The new website address is https://50pd.uk
Community Digital Drop-in Bloggers
Older people using digital inclusion to challenge isolation and loneliness in our community
Posts by volunteers, staff and session workers
The new website address is https://50pd.uk
Our last session was 2 March. The 9 March drop-in was suspended. Today (16 March) we felt that it was unsafe even for a podcast session with only six people in the room — so that had to be cancelled too.
We cannot tell you when we will be open again.
The whole point and purpose of the drop-in project is real-world social inclusion — not the social distancing of the virtual world. But now we have to consider the really serious effects of COVID-19 social distancing.
So we are fast-forwarding existing plans to offer an online drop-in and online learning to older people who are isolated at home. That might be all of us soon.
Many of you already have the basic resource — a GSuite account. More than 100 people have email accounts at seniors.org.uk, bold.org.uk, szs.net or agewell.org.uk. Those are all GSuite accounts, and they all provide immediate access to an online meeting room app named Meet. We could add about 450 more, and it’s all free for us.
If you have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or a desktop computer that is not too old — and an Internet connection at home, you should be able to use GSuite Meet. We expect that many of you will need help while you are using it, so we will recruit volunteers to join the sessions.
The online drop-ins will be group events, not conversations between 2 people — so you can expect to see familiar faces and hear familiar voices.
We still have many details to work out, and we still don’t know how we can include digital beginners and people with no Internet at home.
Everybody with one of the GSuite accounts has already received a link to the first experimental online drop-in. We are still testing it, so nothing much will happen for a few days. The information you need will be in your email and messages soon.
After the 2 March session, we suspended the weekly drop-in because Internet access had stopped — but we were expecting to return quite soon.
On the next day, it was obvious that Internet access had become irrelevant. We can’t restore the normal drop-in until the COVID-19 crisis is over.
That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything — but we would have to make substantial changes to ensure your safety. Here are some of the ideas and principles we are working on …
It could be a very long time before we can get back to how it was last week. But what do you think we could do next week, next month, or the remainder of the year? If you are a regular drop-in user, you probably know how to contact us quickly. The details are also on our Information page.
The Vodaphone contract has ended. Centre management are unable to renew it.
We are using a portable wireless router with an upmarket 4G data plan. This is working quite well in the Meeting Room — but it won’t work at all for the desktop computers in the IT Room. Good, but not good enough.
We have a solution that will restore improved Internet access to the centre. We have put this totally-workable plan to centre management — and we will tell everybody else when we have their response.
Same place, same time — different day.
The first of a new series of Agewell Mobile workshops
The workshop last week (Google Photos workshop part 1) was very successful — so successful that we didn’t have time to finish, and we didn’t even start on some of the most important points. We under-estimated the interest in this topic and the number of questions that would be asked. We will continue next week — and we have space for a few more people who are not complete beginners.
The first of a new series of Agewell Mobile workshops
Google Photos is Google’s considerable foothold in this particular world of digital confusion. It’s an app that works on all devices. It offers free and unlimited cloud storage for all your photos and videos. It automates the upload from your device to the cloud storage area. It helps you organise your photo collection, and it helps you share it with your friends – or keep it as a private library.
It’s surprisingly easy, so at the workshop we will all install the app, upload some photos (which we will provide), and admire our results and how Google has organised them.
There are certainly some issues that can’t be ignored. We can talk about those at the workshop.
We have plenty of choices – but few, if any, are as convenient as Google Photos. We can examine them at the workshop. For example …
We were closed — entirely for funding reasons — April and May 2019. We haven’t solved the underlying problem, but Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Association have given us a massive boost.
We started again Friday 7 June, 2 to 5 pm as usual.
Forty people were at Whitmore Community Centre, and they didn’t even know it was the final drop-in. Our regular volunteers were helped by four brilliant volunteers from Sidley Austin (via Benefacto).
Volunteer Gene has gone back to the USA 🙁
Gene was with us nearly every Friday afternoon for the last six months — very popular, totally reliable in every way, and uniquely irreplaceable.
Full and very busy. Six volunteers from Financial Conduct Authority (via Benefacto) helped our regular volunteer team deliver more than 30 success stories.
We were full again. Volunteer Mike arrived with six laptops donated by his employer RKH Specialty. We hope to have them set up for the session next week.
As usual, we depended very much on our regular volunteers – Gene, Margaret and Tom were in today
What difference has it made to your life?
The web has transformed our daily lives — from how we communicate with loved ones to how we work to how we learn. But right now more than half of the world’s population remains offline, and those of us who are online see unsettling stories each day about data breaches, so-called ‘fake news’, and other ways that technology is threatening our freedom and privacy. We need to change this by building a better web — one that works for everyone, everywhere.
A year ago, we encouraged everybody to take part in the BBC Loneliness Experiment. The BBC reported back in January, and you can listen to the results as a podcast at …
If you can’t log in to the podcast, you can listen to the downloads on our computers at Whitmore Community Centre. If you are in a hurry, you can read our partial transcript below.
Part 1 touches briefly on something that is very relevant to the IT drop-in — the role of social media. The experiment and the report are journalism, not research — but the conclusions support our own observations that social media …
This is a transcript of a 6 minute excerpt from Part 1 (27 minutes)
Now when people hear that some young people feel lonely, the next thing they say to me is “it must be social media”. Those I’ve interviewed for this series from the ages of 14 to 96 have all been using technology to communicate. But the relationship between social media and loneliness isn’t straightforward.
I’m a drama teacher and I became a carer because my husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was thirty-six. It was a complete shock. I’m probably not the epitome of what you would think of when you think of loneliness – mid thirties, active social life. But there were times at the worst moments of his treatment when I was alone. And it was very difficult. I couldn’t really explain to people. We used social media – we use Facebook – to update people on what is happening, mostly because it was just a very quick and easy way — you just say it once and it’s out there, and everybody knows.
The response that we got back from people – hundreds, literally hundreds of messages – it did make us laugh, and it did make us as positive about it as possible, just knowing that people were there and knew what was happening— was really helpful. I think it’s a bit of a double edged sword – the sense that it has its positives, through blogging and stuff like that, people have been in touch. And that’s great but I do think when I’m feeling at my lowest, going on social media – Instagram in particular – and seeing people seemingly having these amazing lives and enjoying themselves – and it does make me feel – why can’t I have that?
We did ask questions about Facebook usage in our study and I asked Rebecca Nowland – research fellow at the University of Central Lancashire, who has done extensive research into social media – what she made of our data.
Loneliness was associated with using this kind of negative self-disclosure and also being motivated to use social media to make friends – in contrast to non-lonely people who aren’t really feeling the need to use social media to do that. If you’re using online sources as the only mechanism for making contact with people, that’s not going to give you the quality and the intimacy, or even the touch that you get when you’re with somebody. That’s actually quite important to make a difference from the mental health and how you feel about yourself and your own self-worth.
But don’t some people make really good friends online and say that this is the place that they can find someone who really understands what life is like for them, and they may be living somewhere relatively isolated where they are not going to find someone and find some of the things in common.
You’re absolutely right, and there’s an awful lot of literature out there to show that having a blog helps you connect with people and social media helps you to connect with people. But when we are talking about people that are lonely, and their social media use, you are talking about people that are unhappy with their current situation in relation to how connected they feel with other people.
I see what you mean. So what it suggests is they may be looking for friends online, but not finding those relationships, those meaningful relationships and connections that they want to have that would alleviate the loneliness.
It’s more how you use it, not the using, that’s the problem. So for some people if they feel lonely – and it might be because their family lives far away – to communicate with them online would actually reduce the loneliness.
You mentioned at one of the things that people who expressed higher loneliness in the survey do is to use more negative evaluation.
What that really means is that people put negative things that are happening to them on social media. That type of behaviour we find in people are quite high in loneliness – that when they do interact with people, they tend to say things that are quite negative. And that then makes people less likely to connect with them. Again this is very general.
It’s a shame it might make it harder to connect.
I think there might be an unfortunate thing of human nature. There are two ways of looking at the data. There’s an association there – so if you use social media in a way that is very positive – use it more to get information rather than try to connect with other people, it would reduce loneliness. It’s all about how you use it. So you see here, we get the relationship between loneliness and entertainment, and the people that are not as lonely are using it more for information – so they’re going online to check what’s happening, having a look around and maybe find out what’s going on with people.
Whereas people using it probably to distract themselves from the feeling of loneliness – so using social media a lot because it’s something I can do that makes me for temporarily connected to people.
I was really struck by the findings on whether people’s friends overlapped on Facebook and in real life. So can you explain what we were looking at and what we found?
Basically you’re asking people to say – how many of your friends that you have online are people that you actually know in real life – and lonely people had fewer overlapping friends. So they had fewer friends offline than they did online.
And is that surprising?
It’s not surprising in a sense that has been shown before, but not in such large scale surveys covering such a vast age group. It shows that this is really a consistent thing.
And what does that tell us about people’s lives, do you think?
It tells us that when we use social media in a way that we have less people that we know in real life on Facebook, then it’s associated with loneliness. So really, to utilise social media in the best way, we need to use it to keep in contact with the people we already know, and contact with people that we would like to meet in real life – and have friendships that way. If we end up in a virtual world where a lot of our friends are, we not really connecting with them in an intimate way and that’s associated with loneliness.
Photo by Bernard Hermant
As usual, both spaces were full ten minutes after opening. 35 people received or contributed help during the afternoon — 35 stories that we didn’t have time to capture, but there will be just as many next week. Of course, we could not have done it without volunteers Gene, Margaret, Nick and Tom.
With a little more funding, we could occupy the third space at Whitmore Community Centre, and help 50 people at the Friday afternoon session. With an extra top-up, we could be in the centre all day, and aim for 100.
TEDx video talks in the library – Thursdays in March
TEDx Hackney Libraries is a wonderful opportunity for local residents to get together to listen to experts talk about subjects that matter to us all. These events aren’t just about listening; the open discussion at each session encourages conversation about how these topics affect our everyday lives, inspire us to see things from a different perspective and could even spark change!
TEDx Hackney Libraries has returned with a series of Thursday evening events that we think everybody should go to. The next event (7 March) is especially interesting, as three of the four video talks are directly relevant to what we do at the Friday afternoon drop-in and the Monday afternoon podcast.
Of course, you could watch them now — but that would miss the point completely. The conversation after the talks is the most important part, and you can’t do that on your own.
We’re building an artificial intelligence-powered dystopia, one click at a time, says techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci. In an eye-opening talk, she details how the same algorithms companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon use to get you to click on ads are also used to organize your access to political and social information. And the machines aren’t even the real threat. What we need to understand is how the powerful might use AI to control us — and what we can do in response.
In the early days of digital culture, Jaron Lanier helped craft a vision for the internet as public commons where humanity could share its knowledge — but even then, this vision was haunted by the dark side of how it could turn out: with personal devices that control our lives, monitor our data and feed us stimuli. (Sound familiar?) In this visionary talk, Lanier reflects on a “globally tragic, astoundingly ridiculous mistake” companies like Google and Facebook made at the foundation of digital culture — and how we can undo it. “We cannot have a society in which, if two people wish to communicate, the only way that can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them,” he says.
Amishi Jha studies how we pay attention: the process by which our brain decides what’s important out of the constant stream of information it receives. Both external distractions (like stress) and internal ones (like mind-wandering) diminish our attention’s power, Jha says — but some simple techniques can boost it. “Pay attention to your attention,” Jha says.
“When you talk to strangers, you’re making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life — and theirs,” says Kio Stark. In this delightful talk, Stark explores the overlooked benefits of pushing past our default discomfort when it comes to strangers and embracing those fleeting but profoundly beautiful moments of genuine connection.
This post is prompted by people asking how they can watch the BBC 4 series Soon Gone on a laptop, tablet or phone.
Answer — you can watch it in a web browser, or you can install the BBC iPlayer app — but first you have to register your email address, so that you can log in to iPlayer with a password. It’s very easy …
No Internet! Thank you Vodaphone for demonstrating that digital communication is always inferior to the real thing. So we enjoyed an afternoon of productive conversation, and (for diehard digitalists) offline word-processing. Special thanks to volunteer Fiona from Baringa via Benefacto – plus our regular volunteers Gene, Margaret, Stephen and Tom.
Horrible weather outside, but it’s always sunny inside Whitmore Community Centre on Friday afternoon — so we were full. Special thanks for a great afternoon — to volunteers Paul, Chris, Adam and Ashraf from Financial Conduct Authority via Benefacto – plus regular volunteers Gene, Margaret, Stephen and Tom.