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May 25 2011

10:32

Intro to Twitter for Nonprofits and Social Enterprises: #VirtualNet2 Slides, Audio, and Wrap-up

This post outlines how Net2Camb hosted it's first livestreamed event, provides information about how view the slides and listen to the audio, and overviews our future plans for providing more live and recorded Netsquared Local event content in the future.

About the event

Participants at Net2Camb Event. Courtesy Andrew Entecott.

Ellie Stonely graciously offered to share her experiences using Twitter with our NetSquared Local group in Cambridge, UK. The topic was Intro to Twitter for Charities and Social Enterprises. In the talk, Ellie led a strategy-based conversation sharing case studies, lessons learned, and first steps for people and organizations that are interested in trying Twitter for the first time. 

The event was held on 24 May 2011, at Cambridge Online. You can read a few excerpts from the event on Storify.

About the livestream

A few weeks ago I got a note from Steven Flower, the NetSquared Local organizer in Manchester, asking if the group I help manage in Cambridge wanted to collaborate in real-time from 130 miles away. His email started: "Just a random thought, but we too have our Meetup scheduled in Manchester on the SAME DAY! Right now, we haven't a speaker or anything, so here is my crazy idea". The email went on to outline a way to stream content over the web to provide an event speaker in both cities simultaneously. I love crazy ideas and I knew it would add value to our efforts, so of course I said YES!

Now, I'm no techie, but Steven had been testing out a tool called Ipadio for streaming and sharing audio within his group. He suggested that we could upload the slides before the event and use Ipadio on a mobile phone to stream the audio live. We could also share ideas and feedback in real-time with virtual participants using the #virtualnet2 hashtag as a twitter backchannel.

His plan worked a charm!

For anyone else intersted in using this solution for their events, here are a few of my lessons learned:

  • The speaker needs to give an audio cue to the virtual participants every time she changes slides. We did this by having someone other than the speaker flip through the slides, which gave the speaker a reminder to say "next slide please". We also tweeted out (using the event hashtag) which slide we were on in the room.
  • The speaker needs a microphone. An easy way to do this is to clip a headset/mic that comes with many smartphones onto the blouse of the speaker, and ask her to put the phone in her pocket after you log in. No need to plug the headphones in her ears though - it's a one-way channel!
  • Test the audio before the event. Make sure it's not too echoy or quiet. Make sure you know how to log in.

It's not too late to participate!

Ellie Stonely Speaks at Net2Camb Event. Courtesy Andrew Entecott.

While we did a lot to provide an interactive experience in real-time, if you missed the event you can still access the content to review in your own time. Here's how to access it:

  1. Open or download Ellie’s Slides
  2. Open the audio stream
  3. Use the #virtualNet2 hashtag to share ideas on Twitter. The speaker is @e11ie5 and the host group is @Net2Camb.

The future for #VirtualNet2

This wasn't the first NetSquared Local event to be streamed online and it certainly won't be the last. The Philladelphia NetSquared group, for instance, have been pioneers at streaming Local content and have inspired much of our thinking for the Cambridge-Manchester event.

In the future, we plan to make it easier for people interested in participating in events virtually. Soon, we'll be launching a Virtual NetSquared Local option "officially" but if you'd like to be automatically notified of future events you can go ahead and sign up on the Virtual NetSquared Local meetup page today.

Thank yous

The first big THANK YOU goes to the community and event participants in Cambridge, Manchester, and aroudn the world. Thank you for bearing with us when things didn't go quite to plan (for instance when the slides were posted about 5 minutes before the talk!) and thank you for encouraging us to make the event happen - both online and in-person.

To the fabulous Ellie Stonely. For providing excellent resources, ideas, and conversation. Your situation yesterday wasn't ideal, but you really pulled through!

To Andrew Entecott and Cambridge Online. For being our gracious sponsors of the event, even during this rough time.

To Steven Flower. Thanks for the hard work, inspiration, publicity, and friendship.

To Manchester Net Tuesday. You guys rock and I can't wait to have another event where you stream to us!

To James and the other folks at Ipadio. Thank you for your technical support!

May 20 2011

09:44

Participate in a Virtual NetSquared Local Event: Intro to Twitter for Nonprofits and Social Enterprises

Join us May 24 at 7pm GMT in-person or online to learn about using twitter for non-profits and social enterprises.

I’ve been talking with several NetSquared Local organizers recently about the potential for streaming events in real-time to allow virtual participation around the world, and several groups have already been hosting mixed offline and online events for some time now. So, when I got an email from Steven Flower (@StevieFlow), our Manchester Net Tuesday organizer, asking if we could stream the Tuesday’s NetSquared Cambridge audio to the group up there, I knew we had to do it.

 

Twitter for Non Profits and Social Enterprises

The event we’ve been planning in Cambridge is centered around introducing Twitter to non profits and social enterprises. Ellie Stoneley (@e11ie5) will be take the lead and share some of the twitter experiences she has had in numerous non profits from the UK to LA and to Madagascar and India. Learn more about the topic.

Who’s connecting?

The Manchester Net Tuesday group: The group up north will meet as in person, but instead of having a speaker in Manchester, they’ll hook up the audio feed and slides and share the presentation in-real time. They’ll also have their own networking time before and after Ellie’s presentation. Here are the details for attending in person.

Anyone in the world: Anyone around the world can connect from the comforts of their own homes. The event will be streaming live, and should also be available after the event is over. 

How to connect?

When: 7pm GMT, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

(If, like me, you struggle to figure what time this is where you are, then I find this useful:http://www.timeanddate.com/)

 

Whether you are participating in Cambridge, Manchester, or anywhere else in the world, we hope you’ll join the conversation online using the #virtualNet2 hashtag on Twitter. The Cambridge event is fully booked for in-person attendance, but there are still some spots left in Manchester. Here are the location and RSVP details.

Here’s how to get involved virtually:

 

  1. Open or download Ellie’s Slides (link coming soon!)
  2. Open the live audio stream
  3. Use the #virtualNet2 hashtag to share ideas on Twitter. The speaker is @e11ie5 and the host group is @Net2Camb.

DJ > VJ > Story-J!

Storify helps you mix content to make a story...

We plan to use Storify during and after the event to mix together the content together created around the discussions across social media to leave a record and narrative. If you haven’t started to use Storify yet, then do! If you have, then tell us how you have!

Experimentation

This event is a small experiment for us in terms of building the NetSquared Local community. With like-minded folk getting together in cities and towns across the world, how can we utilize social media to share and exchange our stories, skills and experiences? Answers and questions at #virtualNet2 tweetcard please!

Live Link Ups Can #Fail

Here at NetSquared Cambridge, we’ve never done a livestream before. We’re pretty good with this technology malarky, but please bear with us if we have some technical difficulties! 

.

A special thanks goes out to Ellie Stoneley for her enthusiasm to broadcast her presentation and to Steven Flower for making the virtual aspect of this event a reality.

 

November 08 2010

19:19

Balancing Positive and Negative of New Media for Political Activism

In my previous post for Idea Lab, I began examining how new media has and hasn't proven effective in helping push political change in countries around the world. That was in advance of the "New Media: Alternative Politics" conference at the University of Cambridge. This post follows after my participation in the conference.

What qualifies as new media?

After all, what's new today is old by tomorrow. And, as Firoze Manji, founder of Pambuzuka News, said at the New Media: Alternative Politics conference held recently at Cambridge, is it really new or is just old wine repackaged in new bottles?

For me, the definition that seems most appropriate for new media -- and that seems to set it apart -- is to call them connective, interactive technologies that are bidirectional, dialectic and conversational, such as web 2.0 applications and new mobile technologies. In comparison, traditional "older" forms of media primarily use linear and one-way communication.

The difference between new and old media has led to a lot of optimism for new media as a new, golden solution for activists. As evidenced by presentations at the conference, this requires a more sober assessment. The link between online and offline action is not always apparent and there are other challenges, including issues around authenticity and validity. On the other side of the coin, the benefits of new media for activism include virtual public platforms for alternative or on-the-ground voices and an enhanced ability to connect, organize and ideally implement collective action.

Redefining Citizenship

However, we need to separate the technologies from the content and information being communicated. Technologies are merely the medium for delivery. It's the people behind the new media tools who drive change -- their passion, commitment, intent and purpose. They create the message and how effectively the technologies are used to convey this information. A tool is just a tool, whether a pencil, newspaper or mobile phone. It can be used to amplify both positive and negative messages, both successfully and unsuccessfully.

For good or bad, perhaps one of the greatest impacts of new media is the re-defining of citizenship. There is a move towards citizens having dual citizenship in the virtual and the real world. In this new media space, leaders are selected rather than elected and citizens feel empowered to create change, particularly in subversive environments.

It's no coincidence that web use is so important in countries with repressive political regimes, such as China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. As Manji said, "war has many terrains." The ammunition for new media users is information. Historically, power and information have always been closely aligned. As researcher and conference presenter Paolo d'Urbano explained, Victorian England controlled India through information domination.

In today's new media battle ground, state and non-state players battle it out. Controversial websites are under cyber-attack, hackers and spies spread misinformation or fake videos, airwaves and signals are jammed, government or advertisers place pressure on service providers to control content, services are banned, and/or licenses are required as a means of state control.

Middle East

This is particularly notable in the Middle East. Researcher Adi Kuntsman has traced the digital warfare between the Palestinian state and Israel. It has included heavy state and individual investment in new media by both sides. These tools are used to document events as they unfold, provide a critique of the war and offer a powerful alternative to both mirror and intensify the war on the ground. Fanar Haddad, who researched how the Iraq war was documented on YouTube, argued that, despite the challenges of contextualizing and authenticating the data, the combination of mobile phone camera and YouTube has provided a podium for minorities to offer "counter-narratives" from "everyday events in conflict stricken areas."

Alexander Dunn researched the April 6th Youth Movement Group on Facebook. He found that the online group members created momentum, coordinated responses and satellite activities after the general strike in Egypt in 2008. For the 0.5 percent who were active members, the group was a means to communicate and get involved. Even though 99.5 percent of the members formed an inactive audience, just joining the group was an act of solidarity. Some would criticize this type of activism as "slacktivism," as all that was required of the members was to click join. But change politics has never been about 100 percent participation. Despite the group being heavily skewed in terms of levels of participation, political action was successfully mobilized through new media.

Martin Gladwell in his recent article Small Change - Why the revolution will not be tweeted, argued that "if you're taking on a powerful and organized establishment you have to be a hierarchy." But despite this group's loose ties and flat network-based structure, leadership naturally and successfully shifted when certain active members were involved with on the ground activity. Other previously non-active members stepped up to fill the leadership vacuum and the group continued "acting in concert with the intent of reforming the repressive offline political sphere in Egypt," Dunnsaid. That helps explain why the Egyptian government seems threatened by new media. Recent legislation in the country requires licenses for organizations that send bulk text messages, and there is speculation that Facebook may be shut down temporarily during the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for this month.

Africa

In Africa, the power of new media is limited by access. Ten percent of Africans have access to the Internet, but when you remove countries like South Africa, Egypt and Algeria, the average Internet penetration rate is only two to three percent. The penetration rate of mobile technology is rapidly increasing, however. But penetration rates are very different to usage rates, as owning a mobile phone is very different from being able to afford to use it.

Despite these challenges, there are definitely some new media success stories in Africa. Mxit in South Africa has managed to overcome cost barriers by providing a free instant messaging service, and the results have included more messages sent per day on Mxit than there are global tweets.

In Nigeria, there are over two million people on Facebook, mainly via their mobile phones. Civilians report street stories to Sahara Reporters in an attempt to fight political corruption. Our project in Zimbabwe, Freedom Fone, is a mobile tool that bridges the digital divide. It has been developed to enable two-way audio information to be shared through mobile phone networks for people that do not have access to the Internet.

New media tools are not perfect. Tools are just tools, and when it comes down to it, motivated activists will use whatever they can get their hands on. But when citizens have access to these empowering new media tools, they are using them strategically, effectively and with discipline and success for the purpose of political change.

June 17 2010

11:08

NetSquared Local Reaches 70 Groups Worldwide!

NetSquared Local MapIn the last two months, we've had 5 new NetSquared Local groups join the scene, bringing the new official number to 70 groups worldwide! Below is a list of the new groups that have just gotten started.

read more

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