Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Digital Birmingham: A quick tour by a Capetonian

Monday I decided to make a trip to Birmingham to see what the social media scene would be like in that city. Initially I had no idea what to expect but was looking forward to the journey (also the furthest north I have travelled in England). Entering the beautiful city and observing many industrial landmarks it was no surprise to me that my visit would be one that would be beyond memorable as I began meeting with the Brum Bloggers (Birmingham Social Media Community). I was hosted by Jon Hickman lecturer at Birmingham City University and also the course director for the Masters degree in Social Media. I was intrigued by the fact that they would be the first to offer a Masters in Social Media and was good to understand the thinking behind the course.

Meetings with other interesting social media experts working in local charities (Michael Grimes)and with young offenders (Jon Bounds)also proved to be very useful learning how different communities in contexts were using social media. Although we come from different parts of the world we all shared a view that key to social media is the community more than just the tools or technologies. Later the evening I had the privilege to join the Birmingham Social Media Elite (BrumBloggers) where various people in the social media sector came together to share and just chat around the table. Amazing group of people all around the room and was fortunate to connect with the likes of Nick Booth and Pete Ashton who had an interesting take on engaging with social media. Nick with his years of experience in the industry and more so trying to break down barriers within engaging using Social media in the government context reminded me of the same challenges we face with funding being available for certain initiatives yet it never reaches the ground because somewhere the message gets lost in the chain of command. More so the importance of Government when it comes to what is called the Digital Citizen. Really an informative evening having great conversations from what a Social media consultant is to how social media should be more used in the area of social good.

My second day started off meeting Chris Unitt who has an interest in social media in developing countries and was able to share some of our experiences with the Athlone Living Lab and Reconstructed Project. Key for us to social media in a developing context was identifying your champions in the community that could drive the initiatives and build capacity to contribute towards sustainability of such activities. Also did an interview with Nick (a,k,a PodNosh on Twitter and was good to share a little about the work we are doing back home. The day continued with a meeting with Dave Harte who is key in the Digital Birmingham initiative and more so part of the Liviing Lab that could lead to collaborations with our work. I can see how Cape Town who are striving to have this digital citizenship and services could learn a lot from the work that Dave is involved in and where we could share about our experiences with building innovative parters with various stakeholders. The day ended with a Social Media Cafe session in Wolverhampton where the discussion was about "Social Media Non Adopters" (This Post is on its way). The conversations was definitely heated as many had different opinions to how a social media non-adopter should be described and identified.

Overall I am very impressed by the level of creative industries involvement in the space of Social Media and It also showed me that here in Birmingham there is a breed of social media people who have such a vast amount of experiences to share and could be useful for others out there to make the trip or connection with any of these amazing individuals who will add value to your social media experience.


Nick Booth said...

Thanks for pulling all that together. I hope we didn't wear you out!

Birmingham and the West Midlands has loads of talent but the truth is we learnt a load from you and what you do.

Thanks for coming, you're always welcome back.

Marlon said...

Thanks again Nick for being so welcoming and as my UK trip comes to an end I am looking forward to returning and learning more from you