My interview on BBC Radio 4 “You and Yours” about Free Wifi for Hospitals

On 29th May I appeared on BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours” programme talking about the need for Free Wifi in Hospitals. The feature is below.

Join the campaign at https://www.facebook.com/groups/hospitalwifi/

Thanks very much to “You and Yours” for raising the profile of this vital issue.

The cost of digital inclusion £875 million?

Some very welcome coverage of Digital Inclusion issues in the mainstream media today, including on BBC TV Breakfast programme and on BBC Radio 4’s Today. This is stimulated by the publication of a report by The Policy Exchange which estimates that it would cost £875 million to ensure everyone in the UK has the digital skills necessary to thrive online in the modern world.

Now, while I welcome this much-needed focus on a vital issue, which exercises me greatly, the way the debate is framed gives me concerns.

Firstly, there is that figure, £875m. And it is not the first time this figure has been quoted as the same sum was mentioned in a report earlier this year commissioned by the Tinder Foundation [pdf]. I don’t doubt the figure is accurate, but I still don’t think it is helpful. I think politicians, in particular, look at it and say “we can’t afford this”. I am a great believer in biting off manageable chunks of a problem, and I think presenting the issue as one big problem with an £875m price-tag presents a sizeable barrier. I wonder if not enough work is being done to learn from the many innovative local initiatives which are taking place all over the country, and working out how these can be applied elsewhere, from within existing resources. The other point is that people learn best from others like themselves. A lot of the focus needs to be on voluntary digital champions who can cascade their skills to their friends and neighbours. Taking this approach may well reduce the costs.

My second concern is about the framing of the debate around “digital skills”. It tends to set people off into thinking about training courses and teachers. In my opinion, and based on experience, this is not about training courses; it is about demonstrating to people what they are missing out on. This is best done in a fun way, in unusual settings, and with zero emphasis on “teaching” and “skills”.

Conferences – Let’s see the speaker

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At last week’s Comms Hero event in Manchester I diverted a little from the main theme of my presentation to have a little rant about the lighting at conferences. This was partly as a result of a conversation I had during one of the breaks about how well staged Comms Hero was, compared to a lot of other events.

One of the things I do, in a varied portfolio, is to video conferences. Usually live streaming, but sometimes recorded video. I do this on a low-budget basis. This means that I don’t carry a lighting rig with me, I rely on the lighting at the venue. And, all too often, this is inadequate. I find there is very often no lighting at all on the speaker. And, this is often compounded by the fact that the speaker is silhouetted against the bright light shining from the screen where their PowerPoint slides are displayed. On video, this can render the image of the speaker completely dark, which requires quite a bit of editing to lighten it up. And, it is not much better for the eyes of the people present in the room. And, on the occasions when I have tried to rectify this by shining a light on the speaker, I either get complaints from the speaker that they can’t see the audience, or complaints from the audience that they cannot see the slides.

Some speaker tips from Lee Jackson

One of the themes of my presentation at Comms Hero was speakers who stand and read out bullet points kill conferences. In this context, I question how we got to the stage where speakers present in darkness with their PowerPoint slides shining out behind or beside them. I think there is a growing recognition that bullet point slides are an insult to the audience and detract from the speaker’s message. Most of us who attend conferences can read, and, personally, I am much more interested in seeing the speaker than the slides. I want to see how passionate they are about what they are saying. I think that bulleted slides are a screen to hide behind for people who don’t really believe in what they are talking about.

So, I call on conference organisers to light the speakers not the slides. Events are about human interaction, and I want to see the human being not the written words.

Some more speaker tips from Bettakultcha‘s Richard Michie

 

Warm weather and spontaneity

Huddersfield Carnival 2013

It’s warm outside, the sun is shining, and the park near my house is rammed full of people.

Now, I think the British complain too much about the weather, and I think people are far too willing to be put off going outside by rain, snow, or just cold temperatures. As the saying goes “there’s no such thing as bad weather; just poor clothing choices”.  But, I can’t deny that a lot more people are prepared to be outside when the sun is shining.

The thing about Britain is you can’t necessarily plan for warm, sunny weather. Yes, you can study the weather forecasts, but, I suspect most people are sceptical about them. I’ve taken to monitoring them much more closely since I’ve had a dog that needs exercising twice a day, all year round, whatever the weather. Most people don’t however. And I suspect with the vast majority, the decision to go out and enjoy their surroundings in the great outdoors is a spontaneous one.

Dog

The problem with this is that most outdoor entertainment is not spontaneous. It is planned well ahead; which means that a lot of it ends up happening on rainy days to sparse audiences.

So, I argue for more provision for spontaneous entertainment on “unexpected” warm, sunny days. I’d argue that all public parks and open spaces should have access to:

  • a portable stage
  • a PA system
  • a popup bar

That way we could be spontaneous about how we provide public entertainment.

 

First Housing Stories Workshop #housingstories

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Thursday 1st May, saw the first of my #housingstories workshop. #housingstories came about as a response to the increasing tide in the mainstream media of negative stories about people who live in social housing. “Benefits Street” and “How to Get a Council House” are just two examples of the recent trend for TV, newspapers, etc. to stoke the fires of negative stereotyping of the people who live in social housing. I have long argued that people now have the tools in their own pockets, i.e. their smartphones, to produce material of a decent quality that can contribute to telling their own stories, and that gives us all the ability to shape and disseminate our own stories. It has been clear, however, that the social housing sector has been slow to take advantage of these opportunities. So, the aim of #housingstories is to demonstrate how this can be done and to create a cohort of people within the social housing sector with the skills and confidence to tell their own digital stories and to help those they work with, particularly social housing tenants, to do so for themselves.

So, the format for the workshops is that we start of by talking about the importance of storytelling and why we do it, moving on to some effective examples. We then explore storytelling techniques, before undertaking some practical work, during which participants interview each other on camera. We then explore some basic editing tools, and we critique the interviews they have recorded to provide some pointers for improving the quality of their output for the future. And we also cover uploading content to Youtube and other sites, and promoting it via social media.

My emphasis in these workshops is on assisting people to produce good quality content with the tool they are likely to carry with them all the time, their smartphone. Most smartphones these days can produce good quality, usually, HD, video. I know that the purists will always say that there are deficiencies, particularly in sound and lighting. Yes, you can get better results using an external microphone, and, yes, you need additional lighting in certain circumstances. But, I maintain that people are highly unlikely to carry such additional kit with them as a matter of course, and that, if they believe such equipment is necessary, then they will run the risk of missing good stories.

So, in the workshops, we cover techniques for overcoming the deficiencies of lacking additional equipment. These include:

  • getting as close as possible to the subject to make sure the microphone is adjacent to their mouth
  • cutting down background noise by moving to a quieter location
  • making sure you shoot video in a well-lit location
  • cutting down wind noise on external shoots by putting a sock or a glove over the microphone

I think the videos participants shot were pretty good efforts for a first attempt. See what they came up with below. I am keen to do more of this kind of thing in other parts of the country. Let me know if you’d like to host a workshop.

Hayley Collins interviewed by Jess Dewhurst

Jess Dewhurst interviewed by Hayley Collins

Adrian Capon interviewed by David Troupe

David Troupe interviewed by Adrian Capon

Stephen Blundell interviewed by Andy Leppard

Andy Leppard interviewed by Stephen Blundell

John Middleton interviewed by Peter Greenwood

Peter Greenwood interviewed by John Middleton

 

Let’s debunk some myths about the internet / world wide web

Let’s debunk some internet / web myths:

1. Social media gets in the way of human contact and communication

Forget the device or the medium. Social media opens up thousands of new channels for human contact and communication. Increasingly it is the way people communicate, and, as devices get smaller, less conspicuous, and less obvious (think Google Glass, Samsung Gear); and as good connectivity becomes ubiquitous, we will forget about the medium and just communicate. And, if you don’t find online contact satisfactory, then organise face-to-face get-togethers with your online connections.

2. Nobody needs hyperfast broadband

Hyperfast broadband (1000Mbps and above) facilitates instant exchange of data, information, and communication It allows people to talk to each other with high definition / 3D / hologramatic video, which is almost like being in the same room. And it does away with the lag that puts so many off certain aspects of web communication.

I am grateful to Sarah Baskerville for pointing me to this video which highlights the problems we would face if we had slow internet lag in all our daily activities.

Digital Tea Party

This Friday (2nd May) I am working with Leeds Federated Housing Association, the HUGO project, and JTM Service to run a Digital Tea Party.

The format will be a traditional vintage tea party, and people are baking cakes to bring along; but it will be augmented with digital technology, giving people the opportunity to try out different kinds of gadgets and equipment, and it will feature a live Skype linkup with a similar event taking place eleswhere in the city.

So tune in for some fun and games, this Friday from 2pm. Follow the hashtag #digitparty on twitter and elsewhere on social media.

Image credit: Patrick Emerson on Flickr  https://www.flickr.com/photos/kansasphoto/

ebaywatch – Let’s make it happen

Photo courtesy of coljac on Flickr

I first floated the idea of ebaywatch (title courtesy of Graham Richards) in April 2011. This year, I am determined to make it happen.

This is an outline of the event, for which I will be seeking sponsors. Please use the comments section below to add your ideas.

  • A group of volunteers convenes at a public beach on an agreed day. Hopefully sponsorship can be found at least to contribute to travel expenses. It needs to be a beach relatively easy to access from most of the country via public transport – current favourite is Blackpool;
  • Blackpool is also current favourite because of Cath Mugonyi‘s mystical ability to source 1000 deck chairs!
  • A Social Media Advice Hub is established in a prominent location on the beach, with prominent sign-posting / branding. This could be something as simple as a gazebo, but a Beach Hut would be awesome;
  • Volunteers offer advice to members of the public on how to enhance their holiday / beach-going experience using social media;
  • During advice-giving down-time (which, let’s face it, would probably be most of the time), the volunteers can engage in traditional beach activities (including, of course, beach cricket) which can be videoed, live tweeted, instagrammed, blogged etc.

Ideas to build on this, below, please.

 

Telecare & Telehealth: Drivers for Digital Inclusion

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Earlier this week, I spend two days at Leeds University Business School, videoing the AKTIVE project conference “Technology, Care and Ageing: Enhancing Independence”. Although my role was to observe proceedings through the screen on the back of the camera, I found the whole event fascinating.

The conference theme was about the use of Telehealth and Telecare with older people. I got to see a lot of the conference, as I was asked to capture snippets of all the parallel workshops. As I went around the event, I heard a common theme emerging, which was repeated in a keynote presentation by Professor Heinz Wolff (pictured above). This was that it is essential to get people acquainted with unfamiliar new technologies before there comes a crisis in their lives which means they are forced to use them. There were many examples cited of people rejecting telecare equipment, or failing to use it as intended, because they were frightened of it, or at least extremely unfamiliar with it.

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Esther Rantzen at AKTIVE 2014 Conference

This is a similar theme to one of my recurring mantras for Digital Inclusion, which is that people have to be introduced to new technologies in enjoyable ways and in familiar settings, before they have to use them for formal, or in this case, life-saving purposes.

There is an audioboo below, in which I captured my immediate thoughts. I think it is imperative for the Digital Inclusion and Telecare / Telehealth communities to unite around a common agenda to build familiarity with new technologies among older people for whom they can be life-enhancing, and life-saving, tools.