Social Media Summit verdict: Touch screens are a blessing

Posted on May 23, 2011


There weren’t many agreements made between contributors at the BBC’s Social Media Summit (SMS) but all who did attend can be thankful for the noiseless calm of touch screen phones and tablet computers.

Sat amongst the crowd in a cramped, sweaty room you could easily have gotten the impression that the whole event was nail bitingly boring. 90 Percent of the audience held their faces bowed down, illuminated with faint, blue light.

For those on stage it must have been unsettling to see so many faces ignoring you, instead their attention siezed by whatever is going on in their laps.

Quite the opposite occured in fact. If every attendee had been using a keyboarded laptop you would not have been able to hear anything from the speakers over the furious clicking of keys as people typed away, immediately repeating what they heard in 140 character Tweets.

It was difficult to keep up with the sheer volume of information, discussion and repetition flowing from the 200 strong audience on the #bbcsms trend on Twitter.

Even those participating in front of cameras somehow managed to sneak the odd tweet out without anyone noticing.

It was perhaps slightly ironic that much of the talk centred around the media’s use of social media in its unedited form, questioning the morals and worth behind publishing anything and everything.

No sooner had the words escaped the lips of Meg Pickard (theguardian), Peter Horrocks (BBC Global News) and Esra Dogramaci (Al Jazeera) amongst others, before the world was given the opportunity to decide whether or not they agree with them.

The summit

In actual fact to call this conference a summit is over-egging it a bit. Yes there were plenty of people in the know, senior media professionals and hardened journalists butby all accounts the discussions are a part of a long running series of conferences in which those that have certain opinions rarely change them as a result.

Stefanie Soehnchen reports on one of the more interesting insights into Social Media (SM) to come from the summit in her blog In Sight Out:

‘Esra Dogramaci told the summit that during the revolution in Egypt, Al Jazeera‘s coverage benefitted greatly from the use of ‘eyes and ears on the ground’ via sm.

That is why Al Jazeera created tutorials which are little ‘how-to’s for the use of SM. Also, they started to hand out Flip cameras.

“We decided to train people how to contribute content to our various platforms in order to give them a chance for their voice to be heard,” Dogramaci said.

In cases when journalists can’t access a place or situation, non-journalist SM-users are the only source.’

Difficult questions

Esra fielded difficult questions from the audience, probing the moralistics behind involving the general public in dangerous situations for unpaid work for their broadcasts.

It was difficult to decide whether Al Jazeera were proud to be the conduit for the people to get their supressed message out to the world, or whether they are proud that they took the opportunity handed to them and utilized it to unquestionably raise the profile of their company.

Certainly this was a point raised in Twitter feeds across the room, with many voicing for and against the broadcaster.

Voicing, that is, in a silent, touch screen swishing kind of way.

The discussion on the future of journalism, of New Media and of Social Media continues. There will be many similar conferences such as this appearing all over the world for several years to come before we get to grips with the speed at which change is happening.

One thing is for sure – the biggest noise will be made on Twitter.

Posted in: News, The Odd Box