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Archive for the ‘ChinwagLive’ Category

Was at Chinwag’s Summer bash last week before hightailing home, and although the elements conspired to try and dampen the mood, metaphorically and literally, I think a pretty good time was had by all. I got to hang out with Will, Jessica, Richard, Eaon and David, not to mention the crazy guys and gals of Chinwag. And a bunch of other people.

Suffice to say it was a pretty rocking evening. And in the words of Mr. Gump, that’s all I really have to say about that. Thank you Chinwag for putting it together, and let’s do it again next year..

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We’ve both been busy in the most clichéd of ways, but posts are on the way, I’ve got my June music picks to write up and other stuff to come.

In the meantime, if you’re showing up to Chinwag’s Summer Bash tomorrow evening, say what’s up. And try your hand at a soul shake with one of us. They are pretty cool.

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Last week I was at Chinwag’s latest event, The Darkside of Social Media. It was definitely thought provoking. However/but/etc I was quite disappointed/but not really shocked to see the vast majority of traditional agencies not present on the guest list. But that’s not something Chinwag had control of.

The panel (as listed by Chinwag) consisted of Luke Razzell, Tim Ireland, Mike Barrett, James Cherkoff, Cristiano Ventura and chair Mike Butcher. Be sure to check out Amelia’s and Peter’s blogs as they were there and will no doubt have more eloquent and thoughtful insights.

I found it a little ironic that MySpace and Facebook kindly refused to attend, thinking that they would have various cans of whoop ass opened up on them at the event. Why ironic? In my mind it alludes to a total lack of confidence in the product they’re pushing. As a guestimate, MySpace has 8 million subscribers and Facebook 2 million. If that many people have signed up, and have by and large behaved themselves, would you not at least have the temerity to show your face at an event where by its nature (i.e. it being a communications centric crowd) the audience would be sympathetic to what you’re trying to achieve? I would have thought so. But MySpace and Facebook obviously didn’t. Regardless, it was great to see MSN Spaces represented on the panel.

While all in attendance got the requisite horror stories (and I’m not trying to sweep them under the carpet, just that you usually hear about the same sorts of cases when talk turns to social networking), I think that generally the outlook for social networks that I got from all I talked to was one of cautious optimism. The truth really is that social media is not going to change the way people are, because intrinsically we as a collective body (the human race) are pretty much the same as we were 50 years ago in terms of the good, the bad and the ugly. You still have criminals, whether you’re in 1883 or 1956 or 2007, you still have crackpot stalkers, and you will always always always have freeloading teenagers who will jump on any bandwagon that is a free party and the opportunity to trash someone’s house.

It’s just that now we are experiencing changes in the way our collective antics, good and bad are a) communicated to the general public – hello sensationalist media (funny how when a huge paedophilia ring was busted because of MySpace it was buried in the broadsheets, but the MySpace party house that was trashed was screamed about from the rooftops – more irony) and b) communicated to our friends and their friends and their friends (you get the picture). Because obviously social networks/email/IM/text allow events/news to spread much quicker than say 15 years ago. But people are still people and will always be people. And I feel that solutions weren’t that forthcoming from the majority of the panel, which was probably due to the time-constraint (and no – ‘don’t use the internet’ is not a solution).

I really like James Cherkoff’s statement that ‘The Internet is the real world’ because I’m positive that some people (Hello Daily Mail) like to put the view out that the Internet is a haven for child abusers, terrorists and (as I’ve heard some people put it) generally bad eggs. But it’s not. Yes it makes it easier for such people to communicate but then it does that for all people. The internet is not discriminatory, if you will. But the fact that it isn’t puts a little more onus on the good among us to indulge in what the panel referred to as social self policing. If someone is being a jerk let them know. And be loud about it. It seems like generally, we’re more likely to put up with bad behaviour these days, when you have a punk kid blasting beats from the phone around his neck, people don’t really feel like they can say anything to him, yet all are royally annoyed. Why? Tell the kid to turn it off. He/she usually will, or will go off on an angst-ridden expletive-laced tirade that will showcase his/her intellect and give everyone on the bus/tube/train a good chuckle and a story to tell when they get home. It’s not socialist to give a damn (at this point I realize I may have gone off on a tangent – but there you go).

There are some things though that social media is throwing up that we aren’t used to dealing with and will therefore need to get to grips with pretty sharp-ish. The issue of cyber-bullying is one. Kids (and I know this because I still am one) can be really really evil. And the net gives them an opportunity to hunt in large(r) packs and prey on those who are a little different. So schools (and parents) really need to come up with ways to minimize this. I’m afraid at this stage of the night I can’t offer many suggestions, only comments. Astroturfing and general fake forum-based flashmobbing is another issue that was raised, particularly in the arena of politics – one that is gradually coming to grips with the web and its communicative power, a power that can be abused. Now this idea of creating numerous avatars and indulging in flaming is not new (I’ve frequented videogame forums for many years and the fanboy culture breeds this), but when politicians and members of society who we should hold to a higher moral standard (and who inevitably fail to reach any kind of standard – especially where money and power are involved) start to act like teenagers talking about how ‘Sony ROCKS, Nintendo = trash’, we need to begin to consider how to avoid this.

The issue of child abuse is a delicate one, yes the internet makes it easier and yes children are generally more aware of this kind of thing and aren’t very likely to give out detailed details about themselves online, but it does happen (as was pointed out by an attendee who worked for the NSPCC). And I think a large part of it (and again this may just be my warped opinion) comes down to parenting – or parents showing an interest in their kids’ lives. I started getting online in the mid-late 90s (so I am old school), when the chat rooms on ICQ and later Yahoo were the places we’d do the bulk of our communicating. And I distinctly remember my Mom and Dad taking an interest in how this internet thing worked, and asking me if I had talked to any cool people. It wasn’t invasive, it was inquisitive. And because of this interest, I felt the door was always open to let them know if I was weirded out by anything. If you see the internet as a way to get the kids to shut up and leave us alone, they will a) be insecure about themselves – they’ll think ‘is something wrong with me’ and b) they’ll look for attention from anyone online. And it’s when kids are feeling psychologically vulnerable that bad things can happen.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, there were those in the audience (like me) that thought the rise of social media is an amazing thing. My reasons? Pretty simple I think, it means I can keep in touch with friends from way back who are all over the world, it means I realize how close to truth the whole six degrees of separation is, it definitely keeps you honest (the whole world can see you now) and the mere fact that anyone is reading this sentence is a testament to the power of social media. Your voice can be heard on a greater stage now. And for me that really is it. The internet amplifies us all, every part of us (and by us I mean humans collectively). So the good is louder, the bad is darker and the uglier is sadly more twisted and ugly. But it really is still just us. And if you think that it’s all doom and gloom, well the internet really isn’t the root of your problem. And yes there are problems that this amplification throws up. But maybe we all have to take the initiative and police our own corner of cyberspace a little. And keep plugging the amazingly cool things that social media kicks up, like for me all the friends I’ve made online, I mean Anton and I wouldn’t write this damn blog had it not been for forums. And things like Interesting2007, and Chinwag, and the ability to meet people who I really have no business meeting like George and Charles and Amelia and Peter and Piers and and the list goes on (and you’re all on it..). And something that wasn’t touched upon is the empowerment this gives you. It makes me feel good. Like really good. And the good will always outweigh the bad, so let’s try and tip the scales a little more.

The stage is yours…

(A big thank you to Chinwag and Emily in particular for hooking me up with a ticket for this event. Make sure you register for the Chinwag Summer Party – it’s gonna be biblical!)

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