in the mainstream, post economic-crisis, and in a digital world.