Sunday, 18 April 2010

Social inclusion and local sites To Leeds today for the second Talk About Local unconference on local websites - a more relaxed event than the last, exuding a more confident, 'we know what we're doing' getting-on-with-it air. Nice pic of TAL founder William Perrin taken from the Cover It Live coverage here. I got in a huddle with a few others to explore the contrasts between local sites in low-income neighbourhoods and in more affluent or mixed areas. There were about 10 of us, but it must have been a subject of interest because when we emerged, it turned out a separate group had formed to discuss the same topic. That's a risk with the unconference format I guess. They were probably a bit posher than us, I'd say. I bet they had comfy seats. I proposed the session because I'm interested in two possibilities: local sites in low income areas are realistic but may require different approaches, including sustained community development; local sites in mixed areas will appeal to, and be exploited disproportionately by those accustomed to power and influence - crowding-out those in the neighbourhood who might have the most to gain in terms of increased social capital. Anyway we're not proud, so here are a few points (in no particular order) that I picked up or which occurred to me during our session: Bad press (labelling) can be a provocation that gives rise to a local site. There still seems to be little perception in the community development field of the potential of local sites. (Some weary head-banging on this...) In a low-income neighbourhood, the other forms of media that are funded by advertising don’t apply to you, so what else have you got that might speak for you? There may be a tendency to under-estimate levels of internet penetration in these neighbourhoods. (Some credit for the high levels was apportioned to Facebook). A degree of inertia about issues locally suggests the need for an intense level of intervention (but see point 2 above). Get people together in a room. The offline is as important as the online. If you live in a neighbourhood where you can't get people together in a room, you betta get some CD and hope you're not stuffed by point 2 above. Beware the tyranny of text: this tech releases video and sound, so use it. The behaviour in social media spaces is something that some people just don’t get. (Like trust – some people become immediately distrustful in online conversation). We may have to make the case for amplifying the voices that otherwise don’t get heard (but see point 2 above...) I had to leave after lunch but there's a real buzzy feel to this movement now. Back in 2008 I organised an event with CABE which led me to predict that 09 would be the year of local websites. OK, not far wrong.

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