Marlon Parker addresses the Black Country Social Media Café
Last month I spent two days in the company of South African social media academic Marlon Parker. Regular readers will remember Marlon from his guest post several months ago. The purpose of the visit was to share thoughts and ideas in the field of social media, and to discuss social media education. We were fortunate that the visit coincided with a number of social media events in Birmingham, which meant I could give Marlon a real flavour of what we do in the West Midlands and I could introduce him to as many contacts as possible in a few short days. So what does an academic and social entrepreneur from Cape Town make of the social media activity in Birmingham? And what could we learn from him? The answer is: “a lot”.
Social Media for Social Good
Marlon’s work is centred around the concept of social media for social good. He works with communities in Cape Town, using social media to tackle difficult social problems in Cape Town. Sceptics might wonder how blogging can help find away through problems such as gang violence and drug dependencies. For Marlon the answer is simple: social media works when there is a community bonded by a common set of circumstances. He works with people who are coping with or trying to escape certain circumstances. There is a tension in this society, but that tension is a bond. Where you have a bond, a set of shared circumstances, you have a community. Where you have a community, social media can be effective. In the video below Marlon outlines his work and his philosophy to Nick Booth of Podnosh / Be Vocal:
Social media used for social good is a common aim of media workers and thinkers in Birmingham, but Marlon’s projects are operating at a level of engagement that we are currently only aiming for. Marlon’s work demonstrates that we can make effective social interventions through technology, and could provide useful evidence when we make this case to policy makers and government agencies.
Social Media in Education
Another area that is something of a Birmingham specialism is social media education. From social media surgeries to my own school’s MA Social Media, we seem to be at the vanguard of this area. Marlon’s own university has aspirations to provide qualifications within this area so a lot of our discussions revolved around social media education.
To this end, I introduced Marlon to Jon Bounds, Stuart Parker and Michael Grimes. They are core members of social enterprise We Share Stuff (I am also a member of the team). A key We Share Stuff project involves using social media to engage young offenders with technology, leading to credit towards formal qualifications through the Open College Network. Marlon was very impressed with this innovation, and is considering introducing it into some of his projects in South Africa by contacting his equivalent of the Open College Network. As a group we also discussed the spectrum of training and qualifications, from Level 1 through to masters degrees, that could come under the social media subject area. We sketched out how these might be applied to real world skills and jobs. While we were not able to come up with any key action points to take this part of the conversation it is something worthy of further consideration.
The Social Media Scene
In addition to meeting with Nick Booth, and The We Share Stuff team, Marlon managed to meet a number of local bloggers and social media workers. Birmingham and the Black Country have a well developed network of regular meetings where the social media community or the wider creative industries community meet up. We were lucky that Marlon’s trip coincided with Brum Bloggers, an evening pub based meeting, and Black Country Social Media Café, a more formal daytime meeting (which happened to be the furthest North Marlon had ever been).
So what did Marlon make of us? Here’s what he has to say over on his blog:
Overall I am very impressed by the level of creative industries involvement in the space of Social Media and It also showed me that here in Birmingham there is a breed of social media people who have such a vast amount of experiences to share and could be useful for others out there to make the trip or connection with any of these amazing individuals who will add value to your social media experience.
I hope we’ll see Marlon again soon, and I’ll be sure to keep up to date with his blogs and his formal publications on social media for social good.