Social Media Day in Maastricht
July 9, 2010 Leave a Comment
“Social media has changed our lives. It has not only changed the way we communicate, but the way we connect with one another, consume our news, conduct our work, organize our lives, and much more. It’s a revolution worth celebrating,” Mashable wrote on its blog.
The Social Media Day in Maastricht was one of 600 meet ups that took place over 93 countries.
Organised by the European Journalism Centre (EJC), the aim of the event was to invite Maastricht residents to talk about the impact of social media in their lives and the significance of social media for a city like Maastricht, especially in the light of Maastricht’s bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2018.
Planning is everything
The Maastricht Social Media Day 2010 organising team comprised a few members of the EJC (staff members Eszter Pakozdi, Emma Brewin, Veronica Krupova, Brook DuBois and cameramen Ivan Picart and Remko Nijsten), as well as two independent social media users (Mitchell Lee and Monika Saraca).
The event was planned as an international, informal and social evening, consisting in a series of themed presentations/workshops and a final overall group discussion, all to be held in English.
The promotion effort, which was done via social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, CouchSurfing, immediately yielded encouraging results.
Through Facebook alone, 37 people confirmed their participation, with 49 indicating that they ‘might attend’. A clear demonstration of how fast messages travel through social media channels.
In the end however, it appeared that in spite of their information-spreading capabilities, social media platforms are not necessarily reliable channels: only 16 Facebookers showed up. Nine participants joined the event through personal invitations.
Tinkering with participation
Six speakers were invited to provide the audience with a general overview of the emergence and the impact of social media in our society, highlighting the connections between social media and business, social media and activism, and social media and participatory journalism.
Klaus Röhrig, Amnesty International Maastricht Students, explained how social media can be used by activist organisations.
Sofia Tussis and Seraina Soldner, Maas Media, introduced the concept of participatory journalism.
VIA 2018‘s spokesperson Lei Meisen, who was going to inform the predominantly international audience about Maastricht’s cultural capital bid, regrettably cancelled his presentation, due to unforeseen circumstances.
Meisen’s absence left the audience wondering about Maastricht’s Capital of Culture concept, all the more since the VIA 2018 website provides no English language information to the largely English-speaking international community in Maastricht.
The presentations were followed by three workshops:
The workshop led by Klaus Röhrig from Amnesty International Maastricht Students looked at how social media can be used to mobilise people and small organisations. Participants were also asked to reflect on how student groups can contribute to support Maastricht’s bid for 2018. The lack of integration of foreign students in the city, due to the language barrier, was identified as an important obstacle. International student groups such as Amnesty International Maastricht Students mainly consist of foreign students who say that they are not involved in activities run in Dutch. The creation of more multilingual cultural programmes to encourage bottom-up/grassroots cultural initiatives in the city was suggested as a possible solution.
In the workshop about participatory journalism, Sofia and Seraina from Maas Media, a student initiative encouraging participation in journalism) highlighted the role that media platforms can play in helping Maastricht become a more culturally thriving city, by “collecting existing initiatives across the region and pooling them under a virtual umbrella”. They also emphasised “the need for media to act as a catalyst and to create events where participants can contribute to make local life richer” and “the necessity to keep close to local stories”. The main goal of participatory journalism as they see it is to help spread opinions (i.e blogging) in a community in order to keep the community together and to encourage the will to organise and attend cultural events.
The goal of the LinkedIn workshop was to investigate whether LinkedIn could be used to help Maastricht’s bid for 2018. Once again, the language barrier was identified as an obstacle for the international community, since the discussion on the VIA 2018 group on LinkedIn is carried out in Dutch. Since LinkedIn doesn’t provide any translation tools, participants concluded that social media such as LinkedIn can only be helpful to support Maastricht’s bid if the dialogue takes place in more languages. Participants argued that by excluding non-Dutch speakers, Maastricht is missing out on a large number of potential supporters. It was noted that most Dutch people have an excellent command of English, and more importantly, seem to be happy to use English in their communication via social media channels (e.g. many links and messages on Facebook are posted in English by Dutch people).
Social media: for integration?
The final group discussion brought all participants back together for a deeper conclusion.
After giving a general overview about the negative and positive aspects of social media platforms and discussing privacy issues on Facebook and best practices on Twitter, the organisers invited the audience to suggest ideas to help Maastricht’s Cultural Capital bid.
The lack of involvement of the international community (foreign students and foreign staff working for locally based international organisations such as the EJC) in the local Dutch society, as well as language barriers, which hinder the flow of information, were flagged as key concerns.
Participants were keen to share their opinions and commented on the fact that the VIA 2018 website, which is responsible for Maastricht’s bid, is not easily understandable for the international community because it is not available in English. Foreign residents generally miss explanations about the work that is being done to support Maastricht’s bid and how the city intends to reach its goal.
The main suggestion was to offer an English page of the website, next to the pages in Dutch, French and German.
It was also noted that the Maastricht VIA 2018 groups on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn hardly show any participants and activity at the moment. This could be improved by generating discussions and suggesting cultural events in English in order to attract and involve the international community. The introduction of more social events in English would attract international students and lead to more culture-related social media posts, tweets, and so on.
One of the participants, Amanda Potter, later blogged about the event (“Social Media & Maastricht’s Bid for Cultural Capital 2018 “), further encouraging discussion on the topic and even involving Lei Meisen from VIA 2018 in it.
The organisers of Maastricht Social Media Day hope that the event will result in an ongoing ‘discussion board’ and stimulate the local community to attend or organise follow-up meetings.
By Eszter Pakozdi, EJC intern