Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Forget the bloggers, it’s going to be the Flip election - or will they combine?

Charlie Beckett, director at POLIS (journalism and society think tank, a joint initiative from LSE and The London College of Communication) recently posted a blog entitled

Apple mouse sitting beside a Flip Mino HD

In it he explains the thinking of the BBC’s Justin Webb who followed the last couple of US elections:

“... speaking at Polis, [Webb] said that it was the guerilla [sic] video activists who made the most impact. He forecast a Flip Election in the UK for 2010.”

I’m not so convinced. I think they’ll combine: that is, the bloggers will become flippers. The size (and cost) of pocket-sized video cameras has nearly equalised with pocket-sized digital cameras. Bloggers are more and more aware that text is boring without a picture or two to brighten up. And thirty seconds of video does no harm either. I’ll be surprised if the larger political blogs like Slugger O’Toole don’t feature a lot more video content in the months running up to May 2010.

Regular readers of AiB will have noticed that I’ve been harping on about political and public sector accountability and engagement over the last few months, and covered the EU election from the perspective of an electoral observer.

Ian Paisley Junior praying for DUP votes in North Antrim ... or trying to see first preferences

One upshot is that as an experiment, I’ve scheduled a series of interviews with representatives of the six main political parties in East Belfast. Two completed, four to go. Not an experiment in terms of putting local East Belfast politicians under a microscope and treating them like lab rats, but in terms of showing that ordinary people can get access and get answers if they bother to ask.

I’m using roughly the same questions each time. Not looking to trip them up or come over all Jeremy Paxman. Just trying to get comparable answers to questions along three simple but relevant themes:

  • impressions of the opportunities and challenges facing East Belfast (particularly in and around the new developments in Titanic Quarter);

  • how they think their party is moving forward - with next year’s election(s) in mind; and

  • how the level of public engagement with politics could change, and why they got into politics in the first place.

So over the coming weeks, expect to see a series of posts featuring answers from representatives of Alliance (and the second part!) in two parts), DUP, PUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein and UUP. Their words will be broken up with a few video clips of the more remarkable answers. The first one should be posted tomorrow.

Update - first interview now posted online.


Jonny said...


I work for East Belfast Community Development Agency on the Albertbridge rd and would be interested in your work on this. Building community capacity in East is one of our aims and subsequently the capacity and desire of groups to influence elected representatives and change policy.

Can we tap into your findings in some way?

Alan in Belfast said...

Jonny - it's funny because this all started before last Christmas when I was curious about the effect of Titanic Quarter on East Belfast. It always bothered me that there was an enormous "gated community" being built on the otherside of the flyovers that might never actually see Pitt Park, or realise they could buy milk on the Newtownards Road.

I'd dreamt up a partial list of folk (not political) to do a few email interviews with.

But it fell apart, I got distracted, and when the idea re-emerged, it was on the back of public engagement with politics. But I still wondered did normal folks like me know what the parties thought about such fundamental issues to the area.

Happy to have a chat about what the folks say - though I doubt there will be too much that you haven't already heard!

Niall said...

Interesting comment about video becoming more and more a feature of blogging - I'd be disappointed if it did. I like the way I can generally ignore the videos in AiB, because usually I'm reading them where I can't listen to video.

But more fundamentally, I read a blog for the blogger's opinions and reaction to what's happening & what people are saying; very much less so to hear the words from the horse's mouth, as it were ...

Alan in Belfast said...

Niall - Suspect it'll creep in, just like pictures did. The easier it is to capture and crop, the more likely people will comment - or in my case, lay out for other people to comment! - on things that they've captured.

In the first interview, I did ponder whether to replace some of the transcript with the short clips of video, but in the end left the words in tact underneath for eyeballs (and Google) to read.

Norwin! said...

I have to say that I'm with Niall - words can be read anywhere (even in work), and can be quickly scanned through in a way that videos can't be.
Video killed the blogging star?