The Museum of Me? But where’s the ‘wow’?

As yet another integrated Facebook app (see previous post on EQUALS) does the viral rounds and floods my news feed with posts via friends, I am once again left uninspired and disappointed by the under-utilised potential of a product that no doubt cost a fortune yet fails to deliver – where’s the ‘wow’ factor?!

Intel’s Museum of Me application promises to generate a whole exhibition all about ‘me’ based on my Facebook data. In the increasingly narcissistic world (that being the most common complaint I hear about Facebook and the new generation of people living life in the public eye online) such self-adoration is bound to be an instant online success but what users really get for their engagement is low on ROI.

Considering that you are essentially opening up your Facebook account and all its layers and promises of privacy and security in one click your investment is pretty high. There’s no clarity on what they’ll do with the data they pull nor if they store it or simply access it one-off – after all who really reads the T&Cs in any detail? The thought of what they could do with my data sends a shiver down my spine…

Yet the promise of creating a visual archive of my social life and finding out just what I do on Facebook, what I write about and who on earth are the people I most talk about seems to pull me (and many others in). Surely I couldn’t just remember these points…I must have some quantitative data to analyse this all I think to myself…

What I actually get is something that is not only hard to interact with, lacking in clarity, seemingly random but also incomplete and leaves me quite frankly feeling mugged. Once you’ve figured out how it all works – which for someone used to online environments wasn’t all that clear – then you’ve clicked that almighty button to ‘allow’ access to all your Facebook jewels you are presented with a small, scrolling ‘visualisation’ of your data that is not only hard to see (increasing the zoom level failed to help) but also seemed incorrect (I hardly ever interact with those people!) and apparently the most common word on my wall is ‘day’…how insightful. You can however share all this ‘glory’ on your Facebook page by posting it in a photo album, which I did in the hope that I could more closely study the grainy images of my self-titled exhibition but to little avail.

The potential of this product is huge, using Facebook data to generate visually exciting infographics or images offers great return to the user but so often these products seem to fail on their use.

I suppose the creators will deem it a success due to its viral spread and number of ‘likes’ (hitting half a million as I write) that meet their objectives but what is the real impact of these applications hitting our screens and pulling in our data?

If we’re so keen to find out more about ‘me, myself and I’ then why don’t we turn to some self-help books rather than yet another online application? Needless to say as an avid social media fan I’ll keep clicking away until I find that ‘wow’ factor…

What do you think about the Museum of Me? Have I missed something? Let me know your thoughts below.

Gone with the Breeze

Apologies for being dormant for the last few weeks, I’ve been working flat out helping with Oxfam’s new GROW campaign – check it out:

Oh and I’ve also been traveling, grew a year older and had a (non-essential) body part removed – but hey it’s just another month ;-)

More updates coming soon…

Don’t forget you can always stay up-to-date via twitter @brie_rl

Inspiring thoughts

Some more, inspiring words from Rev. Dave Tomlinson that I came across today (from ‘Imagine’, 27th March 2011) – and before any of you roll your eyes at ‘religion’, what I find inspiring about these quotes (as with all the talks Dave gives) is that it’s not about being ‘religious’ – it’s about being a kind, considerate, contemplative human being…

“Let me suggest a few possible pauses that you might engage in over the next week…

>> Concentrate on giving your full attention to someone when you’re tempted to drift away mentally or even walk away.

>> Identify one thing that if you got done would make you feel better about yourself.

>> Decide about something you can do each day this week to make another person’s life a bit better or happier.

>> Think about something you can do perhaps during the rest of lent to alleviate the suffering of a stranger.

And finally…
>> Every night this week before you go to sleep, pause and think of one thing you did during the day that you are proud of or pleased with and give yourself a well done – and rest in peace.”

“The War You Don’t See”

Taking a moment to give credit to (and promote in a totally unbiased way…) the latest film by John Pilger and Directed by my father Alan Lowery called “The War You Don’t See”.
The documentary film investigates the media’s role in war, ‘tracing the history of ’embedded’ and independent reporting from the carnage of World War One to the destruction of Hiroshima, and from the invasion of Vietnam to the current war in Afghanistan and disaster in Iraq. As weapons and propaganda become even more sophisticated, the nature of war is developing into an ‘electronic battlefield’ in which journalists play a key role, and civilians are the victims. But who is the real enemy?’

Check out some clips from the film here – well worth a watch to get you inspired:

The film aired on ITV1 in the UK last December (at the peak of the Wikileaks controversy) and has just announced screening in Australia – so for all my Aussie followers here are the details:

“The War You Don’t See”: SBS is 8.30pm on Sunday April 10th. (The trailer is already running)
Cinema screening: Dendy Opera Quays on Monday April 4th at 6.30 pm.
Plus some ‘activist screenings’ organised by Green Left Weekly.
Eastern Sydney:
6.30pm Thursday March 31, Robert Webster Building, Level 3, Theatre – Room 327, UNSW Kensington Campus.
Inner City:
6.30pm for 7pm Friday April 1, St Lukes Hall, 11 Stanmore Rd, Enmore.
Sydney West:
6.30pm Wednesday April 6 Parramatta Town Hall, Jubilee Room, Church St
Other screenings around the country we’ve organised so far include:
Brisbane Fri April 1, Sat April 2, Sun April 3 @ 74B Wickham St Fortitude Valley
Fremantle: Wed April 6, 6:30pm @ FTI Cinema, 92 Adelaide St, Fremantle
Newcastle: Thurs April 7, 7pm, @ Royal Exchange, Bolton St
Adelaide: Sat April 16, 6:30pm @ South West Community Centre, 171 Sturt St,

More info available at

The perils of protest

From The Guardian / UKuncut:
Fortnum & Mason protesters filmed by UK Uncut – video
Footage filmed at the anti-cuts protest was shot by Green & Black Cross legal observers and handed to UK Uncut, which passed it on to the Guardian. It shows a police chief inspector telling demonstrators inside the Fortnum & Mason store they would be allowed to leave. After being led outside, Guardian footage shows the protesters being kettled and then arrested:”

Now I’m not going to get into the whole debate about ‘anarchy’ vs. ‘thuggery’ vs. ‘protest’ but personally I find this video evidence of the police telling seemingly peaceful protesters at the UKuncut sit-in at Fortnum & Mason on Saturday that they would be able to leave and go home (only to then find themselves arrested once they exited the building) totally disgraceful.

Unfortunately I was ill on Saturday and unable to attend the march, or the boat race for that matter as I thought it would’ve been good to infiltrate the Tory party from within by the banks of the Thames! (NB – if a certain someone is reading this then you know this is in jest – and you know who you are!) However watching this video obtained by The Guardian this morning I was appalled by the clear evidence that the police tricked protesters into believing they were being let go home.

It was then that I noticed several faces I knew, aquantances and people I had worked with recently on other NGO events and activities. People who in my experience would never cross the line from protest to vandalism or thuggery or do anything that would warrant arrest. The scenes of the sit-in from inside F&M didn’t seem outrageous, nor was any great damage done from what I can see so surely being forced to go to trial is an unnecessary weilding of police power – a threat to future actions perhaps? I also believe from those who were arrested (and then held in custody for 24 hours) that they not only had their mobile phones withheld but also their clothes – and are not being given them back until after the trial – surely a little extreme?!

The scenes in the video reminded me of the protests during COP15 in Copenhagen in December 2009 when hundreds of peaceful protesters were caught up in a kettling of Black Bloc anarchists and held for more than 5 hours in the sub-zero temperatures.

Police holding protesters during COP15

This actually happened right outside the apartment block I was staying in and we were unable to leave – the student residents above us were playing Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal the World’ out of the window at full volume to the crowd of protesters awaiting arrest seated below with their hands tied in handcuffs. They also beamed messages of support through a projector onto the building above them causing the police to storm our building (and terrifying us as to what would happen as 4 Australian NGO workers with an apartment full of filming equipment!).

Police holding protesters during COP15

It was a pretty harrowing experience, not least witnessing the brutality of the police and how they stormed the group with little regard for mothers carrying their children in the otherwise peaceful protest. I’m not excusing the actions of those who deliberately vandalise and attack buildings and symbols of power, it’s a shame that these actions are what make the news despite being only a small percentage of what happens at protests. It’s even more of a shame that groups intent on damage and vandalism use these protests to wreak havoc and damage the cause – are they even aligned to the cause or just to the excuse for violence I wonder – although I don’t know enough about them to say.

Nonetheless in the case of those arrested from the sit-in and comparatively peaceful protest last Saturday this really does seem like an overreaction and putting police and court resources into the wrong targets.

Thought for the day

I wanted to preserve this quote/thought somewhere – as mentioned by Dave Tomlinson a few weeks ago:

“Redemptive action is where we choose to do or say something that may go against the grain in a situation or within ourselves but which opens up or nurtures new and positive possibilities. This may take the form of a resolution in our life where we break old patterns that are destructive or inhibiting and begin to live more fully.”

Which goes quite nicely with one of my favourite quotes:

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
[Neale Donald Walsch]

Practise what you preach

We’re all guilty of it – doing one thing and saying another. But surely our politicians stick to their word as elected representatives? [Insert clearly sarcastic emoticon here] Ok well perhaps that’s a little optimistic but when someone publicly voices their dislike for something and then does this themselves surely that’s hypocrisy at its best?

I’m referring to Robert Halfon MP who last month publicly voiced his disdain about receiving ‘mass’-emails from his constituents via online campaigning organisations: “The problem is that these charities seem to think that impersonal emails – often with impersonal invitations to attend this or that reception – are the best way of lobbying MPs…Nothing could be further from the truth…the impersonal nature does nothing to ensure that I feel well disposed to meeting with or helping that particular charity or pressure group. These computer generated emails are more a curse than a blessing…” [Guardian Voluntary Sector Network Blog: Feb 3, 2011] In fact he even quotes an ‘old Soviet joke’ – “We pretend to work, you pretend to pay us” – hmmm anyone else see the irony there?

Ok granted he does acknowledge in his original article the amount of things sent to him by post but seriously if an MP wants to engage with people then how are they expecting this to happen – by carrier pigeon? Harry Potter would approve…

So when, in light of his comments, I went to the trouble of not only printing (environmental impact?) but posting a signed personal invite to Mr Halfon to participate in our ‘Activism vs Slacktivism‘ debate I at least expected an appreciation of this effort – ‘cos let’s face it how many people post invites these days? Perhaps it was as this was so unusual for me to do that I imagined a look of delight as he acknowledged the effort I had been to as he opened the letter – ok slightly idealistic I know!

Instead what did I receive by way of a ‘response’? A polite but clearly template standardised response – by email! Without even a subject line! (Shock horror at the non-professional email etiquette!) See below:

From: Robert Halfon
Date: 8 March 2011 16:38
Subject: (no subject)

Dear Ms Rogers Lowery,

Thank you for your letter inviting Robert to join you in Oxford on 21st March. Unfortunately, due to commitments in the House of Commons, Robert will have to decline you invitation.
Best Wishes,

Office of Robert Halfon MP

Mr Halfon says the best advice for charities is to ‘make it personalised and local’ – well perhaps the local was where I failed, so sorry but I just don’t like Harlow enough.

[In acknowledgment of the speed of email over Royal Mail, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and wait eagerly for the post but I’m not holding my breath – after all email is a far more convenient way don’t you think Mr Halfon?]

Are we equal?

Today marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, causing a flurry of comments and articles about how far women have really come on the issue of equality. Unfortunately I’m flat out with ECF2011 planning to give this day proper attention and a blog post that it deserves but I couldn’t let it pass by without a quick one, particularly having posted previously on the issue.

Although Action Aid UK have a greatly title ‘GetLippy‘ campaign doing the rounds, the one that caught my eye today was the launch (?) of the new coalition campaign called ‘EQUALS‘.
EQUALS is a partnership of leading charities that have come together to step-up the call to demand a more equal world” – a little arbitrary perhaps but certainly there’s some great campaigns behind it (including my previous charity 1GOAL) so I’m looking forward to seeing it develop, not least for this interesting video featuring Daniel Craig (as James Bond) cross-dressing and Judi Dench doing the voiceover:

What was most interesting though was the facebook interaction they featured on the site (see midway down the page). Unfortunately it was a little confusing, particularly given that so much seemed to have gone into creating some great graphics, the information portrayed by them is pretty unclear – and I’m a big fan of infographics! The application (accessed via facebook connect) pulls, relatively basic, information of your friends’ and then places it into what seem like fairly standard comparisons. The statistic about the number of women raped in England and Wales each year is undoubtedly shocking (85,000) but it is the first that appears as you scroll down the page – an interesting one to present first given that it is seemingly unrelated to the information just provided via facebook so although it seems to feature pixelated images of your friends, the connection is unclear.

There then follows some basic comparisons of men & women without much-needed clarification and a ranking of countries where my friends live. This has the most ‘information/explanation’ displayed underneath but I’m still left confused at what exactly it’s trying to tell me. Maybe I’m just having one of those days (quite possibly!) or maybe it’s not quite been fully user-journey tested so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt but I’m keen to know what I’m supposed to be seeing revealed here:


At the very bottom of this page is the most interesting or rather interactive section (and relevant to needing to connect via facebook) where it pulls out some statistics about there being more MPs pre-2010 election named David than women MPs, showing a photo of a friend of mine named David asking if he was one of them. (I wonder if they chose this ‘cos David is a relatively common name although wonder what they do if people don’t have a friend called David…) Then there was a section about how 22% of FTSE100 companies don’t have women on their board and pulling another image of a friend of mine who works for a FTSE100 company – clever use of what’s available on facebook without being too invasive – but I wonder why these two most interesting stats were right down the bottom of the page?

Would love to hear your thoughts…
Check out

Clicktivism – will we acknowledge its impact?

Here’s the blog I wrote for 6 Billion Ways this weekend in response to the talk titled Clicktivism: Can we save the world in one click?

Krissie Nicholson
, Local Organiser, London Citizens
David Babbs, 38 Degrees
Ellie O’Hagan, UK Uncut
Kevin Gillan, University of Manchester
Gigi Ibrahim, Egyptian activist

The general question this session aimed to discuss was ‘what is the most effective role for the internet to play in activism?’ – unfortunately the effectiveness of the internet was more predominantly denied rather than discussed.

I had hoped that with a varied panel of speakers such as those featured above there would be a nuanced and balanced discussion on the issue but unfortunately the conversation seemed to get stuck in the somewhat tired rhetoric of ‘offline versus online’ rather than how the two forms of activism can collaborate and benefit each other. Unfortunately the debate didn’t seem to recognise or at least fully vocalise the power of the internet, rather it was stuck in a rebuttal of its impact compared with more ‘sustainable’ offline methods of engagement.

Online activism and the somewhat damaging term of ‘clicktivism’ (implying a click is all it takes) has been criticised by many commentators following Malcolm Gladwell’s controversial article last August and in light of recent events in the Middle East being labeled (and accurately denied) as ‘twitter revolutions’. Unfortunately the responding outcries from e-activists and online campaigners have largely been of a defensive and justifying tone which perhaps has undermined rather than enriched this legitimate form of activism.

Online campaigning can take many forms, from signing a petition, emailing your local MP to donating to get an advert in the paper. Some might say that these are ‘just clicks’ and don’t indicate a ‘true’ sense of activism or involvement but what I see as one of the key appeals of online campaigning (at least personally) is that you can take action on issues you care about without necessarily feeling or being branded as a ‘radical activist’. Now that’s not saying there’s anything wrong with being a radical activist (we’d all be a lot worse off without those passionate individuals!) but being able to take part in campaigns you are interested in opens ‘activism’ up to a far wider audience. Protest and activism can take many forms so is it really justifiable to view their actions as any less legitimate just ‘cos they won’t get out in the streets and protest?

As David Babbs (38 Degrees) rightly pointed out during the debate; no online campaigners are claiming that the internet is the sole tool for creating change or being ‘one click away from saving the world’. David believes there’s no inherent superiority to any form of activism, that instead it depends on campaign, target, strategy and where you are in your life (both as an organisation and individual). He recognised that “the common factor of online and offline campaigning is power – if we as campaigners want enough power to make a difference we need to pool resources…the power of the internet is that it is a method to do this by facilitating collaboration”.

David also acknowledged that 38 Degrees (the UK’s largest online campaigning organisation) does not run purely online, instead it has been expanding its offline presence through ‘GetTogethers’ (a term coined by my previous organisation GetUp! Australia) which connect and mobilise locals to engage offline around the issues they explicitly care about online – thus enhancing the impact of both.

A particularly interesting viewpoint in light of recent events was that of Egyptian activist Gigi Ibrahim who gave a history of the revolution, “this was definitely not an internet revolution…it has been brewing for years…from all the previous mobilisation and the growing of the youth, labour and anti-capitalism movements over the last decade, then events in Tunisia that inspired Egypt that change was possible…it’s interesting that everyone is crediting the internet when the real battle was on the streets factories, workplaces”.

Gigi did however acknowledge that the internet had a role to play “the real role of the internet was helping to mobilise these movements. When we started planning for the January 25th Movement yes the web was useful for coordinating and mobilising…the most important role of the internet was to get info from on the ground out to the wider world and rest of Egypt to let them know what was happening, building awareness through the web to spread/receive information but at the end of the day it took the power of the people to make a difference”.

Analysis of the extent to which the Egyptian and Tunisian events were ‘twitter/facebook revolutions’ has been prolific in the media and online blogs but I think it’s important to note that this cannot be answered simply with an ‘all or nothing’ approach. It’s important that we understand the differences between a medium (either online or offline) being solely responsible rather than assisting in change.

I could give you countless examples of where offline campaigns have been enhanced and reinvigorated by online actions, just as online campaigns have benefited from on-the-ground support (if you’re interested then check out some of the Avaaz or GetUp! campaigns such as the recent ‘No Child in Detention‘ online-offline action).

Ultimately offline and online activism are two sides to the same coin and need to be seen as such, they go hand-in-hand and (when done well) can complement and enhance each others’ actions. But this need for a ‘PC’ approach to online activism needs to end – yes online can’t happen without the offline support but we cannot continue to deny that it does have an impact, so let’s recognise that.


Brie Rogers Lowery is a freelance e-campaigner previously of 1GOAL & GetUp! Australia.
She tweets at @brie_rl and blogs via Breezy Thinking.

Social media’s role in the Egyptian revolution

Whilst Egypt is in the throes of revolt there has been another kind of unrest going on across the online networks, one that has risen with every uprising over the last few months; the debate over the power and influence of social media on the revolutions in question.

Both sides of the argument have come out in full force however it is the naysayers who have unfortunately received the most traction. Nonetheless it has stirred up a continued debate around the power of online mobilisation (or ‘slactivism’ as the cynics say) and it’s role in non-Western political advocacy. Can a few tweets and some facebook posts really have that cause a revolution?

When Obama ran his campaign by successfully utilising every corner of the online platforms, social media networks and online-to-offline mobilisation structures available at the time, there was worldwide admiration (and some might say envy) for the all-encompassing process that allowed people to take part in the political process regardless of ability, age or knowledge.
The campaign was heralded as one of the first ‘e-Elections’ (although Australia had seen eCampaigning as a crucial part of it’s 2007 election through the online advocacy group GetUp!) where the power of technology came out in true force to ensure not only a victory for Barack Obama but a seemingly genuine sense of public involvement in the win.
Perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention at the time, or I was caught up in the hype and excitement of the political change across the Atlantic (or rather Pacific as I was in Australia at the time) however there didn’t seem to be the criticism of online tactics and use of social media that now engulf other political actions in the rest of the world – most notably those in the non-Western world.

I don’t think that anyone is arguing (and from the comments I’ve seen they’re not) that twitter and facebook were the driving forces behind revolutions in Egypt or Tunisia but I, like many others, find it hard to doubt the role that these social networks have had to play in not only accelerating the revolutions but also opening them up to the wider world.

As E.B.Boyd commented in her blog: “…it takes a lot more than the 21st century version of a communication system to persuade people to take to the streets and risk harm, imprisonment, or death. But that doesn’t mean social media didn’t play a role. It did. Given the magnitude of grievances in each country, revolt would almost certainly have come eventually. But social media simply made it come faster.”

Boyd goes on to argue that social media had a role to play in 3 areas:

  1. Organising protests – the power of mass-organising tools such as facebook and twitter not only allowed great numbers of Egyptians to find out about the protests and attend them but also brought their attention to the wider world.
  2. Shaping the narrative – allowing voices other than the Government or media to be out in the public arena through social networks, bloggers in particular have been given a prominent voice since the Egyptian revolution began and have helped reshaped the narrative and description from ‘chaos’ to ‘unrest’.
  3. Putting pressure on Washington – with so much information ‘escaping’ the country and being placed in the public eye via social media networks, Washington, Boyd argues, was forced to address rather than play down the issues occurring in Egypt.

I would agree with Boyd’s 3 defining roles and add that these perhaps happened in sequence.
Firstly social networks allowed protesters to spread the word online amongst civilians and attract higher numbers to convene in planned offline mobilisations. The word of these protests and growing momentum behind them was able to be seen worldwide through these networks and the word spread, as did the commentary from both within Egypt and outside.
Trending topics on twitter increased and journalists looked for on-the-ground reports via twitter streams and blogs. These in turn allowed the narrative to be shaped by those closest to the action and dispersed across the web. With the word spreading across social networks and the media picking up on this, Washington and other world leaders invested in Egypt were forced to address rather than distract from the issues at hand.

One of the most noticeable things of the Egyptian revolt is that the media’s portrayal of events has prominently featured twitter and blog streams from Egyptian voices.
When the government cracks down on media the social networks continue to flourish, when the government cracks down on the internet amazing new technologies are driven such as Speak2Tweet that allowed people to call a number and record a tweet, thus getting around the internet blockages in Egypt this week.

Something I firmly believe in is the role that social media has had to play in bringing both the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions to the attention of the wider (Western) world. As a Westerner based in the UK, it was hard to avoid tweets or facebook posts about the revolts. Even being offline abroad and only checking into these 2 social networks did I stay up-to-date with events without ever having to visit a news site.
The prominent use of facebook and twitter by protesters and commentators opened up these revolutions to the world outside their relative countries and meant that as a member of the twitter or facebook community you felt part of what was happening there.
Would we have seen this mass media coverage or felt as engaged with what was happening to such a degree had there not been the crossover onto social media networks?

Jillian C. York raises some interesting points on her blog which argues that whilst it is too early to tell, the Tunisian revolution was not a ‘twitter’ revolution but a ‘human’ one – but I wonder; do these two have to be mutually exclusive? What commentators seem to forget is that behind the twitter streams and facebook postings are actual real people. Just by being behind the facade of the internet doesn’t make you any less real – does it?

So did the Egpytian (or indeed Tunisian) revolution start as a result of social media? No of course not, otherwise we’d be revolting here in the UK or USA if you go by number of social media users. But was it accelerated and more widely covered worldwide as a result? Undoubtedly so.

With thanks to E.B.Boyd’s blog for inspiration.