Social Media

Avatar and the power of social media

I’m loving the commentaries that have evolved around Avatar’s themes of exploitation of natural resources, imperialism and biological diversity.

Libertarian blogger Stephen Kinsella argues here that it underscores his viewpoint that the movie demonstrates that property rights are the only way to protect the environment. Interestingly this is the logic of the UN’s REDD carbon trading scheme or to give it its long name, the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. This is based – in theory at least – of forests having assigned carbon values and of local people having property rights over those resources. The “owners” are then rewarded for not chopping down trees.

Such solutions aren’t without their problems though. Aside for the more obvious problems of carbon credits – that they allow the industralised world to delay reducing their own emissions –  Global Witness point out in this report [PDF] that was published last October, this is an untested scheme that may well benefit Africa and South America’s kleptocrat rulers more than it does the environment, or the locals to whom this property has been assigned. Assigning property rights, suggests Global Witness, is part of the process of moving from an environment protected from logging, to a “sustainably managed” forest which allows logging to go ahead.

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#Trafigura, toxic waste scandals, gagging orders and social media

Anyone who is sceptical about the power of social media should compare this from The Guardian this morning “Guardian gagged from reporting parliament” with the twitter stream for #Trafigura. Trafigura, you will remember, are the company responsible for dumping lethal toxic waste in Ivory Coast. The overwhelming sharing of information about the attempt to gag a newspaper from parliamentary reporting is now online here thanks to The Spectator who no doubt feel empowered by the fact that the genie is already out of the bottle on Twitter.

EDIT: At 1.00pm came this tweet from Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian:

Thanks to all tweeters for fantastic support over past 16 hours! Great victory for free speech.#trafigura

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Turning archives into social media spaces

Just spent a little while taking  a brief but enjoyable gambol in  this new gallery/museum-based social media project, Creative Spaces. It’s a beta version, but already creates a great model of how to make collections more accessible, and how to let the public use material that might otherwise be gathering dust.  I should get out more, I know, but I do like the idea of not having to travel to museums.

Creative Spaces is based on the idea of creating groups and notebooks around subject areas. They have access to the digital archives  of  nine major galleries and museums, including the Tate, the Imperial War Museum, the V&A, the Natural History Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. The photo on the right is from a notebook  created by one user titled My Dream Green Home, which uses the collections to find inspiraton for modern green living. It shows a wartime community garden in Worcestershire in 1943, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. The original caption reads:

The English village is a closely knit community, its inhabitants good neighbours who share their labours and their surplus produce. It is thus good ground on which to organise wartime Food Production Clubs to produce more food and save shipping space and transport. Clubs are run by villagers, with help from County Authorities. At Rowney Green, Worcester, a club helps villagers to cultivate more land, keep pigs, poultry and bees. Seeds and fertilizers are bought wholesale through the club, advice comes from the County Authority through Mr S T Buckley assistant instructor in horticulture.

It was a similar photograph taken in the US that inspired artist Amy Franceschini to start the Victory Gardens project in 2007. Amy was one of the artists I met in California last week; more of that soon.

Anyway, Creative Spaces is a really excellent project. They’re looking for people to get stuck in and beta test it, so go along and try it out. Myself? I’d like to see an advanced search facility, but I’m sure there are plenty of other tweaks that you could suggest…

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