I’ve just caught up with Nick Booth’s blog on BBC online about very local web sites. Nick deserves the space, from his track record over the past few years of podcasting the stories of active citizens, setting up innovative social media projects, and running social media surgeries. More at http://podnosh.com.
He observes that “making media about people is a great way to establish relationships. Through interviewing people for a podcast two things happened, I established stronger relationships with them, but they also started connecting with each other. The simple idea of understanding each other better and, to a degree, sharing a platform.”
The social media is what you see … but that’s just the tip of the social capital iceberg. It is, hopefully, helping develop the sort of individual, community and organisational assets that Matthew Taylor wrote about recently
I’m Nick Booth of Podnosh, and here we explore the world of hyperlocal, or very local, web sites. I’ll be writing about the communities and volunteers who use the web to reflect on life at street level or hold power to account. To begin with this will concentrate on activity in the West Midlands.
All these websites are part of a flourishing movement known as hyperlocal blogging: community groups and volunteers using the web to write about their own neighbourhoods, streets, parks and local causes. Their efforts make it easier than ever to know what’s happening just where you live and just when you want to know.
Hugh Flouch and Kevin Harris‘ Networked Neighbourhoods has done some interesting work describing the different types of local websites. These are the ones I’m planning to explore…
Civil Social Networks are designed to encourage discussion and interaction between local people with both a civic and social purpose.
Local Discussion Sites – there is a significant overlap between local discussion sites and civic social networks, but discussion sites tend to be more focussed on connecting locals to make social connections and share knowledge about an area. There is less purpose around improving a neighbourhood.
Placeblogs are set up by a single person or small group of people to report on local stories at a very local level. There is often a strong purpose of driving local change through shining the light on issues of local concern.
Local blogazines are similar to placeblogs, but the focus is less on local news and more on lighter neighbourhood profiling and local human interest. There is less direct support for community action and holding local politicians to account.
Public Social Spaces – profiles set up on Facebook or Twitter for sharing information about areas and often light-hearted chit-chat about an area.
Local Action Groups are increasingly creating online spaces. Groups include residents’ groups, friends of parks groups, tenants groups and environmental groups.
Most of these sites tap into other tools at some point so sites like Fix My Street will also form stops along the journey.
I am a journalist by background who now specialises in how the web is being used for civic good. Don’t expect a journey into journalism, though. It will feature on the way but this is more the story of online civic activism, a passion for place and people trying to be useful.