Lovely alternative to PowerPoint

Just find a good cartoonist and a steady cameraperson … could be nice to do for a creds presentation, for example, rather than showing some stock slides.

RSA animate presentation

Idea from the RSA. So much good stuff on their website, check it out!

A cliquey global village

The growing crisis in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (see the Oxfam link: Oxfam – Crisis in Ivory Coast on the refugee problem) is already turning into a humanitarian disaster and threatens to get much worse. As a fairly recent visitor to Abidjan – I managed some audience research there for the BBC World Service in 2009 – my thoughts are with the fantastic people I met in Ivory Coast and I cross my fingers for all of them. Abidjan felt like it was slowly recovering from a trauma even then; this fresh wave of fighting will set the country back once again. But the situation in Ivory Coast also throws up some interesting questions about how inter-connected we really feel, us humans. Because I sense a lot people in Britain don’t much care about it.

It seems to me to illustrate that Marshall McLuhan‘s “global village” is still a cliquey, hierarchical place. The interconnectedness between countries and peoples is real. The world is building and tightening global networks, for sure. It’s getting easier to source good qual researchers around the world, for example.  Last week I was thrilled with myself for managing a Skype video call to Amman, Jordan to advise former colleague Mai Omar ( there on setting up her own MENA region qual consultancy. It felt very 2011 (to me at least). But those global interconnections that we might like to think are ubiquitous are still crackly and indistinct in a lot of places.

Compare the interest in France in all things Ivorian, compared to the profile of the story in the UK. I’ve started reading Le Monde occasionally on my iPhone to try and brush up on my French and it’s been noticeable how much coverage it has been giving all along to the unfolding Ivory Coast story, while it was falling off the radar in the UK: Le Monde on Gbagbo and crisis in Cote d\’Ivoire.

No surprise there, you might say: France is the former colonial power, with a large Ivorian community.  And the French and British media are only reflecting the level of interest among the audiences they serve. But is this not out of keeping with what we are all supposed to feel in 2011? What does this say about our ability to empathise with our fellow humans – and treat them all as equals?

Clearly, we don’t empathise equally: it’s not enough that someone is a fellow human, we need some kind of a hook before we allow ourselves to empathise fully. With Ivory Coast, we have Chelsea star Didier Drogba – that will be a way in for many British people who do get involved in the story. But God help people in countries that don’t produce celebrities or a punchy narrative. Perhaps we worry that empathy is a finite resource we need to conserve. Not very “global village”, though, is it?

In the big Linked In that is the “global village”, we in the sharp-elbowed West are still at the centre of the social network. We might have connected with places like Abidjan, Harare or Dakka in the past, but we flick past their updates and messages pretty quickly.  That unevenness of sentiment – which can lead to downright unfairness – is as much down to our attitudes as individuals, as it is to those of the political leaders we elect and (often lazily) criticise. Because, even now, we still see the world much more locally than globally.


A Self-Defence Class for Digital Activists?

Meta-activism vs Malcolm Gladwell

Digital activism is getting less meek by the day, it seems. Here, a stout defence of the role of social media in bringing about political change, against a perceived slight from Malcolm Gladwell (author of “Blink”, among others).


Christian Marclay\’s \”The Clock\”

I caught this yesterday at British Art Show 7 at the Hayward Gallery in London’s South Bank and urge anyone interested in art, cinema or time to see it. It’s on there until 17th April. I’ve attached a link here to Will Gompertz’s report for BBC News on it, when it first came out last year. It’s just brilliant, one of the most riveting and interesting experiences I’ve had in a long time. There we go: a Freudian reference to time. You can’t get away from it.

“The Clock” is a film made up of cinema clips which refer to time, the time, clocks, watches and timepieces. Every time a clock or watch is shown in one of the film clips, that clock is showing the actual time, now. It runs for 24-hours and is synched with local time where it is being shown, so the film is itself a kind of big clock. So you’re sitting there effectively watching time pass; but the clips are so well chosen and inter-spliced, it couldn’t be more gripping.

When I was there, for example, just after 5pm, we had the famous musical timepiece section with Gian-Maria Volonte, Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood in For A Few Dollars More, some great Alastair Sim action, Slumdog Millionnaire at the railway station, Bogart arriving late (or was the shady character early?) and so on.

Och no, is it 11.10 already? Unfortunately this blog can’t perform the same feat, so it will be out of date by the time you read it. It’s now 11.11. Jesus, it took me a minute to write that? Better get on with some work …

The North Will Rise Again

Thinking Allowed on the future of the north

Interesting piece of futurology in Thinking Allowed on Radio 4 this week, about the possible impact of global warming on the fortunes and demography of the most northerly areas of the world, hitherto languishing under ice and forbidding weather conditions. One factoid that grabbed me was the countries like Norway now have faster growing populations than Brazil.

Not so much explored this time was the question of the effect on the UK. I was recently involved in moderating some discussions around the country on future transport needs – looking 20 years ahead. It’s clear that the idea of linking North and South more quickly is embraced as “good for the country”, but there are big questions about whether we can afford the investment as a country. And even then, can we really hope to shift Britain’s centre of gravity northwards? If we can, then perhaps changes in climate – not top of mind with people I’ve been talking to at all – may turn out to be THE big factor.

I grew up having summer beach holidays by the North Atlantic in Portstewart, Northern Ireland. I think just about everyone on the beach was Northern Irish: and to this day, the two miles of pristine strand, with a vast hinterland of grassy sandhills full of wildlife to safely explore and spectacular views across to Donegal, is virtually unknown outside my home province. Could it be that resorts like this could enjoy a rebirth this century, as the South increasingly swelters and those in search of gentler sunshine look north? For Portstewart, so with the Scottish and Northumbrian beaches. “Baltic” no longer.

But it would not just be about holidays: reputation for poor weather has kept large parts of Northern England, Scotland and N. Ireland from the very top table of desirable places to live and work in the UK. I was watching a property show last week with gorgeous and spacious houses with acres of grounds available in North Yorkshire for a snip (I write from expensive Oxford) – and this was within easy commuting distance of Leeds. Economists sometimes miss these “soft” factors that affect where businesses locate – particularly young SMEs.

If the semiotics of Northern Britain change in the public imagination, so that Bronte country starts to feel more like Hardy country, then maybe we will see a significant shift. It’s the success or otherwise of this kind of cultural reconfiguration, not just getting the economics right, that will determine whether Britain can really rebalance itself.

The only thing is, global warming also means, the harsh Northern winters could get even harsher …

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