Three years ago the students on the MA Social Media course I run organised an event based on what they saw as an obvious connection between the vibrant community media scene in Birmingham and the role that social media seemed to be playing in facilitating change in the Middle East.
The awkwardly titled but very successful ‘We Are What We Tweet’ conference brought together individuals involved in using media for social change in Birmingham with those doing the same thing in Egypt at the time of the January 2011 revolution.
Now in 2014 another event, this time organised by the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, has the opportunity to do the same thing.
The Media for Social Change Unconference on May 3rd takes the current work of our research centre in the MENA (Middle East and North African) region as its starting point, with an impressive line-up of international speakers in the morning panel. The afternoon’s unconference slots provide an excellent opportunity for Birmingham’s growing army of media activists to come along and contribute to what should be a lively debate about citizen-led media.
My own research in this area has previously revealed Birmingham as a bit of a hotspot for ‘hyperlocal’ media. I’ve just completed some primary research in South Birmingham where the local blog draws on a large group of citizen reporters who contribute rich content to their hyperlocal website creating a powerful alternative voice for the area.
Elsewhere in Birmingham we have many advocates of new approaches to engaging communities through social media. The Social Media Surgeries take place all over the UK but they began here in Birmingham by a group of bloggers who wanted to disrupt traditional models of knowledge exchange and facilitate wider participation in media production and distribution.
Along with events like Brewcamp and TedxBrum the city is the right place for some fresh reflections on ‘how can we begin to re-think the relationship between new information and communication technologies and social change’.
The pace of social change in the MENA region and in Birmingham seems as rapid as it was when we held our student-led conference three years ago. But now that it’s Birmingham’s turn to grab international headlines it would be good for us all to learn from each other in such times of political and social unrest.
(top pic of Northfield Social Media Surgery by Nick Booth via Flickr)