Today’s podcast was recorded as part of the first DMU International Community Media Expo. Sitting around the table was Julian, Kiaran, Ineke, Gerhart and myself. We chatted about the role and the importance of community media and what we need to learn to make our own media.
John Naughton writing in The Guardian makes a very powerful point about the need for trusted sources of information in developing communities. With the use of Facebook as a tool for promoting fake news, which has led to violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, Naughton suggests that:
We have woken up to Facebook’s pernicious role in western democratic politics and are beginning to think about ways of addressing that problem in our bailiwicks. To date, the ideas about regulation that have surfaced seem ineffectual and so the damage continues. But at least liberal democracies have some degree of immunity to the untruths disseminated by bad actors who exploit Facebook’s automated targeting systems – provided by a free press, parliamentary inquiries, independent judiciaries, public-service broadcasters, universities, professional bodies and so on.
However, as Naughton goes on to point out:
Other societies, particularly the developing countries now most assiduously targeted by Facebook, have few such institutions and it is there that the company has the capacity to wreak the most havoc.
The importance of trust in our civic and community media is crucial to promoting peace and reconciliation, but do we have the right tools to do this as independent media producers and communities? Large media organisations spend a lot of time promoting their ‘brand’ identity so that it can be trusted and relied upon, but this appraoch isn’t available to small, independent, volunteer-led community media groups.
Is there a way, then, perhaps with something like the Mozilla Open Badges project, which independently verified people’s learning, to independently verify the output of reporters across different media platforms, networks and communities?
Trust is the currency that holds society togehter, and when trust dies, our social order suffers. How can we build a new infrastructure that enables trust to be implicity validated in our media use, and what would the criteria be that would demonstrate that a reporter or a media producer is a trusted source? If Uber and Tripadvisor can do this, why can’t news organisations and social media corporations put some funding and development time into producing trust tokens for community reporters?
It’s often thought that anything goes when it comes to social media, and that we are free to do and say pretty much whatever we want because there is no control. Obviously, this is an unfounded assumption. When we post material online we are subject to the same laws and standards as any other form of publishing – liable and advertising standards being just two. Ben Chapman writing in The Independent describes how the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recognises that:
Lines are now blurred between advertising and editorial content, leading to uncertainty for consumers and for influencers themselves, who may not know what is and is not allowed.
Under industry rules, ads must be obviously recognisable as such so that people know when they’re being advertised to. The ASA said that when people are not sure what is advertising and what isn’t, trust in the whole sector is damaged.
So if you are planning on using your social media activities to generate some cash, do yourself a favour and check out the ASA rules first and stay on the right side of the law.
Tonight’s podcast gave John Coster and myself some insight into the work of Ulike Kubatta, a documentary film maker who recently joined us at De Montfort University. Ulrike’s friend and DJ, Martina Giesa told us about her love of original R&B music, while J and Toc gave us some insight into the mind of millenials and their goals in life.
This is an overview of the topics that will be covered in the twenty third lecture for TECH1002 Social Media Innovation.
There are two articles about community and community media that are worth reading from today’s Guardian. The first is a brief account by Anna Bawden of the role of community media in the UK, and the potential for a not-for-profit focus on the new Small Scale DAB proposals.
“Lucinda Guy, chair of the Community Media Association, says: “Not-for-profit media is appallingly underfunded”, despite doing “astoundingly important and brave work to heal divided communities, tackle extremism, and boost participants’ mental health. We know that the best foil to divisive rhetoric is to increase the power of moderate voices in those communities to be heard, and yet we see station managers around the country struggling to eat and pay the bills while doing this excellent and essential work to support their communities.” While the government is considering whether the new licences should reserve digital radio capacity for existing and new community stations, the CMA does not feel this goes far enough. Guy adds: “Unless SSDAB is in the ownership and control of communities, which can curate a range of stations that are interesting for local people, we fear that small-scale local radio will deliver profit, not social benefit.”
The second is a piece from George Monbiot, in which he describes how the scourge of loneliness that affects people’s health in many of our communities can be challenged with a greater focus on a sense of community.
“The evidence strongly suggests that social contact should be on prescription, as it is in Frome. But here, and in other countries, health services have been slow to act on such findings. In the UK we have a minister for loneliness, and social isolation is an official “health priority”. But the silo effect, budget cuts and an atmosphere of fear and retrenchment ensure that precious little has been done.”
I wonder when news organisation’s like the Guardian are going to join the dots and realise that community media and better social well-being are connected? I’m sure we can be providing them with a lot of evidence to demonstrate how community media works to improve communities health and well-being in practice.
We live in a culture of so-called achievement, in which our jobs and our life experiences are accounted for in terms of the impact that they have and the results that we get from what we do. This can be measured in terms of cash that we earn, research papers that we produce, or the number of students who pass our modules. The pressure is on for us to do more with less, to move up league tables and to raise the standard for what we do. The problem, however, is that more of us are suffering from social anxiety and burnout as a result.
This increasingly common problem is discussed in some detail in this article by Moya Sarner writing in The Guardian. It’s well worth reading:
Beyond the workplace, we live in an age when society itself seems to be burning out, with austerity, rising poverty and the uncertainty caused by Brexit pushing people to and beyond their limits. “Burnout could be seen as a condition of our times,” Andrew agrees, as cuts to services are making it harder and harder for people to cope: “Alongside cuts to social care, there are cuts to the voluntary sector, projects around domestic violence, for parents, for older people. Stopping a group for carers of people with dementia might seem like a tiny thing, but we have reached a critical point of extremely limited support, and if you’re in that situation, over a period of time, it makes complete sense that your body and mind would shut down. I see strong, capable, independent people who have reached a stage where there is no other option.”
There are certain factors that protect a workplace from burnout, says Vesey – a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, and a management style that finds “a balance between clarity and presence, but also offer people autonomy to allow them to get on with what they need to get on with”. Without these, a business and its employees are more vulnerable. Rock is realistic that businesses need to prioritise performance, but says: “It’s about thinking how you get the best performance out of your people. We should not move the way a charity operates into the financial sector – it would lose its competitive advantage very quickly – but there are things managers can do to support their staff, such as creating an environment where people can talk about what’s happening in the organisation, what’s happening for them.” What Cox suggests a boss should say is: “We recognise you’re having a tough time. What can we do to help you?”
I suppose the question is, what can we change about our own working practices that will help to avoid or minimise this sense of burnout? This is one of the reasons I actively minimise the use of email at work, because there is nothing more depressing than full email in tray. A face to face conversation, maybe over a cup of tea is so much more effective for building and sustaining relationships. It’s just a pity that the modern workplace strips away these opportunities for social contact and pushes less-human forms of communication on us.
It would be interesting to explore how we can turn the essential tasks that we have to do in our working lives back into something that is creative and empowering. Anyone got any ideas or example of how this is being done? Moya cites the Thriving at Work report, which might be a good checklist for assessing how we need to rethink work-based practices and how social media can contribute to well-being and not just leave us with techno-stress?
Another vibrant and absorbing podcast again this evening, with a range of views and opinions from Mike, J, Ben, Tina, John and myself. The theme tonight was the UN Sustainable Development Goals, that is being promoted by the National Union of Students across the UK, and what we might do to incorporate the sustainability objectives into our courses and learning opportunities.