David Maybury tweeted one morning (and I was awake for some reason) about a cement truck parking at the gates of the Dáil as some kind of protest. The “pics or it didn’t happen” brigade including myself kicked in. They took his tweets and retweeted them, sent his pics all around the world and even demanded from news outlets like Morning Ireland and Newstalk what they were doing about the incident. I think it was Morning Ireland that started calling it #truckgate and the crowd told them it was #cementgate, we the public found this news and this is how we are calling it. Do keep up. “We” the masses found the news via David, named it and sent it out and they could be part of it like the rest of us. And the news spread around the world, pushed by the scattered Irish. BBC, CNN and the New York Times all covering it eventually. And calling it #cementgate.
In the next few hours the Internet pointed out it was the same truck that was around Galway. That the Gardai had impounded the truck before and they also caught out the liars who said that Gardai had to jump out of the way when the truck rammed the gates. A YouTube video showed the truck slowly drove to the gates and stopped with no cops there to get out of the way.
A couple of days later I bumped into Mark Little in Dublin and chatted about what happened that morning. Mark mentioned that maybe David might never report a story like this again but someone like him will. We all have the tools now to do the same, we have a device with a connection to the Internet. The way I see it, we have a connection to people who are more experienced than us who can direct us to do the right/best thing. Take a picture, do a video, this is how you change a tyre, this is how you address a wasp sting. Give us the raw feed and we can do the rest including fact checking while you point or if you have the experience, you can report. Share group memory, shared experience and someone tapping into it.
As I started writing this post I read JP’s post on social objects and how we are documenting all these things now with phones and web apps. Maybe the positive with these tools is we are becoming more observational of our surroundings at times, because of these tools. That would make a nice photo. Let me check in to this location. Let me ask people on Twitter is there anything to do around here, oooh there’s an amazing hidden café here. Yet there is also the fact that these tools disconnect us, as per this bang on description from William Gibson:
He was elsewhere, the way people were before their screens, his expression that of someone piloting something, looking into a middle distance that had nothing to do with geography
To me David Maybury was being there but he was also being with the elsewhere. He saw the truck, heard the sounds, the background noise, the smell of the ozone from the truck post shut-off perhaps and he was on Twitter responding to people, sharing the imagery and being asked about the event. Twitter for me can add another layer of data and insight into an event I’m at. It can lead me down different paths instead of the regular worn ones. So by describing things, like diarying did years ago but in the new multimedia way and connecting people to it, an event or a building can become more colourful and maybe I become a better observer as a result. So does being digitally connected elsewhere make us appreciate here?