City Camp Ldn. I went because of many things. Futuregov fascinated me. Dominic Campbell inspired me. The concept made a little bit of my soul glow just a little bit brighter, the hope that people might convene and make things easier, not only for us local govvies, but also for the residents we are trying to serve in the way they'd like to be served? Couldn't resist.
I've only been to BarCamp Blackpool and the NWEGG conference before this. Ever. It was an intense experience, a little overwhelming, a little intimidating, but always challenging and therefore worthwhile. I don't see battling with things to be negative. I refuse to accept that trying to get your head around something is negative. Sitting saying nothing and then going home and bitching is negative.I don't do that. Ever.
Day 1. Started at the RSA, a beautiful building which remined my of the Courtauld Institute down at Somerset House. Same feel to the public spaces. Imbued with history, absolutely not my taste in art. Ah well. Plenty to distract from the art, with such luminaries as Kevin Curry, the creator of the City Camp 'brand' and Dave Worsell from GovDelivery. The note on my iPhone which I tapped on madly during these presentations say:
We need to create and focus on good in BwD not bad. Small things. Positive things. We tend to focus as a race on the negative, why not the positive? Small things, little wheels turning, like Boris' bikes. Fetes, carnivals, community events - can these be digital to reduce cost? An avalanche of small things creates the magic of the whole.
Barcelona website - nab ideas for the town centre website.
Harnessing those that care. Where are they and how do we use them and does digital inclusion mean a bigger army? Older people, for example, might have the time and willingness to help but not the know how or the access. Free eyes and ears to contribute.
Check out Fon for distributed wi-fi (I honestly didn't know about this, why aren't we all doing this? It's like seeding)
Don't see what we always saw, can we podcast bwd differently? The weird, wonderful, different and bizarre. We are diverse and different and many colours and backgrounds and interests, can we use that to create a sense of community by acknowledging what makes us different from everywhere else, turn challenges into positivity. Create treasure hunts through the town which are on apps but replicated on web so no one excluded by the tech? Can we sms broadcast in specified small catchment areas for example? Turn our town in differently layered space to explore for people? Do they care? How do you know when people want to engage? Is this a worthwhile way of spending public money and which directorate does this fall into?
By the time we got to John Tolva, Director of Citizenship & Technology at IBM, there was no brain left for spirals and instead I sat and let his machine gun delivery seep into my psyche. I grinned. I grinned some more. Someone who is so passionate and enthusiastic about his world, about changing his town planned world that he can't get the words out fast enough. Tripping and darting those words came out, relentless and fast, the slides seamlessly changing and progressing. It was one of the most exhausting presentations I've ever seen, but also, one of the most inspirational. And I am not, nor ever will be, into planning.
Somewhere in the midst of this the Chief Exec of the RSA, Matthew Taylor hosted a sofa interview with Caroline Pidgeon, Steve Reed and Paul Osborn. This was where the actuality of a Twitterfall behind the panel collided sharply with the ethics of such things, and two camps emerged, with Dominic Campbell having the rather horrible task of deciding whether it was morally right to be discussing peoples words behind the place they were speaking them, when they couldn't actually see them. An unenviable decision, to be fair. My person viewpoint? If you say stupid things I disagree with on something I know from personal experience, I'll call you on it. If you say something brilliant, then I will congratulate you on it. Equal opportunity of outcomes generated by the user content being produced.
I still stand by something which came out of this panel. If I contact a Councillor by Twitter, it does not mean I do not care about the issue I am contacting them about. It means Twitter has given me a voice I never felt I had before, and I am flapping my wings, using the tech to allow me to ask questions. Eventually I will ask the questions in reality. But for now, Twitter is my happy place and many others too, and to dismiss it as squawking is indicative of a collective viewpoint which does not use the tech, has no knowledge of the tech, wont try and understand the tech and therefore derides the tech, because that's easier.
I'd have admired him more if he'd asked the audience why they preferred to use it to talk to their Councillors and what was wrong with the exisitng systems of communicating with Councillors which means us, the residents, are not using them, but turning to Twitter instead.
Then, Nat McDermott spoke about Inclusive Culture and I smiled again. Nat is like a cross between a butterfly and a nuclear reactor. The projects she has been involved with cross in places with places I've worked and therefore know about, which helps. But you know that moment when someone speaks and a room pays attention and you know, you just know, that this is going in, that people are taking notice and that because the subject is quite dear to your own heart, you sigh a big sigh of a relief and just grin?
Yeah. Woman is amazing. Empowering disadvantaged groups to test their skills in communicating online in safe and accepting places before going out into the big wide world and using those skills to play with everyone else is just genius. Seriously inspirational and the highlight of the Friday for me.
Then it was time for socialising in the beautiful vaults of the RSA. I met a compound bow wound tight in the form of CEO of a company responsible for a website which helps compare womens clothing sizes but who also seemed to produce documentaries or films and whose name I never quite caught, and Louis Moseley who left an impression so complicated and profound that it's a little difficult to actualy explain. It's not often someone floors me, nor renders me almost speechless. It's not often I am disquitened yet so inspired. It's not every day I get gobsmacked by someones politics and it's not every day I have to examine my own reaction to the colour of someones politics really damn carefull and admit to some prejudices of my own and try and resolve them. To say an impression as left would be an understatement and I am slightly saddened that I am unlilkely to ever see him again, but if that's the calibre of mind and perception which Eden Valley is benefitting from, then bits of Cumbria are indeed in safe hands, something which was confirmed by a rather more local lady than I.
As a footnote to all of this......and without embarrassing someone too much, don't be sure your tweets are ignored if you don't get a response. Seems some people are causing ripples in places they'd never have had any access to, before Twitter came along. I must confess to grinning like a loon upon discovering this, because no one I know but have never met deserves the curiosity quite so much.
So. Day 1. I went to bed with Clay Shirky (I'd never heard of him before), a pounding head, but a hopeful heart.