An open letter to ‘social Influencers’ & bloggers who care about #socialgood #socialchange

It’s been nine months since I wrote a blog post here.  And I haven’t missed it. Not one bit. Granted there has been times I’ve read something and then couldn’t express my response to what I read in 140 characters. I’d briefly think about writing a blog post and then the thought would be quickly whisked away. I didn’t want to get on that blogging train again for a host of reasons.

Ghandi

But the images unfolding on social and on the TV  with the senseless killing adults are putting children through in Syria and Gaza, made me write this blog post.

140 characters just does not cut it.

I maintain the Twitter profile @blog4socialgood.

I started it a few years ago as a place to basically share information about social good. A place for bloggers (Australian mainly) and not for profits to connect and find out about awareness days. fundraising and any social justice and social good news.

It’s moved away from this now. Partly because I don’t blog anymore and am no longer as connected with the Australian blogging community as I once was.

For the last two weeks I’ve been largely sharing messages on the senseless killing of children in Gaza (not to mention Syria which is happening right now also).

This isn’t about taking sides.

This is just the stupid, awful, horrific killing of babies, toddlers and teenagers  by adults.

It keeps going on and on.

I’ve had to stop searching on Twitter using – #Gaza + #children -  as I couldn’t face what I saw. Coward, I know.

Some of the images will never leave me. You don’t see them on TV. Deemed too graphic I think. In bad taste. But they are there on Twitter. If  you go looking.

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of a parent to see their child captured in an image forever on Twitter and on the Internet. Not smiling, not waving at the camera but covered in blood, maimed. Dead.

I saw a tweet that captured what I felt. I didn’t feel so bad then. It wasn’t just me.

As a mum of three young children it makes me sick to the stomach to see kids – of any religion, ethnicity, caste or creed suffer the ultimate price because adults can’t see beyond their narrow mindedness and power games. Can’t we see that as humans each of us has maybe 80, if we are lucky 90 years on this planet. In the life of the planet that is NOT a long time in the scheme of things and instead of doing the best that we can with our life instead some adults think its ok to  take away the lives of kids without care or thought. Wrong place. Wrong time.

We all keep reading about the power of  “content marketing” and the rise of “storytelling” and bloggers and their social influence.

I keep thinking lately where is all the power of this social influence when you need it?

How can we all be part of the solution not just the spectators?

Personally I feel overwhelmed by it all.  Overwhelmed about how I can make a difference. Putting a tweet up and then hoping some random follower sees it and feels connected enough to “share” it. What does that really achieve? Most days I think not much. Some days I think maybe something. I’ve really no idea.

I keep imagining what would happen if all the worlds journalists like Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow, media and bloggers put their collective social influence together for one day. Just one day.

Just one day to say over and over again one simple message.

Children don’t start wars. They can’t end them.
Stop the Killing.Now.
#JustStopIt

Never considered #robotsandyou? Perhaps it’s time to change that…

A couple of weeks ago watching TV  I came in on the tail-end of the Steven Spielberg film AI (2001) or Artificial Intelligence.

It is a long but I think under rated science fiction film  based on  British author “Brian Aldiss’s short story – Super-Toys Last All Summer Long, which was published nearly 45 years ago in 1969.

Development of the film originally began in the 70s with Stanley Kubrick, another giant of the moving image, who worked on the film for years but was held back by what he believed was the lack of advances in computer generated imagery. He sadly passed away before the film’s launch.

The film is a tear jerker as the protagonist is a young AI boy – David (played brilliantly by Haley Joel Osment) – who has been created to love and be loved by one person and who in the process  discovers cruelly how the search for love (a basic human trait?) can be cruelly thwarted by the very people who he has been ‘programmed’ to love.

I found myself reflecting on this film at the weekend as I read in Sunday’s The Guardian a fascinating piece on how “legal experts and philosophers are joining forces to scrutinise the promise of intelligent systems and wrangle over their implications”.

Starting today (23-24 Oct) in Brighton UK,  the fourth EuCogIII members’ conference will be held over two days and will explore the “social and ethical aspects” of cognitive system. It all sounds rather sterile but really it’s about talking about the kind of world we want to live in and the type of world we want to share with intelligent ‘cognitive systems’.

From the article it appears that the ability of AI to impact our life in so many ways, from driver-less cars to prosthetic limbs is there but it raises all sorts of ethical, human and logistical conundrums which as a society we appear not to be ready to face.

Perhaps that is why Alan Winfield, professor of electronic engineering at UWE Bristol is reported in The Guardian as saying  that  it was time “to make some crucial decisions. If we get it wrong, there are consequences right now.”

As Tony Prescott, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Sheffield says  “I think that the greatest risk with these kinds of technologies is that they come along and they are a big surprise to people”.

So with that in mind you might want to have your say. You can follow the hashtag #robotsandyou and people are invited to,  in advance of the meeting, to post questions and comments on the social and ethical aspects of cognitive systems.

Selected comments and questions will inform the panel discussion, which will be uploaded via video to the website after the meeting.

Tweets about “#robotsandyou”

And my two questions would have to be is this.

Is there a risk of watering down the emotional and complex humane issues surrounding this issue when we choose to refer to what is effectively artificial intelligence as “cognitive systems”?

Is there not a danger of immediately setting up the whole discussion as a scientific and clinical one when more importantly it also needs to be approached from a humanistic point of view?

Weekends longform reading

While I love reading blogs and website articles  and appreciate the skill and hard work it takes in crafting an online post that is captivating, informative and not too long, sometimes I find myself getting a little weary of the ‘blog style’ of writing.

longform reading

You know that style of writing where you need to put in the heading “Ten reasons why…” or ” Top five tips to…” and where the article has to be 250 words or thereabouts? And that’s not to mention the need to share it pronto as if not it’s ‘dead’ news.

So, probably as a rebellion of sorts against this immediacy and the ‘bite sized’ frame of mind in writing I’ve been reading a lot more longform content.  You know the content that is more than 1500 words and is perfect for that train trip home or for a lazy Saturday afternoon?

Longform content is a term I think we will be hearing a lot more of in the near future. I suppose you could say it is an acknowledgement of the whole concept of ‘right content, right place’.  That is, sometimes you just are in the mood for that in-depth analysis or editorial or creative piece.  It doesn’t matter if it was posted the last hour or a year ago.

With that in mind I’m sharing some longform reading I’ve bookmarked for my weekend reading.

If you’ve got any great longform  you’ve come across that you think I’d like would love to hear. Always on the lookout for great content!

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free : The secret diary of Nina Simone. 
By Joe Hagan • The Believer • August 2010

Issue 82: The Secret Life of Nuns
By Alex Marr  • OxfordAmerican.org • August 26, 2003

Eat, Pray, Love, Get Rich, Write a Novel No One Expects
By Steve Almond • The New York Times • Sept 18, 2013

How Photographic Technology Shapes Our Understanding of War
By Peter Osnos  • The Century Foundation • Sept 19, 2013

The Serious and the Smirk: The Smile in Portraiture
By Peter Osnos  • PublicDomainReview.org • Sept 18, 2013

The Play Deficit
By Peter Gray   • AeonMagazine.com  • Sept 2013

The daily routines of famous writers
By Maria Popova  • Brainpickings • -

Hemingway decides: Born a Blogger or Bred a Blogger?

Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899 – 1961)  was an American author and journalist. He is probably one of the greatest writers in the English language of the 20th century. He was also a keen fisher and big game hunter – not very politically correct  you would have to agree  and probably not something (big game hunting) if he was a living, modern day writer he’d be engaging in – you would hope!

Ernest Hemingway on Writing

Image:Larry W. Philips is a writer and journalist.In 1984 he he edited “Ernest Hemingway on Writing”, a collection of Hemingway’s observations on the craft of writing.

Hemingway believed it was bad luck to talk about writing. He wrote how it takes off:

“whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawks feathers if you show or talk about it”.

Which does make me wonder what he would say about the business or if you like the ‘craft’ of  blogging?

If he was alive today would Hemingway be an avid blogger? Perhaps he would (given that his letters did in the end communicate his observations and  thoughts on the craft of writing)  or maybe he would believe talking about blogging somehow unties all the essential elements and lets it loose on the winds to be lost forever.

Ernest Hemingway on writing

Maybe he’d say great blogging can’t be unpacked.  It can’t be learned or copied.

Great blogging and bloggers just are.

I’m not sure what I think about bloggers being born or bred. After five years of blogging I am tending to lean towards born’ (like all great writers) with ‘bred’ (hardwork, persistence and spark of right time / right blog) giving that additional edge.

I’m also not sure what Hemingway would say about blogging. Whatever he would say I think the following observation of his would still apply.

Ernest hemingway on writing

What’s your thoughts on the business or craft of blogging?  Is it a ‘business’ or a craft? If it’s a business it implies it can be learned but if it’s a ‘craft’ this implies some talent, some unlearned characteristic of the writer (or blogger) is at work. Perhaps it’s a mixture of the two?

Can blogging be learned or are great bloggers just born?

Finally, I wish all the bloggers attending this years @probloggerevent  in the Gold Coast a fantastic event and experience.

Thanks for visiting. As you will probably notice I’ve stopped blogging but you can still find me online.

@annnolan – where I tweet on digital, design, technology and other topics that interest me, namely social enterprises, social entrepreneurship, innovation and health and fitness. Im also pretty active on LinkedIn.

Thanks for visiting.