Archive for December 2009
The Christmas season is officially over and the usual traditions have been trudged out across the globe, but there have been some new additions to this year’s celebrations breaking away from the norm – and they came from the power of social media.
Someone once said social media is taking us back to ages forgotten – but in new forms. The campaign across social networks (the Facebook group boasts 1m members) for Rage Against the Machine to top the Christmas chart with their old anthem ‘Killing in the Name’, over X-factor’s deer-in-the-media-headlights Jo McElderry not only shows the real ability social media has to make change, but has also taken us back to a time when chart battles were a staple feature of advent.
The digital revolution rocked the boat for a while – the music industry worried it was the end of profit and the death of pop band industry. But a couple form Chelmsford, Essex, have proven the public still love real music, and will pay for it online, whereas force-fed manufactured stardom is not approved by the masses – the ability for the internet to give people an instant voice re-asserts the power of democracy.
As the hyperlocal phenomenon spreads across the UK, those who have been doing it for a while now are coming up with easy models for hyperlocal bloggers to adapt for their own website.
Philip John has been a very busy bee, working on a number of plug-ins (which you upload to your site as a widget – boxey amorphous things on the side of your blog) which hyperlocal bloggers would do well to download and pop on their website.
First up, the TheyWorkForYou widget shows you exactly what you local MPs are up to – listing recent activity from the government – this is only the first version of the widget and hopefully it will soon show what your local MP is saying in parliament.
The WriteToThem widget allows you to type in your postcode and write a letter online to your local MP/MEP/Politician – priceless.
GroupsNearYou will highlight groups you can go to in your area based on the postcode you provide.
Last but not least, the OpeningTimes widget is a niftly little plug-in which will show you all your local shops/supermarkets/newsagents opening times – from the Opening Times website which you can edit as it’s a wiki, like Wikipedia. Pretty useful for Christmas Tesco times.
If you want to see what these widgets look like on a hyperlocal blog, head over to Bournville Village. com where I’ve plugged them in to see how they work – they’re on the righthand side of the blog.
There are also a number of people working out hyperlocal wordpress themes which would take away the job of searching and searching for a a wordpress design which suits local blogging.
And there’s news on the grapevine of more local data widgets coming along to so this space…
Over the weekend a small tremour was felt across Birmingham. The distinct rumble was caused by a group of web developers, data hackers and HTML magicians who had gathered to do something wonderful – and the result was explosive.
“The one word that is bouncing about is ‘data’, and the project that is being attempted seems to be the impossible, as Hackitude creator and chief smart person Mark Steadman explains: “find any local place, event, or data” and the end result, as far as I can make out, is a website that allows you to access any available local information and search it in a coherent manner.”
Mark Steadman (@moxypark) decided people were beginning to get a bit all-talk-no-action about data mashing. So he quickly organised the event to bring together a number of people with the skills and motivation to make things happen – see my interview with him over on the BeVocal blog here. Hackitude aimed to capitalise on local digital creative talents in Birmingham to solve some of the city’s problems using data and the web. He said on his blog:
Hackitude is what I’d like to think of as a “problem solving weekend”: two nights of designing and building solutions to problems posted by the people of Birmingham. They could be anything from mapping public transport routes to adding data to building a community site to putting together an iPhone app to monitor the city’s pigeon populous. Really, anything.
Murmur is a project which started in Toronto.
They call it a ‘documentary oral history project which records stories and memories told about specific geographic locations’ – which doesn’t really capture what it is. People record an audio of themselves talking annecdotally about a location – and these locations tend not to be those featured on tour buses and guides – but smaller details of a city which are usually overlooked. They tell a story about the place, what it means to them and what they know about its history, and what it means in their history.
These soundbites are all plotted on a map on the murmur website – but also a little murmur card is stuck on the location – allowing people walking around the city to rung a number and listen to the story about that particular site. What makes murmur a unique way of telling local stories rather than a local’s guide to the city is this:
Some stories suggest that the listener walk around, following a certain path through a place, while others allow a person to wander with both their feet and their gaze.The stories we record range from personal recollections to more “historic” stories, or sometimes both — but always are told from a personal point of view, as if the storyteller is just out for a stroll and was casually talking about their neighbourhood to a friend.
It’s history from the ground up, told by the voices that are often overlooked when the stories of cities are told. We know about the skyscrapers, sports stadiums and landmarks, but [murmur] looks for the intimate, neighbourhood-level voices that tell the day-to-day stories that make up a city. The smallest, greyest or most nondescript building can be transformed by the stories that live in it. Once heard, these stories can change the way people think about that place and the city at large.
I particularly like this one from Edinburgh. Now they have a murmur site for São Paulo, Dublin and Vancouver. Could you do one for your area?