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Presentation: Occupying the Olympics, the use of social media to subvert the course of justice.

On Friday 24th February, I presented a paper that was accepted at the 6th Annual Politics, Sport and Media Conference at Southampton Solent University. I presented the prelim ‘findings’ of a paper that reflects the thought piece that I wrote for the British Library and I aim to review and use as a wider, ongoing study in the coming months. The slides, mainly visuals prompts more than anything, are below:

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Countering the Olympics: Reflections from Saturday’s meeting.

One of the winner’s from the Anti-Olympics Poster Competition

Preamble: Before I begin, I’ve written quite a lot about the use of citizen media as a activism tool around the Games – and published a paper on alternatives (including critiques of those alternatives) to the mainstream media for the International Olympic Academy – this is essence of my PhD thesis, that I’m hoping to ‘give back’ to those communities that I’ve taken from over the past 2.5 years through active participation towards facilitating an ‘recognised’ national citizen media network during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. My role as an early-career academic who needs to complete such a project in line with the current rhetoric of higher education and research is in tension between my role as somebody who who has personally become quite outspoken and publically critical of the Olympic movement in a personal capacity. How these roles fit together, I don’t know, but I feel that it is worth declaring agendas before I offer suggestions for potential mobilisation is important for me and allows for others to decide on my position. Regardless, if I say I love or hate the Olympic Games, I can’t help but feel as if I am somewhat moving into a space where I know too much about it to ignore it in an objective, non-political way that some instances of PhD research encourages.

With 6 months to go until the London 2012 Olympic Games begin, Saturday spelled a crucial stage in organising a coherent resistance towards the forthcoming Olympiad. With over 100 people present, ranging from local communities who have been devastated by the impact of the Games on their doorstep over the last 6.5 years to professional NGOs who’s stance is not to be ‘anti-olympic’ but instead using the media awareness and role of the corporate sponsors to draw attention to wider issues at stake. For some, this was the first time that they had met others who were critiquing the games as well. For me, it was a case of putting names to faces of those who I have been following on twitter, or engaging with via email or networked sites. It was clear to me, that through the presentation of ideas and themes, as well as individual campaigns directly or indirectly associated with the Olympic industry, that this was a useful and targeted space to understand what has been done already and what still needs to be achieved in the next 200 days.

Having spent time in Vancouver in 2010, this meeting brought back a lot of memories. Albeit, I wasn’t there in the planning stages – when those who put together the plans for alternative and independent media spaces originally had the idea to work in the realms of citizen journalism to cover alternative narratives of the games. However, it can be tracked in some cases through documentaries such as With Glowing Hearts, blog posts and youtube videos on the run up to 2010. Vancouver was the first Olympic Games to have pre-arranged independent media space(s) ahead of the games beginning – and was situated right in the blip where the IOC weren’t au fait with the notion of widely adopted social media platforms such as twitter and facebook, because up until that point, they felt as if they possessed the control to internet monitor and squash any radical intervention at play. The official twwitter facebook and flickr page was set up DURING the Vancouver Games – now you couldn’t imagine a brand such as the 5 rings ever not having a social media presence.

With 2012, the IOC and LOCOG are all over it. There has been heavy investment to make sure that they at least try to ‘get’ social media, which is evident with their social media for games maker policy (lulz.) But, seriously, the online media will play a big part in the narrative of the games – especially when you have accredited media such as the BBC encouraging recruitment for their own ‘community reporter‘ programs, corporate sponsors such as BT supporting their own team of ‘storytellers‘ and many cultural olympiad programs (including partly #media2012 the project I’m coordinating, in a way) rolling with the citizen journalism angle. There is a reason why citizen media will be ‘sexy’ during the Olympics, as we’ve now reached the point where the act of using social media is far from radical, can be coerced back into the system and radical media alternatives will remain radical and therefore unattractive to the mainstream media.

Kevin Blowe’s account of this weekend hit this concern and theme right on the head, and emphasises the importance of working with and as media in order to try and not only to use the Olympics as a tool to raise awareness of causes, but also to prevent and fight for causes and against the effects of the Olympic shock doctrine on how it transforms bylaws, public space and the rhetoric and acceptance of private security which coming thick and fast in the aftermath of the shock eviction of critical spaces such as the Bank of Ideas early this morning.

So what do we do?

Well, in my capacity of #media2012 coordinator, I know that we are working hard to find and secure a physical space to host an independent media centre during the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games. It will probably be in partnership with somebody else already doing something in this area – as it will take more than providing a space to get it up and running. We are trying to do this across the country, across the ‘official’ 13 olympic region (according to LOCOG) such as in spaces like Weymouth which is a venue city and suffering from the same privatisation as London – but also in arts and cultural spaces who tend to be a good space to provide facilities such as power, computer access and food/drink. I would hope that such spaces could provide a facility to cover, report and engage with activists and ‘mainstream media’ a like.

I’m also aware that there are other politics involved, it is partly an academic project (hence my involvement), some spaces are funded directly by cultural olympiad, the arts council, legacy trusts, NGOs etc. This will not be ideal for some, many, but I’m all for the principle of in, against and beyond and ensuring that as many voices are heard, not sanitized, accepted approaches. In my personal capacity, I want to help and actively seek out a space where these stories of resistance have a chance to be heard by others, that we can help other cities who might be in discussion about hosting the games to reject them, or to pass on the legacy of protest to the next Olympic site – or even other mega event sites such as the Commonwealth Games, happening back home for me.

This is going to be an ongoing discussion for me – but if you are interested in a critique of the Olympic Games and not aware of sites such as GamesMonitor, then that is the first place I would recommend as not only a resource but a place to contribute and add to as a ongoing documentation of the next 6 months and beyond.

Importantly, we should be capturing as much of these conversations as we can. Below is a playlist of videos that I recorded during Saturday’s event (apology for the bad sound, mobile phone quality) and follow this link for a

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How to use social media as a London 2012 gamesmaker (remixed) #media2012 #occupy2012

Over the past couple of days, the London Organising Commitee of the Olympic Game’s (LOCOG) official guidelines for social media policy has emerged publicly. There have been some reports relating to the Olympic Gamesmakers, the voluntary labour force who are essential to the smooth running of the event this summer, and their use of social media. That being, not to use it. Especially if they are going to document their personal stories as gamesmakers in a journalistic way.

Although the document is apparently shared on a volunteer-only training site, so difficult to access, the BBC, the official media broadcaster for London 2012, reported that it in the dos and don’t section, the volunteer’s were asked:

  • not to disclose their location
  • not to post a picture or video of Locog backstage areas closed to the public
  • not to disclose breaking news about an athlete
  • not to tell their social network about a visiting VIP, eg an athlete, celebrity or dignitary.
  • not to get involved in detailed discussion about the Games online
  • but they can retweet or pass on official London 2012 postings.

I don’t kn0w about you, but when I’m told not to do something, I can’t help but see what would happen if I do. So I managed to get a copy of the document to see for myself – and because there is now a ream of blog posts that are declaring that LOCOG and the international olympic committee (IOC) don’t “get it.” To assume that there is something to ‘get’ is particularly naive, and tends to come from those who are already social media evangelists wondering why the Olympic Games might not want to join in on their own, rather successful, digital and social web revolution. You see, the IOC are not the same as you and I, they know exactly what they are doing when they employ a communication and social media strategy to their game-play – it is about control, it is about access and as always, it is about protecting the stakeholders – the sponsors, the corporate media and themselves. They could not be seen letting a measly volunteer breaking a story that would be saved for their major American sponsors NBC, who’s media right revenue pay for over half of the costs outright. This is their response to concerns expressed ahead of the 2009 Olympic congress in Copenhagen and respond they have.

So here is what not to do (or indeed, what might be quite useful to do if you are thinking about becoming a citizen journalist during the games.)

Over-sharing London 2012 activities or information

From the document:

“It’s understandable that if you are proud or excited about something that has happened while you’re volunteering, you will want to tell people about it. But there are groups of people outside of LOCOG who are paid to scour the internet and target information about particular organisations. Their intentions could be to breach our security, or to affect our reputation, and as you might expect London 2012 could quite easily become such a target as our profile greatly increases up to and during the Games.”

This is a reason not to share information. Because there are boggy men out there who are out there to tarnish or critique the olympic games, or even try and make their own money of the back of their movement (oh my god, where they meant to be a boost to the *entire* economy, not just their own??). The language used implies that you are part of the larger family, that you are the movement by becoming a games maker. The good guys. When really, the corporate communication team is more concerned about keeping to a uniformed message, a narrative of games time, a history that will be remembered collectively. There are many other things that happen outside and within the games experience that will not be reported on, stories that may not necessary target the Olympics but will illustrate that the world isn’t as one-dimensional as corporate communications makes out to be.

They’ve even given an example of what you can tweet. Which is nice of them. This really begs the question now about ownership of twitter accounts, and more philosophically, who owns experiences in these surroundings?

Getting on your soapbox

“We all have opinions that we like to share with our friends and family, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just remember that when posting your comments online it is exactly the same as someone overhearing you in a public place, so please stop and think before posting your comment. Also if people know you are a Games Maker volunteer they could associate what you say with London 2012, or even interpret it as LOCOG’s opinion.”

If you are a known games maker, you are to direct the criticism directed at you to the ‘contact us’ form on the the London 2012 site – a bit like speaking your brains, a bit like neutralizing yourself so they don’t have to. As with more employer guidelines, it’s about you representing a brand or the company, not representing yourself – despite the fact that you are volunteering your own labour on their behalf. The brand is so strong, so omnipresent that it is taken for granted that it is a-political, that you should really think very carefully about stepping outside the party line. I (personally) think soapboxes should be encouraged- but I’ve already been told I have an ‘opinion’ – like it is a bad thing.

Leaking sensitive information

“Some volunteers may be privileged in their roles to have access to highly confidential and sensitive information, on a daily basis. Sometimes we are so exposed to it that we forget how valuable a small nugget would be to a potential intruder. We trust you not to share this information. Please also respect the privacy of people from outside LOCOG who may become involved in some way e.g. visiting VIPs.”

Intruder? What? Seriously. The notion that this is about protecting the Olympics from the lurking bad guy is patronizing at best. It’s about control, it is about access and it is about exclusivity to information. You are caught up in a web of PR professionals and corporate marketing teams, they rule the space and they dictate the relationships that can and cannot be formed in public. It’s celebrity and sport personality culture at best and it is one of the strongest commercial assets that exists on televised and print media. Especially any dirt on those VIPs.

What about LinkedIn?

“LinkedIn is a site specifically designed for discussing work and employment. Therefore London 2012 understands that exceptions need to be made to ensure our volunteers are able to benefit from the networking potential the site allows. However, we do ask that you limit the information you share on LinkedIn about your work while volunteering at London 2012 to the following:   

Job title •    Skill-set you have developed / applied in your work volunteering at London 2012 (in
general terms, without giving specific examples / names of operations involved)”

There is a thing about volunteering. It is meant to make you more employable, give you something to talk about at job interviews, help you get on the career ladder. But if you can’t talk about your role in the detail that you would like, personalize it to suit your own experiences, then I’m not sure what the benefits are working for free this summer.

On aggregation:

“Please be aware that by synchronising accounts you are allowing an outsider to build up quite a comprehensive profile of you, and potentially your role at London 2012.”

Remember guys, we are the outsiders.


This is, for me, is not about LOCOG “not getting” social media, far from it, this is their attempt to set the ground rules for themselves and other big corporations (such as their sponsors for instance) for dealing with the use of social media amongst their employees in the future. This is the start of shutting down channels and establishing new mechanisms of control when it comes to managing employees on the ground. This is setting the benchmark for what we might expect in the future if we are to look at worker’s rights, ways that online behavior can affect or determine future contracts or job opportunities. This is about control, and not about an established monitoring program, it is about hoping that people will be too nervous or too proud to break the rules. They know exactly what they are doing.

But as I mentioned in my “occupy the Olympics” post last November for games monitor, this doesn’t mean that you need to pay attention to this. One of the greatest threats to the Olympic Games is the alternative narratives that might emerge during the time the world’s media is watching. Why do you think Cameron is so keen to ban protest, sweep up parliament square and get water cannons in place?

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Olympic Media: An Overview (Guest lecture for Ithaca College London)

As part of a series of workshops delivered around the Olympics to visiting students from Ithaca Collage in the states, I was invited to speak about Olympic media and give an overview of its history and its challenges.

The session was roughly two hours long and covered media contexts, history of Olympic media, media technology and the games and some of the research case studies that I’ve been working on around Vancouver 2010 and London 2012. The prezi from the workshop is below:

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2010: A proper review.

I’m normally quite relaxed when it comes to doing something that ‘reviews the year’ – normally because I’m always either too tired or too busy to do it in that gap between Christmas and New Year. Because I’m starting to ease myself back into the world of writing and PhD workloads, I’ve decided to return to the original post I made on the 31st – which was just a selection of pictures that summed up my 2010 – and fill in the gaps with some words for my “proper” blog. 



January brought about my first visit to the site of the London Olympic Park. Keen to avoid the charges of an extra zone (and not really knowing where I was going) – myself and Ana Adi took a trip to the middle of east London to try and find the building site. I had good fun wandering around, was also surprised at how “non-Olympic” the whole thing was – naively expecting for the whole world to grind to a standstill around this megastructure. Life goes on – but I couldn’t help but notice the effects that the building work was having – and the contrasting environments around the Olympic boroughs. Amongst the penthouse developments, which one day will look over the Olympic park, were the existing buildings in the process of being painted in olympic colours – perhaps in an attempt to inject some “Olympic spirit” into the nearby communities. Nearby to the closed tire garage, there is a Porsche franchise – almost waiting for the custom of those who will come and go in the area during the summer of 2012. Nevertheless, my Olympic experience had yet to begin – and was impossible to articulate without spending time living within a host city, really getting to know what affects an Olympic games can have on a city and a country.




It wasn’t long until I got to have that experience. Through my PhD work, I was offered the opportunity to spend a total of 5 and a half weeks in Vancouver during their Winter Olympic Games. I was a working journalist, accredited to the British Columbia Media Centre and writing for Culture @ the Olympics (a hybrid academic magazine about Olympic culture – think anything but sport) and this was easily my highlight of 2010. 




Not only was it an amazing experience to spend a long period of time in a city like Vancouver, to work (and play) in an Olympic city is something that is a completely unique and mindblowing experience. On the opening ceremony day alone, I was sitting 10 ft from Arnold Schwarzenegger, before embarking on a umbrella protest march in an attempt to block the arteries of the city – all the while, there were thousands of people, little only 10ft away completely oblivious to what was going on. Through working with independent media groups such as True North Media House and W2 Arts and Culture House, social media and the Olympics really came into its own – where most of my information was directly being fed to me via twitter and live streams. Topping it off with an invite to a blogger’s Flickr party – complete with token IOC representatives, encouraging us to go forth and document (when before it wasn’t uncommon for the call to cease and desist on images of those sacred rings…)




Through a random connection, Ana and I managed to board the Alberta train (the Rockie Mountaineer) and took the most indulgent journalist trip to Whistler where we were plyed with pancakes, champagne and ipod touches (!) before working from Whistler media house for the day. It was all very surreal – but certainly offered me an insight into how international journalists are “looked after” whilst taking part on their Olympic excursion. 


The Games ended for me by being given a ticket to the long-track speed skating final. I never expected to see any sport – but it’s worth seeing for the spectacle of the sport itself (it’s a strange experience). Nevertheless, there is enough going on outside of the actual events to never have to set foot in one of those purpose built arenas.

I could go on but I won’t. The rest of my Vancouver photos are here (they make me pine to go back!)



In March I had a week left in Vancouver, so spent my time exploring all the tourist site that I never got the chance to see in the month of February. I hung out with old family friends and caught up with my research work. The time spend during the game period was intense, often with little sleep and over in a blur. My research diary totalled over 40000 words, much of which will make up a core section of my PhD thesis.




April brought with it rest and getting used to being back home. We gutted the garden and started our epic grow-your-own quest. Looking back at the photographs, I can’t believe how quickly the veggies grew this year. Next year, we are sticking to the beans, potatoes and lettuces. Too many random veggies, too many chances for failure.




In May, Tom joined me in Bristol for a symposium on User Generated Content at the Watershed. I had never been to Bristol before- but it was easy to fall in love with it. The weather was warm and it was nice to see a new part of the world. Look forward to returning this month to talk about #media2012.






June brought with it summer holidays. We went island hopping across the west coast of Scotland with my family (a mere 100 mile radius from where my parents live) taking Tom and Melvin to Arran for the first time. We spent one night in Arran, then drove to Kilberry (near Tarbert) for two nights. When we returned, my ears hurt from the silence.




(I now use this photograph on some of my business cards – 1) because UWS use Arran on their official ones (and nobody will give me official ones :() and 2) It’s Ayrshire innit!)



July brought another visit to London – after a meeting with Stephen Timms MP about the Digital Economy Act. I’ve had a brief flirting with politics this year (cultivating in my own MP dingying me after 9 months of correspondence about the same problem), I believe 2011 will bring a much stronger approach, what with the alignment between digital rights and the drastic cuts in the University. I don’t know what to expect but need to keep going…




Skyride Leicester came with Citizen’s Eye first media centre – a group of community reporters working to cover news stories in Leicester. This was to be the first attempt at facilitating a media camp around a large scale event. This was later to be used as the preliminary model for some of the discussion relating to #media2012 – the launch of a blueprint for a citizen media network for the London Olympics.



We also took a day trip to Nottingham (even though it’s only half an hour away) – I like day trips and musuems. 



Back to the Olympic Park, this time to show Kris Krug (@kk) the sights whilst he was over from Vancouver. Kris is heavily involved with Olympic/social media stuff, as well as being an awesome photographer and general geek. It was fun to show him around the building site in preparation for his own involvement with the London games.


Best thing was that my best friend returned from New Zealand after 2 years away. Needless to say, both of us are now at least 25 percent more cartoon versions of ourselves. 



October was crazy busy. First came the launch of the #media2012 blueprint at the Cornerhouse in Manchester. I gave a wee presentation about social media archives and megaevents – amongst others who spoke from Beijing to Rio. This will form a huge part of my PhD and my role in 2011 is to coordinate the network across the regions. 


Got to spend a week in Hamburg for the ECREA communication conference. The conference was a bit dull (old school media profs, droning from bits of paper and snarling at twitter users) but Hamburg was amazing and did plenty of useful networking and got loads of work done. Met Farida Vis properly (having followed each other since May) and had the megalols with Jon Hickman and Ana Adi (see you pal). Moral of the story is that there is always a backchannel for the backchannel – #hackburg  – so will definetely go to ECREA 2012 ;) #hackstanbul


There is also a dog park. Every different type of dog in one place -amazing (I told you the papers were boring.)


Got let in to the Rathaus. Nice.


October closed with Humanities up a hill (New Research Trajectories) – a research student event where those of us in the Arts and Humanities PhDs (soon to be a rare breed) got to do some methodology chat up Beacon Hill. Clearly the best way to deliver research.



I turned 26. My uncle turned 60 – so me and Tom went to Roskilde for his big massive Scottish-Danish party pissup. We’ve been going to Roskilde ever since I was a little girl, so it was nice to give Tom the whistle stop tour of Denmark (laugh at rude named sweets, buy cute xmas decorations, drink Tuborg, eat Dambo cheese) 


This xmas decoration is for @jamiepotter.



And so we get to December – and we start to get to the depressing part. The University (as we know it) is at threat – but then again, an inspirational wave of change start to emerge from over the horizon. I visited the University of Manchester occupation on the 6th of December to show support. This was before the awful news that the coalition had voted in the fees rises (and the imminent news that they’ll be massive cuts to the teaching and research budget)- followed by awful media coverage of the protests and action. Although registered for my PhD in Scotland (which has a slightly different approach to education here) I’ve felt my eyes open to the extent of what has happened and what is going to happen. I admit, although I was involved in NUS as a undergraduate, I had really no idea about how the English system worked until I began working as a tutor. It is incredibly sad that this is happening. 2011 will begin how 2010 has ended – in complete solidarity and working towards and with solutions.


So not to leave of a sad note, the 30th brought me a wearable ROFL. 

So what’s next?

2011 is the year of epic thesis writing. I have a deadline for the first chapter draft of the 31st of Jan – with subsequent chapters happening every 2 months until the end of the process (that’s putting it lightly) I’ve kept January and Febuary reasonably light – with a trip to Bristol, two trips to London and back to Scotland (#media2012 meeting in Bristol, a visit to the Commonwealth Office, the Podium HE conference (the Olympic/Higher Ed link) and some more training sessions for UWS) Will be working on the #media2012 themed course with Jon Hickman and carrying on with the new media theory modules) All I can see 2011 being is a preparation year for London 2012 – there is only one chance for this to happen so need to use my time productively to a) prepare the #media2012 network b) carry out this research and literature reviewing in order to be ready to write up straight after the games. Every day counts.


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