Martin Orton on: London Materialympics 2011

People were forced to leap from the upstairs windows of a burning building in Croydon last night as rioting spread across London and beyond. (Image: The Telegraph)

Everyone this morning is asking the same question, why? How can our young people do this to us? Where is the political agenda? Oh please…we’re focusing on mindless thuggish behaviour: the result, not the cause. It’s a tiresome perspective – as if we, the society that is responsible for raising them, are blameless.


Twitter and the future of journalism

Those who awoke yesterday to read of Osama bin Laden’s death splashed across every news outlet could have been in some way better served by following Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) on Twitter who became, in his own virtual words, “the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it”, shown above.

These tweets were an honest description, free from spin and not aimed at achieving fame or writing Pulitzer-winning pieces (he didn’t realise what the attack was about until later).

Even though unwitting, his tweets surpassed much of the outpouring of on-scene journalistic accounts that regularly invade our consciousness.

Is Twitter (and other social media) breaking the mass media’s dominance on world issues and if so, what is the future of journalism? Will the result be a surge of Twitter reporting by ordinary people? And will the media attempt a catch-up by producing even more mind-numbing examples of ‘churnalism’ or will it insted seek a higher quality of reporting?

Of course. all these questions could become irrelevant if Professor Timothy Wu’s arguments about corporate giants taking over the internet and hegemonising it come to pass.

A new politics of extremism…

Are we entering a new politics of extremism?

In our guest blog for today, Uzair Choughtai writes about a recent discussion on radicalism in the UK.

The Young Foundation and UpRising recently held an interesting discussion on whether the UK was entering a new state of extremism. The Young Foundation is a social enterprise organisation that seeks to bring together insight, innovation and entrepreneurship to meet social needs, whilst UpRising is a programme that aims to open up pathways regarding leadership amongst young adults.


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The Information Empire Strikes Back

The next phase in social networking and politics has arrived: states are fighting back

As was noted in our previous blog post –‘Egypt, the internet and the washing machine’, which put the use of social media in the Middle East revolutions in an historical context by reminding us of the use of the washing machine in women’s liberation – the topic of social networking and its effects often provokes fierce debate, with sides regularly and mutually castigating one another. However, some less-publicised developments around the world hint at a second round of hauling over the coals.


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Don’t believe the hype…

It’s hard not to like Jocelyn Bell Burnell. In fact, it’s hard not to love her. A devout Quaker devoted to social and spiritual issues as well as being bone fide genius, Bell Burnell missed out on winning a physics Nobel Prize for her discovery of pulsars (the Prize instead going to her supervisor), to which her response was: “I am not myself upset about it — after all, I am in good company, am I not!”



In our courage to speak, we must also have the courage to listen

Hundreds of protesters  gathered in Times Square yesterday to protest against an upcoming hearing by New York’s Republican congressman Peter King on “the extent of radicalisation within the American Muslim community”. The protestors believe that the hearing will unfairly single out Muslims in general rather than focusing on extremists who constitute a small minority.


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Egypt, the Internet and the washing machine…

To clear your arrears of £600…press 2

By the time you finish reading this blog, someone will be declared bankrupt.

No, you haven’t misread that. Every four minutes one person in the UK will be declared insolvent or bankrupt. And if the predictions of interest rate rises are correct, things could get a lot worse. (This won’t necessarily happen: economists often can’t predict things better than anyone else).


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Big society…or big dream?

Image from Jan Gavin’s post, ‘Support for the coalition crumbling’

David Cameron’s speech has left a lot of listeners starving for substance. Reiterating his pledge to this “different way of governing”, the Prime Minister gave a confident speech, calling the coalition’s much-hyped Big Society slogan his “absolute passion”.

However, the web was ablaze with listeners who had little reverence for the Prime Minister’s big idea. One Tweeter commented: “Tories stress that bigsociety and cuts are separate issues. Yes, but refusing to acknowledge that latter undermines former is just stupid”, whilst another pointed out the uncomfortable fact that “20 out of 43 libraries in David Cameron’s own county face axe”. Tweeter Barc_alpha summed up the dissatisfaction across the web, saying: “The problem with the BigSociety is the belief that communities can be created – they already exist but need enabling with support, not cuts”. The most popular response has been the circulation of Guardian political cartoonist Steve Bell’s comic take on the Big Society Bank.


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Can a blind man take a good photo?

According to Artists Wanted, Pete Eckert certainly can, awarding him with their Grand Prize in 2008. A challenging portrait of disability that has particular currency in light of the reports this week that frontline support services are being cut in the UK.

I wonder how much Pete would be affected if he were living in the UK? I’d like to see the film take a slightly wider view and include his network. He obviously makes great work, however if he can’t see his own images, who gives him feedback? Blindness doesn’t make you imune to professional constructive criticism – and of course we all know this is the only way we improve.

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A mind once stretched by a new

idea never regains its original



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