Category: Social Media
Richard Lemmer | 02.05.12
Yesterday, the Guardian’s Leo Hickman posted about a group of young people who have travelled to Brussels to express their views on the environment to MEPs. The five young people won the trip as part of a video posting competition created by Eurostar and the Young People’s Trust for the Environment.
Liam’s video discussed electric vehicles; Tara’s dealt with fracking; Alana’s video shows her passion for the globalized food system; Abbie’s video makes great use of pictures to make her points about palm oil; and Simon’s video gives us a guided tour of the environmental problems in his village.
Leo Hickman provides coverage of the most contentious issue raised by the videos - fracking for shale gas. This is a complex issue, and Tara's video does a great job of presenting the ethical opposition untainted by the dominant groupthink that says we have to exploit every possible resource. In a debate that is constantly based around a narrow definition of energy security, Tara's view points are refreshing.
But there is an equally important point to be discussed: it is impressive to see a group of young people not only interested and engaged with environmental issues, but also motivated and passionate enough to voice their concerns. Whether or not their opinions create a green revolution in halls of the European Parliament, these young people show that there is the next generation of the green movement waiting in class rooms across the country.
Are green activists, politicians and businesses making the most of the younger generation? For this year’s mayoral election, the Green Party understood that their message should be conveyed not by adults, but by members of the next generation who will inherit our problems.
As comments on both the Green Party Youtube site and Leo Hickman’s post show, members of the public can have concerns about children appearing in campaigns. How well do these young people understand the issues they discuss? Have they been given the chance to develop a balanced viewpoint? Does their understanding simplify a complex situation?
We see a huge potential in allowing young people to express their views on the environment. Their message is more effective because of their age, not in spite of it. And anyone who doubts this should consider the case of “The Girl Who Silenced The World For Five Minutes” (an effective but erroneous title) and its viral status.
Richard Lemmer | 26.03.12
photo: Felix Clay
What was learnt from the Guardian Open Weekend:
1) That sandal wearing and lentil eating has been greatly over exaggerated.
2) Don’t be afraid to let other people do the hard work. Most of the weekend’s talks allowed for at least a third of their allotted time to be spent on questions from the audience. This led to interesting results. Decca Aitkenhead has admitted that using reader's questions to interview artist Grayson Perry proved to be more effective than her own ideas: “At the very beginning Perry had expressly asked not to be questioned about future projects – and yet (one) reader's hypothetical scenario got him talking about it, and produced the one news story of the session. Truthfully, I would never have asked that question. It is a sobering and rather confronting thought.”
3) Learn to love new technology. The humble written essay alone can’t compete with the hyperlinked, video-streaming web 2.0. Through the magic of the Twitter, we found out that @finbarjameson would have liked more entertainment between talks, and @RhiannonWilkins wanted more sessions with the Guardian journalists talking about their jobs. We also pitched in with our opinion to deputy editor @Iankatz1000, who said our wish for more panel debates at next year’s event will be noted. Time will tell if he was just being trying to embrace the Open ethos.
4) Even if you don’t get the results you want, sometimes the process can be fun and feel worthwhile. Greenhouse PR had its fair share of fun asking key decision makers direct questions. Zac Goldsmith told us he thought that the green movement needed to be united on some issues, such as ocean pollution, but there could be wide disagreement about other issues, such as the use of incinerators. In terms of answering our question (How can the green movement stop itself from fragmenting into an incoherent set of local organisations - is this just mixed messages rebranded as organic debate?), Goldsmith’s answer was as deep as a foot bath. But it left us feeling like we had engaged with the issue.
5) Every organisation should be doing something like this. The Guardian made it look relatively easy - a lot of hard work would have gone into a largely mishap free festival - but why can’t the same idea be applied more widely? Aside from the fact it produced useful content and ticket sales will have paid editor Alan Rusbridger’s salary for the year, the festival was fantastic PR for the Guardian as a brand. And as much as any loyal Guardian reader would hate to admit they are in love with a brand (no brands! down with capitalism!), the Guardian has a design aesthetic, an ethos, and a marketing strategy - ie. a brand. So why can’t other brands follow suit? The technology is available to allow any organisation to engage its users so that they are involved in the process. An open day, a Google+ hangout event, a mass-Skype chat - an event that blurs the distinction being user and producer is a simple way of crystallising this abstract idea of Open-ness into a genuine feeling of goodwill and positive activity.
In a world where anyone can be a few clicks away from the deputy editor of a website with over two million unique users per day, what organisation wants to be seen as Closed?
Greta Jonyniate | 16.03.12
Something has ruffled Jonathan Franzen’s feathers. Its Twitter. According to the award winning, best selling novelist,
“Twitter stands for everything I oppose... It’s hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters…It’s like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring 'The Metamorphosis.' Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’… It’s the ultimate irresponsible medium. People I care about are readers—particularly serious readers and writers—these are my people. And we do not like to yak about ourselves.”
Franzen made this outburst whilst giving a talk at a university in New Orleans. How has the Twitter public reacted? They’ve turned Franzen into a hash tag: #JonathanFranzenhates.
The ironies of this Old Media Vs. New Media stand off are striking. A novelist who spends his time advocating thoughtful reading and a careful understanding of different points of view makes flippant generalisations about thousands of people. And the users of the attacked social media network , which thrives on making connections with people, responds to by ridiculing their fuddy duddy attacker. Media, red in pen and tweet, it seems.
Is it too late for consolidation between Franzen and the blue bird that is Twitter? The irony is that Franzen is a well known twitcher. He has written extensively about birds and his bird watching habit, and the (blue tinted) Cerulean Warbler is a plot device in his novel Freedom. Franzen clearly loves the natural world and especially loves our feathered friends. But his prejudice regarding new technology has blinded him to its potential. Anything, bird watching included, can find a community on Twitter. Simply searching bird watching on wefollow.com shows 25 Twitter users with thousands of followers each. The RSPB, @natures_voice, is anything but irresponsible: many of their tweets encourage environmental campaigning and advocate policy change to protect the natural world. @Natures_Voice has over 24,414 followers, each follower being brought into a wider bird watching community that is not bound by place or time. And this can very helpful:
“David Crump @daveboy79
http://flic.kr/p/bm1MYj can any help with the ID I think this is a common gull. @_BTO @BirdWatchingMag @Natures_Voice
Bird Watching Bird Watching @BirdWatchingMag
@daveboy79 You're spot-on. Common Gull”
Equally, Twitter users have lived up to Franzen's expectations by allowing a irreverant hash tag to become a key trend.
It doesn’t take an English Literature degree to draw out Franzen’s character from his brief Twitter remarks. Kafka wouldn’t use video. You can’t create an argument in 140 characters. Franzen, like many Old Media practioners, is stuck with a top-down and one-way bias. The author demands your attention, so pay attention and don‘t answer back. Franzen cares about readers - not community members.
The other irony is that the environmental movement Franzen clearly loves can only work if it features widespread and willing community participation. To use an example from Franzen’s book: domestic cats kill millions of song birds every year. Does an author like politician edit out cats through bureaucratic laws? No one would vote for that politician. Or does the politician engage with the community to discuss and advocate that people help deal with the problem? Or how can an ethical consumer in England speak in solidarity with a Maldivian citizen who is scared that she will see her homeland washed away? A retweet or an @mention isn’t perfect, but it is a start.
Let’s hope that Franzen learns the lesson. Like a technophobic dad who laboriously still clicks on File then Save, Franzen needs Twitter to be the tech savy child that rolls its eyes and then suggests clicking Ctrl+S.
Matilda Lee | 17.05.11
Part of what makes Ricky Gervais’s opening speech at the Golden Globe awards this year so hilarious is that, for the most part, his jokes poking fun at Hollywood stars contain kernels of truth. It is the unmentionable subjects as much as it is the context – in this case a very public glittery awards ceremony – which makes the jokes go so far.
In the environmental world, communicating the taboo is a regular preoccupation: we point fingers, shout from rooftops and draw attention to truths people would rather not have to face: climate change threatening our civilisation, deforestation making the world uninhabitable to humans, waste mountains, toxic overload...
But the outcome is not as we expected. As environmentalists push to get the message across and wait for the serious action – the cultural shifts, the tipping points – that will ultimately tackle these issues, it’s worth doing a bit of navel gazing. How was our delivery? Green campaigners and communicators now have an opportunity to rethink the idea of the medium as the message. As environmentalist and poet Wendell Berry said ‘Be joyful although you know the facts’. It’s a hard one, I agree, but the idea of changing the context to change behaviour has been gaining traction. Here are some examples of how it has worked:
Global Cool campaigns to get people to live greener lives. Its Do-it-in-public campaign is an attempt to promote public transport...without mentioning the environmental benefits of public transport. Instead it promotes the ‘me time’ you get when travelling by bus or train – time to read, listen to music, talk to friends, meet new people. Its ‘Turn up the style, turn down the heat’ campaign works along the same concept – promoting the fashion (fab knitwear), health (better for skin) and financial benefits of lowering your home heating – not the environmental benefits!
Friends of the Earth’s new campaign aims to change the context of the usually deadly boring topic of conserving home energy in its sexy new video. As FOE campaigner Dave Timms says: 'If everyone was this turned on by insulation and energy-efficient boilers British homes would be a lot warmer, greener and cheaper to heat'. Nuff said.
The Fun Theory works in the belief that fun can change human behaviour . Can we get people to use the stairs more/obey the speed limit/throw rubbish in the bin – if we make it fun? The answer, they found, is yes you can.
Laughter as medicine
And there really is green humour. Pointing out just how absurd some aspects of normal society are can be riotously funny. Reverend Billy & the church of life after shopping is a prime example. When Rev. Billy shows up at your local Starbucks to exorcise the cash register with a gospel choir in tow you know there is a heaven above. This and other antics have gotten him on prime time news TV.
In campaign speak, he aims to get people to buy less and buy local. But he gets the message across with the anti-shopocolypse crusade. ‘I don’t believe that spiritual people need to be super serious and boring’ he has said. His film ‘What would Jesus buy ?’ makes you see beyond the creed of unconscious consumerism .
Finally, the Yes Men – the duo who perform ‘identity correction’ by infiltrating events and delivering sober but shocking speaking engagements at meetings. While making CEOs sweat, the Yes Men create an alternative reality where corporations do the right thing. The classic example is Dow accepting full responsibility for the Bhopal disaster with a $12 billion plan to compensate victims. You can watch their short films on BabelGum (check out the BBC interview with a certain Jude Finisterre ‘spokesman’ for Dow Chemicals).
Watching a couple of Rev Billy sermons or Yes Men impersonations will make you feel differently. The world is an absurd place, but shift happens. Help bring it on with some serious fun.
Kenneth Hill | 11.10.10
Yeo Valley busted out its £5 million advertising campaign this weekend, slotting in an ad on X-Factor that features rapping farmers putting the cool in sustainability, things organic and Yeo Valley, the UK's largest organic brand.
The new rap ad knocks one out of the park: a smart, funny, catchy, unexpected spot, placed on the top-rated TV show in the UK, posted online and poised for viral sharing. The song and the rapping farmers are irresistibly fun (you can download the ringtone), and will go a long way in giving a whole new rap to sustainably produced, organic food.
The four young farmers - plus extras including Yeo Valley staff, their cows and an awesome owl known as Ted -- serve as the hippest ambassadors ever for the West Country and Yeo's suite of organic products.
"Our farmers aren’t rapping about their bling, girls and fast cars but instead about our cows, tractors and wax jackets — matters a little bit closer to home," blogs Ben Cull, head of brand marketing at Yeo Valley, on the company's new interactive web site.
Yeo's new site sports links to their presence across social media platforms (profiles at twitter.com/yeovalley, Facebook, and "YeoTube"), plus personable and accessible video clips featuring founder Mary Mead, and son Tim who runs the Blagdon-based, family-owned dairy farm that prides itself on being a "real place" working in harmony with nature.
Admirably, Yeo Valley has a strong commitment to maintaining a low-carbon footprint, too. For example, their new pots are 100% recyclable and made from 80% recycled material, they use green energy to run the dairies and they employ double-decker trailers to move more product which results in fewer lorries and less fuel.
Bottom line: this ad is a true winner.
PS: It won't hurt the image of the Young Farmers' Clubs either. Peace out.
Kenneth Hill | 08.10.10
In a charming example of using social media to make science and environmental awareness accessible, the folks at EOS magazine have given voice to a 100-year-old tree which tweets, facebooks, youtubes, and flickrs its feelings out to its friends.
Outfitted with a range of instrumentation, the Talking Tree monitors readings from the edge of Brussels using an ozone meter, light meter, dust meter and other gadgets, then translates the data into a social media stream of clever thoughts and observations:
"Turning nasty CO2 into some delicious O2. You can thank me later - http://bit.ly/9mkTf0"
"The air is getting a bit dirty. Do me a favor, take your bike"
"The days keep getting shorter. Need to prepare for winter"
A webcam captures the sights around it, which become status updates complete with video-log:
"My leaves are dancing in the wind:"
The loveliest form of sharing might just be the sounds the tree hears, which it captures via a microphone and uploads to its stream on Soundcloud.
Happiness Brussels did the creative, delivering a knock-out web site from which you can access the menu of social media outlets.
Impressive. Fun. Smart. The campaign supports EOS's “Low Impact Month” in November 2010 to encourage people to further participate in reducing their individual environmental footprints. Follow the Talking Tree on:
Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Flickr | Soundcloud | TalkingTree Home Page
Anna Guyer | 25.02.10
We have moved into the Greenhouse after six years working as The Spring Consultancy. Spring was a great name but unfortunately lots of other people thought so too. As we were getting a bit lost on Google, we thought we’d better rename the company at the same time as redesigning our website.
We like Greenhouse because it reflects our mission to help interesting and innovative organisations grow, and our passion for green and sustainable living. Almost as important and certainly an inspiration, I like to enjoy a nice cup of tea and a chat in our own greenhouse in the garden when I can.
We’ve tried to make the new Greenhouse website as interesting and useful as possible, whether you’re a journalist, campaigner, client, or just interested in green and ethical issues.
Through our blog, Notes from the Greenhouse, we are celebrating and recognising the contribution of some of our green heroes and inspiring green communities, as well as highlighting interesting news and campaigns coming up.
And because it’s all about social media (just ask Kenneth) you can follow us and our campaigns, from Better Nursery Food Now, to One Pot Pledge, to Food Inc.
If you have news or views to share, we would love to hear from you. Here is how to get in touch.
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