‘We Media’ conference really about ‘them’

[Keyword: ]. Martin Stabe gives a good summary of the We Media conference, asking: “Where were the “we” in the brave new We Media? Just one blogger — 7 July survivor and political blogger Rachel North — appeared on stage on the first day. The £450 delegate fee hardly encouraged participation by citizen journalists.”

He goes on to say:

“Anyone who has taken more than a passing interest in the emergence of participatory media over the past five years or so will not have heard anything
Earth-shattering at the We Media forum.

“In fact, most of the people in attendance at We Media could have saved the fee — simply by downloading and re-reading We Media, the now-seminal paper by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis that was commissioned for the first We Media conference.”

Suw Charman, “executive director of the Open Rights Group, blogger at Strange Attractor, and one of the “online curators” tasked with tracking the online coverage of the conference”, was reported as saying: “How can you have a conference about citizen journalism without any citizen journalists speaking?”

“You can’t buy a community and then just exploit it. Citizen journalism is not
simply a matter of ‘Oh, we’ve got a few comments, we’ve got a few photographs of
Buncefield’ — this is the first tiny step to true participatory media, but you
need to get into the real nitty-gritty of what makes communities tick and why
they’re doing what they’re doing. Why are they sending photographs in? Is it
just that they want the warm glow of satisfaction that their photo got published
by the Beeb, or are there deeper social needs that participatory journalism
satisfies? Until they understand that, they are going to screw up.”

Meanwhile, over at Rebuilding Media, Dorian Benkoil makes some constructive suggestions on how the conference might better achieve its aims of being inclusive:

  • Participation via low-end tech
  • Have the IRC or whatever chat mechanism scrolling live behind folks, and people at the conference can see the conversation multi-dimensionally?
  • Experiment with seating arrangements
  • Have folks from governments speaking
  • Allow questions from outside the room

2 thoughts on “‘We Media’ conference really about ‘them’

  1. Gloria Pan


    Thanks for your interest in the We Media Global Forum. I wonder, though, why you chose to pass along only decidedly negative reviews and not some of the more constructive ones? You even framed Dorian’s much-appreciated comments in a way that made it seem as if he found nothing of value from the conference. His post was neutral, yes, but I know for a fact that he had a pretty good experience.

    There was certainly room for improvement in the program, but for The Media Center, what was happening on stage was the lesser half of what the conference was about. We Media’s main purpose was to get a diverse group of people together – from the very grassroots to the acme of MSM – for mind- and perspective-changing conversation. It aimed to expose MSM reps to grassroots thinking in a constructive way, and give proponents of participatory media the chance to tap Carolyn McCall, Tom Glocer or Richard Sambrook on the shoulder and initiate dialog that could influence their thinking as they make decisions for their organization. It was a chance for anyone to engage Scott Heiferman or Dan Gillmor or Jeff Jarvis, people pushing the boundaries of social media, to throw around ideas on what could be in a perfect world.

    Here are some comments by people who may have started out rather disappointed by what they saw on Day 1, but by the end of the conference, “got it.”

    Michela Ledwidge, We Media Global Forum – Day Two
    Neha Viswanathan, People at We Media and fringe conversations
    Mark Glaser, We Media, Me Too Media and Them Media
    Rachel North, We Media 2006

    And this just up on Kiernan McCarthy’s blog regarding the Internet Governance Meeting:

    “As ever, the path had to be cut by Nitin Desai, and it seems that he was impressed by the interaction at the We Media conference in London the other day – particularly by the level of interactions provided by blogs. In fact, Mr Desai mentioned blogs numerous times and how these views could and should be pulled into the whole process.”

    Nitin Desai, Special Assistant to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivered a keynote at the We Media Global Forum on Day 1 and stayed for the whole conference.

    So Paul, if we’re fortunate to have you join us at the next We Media conference, scheduled for next February in Miami, let me ask you, what would you do? Would you limit yourself to the role of program critic, or would you reach across the MSM-blogger divide and try to change some people minds?

  2. Graham

    As an attendee at We Media my impression is that the more ‘open’ second day at reuters was far more successful than the ‘glitzy’ first day at the BBC.

    Gloria made some very good points about interactivity with people of all shades at the conference. I flitted between chatting about how best to sydicate blog content with the MD of Reuters to talking about book deals with an Avon lady blogger. People, in general, were approachable regardless of who they were.

    In my suggestions to the Media Center following the conference this is somethign I suggested, and which is not visible for those not attending, that future conferences should be more open. The real value for attendees is in the conversations over coffee and in pubs in the evening.

    Where (I think) We Media did score is in the partnerships that may evolve as a result of putting all these people ina room together. Fostering that is key to speeding success of We Media and seeding collaboration among attendees.


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