Hilary Mason talks about Youth Work Blogging

DK from Mediasnackers has spoken to Hilary Mason from West Sussex Youth Service about her blogging over at UK Youth Blog and has put it together as a PodCast.You can listen to it here.

It's a fantastic 8 minutes of exploration of how social media tools can be used in Youth Work and informal education, and how just about anyone can pick up and learn the tools to make blogging work for them. Here's DK's index of what you will find:

0.00—0.24 intro

0.25—1.22 why Hilary started her blog

1.23—2.20 barriers of entry

2.21—3.11 internal feedback from the organisation

3.12—4.35 following the digital breadcrumbs and wider impact of blogging

4.36—5.31 specific tools and platforms

5.32—6.16 inspiring other to blog (Dave Petrie)

6.17—7.05 advice for other youth workers thinking about blogging

7.06—7.55 future

7.56—8.07 outro

Well worth a listen…

Youth and social networks: 10 articles that have influenced my thinking

This is a post I've been wanting to put together for a while. Hopefully the phase 1 report from the Youth Work and Social Networking project I'm co-researching with Pete Cranston will be out soon (sending if off for formatting tomorrow…) – but as that looks like it will be about 15,000 words of literature review, survey and focus group write up, I thought it would be useful to put together a list of the literature that has most influenced or challenged my thinking.

The works below may not explicitly address young people and social networking directly, but they all offer useful context and insights. I can't promise that I've managed to adequately take account of them all in my writing (indeed, I'm quite aware that I haven't – for that I'd need to be working on this full time rather than having the day or so a week I have right now) – but I hope that offering a summary of them here helps others in following these trains of thought….

Perspectives on online social networking and social network sites:

1) boyd & Ellison: Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.
I've been to far too many events lately which have billed themselves as talking about social networking when in fact presentations and discussions have covered just about anything internet related but social networking. boyd and Ellison's formal definition of social network sites is a really helpful 'centre of gravity' for thinking about online social networking, and the discussion on danah boyd's blog post on the subject is particularly useful.

For the Youth Work and Social Networking project we tried to look at the activity of online social networking, through in effect our focus was on social network sites (although in an ideal world we would have been able to extend our investigation to online social networking with gaming etc.).

2) Larsen: 35 Perspective on Online Social Networking
I only found Malene Larsen's work half-way through putting together the Youth Work and Social Networking project – but it provides some fantastic insights and and conceptual frameworks for looking at online social networking. The 35 Perspectives on Online Social Networking are a particularly useful tool for reflection in thinking about the wide range of responses different organisations and individuals have to social networking (ranging from the 'consumer perspective' and 'body and sex perspective' through to the 'friendship perspective' and the 'group work perspective'.

Social networking, youth and identity:

3) Larsen: Understanding Social Networking: On Young People's Construction and Co-Construction of Identity Online
The fourth perspective Larsen introduces is 'The identity perspective' – “Social networking sites are spaces for identity construction. Here, young people continuously constructing, re-constructing and displaying their self-image and Also, the network sites make them co-constructors of each other’s identities.” That gets a far deeper exploration in this ethnographical exploration of MySpace-like Danish social networking site Arto.

4) Stern: Producing Sites, Exploring Identities: Youth Online Authorship
Susannah Stern's article isn't about social network sites. It's about young people creating personal homepages and blogs – but it's exploration of how homepage creation facilitates identity formation and reflection upon identity formation is extremely interesting. It raises interesting questions about whether or not social network sites also provide young people with a canvas for self reflection or not.

5) Donnovan: Whose Safety? Whose Security?
Gregory Donnovan's work explores the problematic nature of box-filling social network site profiles and the way in which the reductive nature of profiles (for example, being asked to sum up religious belief, political affiliation or relationship status in a single line) can harm identity formation. Donnovan also raises important questions about how a growth in young people living out lives online potentially increases opportunities for state control of childhood, rather than increasing young people's freedom from control. Similar questions about the increasing power and control afforded to corporations through young people's engagement with online social networks may be asked.

6) Solove: The future of reputation: gossip, rumour, and privacy on the internet
Solve doesn't address social networking explicitly – and in fact the elements I found most interesting in his book are a little less developed than I'd like – but he does raise a number of crucial points about the way notions of privacy may be being redefined by the internet, and about the risks of publishing information online in preventing people from escaping past misdemeanour's that may be of particular interest to those working with young people. Will we see the availability of data about people's pasts becoming anchors that tie them down? Or will a norm that accepts everyone has a data-trail emerge?

7) Ellison, Steinfield, Lampe: Spacially Bounded Online Social Networks and Social Capital: The Role of Facebook
What is the role of online social networks in reflecting, and contributing to, young people's social capital resources? If local social networks have a significant impact on educational aspiration and attainment (as The JRF found they do) then exploring the role of online social networks seems to be a useful line of enquiry…

Responses to online social networking

8) Wolak, Finkelhor, Mitchell, Ybarra: Online “Predators” and Their Victims – Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment and 9) Ybarra et. al: Internet Prevention Messages: Targetting the Right Online Behaviours
The Crimes Against Children Research Centre (CCRC) have produced some fantastic research which is extremely helpful in trying to find a balanced response to risk online. Their work drawing on the US based Second Youth Internet Safety Survey gets beyond the unhelpful blunt (and possibly counter-productive) safety guidelines commonly given to young people such as 'Don't share any personal details online' to look at the real markers of risk (for example, Talking with people known only online (“strangers”) under some conditions is related to online interpersonal victimization, but sharing personal information is not.) and to develop guidance and recommendations that make a lot of sense. In fact, two points from the bulleted summary on the CCRC Internet page are worth quoting in full:

  • Focus prevention efforts more on adolescents, less on parents, and frankly on concerns relevant to adolescents, including autonomy, romance and sex.
  • Focus prevention more on interactive aspects of Internet use and less on posting personal information.

I would strongly suggest that no-one should be proposing online safety messages without looking at these and other CCRC articles.

10) Merton: Good Youth Work: What youth workers do, why and how
When I first read Bryan Merton's 'Good Youth Work' I scribbled furiously in the margins about the lack of referencing and got frustrated about the complete reliance on anecdote and stories to explain what youth work does. However, having spent time over the Youth Work and Social Networking project talking with youth workers, and exploring possible youth work responses to online social networking – I've come to find it does provide a strong insight into how good youth work responses to online social networking could have an lot to offer (although it would still be good to see youth work adopting more explicit frameworks to be able to describe what it does).

Crucially, where a lot of focus gets put onto information campaigns and formal education to support young people in making safe and effective use of online social networking, informal education approaches are often not given enough consideration. Providing space for reflection, group work interventions, and individual interventions at the right time could potentially achieve a lot more than any amount of lesson plans, safety videos and even media literacy classes.

Well, that's 10 articles for now. But I'd be interested to hear from readers of this post – what article or resources are inspiring you to explore different lines of thought about youth and online social networking right now?

Photo credit: Piles of books by Ollily

A new 31 day challenge… this time for blog comments

31 Day CommentFirst off, appologies for my lack of blogging of late. There's a lot to blog, but I'm having to put all my time into getting a few big projects rounded off right now.

However, I thought I should break blog silence to introduce the 31-Day Comment Challenge. It was the 31 days to a better blog challenge co-ordinated by Michelle Martin that really get my blogging started last year, and Michelle is leading the way in reflective learning again this year – this time with a focus on commenting on blogs and creating conversation.

You can join the challenge by following each of the daily tasks throughout May (you don't have to strickly work on them day-by-day) and it's a great way to more actively engage with blogs and blog-based community building.

I'm going to try and work through some of the first challenges tomorrow to catch up a little, and it would be great if any other readers of this blog wanted to join in too…

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 StripGenerator.com. 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 StripGenerator.com 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?

Quality resources on participation? Let the people decide…

70 kites on a single line3 - (Creative Commons)

There have been murmurs about a 'Youth Participation Resources Kite mark for a while now.

Whilst concerns about the quality of resources on Children and Young People's participation might be founded (I've seen quite a few participation resources recently which have made me somewhat concerned due to their lack of clarity or any clear understanding of participation…) – the idea of one group certifying those resources which are 'quality' or not simply doesn't work*.

Instead – we need a space where potential users of a resource can discuss it. In part that might be the People&Participation Library with comments switched on – but what I really have in mind is a version of Social Source Commons for participation.

TimDavies Tookit - Social Source CommonsThe Social Source Commons model allows anyone to create a 'personal toolbox' (see mine here) of open source tools that they use – and to see what others have in their toolbox. I can assess the value of a tool by seeing who else is using it. Do they use other resources like me? What comments have people left on a particular tool? How have they rated it? It's a context rich way of finding out if a resource can cut it or not.

An online Participation Toolbox would allow Participation Workers to create their own filtered lists of the resources, toolkits, books, and guides that they can comment on, rate and share information about. And they would be able to see who else used particular resources, how others rated them, and what others had said about using them in practice. Instead of a central 'authoritative' KiteMark – I can choose to trust particular peers, or the wisdom of the crowd. Altogether a more participative solution…

(P.S I'd be up for developing the system if anyone wanted to sponsor development…)

*In any case – if, as I suspect, the issue that drives the idea of a Kite Mark is bad resources, not good ones. The logical response then could be to publish a 'black list' rather than a Kite Marked list…

Non-formal education goes WWW project

Non-Formal Information Goes WWW Image

I came across Andreas' work at nonformality.org when he added to the reasons why youth workers should be blogging. And now Andreas and the team at the National Youth Agency of Estonia are taking the initative to kick start even more dialogue about how the informal learning sector across Europe can get far more engaged with the web by pulling together a Networking Seminar in Tallin, May 30 – 31, 2008.

From the Seminar flyer:

The context – why?

Non-formal education is an exciting way to learn: full of opportunities to be discovered – but not very well recognised at times. The internet is an exciting place to learn, too: full of different opportunities to be discovered – but also quite lonely and confusing at times. Imagine the power unfolding when the two come together!

This networking seminar wants to offer time and space to people, groups, teams, initiatives, projects, and organisations who bring together non-formal education and the world wide web. There is surely something we can learn from each other! And there might be something we could do together, too…

The timing – why now?

In recent weeks and months, more and more websites have emerged about and around non-formal education and learning. It seems to be the right time for bringing them together for an exchange of experience and some dreams about the future!

The aims – what for?

The networking seminar aims to offer space and time:

  • to get acquainted with different web-projects and initiatives about or for (raising awareness on) non-formal education and learning,
  • to discuss the role and potential of these projects and initatives for the recognition and valorisation of non-formal education and learning, and
  • to explore needs, potentials and strategies for co-operation between such initiatives and projects in the future.

I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to make it (it's a little tricky to just slip in a trip to Estonia whilst pledged not to fly in Europe…) but it would be great to see some representation from England there. Perhaps we could host a bit of a pre-discussion to feed into the seminar at BarCampUKYouthOnline which is taking place just before on the 17th May.

I've attached the full flyer to this post below. Deadline for applications is the 26th March 2008.

Attachment: NFL goes WWW call and application-1.doc