Can you remember 1989?

How has the Web changed your World?

Then: Knowledge was hard to reach. Now: We have the world's information at our fingertips. #ForTheWeb
“Suppose all the information stored on computers everywhere were linked. Suppose I could program my computer to create a space in which everything could be linked to everything.” – Tim Berners-Lee
Then: Waiting by the phone for your call. Now: You're always with me. #ForTheWeb
Then: Never more than a hobby. Now: the world is my marketplace. #ForTheWeb
Then: Feeling alone. Now: I meet others who have my diagnosis. #ForTheWeb
Then: Feeling like one voice. Now: I can connect with millions. #ForTheWeb
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The World Wide Web is 30 years old this week

What difference has it made to your life?

30 years can change everything

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.

Visit World Wide Web Foundation – ‘For The Web’

“I have never looked back”


Excerpts from a much longer conversation about retirement – with people who have done it and others who haven’t.

The voices belong to: Andreas, Brian, Cathy, Clarenton, Marylin, Nicholas, Rick.

We don’t use expensive professional equipment or a sound studio. This is open-mic recording in a public space, so sound quality is sometimes rough. Our resources are minimal, but we do it all ourselves.

Recorded 11 March 2019 in the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, London E8 3DF, UK.

Grassroots Radio

For our 2019 series, we have turned our podcast format inside-out. Instead of a small, invited group, we open the Monday afternoon event to anybody who happens to be in the Curve Garden glasshouse for any reason — and if the weather is good, we can take the microphones our into the garden. We sacrifice sound quality (you don’t have to tell us), but we gain spontaneous, unpredictable conversation — fresh voices and thoughts every week. From that, we can make a podcast episode when we have time to do it.

Social media, loneliness, older people

A grey-haired woman sits alone with a phone. Accompanying text: “… use social media to keep in contact with the people we already know, and contact with people that we would like to meet in real life”

Loneliness, social media and friendship

Some results from the BBC survey –

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 …

  • Health Check Loneliness Part 1
    “How does social media and friendship influence the development of loneliness? Claudia Hammond analyses the results of the BBC Loneliness Experiment.”
  • Health Check Loneliness Part 2
    “In the last special programme about loneliness, Claudia Hammond looks at the role of health, society and culture and finds out about England’s new strategy for tackling it.”

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 …

  • are most beneficial for people who have a functioning social network in the real world
  • can be addictive and damaging for people who are socially isolated

Transcript

This is a transcript of a 6 minute excerpt from Part 1 (27 minutes)

Claudia Hammond

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.

Madeleine

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?

Claudia Hammond

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.

Rebecca Nowland

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.

Claudia Hammond

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.

Rebecca Nowland

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.

Claudia Hammond

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.

Rebecca Nowland

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.

Claudia Hammond

You mentioned at one of the things that people who expressed higher loneliness in the survey do is to use more negative evaluation.

Rebecca Nowland

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.

Claudia Hammond

It’s a shame it might make it harder to connect.

Rebecca Nowland

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.

Claudia Hammond

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?

Rebecca Nowland

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.

Claudia Hammond

And is that surprising?

Rebecca Nowland

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.

Claudia Hammond

And what does that tell us about people’s lives, do you think?

Rebecca Nowland

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

TEDx Hackney Libraries

Inspiring talks about things that matter

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!

The 7 March TEDx videos

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.

Where and when

  • Stoke Newington Library, 182 Stoke Newington Church St, N16 0JL (map: goo.gl/maps/7YAjt6JGPTm)
  • Thursday 7 March, 6 to 8 pm

We’re building a building a dystopia just to make people click on ads

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.


How we need to remake the Internet

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.


How to tame your wandering mind

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.


Why you should talk to strangers

“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.

“What did your politeness do?”

Why we all have to talk more and hide less – friendships, commitment, belonging, resisting racism, respect – real stories and real values – an intergenerational meeting of minds.

The voices belong to: Brian, Chantel, Leonie, Rick, Vanessa, Wadley, Walter.

References

We don’t use expensive professional equipment or a sound studio. This is open-mic recording in a public space, so sound quality is sometimes rough. Our resources are minimal, but we do it all ourselves.

Recorded 25 February 2019 in the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, London E8 3DF, UK.

Grassroots Radio

For our 2019 series, we have turned our podcast format inside-out. Instead of a small, invited group, we open the Monday afternoon event to anybody who happens to be in the Curve Garden glasshouse for any reason — and if the weather is good, we can take the microphones our into the garden. We sacrifice sound quality (you don’t have to tell us), but we gain spontaneous, unpredictable conversation — fresh voices and thoughts every week. From that, we can make a podcast episode when we have time to do it.

BBC iPlayer on your computer, tablet or phone

How to watch catch-up BBC TV

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 …

BBC registration page

More links about BBC iPlayer

Watching iPlayer on the drop-in computers

  • You can login to your BBC account and watch iPlayer in a web browser on any computer connected to the Internet.
  • But please use headphones — don’t force your neighbour to listen 🙂

“Do you guys like the word oldie?”

Guest Chantel bravely engages with a bunch of pre-digital citizens – rebooting Hello Hackney Grassroots Radio at the Dalston Curve Garden.

We don’t use expensive professional equipment or a sound studio. This is open-mic recording in a public space, so sound quality is sometimes rough. Our resources are minimal, but we do it all ourselves.

The voices belong to: Andreas, Brian, Chantel, Rick, Walter.

Media reference – Soon Gone (not Soon Over)bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0002sqv

Recorded 18 February 2019 in the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, London E8 3DF, UK.

Grassroots Radio

For our 2019 series, we have turned our podcast format inside-out. Instead of a small, invited group, we open the Monday afternoon event to anybody who happens to be in the Curve Garden glasshouse for any reason — and if the weather is good, we can take the microphones our into the garden. We sacrifice sound quality (you don’t have to tell us), but we gain spontaneous, unpredictable conversation — fresh voices and thoughts every week. From that, we can make a podcast episode when we have time to do it.

What we did – 8 February 2019

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.


Irene and Patricia nominated for top 100 Hackney women

Reported in Hackney Today 28 January 2019 — Over 100 Hackney women were nominated for making a difference to the borough — two of the front-runners are drop-in stalwarts Irene Lewington and Patricia Sim, who both make a massive difference to our Friday afternoons.

Hyacinth — a prominent Hackney wonder woman in her own right — investigates. Watch this hastily-made instant video, shot on an old iPad, handheld by a one-eyed camera person, in an echoey room at Whitmore Community Centre, surrounded by other people banging and coughing.

What we did – 18 January 2019

It was very cold outside — but that didn’t prevent 31 people dropping-in. Special thanks to volunteers Daniyal, Heather, Jennifer and Matt from Tideway via Benefacto – plus regular volunteers Gene, Margaret, Stephen and Tom.