It was fantastic to have the opportunity to be part of the NatCAN gathering in Preston on Thursday, thanks to all those who made it happen. I've been reading posts by Mark Parker and Nick Beddow which reflect on discussions at the conference and on how activists can support each other. Since getting involved in discussions online through networks like NatCAN, twitter and blogs I've been fascinated and constantly amazed at the ways that connecting online promote and support face-to-face interaction, and face-to-face interaction is more likely to lead to ongoing connection and discussion if those involved connect online afterwards. It's fairly clear to me that they do more than complement each other, the online and face-to-face interactions feed and nurture each other.

I don't know how many NatCAN members or visitors know about Social Media Surgeries, but I think these are amazing spaces for activists to come together face-to-face while sharing and learning how to connect to others online. A social media surgery is an informal gathering of people who want to learn how to use the web to communicate, campaign or collaborate. Surgeries are deliberately relaxed. No presentations, no jargon, noone telling people what they think they should know. If you can blag a room or cafe with wifi and find a few folk who know a little (or a lot) about blogs, twitter, Facebook etc. you can start your own surgery, with support from the Social Media Surgery + website.

Social Media Surgeries have just won a Big Society Award, but don't hold that again them - they started way before the Coalition Government were something that citizens in this country could have imagined in their worst nightmares. What I just love is that Social Media Surgeries are spreading around the world, thanks to John Popham for sharing this link about surgeries in New Delhi which totally inspired me.

One of the greatest things about running or helping at a surgery is the face-to-face connections and support, meeting people and community groups you just didn't know were out there. I volunteer at a Birmingham surgery, and have met the most amazing activists and volunteers doing things from supporting asylum seekers to conserving buildings. 

Just a thought, as a way for community activists to get support, why not go along to your nearest surgery, or set one up?

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Comment by Lorna Prescott on May 14, 2012 at 6:32

Hi Nick

Your reflections reminded me of something I read recently towards the end of Clay Shirkey's book Cognitive Surplus. He discusses four essential points on the spectrum of online sharing:

  • Personal sharing, done among otherwise uncoordinated individuals (I think viral videos would fall here)
  • Communal sharing, which takes place inside a group of collaborators (NatCAN?)
  • Public sharing - where a group of collaborators actively wants to create a public resource (e.g. people who make open source software, I guess wikipedia would also fit here)
  • Civic sharing, when a group is actively trying to transform society.

He says The spectrum from personal to communal to public to civic describes the degree of value created for participants versus nonparticioants. With personal sharing, most or all of the value goes to participants, while at the other end of the spectrum, attempts at civic sharing are specifically designed to generate real change in the society the participants are embedded in. ... public and civic value are harder to create. ...the more we want to do at the civic end of the scale, the more we have to bind ourselves to one another to achieve (and celebrate) shared goals.

I guess a question for those of us in NatCAN is how can our members draw support from this community in their efforts to promote civic sharing and change around specific issues (e.g. gender, unemployment ....)

Comment by Nick Beddow on May 4, 2012 at 15:25

hi, I've been thinking about viral videos and how they get such wide interest. The top five videos tell us part of the story: be quirky and mindless: "Japanese pranks", "Headless Magic", Animals vs. Humans" etc. A lot of our NatCAN content deserves a wider public, so we need to keep using twitter etc to let all our followers know about inspiring debates and info on NatCAN - all we need to do is click on the 3 buttons underneath each Post to get it out there. And I'll keep thinking of ways to inspire interest in Neo-Liberalism: perhaps it needs a video on How A Monkey Folds A Shirt (with special reference to Milton Friedman)

Comment by David Wilcox on March 4, 2012 at 21:29
I've posted a piece here on the challenges of networking for activists ... more about how different spaces could join up than social media surgeries, but all part of the mix I think
Comment by Lorna Prescott on March 3, 2012 at 18:17

Thanks Joe. I hope you enjoy the Leeds surgery. Sorry I couldn't make the webinar - work commitments as usual. 

David - nice idea, though having looked at the Youth Work Online example I'm not convinced that a virtual surgery follows quite the same model. If someone attends a surgery and declares that they want to learn how to use twitter, the surgeon will talk to them first to find out what their group does, what they want to achieve etc. and explore options other than just one platform. It's a bit like community engagement training with public sector officers - they think they want to learn how to use a particular consultation, but what is actually much more helpful first is a think through all of the things you very helpfully put in your Guide to Effective Participation. People who aren't experienced get attracted by tools and don't realise what thinking and consideration will have gone in before someone decided to use that tool. My concern about a virtual social media surgery is that it becomes a support forum with conversation starting and ending with tools and platforms, rather than being about connecting, sharing, learning etc. I'm happy to be proved wrong though ...

Comment by joe taylor on February 27, 2012 at 10:35
Hi Lorna
I've signed up for a media surgery, the one at Leeds being the next one I can get to.
Dave  Wilcox is going to be talking about this in the webinar tomorrow night and using NatCAN as an example of what can be done with a ning site.
I see Dave want to try for a virtual media surgery - can we manage that?
Cheers Joe
Comment by David Wilcox on February 26, 2012 at 18:06

Hi Lorna - I'm with you on the value of social media surgeries, both for the technical support and the sociability. I wonder if we could a virtual surgery, though a mix of webinar, skype, chat - whatever - linked to some how-to resources? I see Dave Briggs tied one in a group at Youth Work Online

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