#1pound40 Conference

Joanne Jacobs here at the Reuters £1.40 conference.  Just setting up before the event begins.  I’ve managed to get power (there’s plenty here) multiple internet login accounts, free internet access and tea and sandwiches prior to the event.  Good start! Well done Reuters and Amplified team!

I’ll be liveblogging as we go today so keep refreshing this post for details.

14:25 We’re a booting our machines and logging on here.  Hilarious room configuration.  Tables are populated in accordance with powerpoint access.  Big hole in the centre of the room.

14:35 Mark Jones (Reuters) has just taken the microphone and left the room but we assume he’s on his way back to the stage.

14:37 All the journalists have just rocked up. Suddenly the room is rather full.

14:43 Mark Jones and Toby Moores are explaining how the day will be structured.  Essentially the structure is to consider the issues facing news in use of social media, beginning with questions, and then moving to localised, table-based debates on the subjects being raised.

14:46 Dominic Campbell is asked to act as a catalyst for discussion about politics and social media.  He notes that he started with this stuff 2 years ago, when he was described as a ‘village idiot’ to be using blogging and social media for political debate.  But in the space of 2 years, there’s been a complete revolution in the use of these disruptive technologies and politicians and representatives are now keen to be using these technologies for ideas and to engage.

Dominic says the new influencers arising from the social media sector is distributing power structures and policy making in the digital sector.  He says that authenticity is necessary for politicians in light of the expenses scandal and as a result of sites like ‘They Work For You’.  Twitter has provided some politicians with an opportunity to express themselves and engage in a manner that they have not before before – at least in terms of immediacy.

Dominic asks if the value of social media, the authenticity and the dynamism rising from the connected community is both sustainable and a good thing for policy.  That’s our topic for roundtable debate.

15:00 Our table are talking about the sustainability of information and opinion exchange.  Matt says that ‘we are becoming too fast for our own wits’ and the value of reflection is being lost in policies and decision making.  Mercedes says that users of the technology are aware of the time-limited participation in the medium.  The @stephenfry and @brumplum affair (Frygate) is raised.  Mercedes says that the private/public mix of performance online needs to be considered.  There’s a tendency for beloved figures to inspire vigilante behaviour among followers.

I’m sitting at a table with two cartoonists from Drawnalism and it’s very difficult to concentrate on the discussion as these marvellous pics keep evolving :)

Interesting question about whether politicians should be farming out the responses to their posts to a staff.  Matt says that there needs to be disclosure of  the fact that politicians are using staff to respond, it’s okay.  But does that reduce the value of the channel as an access zone?  Might be okay to use it as a zeitgeist. If you have a million followers, it’s almost impossible to respond with a duty of care individually to conversations.  So it’s then a responsibility for staff and politicians to work effectively with audiences.

Hypothetical scenario: a prominent politician decides to tweet all his expenses.  All is fine and we all get rather bored with the minutiae of his mars bars purchases.  Then on the day of a climate change conference, he tweets that he is using a cab to travel from Kensington to Brighton.  Rather large fare, and not very eco-friendly, but no-one responds to the tweet.  Then when election time comes, people question him about that cab fare.  Is he less ‘at fault’ if he has disclosed his expenses and yet behaves in an un-eco-friendly fashion?  Do we need better filters?  What impact does this have on regulation?  Will we become over-bureaucratised as a result of the sheer amount of data we’re collecting?

15:45 Quick break before the next discussion.  We’ll be moving around and swapping discussion groups if we can.

16:05 We’re back and we are moving the discussion into what microblogging is good for.  It’s good for eye-witness responses, basic info, providing links to items of interest, as an early warning system and facilitating access in repressed regimes.  We also know there are a number of shortcomings.  Very hard to disentangle truth from rumour, real info from deliberate misinformation, can be information overload, moral issues associated with appropriate behaviour in traumatic events.  Information is not the same as journalism.  Journalism requires discipline, investigation, analysis and has a responsibility for accuracy.  News organisations risk reputation by increasing speed of the news cycle.  Real time conversation very difficult to filter.  Jeff Jarvis has said that twitter is temporary.  Our experience of media is about to become dispersed and most things come and go in a matter of minutes.  Hard to find the space for reflection and analysis.

Question to consider is: how can we use real time dialogue to curate journalism rather than just feed it?  How and where do we compensate for any loss of depth or analysis with the use of these tools?

16:15 I’ve moved to table which is populated by a range of journalists.  One journo asks why there has to be an old media and new media divide.  It’s a matter of presentation.  If there is an opportunity to frame content presented via social media then some of the weaknesses can be at least acknowledged if not overcome.  The responses considered include the question about what journalism is, and who are the journalists.  Concern is expressed about the adoption of misinformation proliferating through (perhaps gullible) networks.  Some speakers believe that the notion of new media destroying old media is absurd.  But there may be a move among audiences to be less interested in analysis and more interesteussion I’m witnessing in raw facts.

[JJ's comment: must admit I'm a bit concerned that the current discussion I'm witnessing is focusing entirely on delivering content. No indication amongst those present about the notion of engaging an audience.]

16:20 Interesting scenario is described.  If you’re a journalist curating responses to an issue, and you use twitter as a vox pops for content, it’s possible to do a background check on the posts made by independent participants.  So you tend not to retweet or cite posts made by people whose twitter history indicates they are ‘inappropriate’ sources, even if they make some intelligent or valuable contributions as single comments.

16:30 It is agreed that the history of all speakers on an issue adds to the possible credibility of online sources.  Twitter lists may become a form of de facto credibility filters among journalists for identifying useful resources.

16:35 One response is that transparency rather than accuracy is key: must cite all sources and must check as much as possible.  Question is raised about whether you should have a regulation for citations.  Does the immediacy and and debate implicit in the use of the tools affect the value of the content being presented.

I interrupt, saying it’s not just about presentation anymore.  It’s about listening and responding, not just about presenting.  The incident of the Gordon Borwn misspelling the letter to the mother of a soldier killed is raised.  Question is raised whether journalists and the media were being fed by the community which was generally supportive of Gordon Brown.

16:49 The microblogging channel is better to challenge rather than analyse, but it can direct to blogs and longer analysis, or an aggregated series of responses which provide better analysis.

16:58 Toby tells us we have a chance to select topics for the next session.

17:25 We’re back and now voting on session topics.  The choices are:

1. The psychology of twitter – games ppl play in 140 characters

2. The potential for arts and social media as a tool to collaborate and create (how art represents new ways of communicating)

3. How twitter can or has helped cross boundaries of age, gender, countries, professions, competencies and politics.

Toby is asking for a bit of hush but not very successfully.

17:29 We’re finally behaving and now voting. The psychology of twitter wins!

17:45 I’m at a table where the value of the conversations in twitter is being debated.  One person says the conversations had are some of the most meaningful and in-depth.  Another says the conversations they have had are meaningless and glib.  One says that it’s a disservice to describe twitter as superficial.  The value is not necessarily implicit in the conversations but the other resources linked from tweets.  One person notes that the value is in discovery and connections between people and ideas.  What you are is what you write.  References and citations – an informal articulation of academic practice – are essential to defining a twitter personality.

Twitter is just a medium.  If you’re talking about big ideas, you can do so by crafting your tweets thus. And if you want to tell jokes and play games, there’s latitude for you to do this.  Tower Bridge, Big Ben, telescopes, and houses can tweet for entertainment value.

Question raised: would people tweet differently if they regard it as traceable and lasting forever?  Do people treat twitter differently as a resource for sharing content when compared with Facebook in terms of acceptability for playing games?

[I've always found @brentspiner's account completely bizarre but highly entertaining.  It's a narrative, and a series of responses rather than a place for sharing ideas.]

The example is given that status updates on twitter being broadcast into facebook can be problematic for people who see themselves psychologically as ‘different people’ in these different domains.

There’s a sense that we are still negotiating identities in various channels.  Because we’re working in this space, it becomes necessary to self-edit (rather than self-censor) their personalised responses in social media channels.  It is noted that living a personal life online are actually doing a form performance art.

The psychology of radical openness is partly to generate a sense of trustworthiness, but will have consequences.  There is also the point raised that when people change their behaviour from public to private that it’s going to have an effect on reputation.  Audiences may feel they are entitled to private information.

18:11 We’re wrapping up this session and moving to a panel.

18:35 The panel are looking at ideas posed by useful tweets.  The panel are:

richard sambrook – director of global news at bbc
benjamin ellis – redcatco
kate arkless-grey – radiokate
christian payne – ourmaninside
hannah nicklin – blogger, playwrite, academic
sue thomas – professor of new media at demontford

The challenge from a journalism perspective is in finding that analysis role of journalism.  While twitter provides a great opportunity for information access, there is not the technology which is facilitating the same level of deep attention and analysis.  So @sambrook says that twitter is skewing the sense of value in fast access to information, and to some extent at least, deep thinking is being devalued.  @benjaminellis says that there are instances where we need information quickly, but we also need the space to deeply understand stuff.  @radiokate says that this situation isn’t new.  @sambrook says that with the death of diversity in printed press and reduced long-format radio, there is less analysis.  @documentally says that he is blogging more and feels he’s part of something significant.  @suethomas notes that when DMZ broadcast the death of Michael Jackson, it was all over twitter.  It took 2 hours for mainstream media to confirm, because they were fact checking.

[Does this matter?  Isn't the doubt and tweeting of rumours online just drawing attention to mainstream media?]

@hannahnicklin says the rate of change has always been fast.  What, if anything, has changed is technology.  There’s a fear in change and in technology.  It’s a bigger participation barrier than ever before because there’s no time space to get it wrong and to learn.

@sambrook says the impact of technology is not as important as the shift in thinking about participation.  We’ve had tech shifts before; what’s new is how much is visible.

@documentally says as early adopters, we are happy to make mistakes in order to learn.  This kind of stuff – from audioboo to twitter should be taught in school.

The twitterfall is now up behind the panel and the panel are completed distracted.  PANEL FAIL

@hannahnicklin says that one of the values of twitter is the sens of community.  Collective responses feel better than individual responses.  X-Factor voting = at least a small amount of participation.

We’re wrapping up here but the general consensus is that twitter is important for inciting debate, but perhaps ironically, the opportunities for face to face meeting arising from twitter are vital.  Community is who you will migrate with, learn with and, perhaps, procrastinate with.  Social media has helped us regain a lot of what we lost in the media age through the reduction of focus in villages and communities.

19:05 Toby thanks everyone.  He concludes with an opportunity to generate a considerable amount of money using an equivalent of a million dollar webpage in a 140 context.

Drinks! Thanks for reading.  Hope this has been useful.
Cheers, Joanne

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