I’m noticing that the general backlash against twitter and other social tools has had a boost recently, presumably in response to the positive vibe coming from those celebs who’ve found it useful: @stephenfry, @wossy, @schofe et al.

Just joining some dots…

Dr Aric Sigman writes in the Biologist (though I’ve not seen the full article I now see that there’s an eye-squintingly, difficult to read online, pdf available) that online social networking is bad for your health. I agree, if what you mean is simply sitting in your bedroom hunched over a screen, having fantasy relationships with people you’re never likely to meet. I’ve written to Dr Sigman inviting him to come along to the Tuttle Club and see what were doing to complement online social networking with face-to-face goodness and so that we can elaborate on the empirical evidence since I was writing about it in November 2007.

The Sunday Times rambles on with pop-psychology about how twitter is narcissistic and a sign of inadequacy, quoting Oliver James: “Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity” (James’s attitude to taking personal responsiblity for one’s own mental health is summed up in the title of his book “They Fuck You Up” (my emphasis)) and a whole bunch of other “experts” who tell us what it means about us without knowing us or actually using the medium that we’re using – very scientific.

The Daily Telegraph lays into the appointment of of the “Twittercrat” – the Director of Digital Engagement – focusing on how much this poor soul might be paid (my reading of the ad was that the salary would be in the range £80k – £160k but that’s much less scary than “up to £160k”) and how that is disgraceful in the context of a recession – given that the successful applicant will no doubt only spend her days, sitting hunched over a computer twittering about her intimate life details and displaying her lack of identity. Occasionally she might be poking the Prime Minister (oooer missus!)

Briefly, when I’ve stopped muttering “Oh Good Grief!”, my perceptions in all of this are:

  • An unconscious (or is it?) bias on the part of established media because something vital, exciting and productive is happening in a space that they formerly occupied exclusively – ie the public conversation space.
  • Contempt prior to investigation by the scientists quoted.
  • A misunderstanding of the value of social networking based on a misunderstanding of how a knowledge economy works and what *work* is, looks like, contains or excludes.
  • A similar misunderstanding of the creation of value in such an economy, and how “digital engagement” for government might lead to faster economic recovery.
  • A distortion of the nature of the public conversation space and an assumption that we are talking to them.
  • A shallow understanding of “following”, which leads to the assumption that if I have 2,000 followers on twitter, I must want 2,000 people to listen to everything I say. I blog and twitter for myself, my own development and to contribute to the community, where I can – I don’t believe that that is narcissistic or ego-driven – except on the odd occasion when it is! 😀

Interestingly, a freelance journalist, Zoe Blackler, was commissioned to write about twitter by The Times and came to The Tuttle Club last October. They then sent a photographer along later for pictures (he spent the whole morning with us soaking up the conversation as well as taking loads of pics) I haven’t seen anything in print about it, have you?

Granville John Davis

My uncle, my dad’s little brother, died sometime this week. I hadn’t had much contact with him for some time, which I regret. He was christened Granville John and though in the family he was known as Granville, he preferred to be called John.

Because he travelled so widely, he was only around from time to time when we were growing up and my knowledge of his life is patchy (and could quite easily be inaccurate). As far as I knew, he was a professional full-time musician, playing tenor sax, primarily, but also clarinet & flute. I believe he started off playing in military bands while in the Army, then theatre (often for shows the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham) and cruise ships. He was also a keen amateur painter. His paintings were hung proudly on Grandma’s walls. I’m sure there was much more to his life than this, perhaps we’ll uncover stuff in the coming weeks. As he was away so much, I don’t think he really moved out of his parents’ home until they died. As a child, I remember many hours being allowed to pore over his insect and stamp collections when we lived just round the corner.

Though my father’s relationship with him was never hugely close, and musically, John was much more of a modernist, I have very happy memories of seeing them play together.

It’s a bit of a shock so soon after losing my last grandparent. John is the first of that generation in my family to go. It’s a reminder of how little time we have here and how suddenly things can change. I’m resisting thinking about death coming in threes.

Free wifi in London

Between them, Pret a Manger and McDonalds provide pretty good coverage for the urban digital nomad. Both provide free wifi access via The Cloud – pret asks for an e-mail address and your birthday, but underneath the arches, you can surf away by just clicking a button.

OK, so it’s not really free if you are obliged to buy something in order to secure a table, but Black coffee in pret is £1.50-something and in McDonalds £1.29 – in the former you may have to put up with loud middle class people, in the latter, the bawling of chavvy kids is drowned out by the boombox – take some noise-cancelling headphones.

Neither, however, seem to provide power sockets, so I recommend an hour or so in Starbucks now and then to recharge your flagging batteries. And don’t forget to swap water for caffeinated beverages occasionally to minimise the risk of over-stimulation.

Of course the ICA is top-hole for wifi, power, coffee, yummy food and PLU(!) but loses points by not being open (except on Fridays, you lucky people) until midday.

Passport to Pimlico

At some point in the late seventies or early eighties, the BBC ran a comprehensive season of Ealing Comedies. It stands out as an important part of my adolescent television experience – which many would say explains a lot.

A favourite has always been Passport to Pimlico (1949) for the location shots of immediate post-war London as well as the plucky defiance of the residents of Miramont Gardens. What’s disappointing of course is that it’s actually filmed in Lambeth on the other side of the river rather than in Pimlico itself. Nonetheless it formed an important picture in my young mind of “that London”.

If you haven’t seen it, get it and take a look. Spoilers may well follow…

Watching again, this weekend, I noticed many motifs that echo what I’m thinking about a lot with respect to self-organisation and emergent behaviour, but in particular two examples of herd activity – firstly, the way in which the idea spreads through the community that they are Burgundians and therefore need no longer comply with the post-war austerity measures or indeed any English law they dislike and then later how the crowd gathered to witness the defeat and evacuation copy the kids who have come to throw provisions to their parents (the kids who got the idea from seeing the penguins fed at the zoo).

And I laughed out loud a lot too.

La Clique

11022009951It was like a two-hour roller coaster ride. I ZOMG-d out loud nearly all the way. Way more intimate than I’d expected, and I’m not talking about the lady with the handkerchief. Hard to describe without spoilers – you need to go, it’s only booking til April 19th and go for tickets in the “floor” area near the “stage” (or the posh seats if you can stretch to that) for the full wind in your hair feeling.

Also, please can we not turn the Hippodrome into a casino? – it’s a great venue for this kind of theatre. I only wish we could still see elephants, horses, polar bears and a 100,000 gallon water tank!

S’now it’s back to normal

East Street is the A24 going out of Epsom. For the last couple of days it’s been almost empty at 6 o’clock because the road was covered in snow and no-one seemed to be going anywhere anyway. It’s been nice walking along with no traffic. Today seemed to be the day that people either thought it was safe enough to drive or decided that they couldn’t get away with another day off. Either way it’s back to normal, and we should be glad, right? We should be glad when things get back to normal. So I am.

Snow Go

03022009919 Epsom to Victoria Railway Line

03022009908 Epsom to Waterloo Railway Line

Went for a walk after lunch to see what was what with the railway lines. Epsom is at the junction of two lines, from Victoria and Waterloo, but neither have had any rail service since Sunday evening. The roads are mainly clear and there has been some considerable thawing today, so you can imagine what these tracks were like at the peak of the snowfall yesterday.

We’re wondering though, what is happening to get these cleared. South West Trains website is currently down while Southern, who run trains on the line to Victoria have a single page which tells you which trains are running and that they are working hard to fix everything, but no idea really of when things will be back to “normal”. Network Rail has nothing at all except a notice saying that all “major routes” are open except some in Kent and a link to National Rail Enquiries which points you back to the Train Operating Companies sites.

More pics