Will The King’s Cross stay on the map?

Another example of social media playing an important role in current affairs is the recent Facebook campaign to save Cardiff’s oldest surviving gay bar. Over 1200 people have joined the Facebook group to save the The King’s Cross from being turned into a gastropub.

Rugby star Gareth Thomas has also backed the protest, describing the pub as a part of Cardiff’s history. The pub, which was originally built in 1872 and used as a hotel, was known as a safe haven for gay men long before the legalisation of homosexuality.

A staple feature of Cardiff’s gay venues, the pub is an important part of Cardiff’s gay community. Campaigners will be heading to London’s Savoy Hotel tomorrow, 26th of October, to demonstrate with members of London’s gay community.

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Daniel Meadows and the red double-decker bus

‘History has always been the story of the victorious’

Until now.

Thanks to the internet, anyone can share their story and become a part of documented history. Millions use the likes of YouTube as a platform to express themselves, and many have become social phenomena as a result.

An obvious example is Justin Bieber, the 16 year old who found fame via YouTube. Since an agent spotted one of Bieber’s home-made music videos on the video-sharing website, the teenager has topped charts and broken records; with over 365 million hits and growing, his collaboration with Ludacris is currently the most viewed YouTube video of all time.

A notable trend within the most recent list of top ten most viewed YouTube videos is the prevalence of amateur material. Dotted amongst professional productions from the music industry are snippets from the lives of common people. The popularity of these videos demonstrates our celebration of the ordinary, something which photographer, documentarist and academic Daniel Meadows started doing over 35 years ago.

Meadows, who has taught at Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies since 1994, started his professional career by focusing on the ordinary person. After studying photography at Manchester Polytechnic, his career took off in an old red double-decker bus, a portable studio better known as the Free Photographic Omnibus.

During that 10,000 mile journey around England, which took place between 1973-74,  Meadows photographed members of the general public in a bid to compile a national portrait of the English. Decades later a selection of those photos featured in Tate Britain’s 2007 blockbuster show: ‘How We Are – Photographing Britain’. Between 2001 – 2006 Meadows was also creative director of the award-winning BBC ‘Capture Wales’ Digital Storytelling project.

Digital storytelling, according to Meadows, is a convivial tool which allows anyone to tell their story. A micro-video of around 2 minutes in length (containing approximately 250 words and 12 pictures), a digital narrative is a compact space within which an individual tells a tale about him or herself. Digital stories are best made at a workshop, but you can also learn how to make one yourself by following Meadows’ online tutorial.

The voices of those who took part in the ‘Capture Wales’ project are numerous and vary in tone: from a husband’s comical depiction of his wife’s shoe obsession to Welsh-speaker Abigail Elliott’s poignant account of losing her mother. Each digital story is a part of what Meadows defines as ‘the invisible history of Wales’ i.e. an authentic part of history which would otherwise have remained unrecorded.

Meadows describes the opportunities of the digital age as ‘enormous’, and while he does not object to mainstream media, he does believe that there is always an alternative. To him, digital storytelling is a form of democratization which allows the public to hear stories from the nation itself, rather than just from the newsroom.

As Meadows says, ‘everyone has a story’ – why not share yours?

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Wardle’s Web Chat

A lecture given by Dr. Claire Wardle is a bit like social media itself; fast-paced, stimulating and interactive.

Last week at CJS’ Online & Mobile Journalism lecture, Dr. Wardle, who currently works with the BBC College of Journalism, spoke about the relationship between journalism and the internet. Wardle covered a variety of interesting points, but her main message remained constant throughout: journalism is changing, and although nobody knows where it’s going, it is an exciting time for the profession.

In the wake of the online revolution, it is becoming increasingly essential that all journalists (who have not already done so) evolve from dial-up-modem troglodyti to an all-twittering, all-blogging species in order to survive and be in command of the new journalistic world.

This world, which has gone from flat to ‘multiplatformed’, now allows people to digest, divulge and determine news in a quick and collaborative way. As a result, journalists are no longer the sole gatekeepers of the news, and civic journalism is on the rise as news is constantly updated by the general public (or what Jay Rosen calls ‘the people formerly known as the audience’).

Although, while Dr. Wardle put a fairly positive spin on transparency being the new objectivity, in light of recent reports on facebook and national cyber security it appears there can be such a thing as having Too Much Information online. The idea that Google Advance Search has the ability to bypass firewall, for example, is quite disturbing. So too is the fact that several sites (e.g. 123people.com, PIPL.com and 192.com) are probably already displaying your address, phone number and – perhaps more worringly – your Amazon Wish List.

But, paranoia about the Thought Police and government surveillance aside (although Dr. Wardle did mention that police are also using social media nowadays…) the range of tools and the wealth of information online is undoubtedly impressive, and quite inspiring.

Social networks, RSS-feeders and sites such as datagov.com, trendsmaps.com and informationisbeautiful.net are all useful resources. More importantly, they are symptomatic of the social-media bandwagon which each journalist must now jump aboard to keep up with the fleeting nature of modern-day journalism.

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