On being in London, “doing the ‘lympics” and putting the brakes on.

The last time I wrote one of these blog posts was back at the end of January 2010, several days before I was due to head out – on my own – to the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. I remember at the time feeling a whole wave of different emotions; excitement as it was my first long distance flight, my first massive research project, first Olympic Games, but also terrified because I had no clue what I was to expect when I was to arrive and what I should be doing when I get there.

Now we are onto games numbers two for me. And this is my blog post about what I might do during London 2012.

I took on the Olympics context in October 2009 after transferring my PhD (around new media) that was registered part-time at Leicester University back to the University of the West of Scotland – where ahm fae – but continued to live in Leicester due to work and domestic commitments. I’m hoping that when I return from the London once the games are finally done and dusted in August that I can finally get the PhD write-up blasted, where it has been all most impossible between travelling a ton, not travelling a ton (moved back to Glasgow permanently – should have done it sooner) and working on projects connected to the Olympics as and when they happened.

So how am I feeling about being in London during the Olympics? 

Firstly, it is probably the longest that I’ve been in London in one prolonged stint. When I lived in Leicester, I didn’t ever need to spend longer than a day there as it was only 1 hr and 20 minutes on the train and it was just easy if you booked your train in advance and crammed all your encounters together into an 18 hour day.

Back in Glasgow, I’ve had three opportunities in 5 weeks to be in London – the first involved a sleeper train, a cold shower and entire day of work and back in Scotland for teatime (not recommended if you want to maintain a sane disposition) – the others had been postponed to during and after the games. But  now seems that there I’m not short of opportunities and avenues to get down to London for specific jobs – and it takes half the amount of time by weekly commute between the midlands and ayrshire took – but I’m sort of terrified of amped up Landon 2012 ™ and how anything can get done during that time. “It’s going to be a lot better when it is all over and we can start to get back to normal,” I remark sarcastically.

I go through waves of looking forward to being back in the thick of it again – then completely writing the whole damn thing again, citing that I would prefer to sit with my laptop on the couch and concentrate on the next wave of amazing things on the horizon. It’s true. No denying, I peaked during #citizenrelay because it really did feel like we managed to achieve something with the resources, the people and the context that we were positioned within – not to say it was a comfort zone by any means, but it was something I could really get my teeth into and pay forward any outcomes into bigger, more meaningful (at least to me) projects that go beyond all this ‘lympics banter.

I just don’t have the energy to do it all again, this time in London and it is not because I am tired – or because I’ve overdone it, spent a long overdue week off chillaxing my face off – the transient nature of social media means that much of the things that I’ve been speaking about, writing about and dedicating mass chunks of my life (for free or out my own pocket) just passes by in the noise of other people catching wind that the Olympics is a unique phenomena that does strange things to the staunch ‘i-don’t-have-an-opinion-on-this’ brigade. And that’s fine – I’m glad the baton has finally been passed.

I’ve stepped out of the debate. I’ve stopped sharing links because others are getting there first. I am still getting my news from my twitter and facebook feed, rarely directly from the TV, radio or newspaper. For a period of time, I banned myself from consuming any mainstream media at all, because I go on mad vocal rants – at BBC Breakfast usually, then it was Radio 4 – about things I can’t do *anything* about – but that is starting to wane now I’ve stopped taking it/myself so seriously. And when I started to pick up the bug for data and investigative journalism that seems to actually make a significant dent on the news agenda. It’s not a lot compared the the PR and media machine that we will be staring at over the coming weeks, but it feels a lot more productive and better for the blood pressure.

Anyway – It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, almost like I’ve been sitting on it in order to make the right decisions about what I might do during the games time period. Originally, there was talk of being part of a collective running independent media centres (similar to Vancouver’s w2 or True North Media House). I’ve been involved in Counter Olympic Network meetings, mainly discussing media impact of resistance to the games (that gamesmonitor have managing long before London ‘won’ the Olympics, and lately space hijackers have been engineering brilliantly in terms of winding up LOCOG). Furthermore, I’ve wrote a ton about occupying the Olympics, mainly about trying to reclaim some of the histories of events that are presented on our behalf and trying to harness some of that ‘social media’ olympics chatters away from the brands, PR and marketers and more towards capturing and archiving the voices and stories of the people who lived through it. Regardless of what happens in London over the next month, it is already in the process of being looked back on as a great success and slotted neatly alongside all the other mega event stormers.

I can only hope that the little nuggets of work that have been going on in the fringes, all those blog posts, videos, audio files and tweets can be stored somewhere for others to find in the future. Even though it might feel that it is all streaming past, irrelevant 20 minutes after posting, I learnt from #citizenrelay that the impact of one sentence battering out of your mobile over breakfast can turn entire projects, narratives, themes on their head. But it fades, turns to dust if it isn’t written down, documented, backed up. Even try and find some of the online newspaper articles from Vancouver, Beijing games around alternative narratives (human rights, protests, displacement, for instance) that haven’t been archived in the public domain – if things aren’t backed up and contextualised now then there is every chance that anything that isn’t the official post-Olympic legacy site, including social media and citizen journalism, will either dissolve or just be folded back into the mix.

So, after all that, what am I doing to during the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games?

Firstly, I will be acting as a free-agent. I have made a decision not to run any fringe projects or attempt to disrupt the notion of what a journalist might be in that space. I’ve now got a better idea of what works, what doesn’t work, what gets you into trouble and what is worth saving for post-Olympics. I have the opportunity to write for several publications – and in that time I will be probably be doing it fairly regularly. I have opportunity to do some freelance work at the same time, so all in all, a pretty productive and cost-efficient games.

I will be working on Help Me Investigate the Olympics.

I will go to some of the anti-Olympic protests, especially the one of the 28th of July, making it absolutely explicit that I’m an academic researcher. This is more realistic than hanging around drinking free coca-cola and busting my head with the sponsors banter.

I will be working on a research project around live sites with David and Matt where I will spend much of my time exploring and mapping the ‘3rd sites’ of the Olympic Games. This will be carried out much like #citizenrelay – lots of media being captured and aggregated into a wordpress site that can be used as a resource for researching future events.

I will try and go to some of the London Festival 2012 events.

I will catch up with friends.

And after all that, from the 10th of August, I am going to take some well deserved time off.

For me, I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching, battling and now realisation that I’ve probably taken the most I can from the Olympic Games this time around. Obviously, I want to compare it to the first one I attended, an experience of a life time that I could barely speak about when I got back because I was very aware of becoming “This time in Vancouver…” girl. Similarly, I don’t want to lose my cool – and most importantly, I want to enjoy it. I think about the experiences that I could have had if I wasn’t stressing about trying to attend everything and nothing, about not feeling that I knew enough about it to contribute and how the lack of sleep and stressface impacted on pretty much everything I did. This is a very deliberate attempt to put the brakes on and not always be on call to action all the time. I’ve got plenty of that to be doing for Glasgow 2014.

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Trolling from within: On how citizen media might *actually* transform the grand narratives of media events

I’ve found myself writing (and been given the keys) for the sister paper of the Daily Mail. So far, I’ve wrote three articles – and if I write another two before the Olympics is over, I am in the chance to win another iPad. It is the new media economy of volunteering in return for access and ‘credibility’ (hey, my mum actually reads (understands and retweets what I write now!) – but what has been quite interesting is that I’ve managed to play a game where I’ve wrote the distinct articles that cover topics not traditionally favoured by said publication. I’ve had an anti-Olympic, call-to-action one (in the spirit of Occupy), I’ve had a pro-Scottish, anti-bunting one – and now I’ve managed to slip a pro-media studies, anti-establishment one under the radar as well.

But what does this mean?

Probably nothing, it is the ‘blogs’ pages, where 100 people who blog about the ‘lympics can now blog about the ‘lympic over on a mainstream hosted platform. But interestingly, it has generated a bit of buzz for the bigger project I’m working-a-million-hours-a-week-on-but-it’s-my-baby, #citizenrelay.

What I really want to raise attention to – but also is starting to become a catalyst for other things, like the partnership with Help Me Investigate the Olympics  and Newsnet from the Media Trust – is the multi-layered trajectories that begin to emerge around small findings in big data. Like breaking a story about the corporate shame behind sponsor nominated torch bearers in the Independent here (first reported here.)

Working precariously between higher education (so getting students involved), journalism (with connections to big projects from big outlets), the cultural olympiad (where #citizenrelay is within the Festival 2012 brochure and funded by Creative Scotland) and academic research (critical informed events and media geeks ahoy!) , we are actually beginning to leave teeth marks behind some of the more general coverage that is rampent within mainstream, accredited broadcasters. See also the Jobbylee.

That being said, we (#citizenrelay) are being fed onto the BBC Torch Relay pages to be included on each day the torch is in Scotland. Those who go to watch the torch live, will be able to click into our humble wordpress site, hosted for peanuts on my server and view content produced by people who, thanks to Adam Perry from Newsnet, have now been equipped with the skills to ask proper interview questions, to anybody – not just authority figures or celebrities – and record and upload them on devices that they already own.

We potentially have more capacity to be on the ground asking these questions than those who are employed to do it. We don’t need to compete in that arena, we just need to go out and do – and make it easy as possible allow others to as well. It is easy as filling out this form. But the really important part of this, isn’t just capturing the citizen’s voice, no matter who they are, it is what we do with it during and beyond the project.

There is real potential, thanks to covering in the context of just one nation as a whole, using a consistant method of aggregating, archiving and visualising social media data – and working in, against and beyond the larger media outlets who might be too cautious, too restricted, too under resourced to attempt what we are about to do, in the way we are going to do it – that we could actually affect, change, transform the wider and dominant narratives of the Games time.

It is always worth remembering that something of this scale has never been done before at an Olympic Games. We didn’t have the tools that made it possible and access to the internet and mobile web has rocketed in the last 18 months. I’m going all out to make sure we can attempt to take on the Olympics at its own media games.

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New Research Article: Anti-Olympic Protest and the British Library

Back in October I was asked by Gill Ridgley from the British Library to contribute a short article relating to social media and the Olympic Games for their special-issue website for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The article “Occupying the Olympic Games: Resisting 2012” has now been published on (a newly prepared) section on anti-olympic protests on the British Library site. It’s good to see that these issues are now being included in the debate, especially in terms of ‘academic/research’ legacy from London 2012 – making a distinction between protest and resistance and the terrorist attack rhetoric. There is a list of resources and further reading on the site if you are interested in looking further issues relating to the critique of the Olympic industry.

The direct link to my article is here [.pdf] and I will be presenting an extended version of this paper at the Sport and Politics Association Sports Politics, Media and Identity conference in Southampton on the 24th of February.

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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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Occupying the Olympics: What can be done? (From @tentcityuni) #occupy2012

It was timely to hold a session at the Tent City University within the Occupy London camp on the notion of occupying the Olympics a day prior to the Independent reporting that the government are looking to ban demonstrations during the games next year. It emphasised completely what is going to happen, and what will happen, as the government cannot afford to allow for the games to fail (both financially, politically and internationally) – they will move the (*cringe for sports-related metaphor*) goalposts, whatever they are currently, to ensure that when the eye of the (carefully briefed and paying-customers) world’s media is upon London next summer, there will be conflict-free games and tailored soft power and sponsorship messages to be viewed.

They will not fail. They will do what they can to make sure they don’t fail. Even if it involves state brutality of citizens and changes to long-standing bylaws such as the right to protest and  squatters rights (see Barcelona 1992) It doesn’t come to much surprise, considering they’ve been displacing communities in East London for the last 6 and half years (it takes 7 years to ‘prepare’ for an Olympiad) – and had put in the ‘planning permission’ to do so, long before the winning bid for 2012 were announced in Singapore 2005.

You see, it’s simple things contained within bidding document files (see for archive.) that can highlight this in advance – 7-10 years in advance, BEFORE your city bids for the games. Figures such as having to show to the IOC that the city can provide over 170,000 hotel beds for visiting fans, are one of the reasons why those who reside in the poorest part of Vancouver were evicted by their landlords from their lower-cost bedsits so they could be renovated and turned into boutique hotels, so that vistors had a place to stay and Vancouver saw the highest level of homelessness during one set period (watch the documentary ‘Five Ring Circus‘ to learn more)

Occupy the Olympics

Photo by @aral

After a skype call with Olympic critic and activist Helen Lenskyj (who have wrote some excellent books on resisting the Olympic Industry) whilst I was at Occupy Nottingham on Friday, she left me thinking about the privatisation of public space and the contrast of the Occupy movement. You see, every ‘public’ mass event you go to (fireworks, the fair, football, carnivals, the royal wedding) gives authorities the opportunity to move in on your civil liberties, it sticks a fence around it and uses security to make you feel ‘safe’ – when in fact, what it is doing is reducing the amount of space where you can actually call it public. For instance, try taking a photograph in your local shopping mall, it won’t be long before you get asked to leave or accused on being a terrorist – that is a perfect example of the local authorities outsourcing land to private companies to manage. As a participant at Occupy Nottingham told me on Friday, the occupations reclaim and raise awareness to the fact that these spaces, are in fact, being occupied by the corporations – not the people. And the Olympics is the biggest, and the baddest, example of this. I’ve met too many people in the last 2.5 years who have lost their home, their communities for the benefits of a 17 day sporting competition. This is the social and political context I am going to work within for my thesis – and probably the hardest thing I have to write, as I do not want to treat these experiences as throw away data for the REF or some other academic medal. The politics is personal.

Olympic Movement/Industry

What differs the Olympic Games from other mega events of its nature is three-fold – the first, the Olympic charter, the second, its historical context – and the third, Olympic education (the device that I’ve experienced first hand) The fact that they refer to themselves as a ‘movement’ hints at what the charter might contain, it aspires, it claims and it suggests that the Olympics provides a blueprint for living. The movement is governed by an Olympic charter, explicitly laying out the philosophical concept of ‘olympism’ – a way of life. When I was at the International Olympic Academy in September, I wrote about the three assumptions that were being made on my behalf, when discussing the Olympic Charter as document for research:

“1) That we all think that sport is a morally good thing. That is bonds us across communities and it should be considered as something as powerful as saying it is a ‘human right’. The act of sport is a human right.

2) That we see the idea of Olympic education as being a force to carry the message of sport and to help build an understanding that sport is a human right. All people of the world should hear this message and the best way to do this is through education.

3) That through participating in an olympic education program, we are are all advocates for the olympic education movement and will return to our country to spread the universal messages of Olympism. This is why we are here.”

Now I’ve stepped out of that world, and had the time to critically reflect on those experiences, I’m still gravely concerned about what follows such idealistic claims about society, or indeed, the notion that an ideology can be institutionalised through a device such as sport. You see, sport is a sacred cow – it is very rarely critiqued, it is probably one of the last bastians of the 20th century that hasn’t been ripped through the apparent public accountability machine of the mainstream media (or even academia) for the way that it acts. I mean, for the media, even if you aren’t paying for the rights to broadcast the Olympics games, to challenge the sports machine could potentially lose you a quarter of your daily news (and the access that goes along with it.) Furthermore, sport is still very much a television broadcast that remains unfragmented – think about the way football gathers people in spaces, or how big events disrupt existing programming. It very much has to be watched live. Similarly, there are very few academics who find themselves studying the Olympic Games when they detest organised sport and everything that goes with it. There a lot of tensions that come into play – and that could be one of the reasons why sport is a good hiding place for corporations such as McDonalds and CocaCola, corporations that don’t have an ethical bone in their system.

But if you align with an organisation that comes prepackaged with its own philosophy, a philosophy that promotes a healthy body and healthy mind, that also requires a hell of a lot of money before it will part with those ideas (and more importantly, its symbolic ritual, it’s only product essentially) then you know that you are not only going to reach global audiences, you are going to have a better chance of looking and sounding more ethical. The perfect relationship. And that perfect relationship is detailed within the Olympic charter – directly after the bit about friendship, peace and solidarity.

The history of the Olympics

Another factor of distraction is the history of the games, tied up closing to the history of ancient Greece (where relics from 2000 years ago shown the rich greeks enjoyed their stadiums, plays and temples) and where the industry was conceived at the turn of the 20th century by Pierre de Coubertin, a entrepreneur that played on the notion of beauty, religion and sport to introduce the modern Olympic games to the “masses.” I could go on, but if you want to read about the link between resistance and the Olympics, right back to the first modern games in Athens 1896, download @currybet’s brief history of Olympic dissent. The reason why I’m mentioning this is to relate to the political and social context of the games origins – think end of 19th century, imperialism, europe-centric governance, military influence (I’m sure there are historians out there who can tell a better story about this than me, I’m the new media person, remember!)

Olympic Education

And finally, the thing that separates the Olympics from say, the World cup? The Olympics comes packages with an element of Olympic education. There are Olympic education centres all over the place (I live 1 mile away from Loughborough University, it is reeking of Olympic studies) – but also, rather than simply research centres at universities all around the world, you’ve the Olympic games in school – worldwide. The London Games were sold on the aspect of youth (and much of the legacy claims are about just that) and if you keep an eye out for it, you’ll see things like “Get Set” which is the official link between compulsory education and LOCOG. The Olympic movement is embedded in the curriculum, I’m sure if you are of a certain age, you’ll remember the exposure to previous games yourself, in fact – before I took on this topic as a PhD, I had never encountered the Olympics in any other way apart from watching it during the summer holidays. Because it is what you do. Why do you think the IOC want Olympic education in schools? I can’t help but think that it is all related – especially when I encountered G4S at the Podium Further and Higher Education Conference back in February and they asked me advice on using social media to encourage college kids to apply for security jobs during London 2012 (!)

What can be done?

From the discussion at the tent city university on Saturday, we talked about if the Olympics can be occupied next summer – something that somebody on Twitter declared would be a huge stunt that would result in public uproar. Correct. It would. But it also raises questions about what occupy means and who is occupying who. What can I advise – based on what I’ve seen, read and learned over the last two years?

Looking to past games

What is happening in the UK is not in isolation. It doesn’t take much digging around to realise that every games that have came before have came complete with their own set of challenge on the local, national and international scale. Something that the Olympics, in its current format of every 2 years, is good at is being about to neutralise resistance or to distract from a citizen-reclaimed legacy. Think about how a school term works with the student movement, time and organisation of time is good way of killing momentum towards a cause. As we approach each Olympics, we start to care more as it approaches our lens – but it has taken 7 years to get to this stage. Think about the people living on its doorstep, think about the laws that need to be changed to allow the games to happen, think about where the budgets are going and use the Olympics as a mechanism to critique the rest of the government’s strategy. You can do this better if you look at what has happened before. There are some accessible books that you can read, all available on gamesmonitor’s reading list.

Media responsibility

Credit to @aral via instagram

It was ironic that Jon Snow came into my session, right at the moment when we was discussing media responsibility and the games. You see, the media have no responsibility to report critically on the games. If you look at research on media events (Dayan and Katz, 1994) even the most critical of journalists (erm-hm) are suspected in critique around events of this nature. Do not expect them to tell your story. Even if they do, they are in the pocket of the event. They need that access. So they will spin it to suit the general frame. You must tell your own.

Citizen Media and the Games

That why citizen media, social media and independent journalists are your friends – and why no story is too small to be captured. You see, there is one thing that LOCOG and the government can’t control in terms of the Olympic narrative (and what is remembered) is the digital footprint that is left behind. They can evict the Occupy London camp, but the digital trail will tell us more than the statues that were discovered around ancient Greece. You had to win a race to be remembered, to be immortalised, but as long as there are GPS satellites in the sky, data that we leave behind could be the answer to decentralising the narrative around megaevents (read Capalan, 2010 for more.)

Staying safe

Returning to the independent article to conclude, the government and LOCOG are expecting resistance. They are bigger and more aggressive than you can ever imagine. If you take them head on, they will come down on you like a ton of bricks. We’ve seen it with the royal wedding earlier this year, preemptive arrests and threats of rubber bullets and water cannons (sparked from the response to August riots) – you need to and must stay safe. Know your rights, read load about what has happened before and be clever about how you subvert the games. As Chris Shaw advises (Prof. at University of British Columbia, member of the NOGAMES network – and author of the five ring circus, Vancouver’s story) the best way to stop the games is to stop them before you ‘win’ them, when they have been awarded, there is no going back (unless you are Denver 1976, the only games where the citizens stopped it happening) They will do whatever it takes to make sure it goes ahead. The best you can do is to stay safe and make sure that whatever you do this time can be passed on to the next city – a legacy of protest and resistance.


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Occupying the Olympics: The Future of Education and #OccupyLSX

#occupylsx (photo credit: @andymiah)

Reposted from the Creative Futures Research Centre blog:

On Saturday 19th November, cf. Associate Jennifer Jones will give a talk at Tent City University, a space within the #OccupyLSX where people can “learn, share knowledge and develop skills through a wide series of workshops, lectures, debates, films, games, praxis and action.”

The Occupy movement has captured the attention of the world’s media in the last few months, drawing attention to the need for governments to reconsider how they organize the global economy. cf. Director Professor Andy Miah said:

“At the cf. we are committed to thinking of more responsible ways to redistribute resources in order to create a more just society. To have one of our Associates contributing to this programme is very important for us, as it highlights the need for academics to re-consider their positions within society, the possible impact they can have on communities and, even more crucially, their role in re-thinking Higher Education in a time of radical and controversial change.

“Jennifer’s work on the Olympic Games is perfectly aligned to some of the big questions that we face in society today, such as the overwhelming dominance of corporations within cultural affairs. There’s no doubt that cultural activities like the Games need private investment, but it’s crucial that these associations do not jeopardize the integrity of the things that really matter to people”

Speaking in advance of her workshop, Jennifer said

”Since the brutal enforcement of the Browne review, the changes to the UK’s higher education funding structure, I’ve been exploring radical alternatives and critical safe spaces within which to discuss the future of the university. As academics and educators, we need to have the courage to bring such discussions to the forefront of our research and teaching practice – especially at a time when the mainstream focus on higher education is only on debt and employability skills. We need to remember that the role of the university within society is greater than just awarding qualifications.

“For many people, the Occupy movement provides hope that there is still a politically engaged civil society out there. It also reminds people that they are not alone in these difficult times and that there is a lot that people will still do for free, given the right incentives. This is why critical spaces such as Tent City University is as important as the bricks and mortar of any other university. Indeed, many of its lecturers work in precisely these more traditional institutions.”

“The London 2012 Olympic Games will be a focal point for the kinds of debates that have circulated around the Occupy movement, as it is made possible largely by corporate sponsorship. At all recent Games, protests and activism have taken place and I expect there to be comparably more in London, due partly to the culture of Londoners, but also due to the extraordinary economic times within which we are living”

Jennifer’s talk is due to take place at University Tent, St Pauls, London on November 19th at 12pm and is titled ‘Occupying the Olympics’ (unless they are evicted before).

Q&A with Jennifer Jones

What will you be talking about at Tent City University?

I will be facilitating a discussion about how the internet has been used by activist groups at previous Games to subvert the dominant message of the Olympic Games. As we are already seeing, the Olympics is a complex, multi-faceted machine, built on carefully controlled messages, corporate relationships and the essence of soft power. However, what London 2012 has that previous games have not is the influx of both social media technologies and the potential for a critical mass of users to challenge the messages projected by essentially a 20th century mega-event phenomena.

Do you think that protests are inevitable at the London 2012 Olympic Games?

Yes, and I think they should happen. It would be a sad day if the right to protest was withdrawn at the behest of a 17 day sports competition. But stranger things have happened. What I would like to contribute, through the tent city university and several other alternative education collectives that I align with – Third University, really open university and the social science centre, lincoln – is a little myth-busting around the Olympic Games, so that those who resist the Games are aware of what has happened before 2012. This may help strength their arguments and allow them to work together more effectively – bringing singular campaigns under a common banner. This is where citizen media/social media can come in, making it easier to share these issues and to work together in solidarity against the wider neo-liberal context that phenomena like the Olympic Games is situated within.

What should be the role of conventional universities within this programme of activities?

Many of those who participate in alternative educational spaces often also work or study within existing universities. What they should do – if they aren’t already – is also have the courage to bring that critical pedagogy back into their ‘day’ jobs – there is no inside/outside here, it is just people, trying to challenge and resist changes brought on by the government, that are being enforced in an non-demoncratic manner. The way I see it, I’d do this anyway, but it’s even better when I can embed this way of thinking into my work. The conventional university can help by supporting this, instead of suppressing it, by acknowledging the dialogue.

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