And also being with the elsewhere

This blog post from JP Rangaswami, a conversation with Mark Little about #cementgate and the weird machinations of my brain are the catalysts for this blog post.

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

Cementgate truck

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?

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11 Responses to “And also being with the elsewhere”

  1. Wow! Someone got their sleep over the weekend ;-)

    Amazing, thought provoking post. I can only imagine that as processing power and bandwidth gets into smaller and smaller ubiquitous objects, everything will be observable and recordable and augmentable. What kind of a world will it be? Like The Culture, perhaps?

  2. Ruairi says:

    Excellent post.

    The general consensus on the effect all this connection is having on us usually skews towards the opposite opinion; that we are less aware of our surroundings, we have our noses stuck in a screen (That New Yorker cover of a street of zombie like people, their faces illuminated by their iphones, comes to mind)

    However I see people commenting and reflecting on their world more than ever. It might be that people are no less or more attentive, they just have an outlet for it now. But i think that with the ability to record and share your views and opinions we become more aware of what is around us.

  3. [...] Damien Mulley has a really interesting post this morning about how people are using multimedia devices and the net to capture, record and share their experiences. We’re seeing it more and more all the time; a breaking news story or simply an interesting observation can be captured and shared like never before. Terms like “citizen journalism” float around, whilst Sky News now ask us to supply amateur footage. [...]

  4. aphrodite says:

    excellent – Twitter is now the best source for breaking news and making news.

    Just one point I disagree with. There is not and never will be another David Maybury. The truth is out there and David will expose it

  5. Keith Malone says:

    Great post that highlights the power of citizen journalism. That was my first time to see the actual video, very quick response time from the Gardaí.

    A couple of other good examples of this new breed of journalism spring to mind: Luas / Dublin Bus crash in Dublin, the passing of Gerry Ryan. Both broke on Twitter and spread like wildfire hours before official sources would/could confirm.

    To my mind, and it depends on the story of course, this new power can be both a good and a bad thing.

  6. John Gleeson says:

    Insightful post.

    It will be interesting to see how well Mark Little can leverage some of the new tools for citizen journalism with storyful.com

  7. Oh, agreed. Last summer I had to get from near Clonakilty to Kenmare in a rush. Consulting Google Maps I realised there is an almost straight road I had never noticed, from Dunmanway to Kenmare. I chanced it only because I had the iPhone and Google Maps to put me right if I wandered off course.

    It turned out to be the old drover’s road, single track, precipitous, Bord-Failte-ad beautiful, with dropaway views down thousands of feet, populated by sheep and suitable only for ancient vans and 4×4s. It was like driving in a film, on a beautiful sunny summer evening and although I still got a bit lost, I made it to dinner with my aunt on time too.

    And I found out why, weirdly, there were ponies tied up at intervals along the drover’s road… it was Kenmare fair the next day, and some of the horse dealers were marking tradition by using the road as pre-sales adverts to those making the journey. Thanks, Google Maps.

  8. Paul Mallon says:

    Nicely written, and thought provoking

  9. lisadom says:

    Last night I was ready to cheer the Australian International Rules team as they did their lap of honor around Croker. I also had my iPhone out and ready with camera. flicked to video. About 3/4 of the way round I switched it off, having decided I wanted to cheer and wave my scarf instead of hold my iPhone steady.

    There were only about 100-200 Aussies in Croker this year so our part of the ground was a small chunk of welcome for the victorious team.

    I’m glad I have the image of Adam Goodes waving back and grinning at us is in person, in my minds eye this time. I don’t have clip to share with my nephew in Melbourne. But sometimes you have to make a choice.

    xx

    xx

  10. Jaysus, I was there that morning just after the driver of truck was arrested but didnt know this video existed of it.

  11. Brian Daly says:

    Never saw this video before! I was actually quite impressed by the Garda response times. I thought these sort of times were known to the residents of Ranelagh when a beggar appears (I know this from living there!!). Super swift! Mind you in other countries, the driver of this truck could have been shot dead

    Not sure how representative this protest was given that the guy who was behind it is part of the problem being a developer. Also, no matter how bad a job they, the TDs, are doing, I don’t agree on “attacking” our democratically elected parliament. We voted them in there in free elections. I say “attacking” as originally news reports stated that he’d driven through the gates in an agressive manner. Clearly from the video he just rocked up and parked.

    As for Twitter breaking news. It will, just like anbody with any telecommunications device on the spot can. Is it a source of accurate news… no. It’s still voices from the crowd and news organisations (be they traditional or new) will always be needed to put some ‘decipher’ these many voices.

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