Monday, 18 July 2011

Café Connect 9 – Monday 11th July, Drumnadrochit

9 down, 1 to go and we’re flagging… just a tad! (Who’s idea was it to do 10 events in 10 days, across Scotland, again?!)

Leaving Eskdalemuir (and the trauma of last night’s feathery casualty) behind, we headed north to Drumnadrochit. Seven hours later, we’d arrived along the banks of Loch Ness.

The Drumnadrochit champion and Centre Co-ordinator at the Craigmonie Centre, Fran Davidson, gave us a quick tour of the Glen Urquhart High School (integrated with the community centre) before setting up.

Fran did a super job maximising the attendance from around the Loch, using both traditional and social media tools. She even targeted the local MSPs, including Danny Alexander. Unfortunately none of the politicians invited could make it on the night.

Dr Lizzy Tait’s (dot.rural Impact Assessment Research Fellow) thought-provoking talk, entitled ‘The Power of Social Media: Transformational tweeting or devaluation of democracy?’ pulled in the crowds at the Craigmonie Centre: 18 people to be precise.

In the true spirit of the night’s proceedings, I was tweeting throughout, incorporating the central element of social media…

''social media is just 1 contributing factor, in a mesh of interactions, in recent political revolutions'' #CafeConnect

In a political bubble? Does social media re-enforce political beliefs, or broaden them? #CafeConnect

Tonight's 'social media' #CafeConnect @theSNP's are most active party with social media...

No one in tonight's 'social media' #CafeConnect audience is a member of a political party

Social networking accounts for approx 1/4 of all time spent online... #CafeConnect

if a political candidate's on twitter, r u more likely to become politically engaged with their party/agenda? #CafeConnect

Using Internet techs to help promote political views is nothing new... #CafeConnect

RT @dannyalexander just about to kick off with drumnadrochit #CafeConnect -shame you couldnt make it!

just about to kick off with drumnadrochit #CafeConnect follow our live tweets!

Lizzy’s talk stimulated great debate from the audience, including…
- Within the NHS, the (almost) instantaneous sharing of information raises challenges surrounding information accuracy and privacy.
- Two worlds colliding with the increasing impact of social media on mainstream, traditional media: “a good supplement but not a full replacement”.
- The possibility of social media replacing newspapers, but not journalists. Without these, you lose some level of political analysis.
- Twitter as a signpost, a gateway; “a blog without a twitter feed is like having a restaurant without a sign”.
- Political parties have been slow in adopting social media and haven’t used it as intended, i.e. to distribute small bits of information, quickly.
- The dangers of politicians abusing or exploiting demographic information contained within social media networks.
- NodeXL: A network analysis software tool which doesn’t collect demographic information… yet.
- Social media in rural areas has become the ‘hub’ for up-to-date, accurate information in dynamic situations such as school closures etc.
- The influence of social media: “a network is not proportional to the number of people following you, but the number of people following them…
- The importance of political parties engaging people, through social media, on a local, not just a national, level.
- Concerns over accessibility and digital exclusion, with new technologies possibly not being able to reach everyone, everywhere (due to cost or distance).
- The contrast between tools such as Facebook (more private? requiring a ‘real life’ interaction first?) and Twitter (the opposite?).
- Social media (about free will, autonomy, individuals) vs. political parties hierarchical organisations): does the mass adoption of social media pave the way for more independent politicians?
- The impact of social media when raising awareness about large companies and revolutions (are these just protests, without inducing actual change?).
- The power of the 'retweet' (RT)!
- Political institutions are built on an old model of trust, and the ability to gain public trust has changed through social media. At what point does a regular tweeter become a ‘politician’? e.g. Ben Goldacre, creating ‘policy’ through discussions with ‘followers’.
- Social media as “profoundly democratic”, with “my tweet being just as valid as the next persons”.
- “The whole point of social media is the conversation.
- The positive, ‘serendipitous effect’ of social media: perhaps you experience an awkward, and seemingly pointless introduction to social media, but then find a positive and relevant use for it.
- The simultaneous engagement between TV (old media) and social media e.g. #bbcqt
- Is social media making democracy more, or less, robust? Well that depends on what you mean by ‘democracy’…

Finally, special thanks go to the following for great contributions to the night's discussions: Rene Looper, Miles Mack (a GP from Dingwall), Rab Gordon, and Morag from the Enterprise North East Trust.

One left: Cannich tomorrow. I can’t believe the end is in sight.



  1. Have been reading all your posts avidly as they come up. I think that may be why my phone bill is slightly higher than normal as was accessing internet on my phone whilst on holiday whoops!

    Anyway just wanted to say a HUGE congratulations to you and the rest of the team for pulling this off. Some of them may not have been as succesful as others but this can be built on in the future and you have certainly done a brilliant job with the pilot project.

    Looking forward to reading the 10th and final posting!


  2. Thanks for the post, enjoyed reading the ideas!

    I was struck by your comment that “a network is not proportional to the number of people following you, but the number of people following them”. It made me realise I'd experienced that effect today, without noticing it, via a couple of RTs.

    I guess when talking about social media, it is easy (for me at least) to focus on the functionality and forget about what emergent properties it might have, like these kind of network effects.

  3. Thanks for your comment Richard. I saw a stat recently that said that regardless of your follower numbers if you get RTd it will be seen be at least 1000 people. I didn't see the evidence to support this claim but it sounds plausible.

    I think that investigating the impact of these networks (which will also require the development of methodologies) is a really important research area.

  4. We at the Craigmonie Centre were delighted to host in the first series(of I hope many ) Cafe Connect events. It was great to have such livley debate and to see new faces visiting us here at the centre to learn about and discuss the topic. Not to be greedy - but please please keep us in mind for the next series! I would facebook and tweet this but my HC Internet accound blocks access to social media sites - ah the Irony!

  5. Very interesting site and everyone has given very important blogs over here ,so I got new ideas from here about Social Network Analysis