Category Archives: Bromsgrove Digital Shoebox

[bds] It’s about us not about them

Another important idea in this project is looking at how popular culture really played out from the point of view of ordinary people, rather than from those making mass media.  I’ve come to believe that we need to start telling our own stories in our own ways about our own lives, rather than relying on the established media to rehash itself.

I’m thinking mostly of television programmes that purport to tell us what life was like in the Seventies by stringing together clips of television programmes made in the Seventies.

There are two problems with this approach:

1. That by condensing material made for a mass medium all you’re doing is reinforcing an already partial view of society and what we were like.

2. That it is subject to censorship for reasons of political sensitivity (no more TOTP if it contains footage of Jimmy Savile) or the complexity of gaining licensing rights.

3. We all, legitimately, have our own view of what happened in the past and none of us know the whole truth.

My belief is that television was no more representative of what was really happening then than it is now.  Except now we can make and share our own media cheaply and easily and then it was hard and expensive.

I’m not just interested in collecting and sharing  this material because of the nostalgic fuzz, as delightful as that can be.

This project is also about allowing us to say: “This is how we were, we had a life and a point of view that was influenced by dominant pop cultures and media but was also something we made ourselves.”

Go on, chuck something in the pot.

[bds] People, places and things. Oh and time.

[This post is about the Bromsgrove Digital Shoebox project - bds]

I’m thinking about the scope of media/content/stuff.  It’s a balancing act, working out where to draw the lines – what should be included, what should be outside the remit of the project.

It doesn’t actually matter that these lines are arbitrary and flexible, but at this stage, when the main focus is on explaining what I’m doing, in order to help people decide whether to fund more work, it helps if it’s clear enough for them to quickly understand the basics.  On the other hand, I don’t want to dictate this too tightly, too early, I want your input.

So what’s in?

  • I’ve talked about photos, film and audio; scans of documents might be interesting if they’re not available elsewhere.
  • I’ve set the timeframe to be the 1970s and by that I suppose I meant 1970-1979 inclusive.  I’m not deeply attached to this, and I wouldn’t want to exclude interesting material from say 1981.  I think it’s something that can become firmer when we really know what is out there.
  • The media should have been produced in Bromsgrove or include people who lived in Bromsgrove at the time (let’s not exclude those pics of school trips to France!).  If it’s in Bromsgrove, then the media might not include people, it might just be places, buildings, roads, railways etc. I think using the boundary of Bromsgrove District Council is appropriate.
  • I’m also most interested in media made by “ordinary people” rather than press or TV coverage (if only to avoid rights conversations with a bureaucracy) but I wouldn’t want to exclude them altogether.

Any thoughts on other dimensions to the scope?

You can contribute to keep this project moving. Every donation helps, thanks :)

[bds] Why not just use Facebook?

[meta advisory - for regular readers of this blog, you'll notice that the title is prefaced with the tag: bds for Bromsgrove Digital Shoebox.  I will likely be writing about this quite a bit over the next few months and I'll try to remember to tag the titles so that you can make a better informed decision about whether to read on or not - the project will no doubt have a blog of its own before long, but till then the best place to see what's really happening is the crowdfunding page]

I’m committed in this project to make as much as possible available via the open web, rather than via corporate service offers like Facebook – yes you can share anything you like and connect to people very smoothly, but there are a few costs on the user side that aren’t immediately obvious and I’d like to avoid them.

I’m not totally anti-Facebook – for many things I find their (free) service very useful and you’ll see that I’m using it a lot to get word out about the project.  It’s just easy to forget that there’s a downside and I think the downside is too big for projects like this, in these particular ways:

1. Ownership, Authority, Access.

It’s your material and you will have the right to share it however you want.  In an archive environment though, there needs to be some independent authority for resolving disputes and making  decisions about things.  That authority doesn’t have to be centralised, it can be distributed between members of the community, as it is for Wikipedia.

This openness will at some point bump up against concerns about personal privacy, but we will start with an assumption that everything will be open and free and only close down in response to real concerns not ones that we can imagine in the abstract.

I also don’t want access to our memories and digital assets to be subject to the continuing existence or shifting priorities of a publicly-owned corporation based in California.

2. Not everyone is on Facebook

We all know this to be true, but it’s easy to fall back into thinking that “loads of people, at least more people than I can keep track of” is a good proxy for “everyone”.  And if you’re not on Facebook, if you choose for whatever reason, not to join in, then you’re excluded from the fun that goes on around old photos.

So people can share stuff about you without you knowing.  In fact this can happen even if you’re on Facebook, but the person who “owns” the picture isn’t connected with you.

I want to create something that is at least available to anyone with an internet connection (and actually to a whole lot of the people who don’t too, but that’s another story)

3. Interoperability & Extensibility

It is in Facebook’s interest to keep you on Facebook where you might see and click on an advertisement that will ultimately bring them revenue, or keep you creating new content to keep other people on Facebook where they might see and click… etc.

I’m looking to create something that you can use however you wish.  I want to create a platform for you to do new things, for you to extend and improve what we have, without damaging the experience for others.  That means being able to link to things from anywhere, to be able to include and embed material wherever you like.  it also means creating feeds that you can subscribe to so that you’re alerted when new material is found/uploaded.

These aren’t just my prejudices, they’re based on the NEA principle – ie build things that (N)obody owns; (E)veryone can use; and (A)nyone can improve.  It will be a key guiding principle and differentiating characteristic for this project.