Friday, 3 April 2009

Living in the City - during G20

Well, it's been quite a week. 

As you may know I both live and work in the City of London. You will certainly have seen the news footage of the various marches and demonstrations there have been in the City this week as protesters gathered to signal their dissatisfaction (from many and various angles) at the world leaders gathered, notwithstanding the fact that they were in a completely different area of London. 

I do not plan to discuss either the demonstrations or the G20 outcomes in this posting - instead to focus on communications and the use of technology. The various news agencies all made a big deal of the use of Twitter over the last few days and seemed to suggest that this might have been the first Twitter-organised demonstrations. Surely not? I can't believe that people haven't been using Twitter for some time now for this sort of thing - although I will believe that this might be the first time that the mainstream news agencies have noticed. There was a lovely comment on the BBC's site during the disturbances on the 1st April.  It said that only very foolish demonstrators would organise on Twitter given the public nature of the postings. This might be the first time that the BBC had noticed, but I doubt it was the first time for the Police to be monitoring these sort of feeds.

The second thing to strike me was the sheer number of photographs (and days of video footage) which must have been taken. Watching the TV pictures as the demonstrators and police faced-off against each other it was interesting to me that almost every person amongst the demonstrators was taking pictures on their phone and that each side had a number of designated photographers and video people gathering evidence about the behaviour of the other side. All very post-modern somehow. Observing the "action" I became aware of how easy it would be for both sides to come out looking bad - and that, given the coverage of every ware of the day, it should be impossible for either a demonstrator or a member of the police to do anything unobserved. Watching the demonstrator's footage some of the actions of the police did seem at best enthusiastic - however watching the BBC's footage (the more official take on the day) it seemed as if a small group of the demonstrators had gone out of their way to cause damage and to incite the police to action.

I think both sides should be congratulated for managing to get through three days of action with few serious incidents. There was one report of a death - but that does sound as if it was a tragic accident that happened at the same time as the demonstrations and not because of them, although time (and hours of video) may tell a different story.

The final thing I'd like to mention are the updates which were available to City residents from the City of London Police. These were tremendous - informative, short, but sufficiently detailed and up-to-date to be able to navigate safely around the City all through the day. No new technology was used - instead the City Police simply engaged with their residents partly just so that we knew what was going on and partly to keep us feeling as safe as possible. A good idea very well executed.

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