Thank you and goodbye, from SMC_MCR

Recently, Julian Tait, Louise Bolotin, David Eaton and I sat down in Common and decided that the time had come to bring SMC_MCR to an end.

I write for a living and rarely suffer writer’s block but somehow it’s taken me weeks to prepare this blog post announcing the news. I honestly didn’t know how to approach it, but it’s got to come out at some point so I’ll just blurt it out.

SMC_MCR was born in the same Edge Street bar, Common, in which it was killed. In 2008, Julian and I met in the comment thread at the end of a blog post by Mike Atherton about London’s Tuttle Club. “Why isn’t something like this happening in Manchester?” we both asked. “Go for it,” said Mike. “Good idea,” we thought.

It turned out that we weren’t alone in thinking Manchester could do with such an event, and around a table a couple of weeks later a group of us, including Sarah Hartley and others, met to hatch a plan to take the Tuttle format and adjust it for Mancunian tastes. It had to be in the evening because we wanted people to not have to worry about asking their boss to go to some weird thing about ‘social media’, it had to offer more than a meet-up, and it had to offer beer.

We figured that maybe thirty people would turn up to our first Social Media Café Manchester event, a debate about whether blogging was dead (a hardy perennial question even then!) and so we were surprised when eighty people arrived at The Northern that evening.

The first SMC_MCR

The first SMC_MCR

We’d hit upon something – there was a real appetite for SMC_MCR among both the already social media-savvy and those who wanted to learn about Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and the other tools that were rapidly becoming important parts of every day life.

Over the years, the SMC_MCR community has debated everything from online privacy and open data to locative technologies and perceptive media, contributed to a documentary about our Ceefax and Teletext memories, held a major debate about the Manchester’s digital future, a debate about social media’s impact on the Manchester riot of 2011 (which Sarah wrote up on The Guardian website) and much more. MadLab came out of a chance meeting at SMC_MCR as well as being the inspiration of events both near and as far away as Istanbul and Cape Town.

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In 2011 we refreshed the format by ‘rebranding’ as SMC_MCR (our hashtag from the start – I remember much debate on Twitter about whether the underscore was a good idea or not). ‘Social media’ was now as regular a part of life as breathing; if we’d stuck with our original name we might as well have held ‘Oxygen Café’ as a sister event.

Julian on the mic

Julian on the mic

Although the past two years have seen some of our best (and best-attended) events, it’s also seen a huge increase in the number of digital-focused events in Manchester. In the past few months, a feeling has grown – certainly inside Julian and I – that SMC_MCR was of its time and now it’s time to move on to other things.

'Search vs Social' debate at the BBC's (now demolished) Oxford Road base.

‘Search vs Social’ debate at the BBC’s (now demolished) Oxford Road base.

At this point, we were going to list all the people we wanted to thank for their help and support over the years but it would be an incredibly long list and I’m sure we’d forget someone important.

So, thank you to every single one of you who helped us make SMC_MCR such a pleasure to be a part of over the past few years – from the bar owners who opened their premises especially for us, not knowing if we’d attract 100 people or 10 people that month (to be honest, we didn’t know for sure either, such are the perils of free events) to the many speakers and participants who have passed through over the years, to the volunteers who have helped us out by handing out name badges, booking speakers and pushing television stands through back alleys in the Northern Quarter at 10pm on a Tuesday night.

I hope we see you all around Manchester and beyond in the years to come, and may the spirit of SMC_MCR live on. Au revoir!

Get visually creative at SMC_MCR March as we welcome back Mario Cacciottolo

twitpicAt SMC_MCR March we’ll be welcoming back an old friend and we’re looking for you to share your project too.

Mario Cacciottolo is the man behind Someone Once Told Me, a site that publishes a new photo every day in which a person shares something, yes that’s right, that someone once told them. It’s a simple idea that has kept the site going for six years with photos ranging from insightful and inspiring to downright hilarious.

Mario will be talking about his upcoming trip around the world and will be able to offer insights into how to keep a blog running for so long single-handedly. Oh, and he’ll be taking pictures of anyone who has something they’d like to share. He did this the first time he spoke at SMC_MCR and it led to several posts on Someone Once Told Me.

The World Bench Project

Also at March’s event, Gill Moore, a Manchester-based freelance photographer and blogger, shares The World Bench Project with us. Three years in the making, the project launched earlier this month and celebrates the humble bench using photographs and stories uploaded by it’s community. It’s free, a bit of fun and everyone is invited to submit a bench to the website.

Gill will talk about the project’s origins and the process and willpower needed to bring to life and curate a crowd-sourced photography website.

So far there are 21 countries featured on the site from Mexico right across to New Zealand. Popular benches include the longest in the world; a 120m stunner from the lofty slopes of Switzerland. There’s a huge pair of ruby red lips in Melbourne, Australia and an ornate wooden Chinese bench inhabited by sleepy natives.

It is hoped the site will feature at least one bench from every country on the globe. At the last count that would be 193 sovereign states!

A Tree Made of Real Wood

A new photography exhibition, A Tree Made of Real Wood by Manchester documentary photographer David Dunnico, takes a wry, witty look at trees in cities. David will be discussing the exhibition at March’s event.

He says: “Many of the trees we see in city centres are dotted around in tubs, like fig leaves hiding the shame of bland re-development. Nature never looked more un-natural than in suburbia – a place where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them”.

Got something to share?

Are you working on something cool and interesting relating to digital visual arts? Come and share it with us! It could be an art project, a blog or something completely off-the-wall. Whatever it is, get in touch tell us about it and we’ll book you a slot in the evening to tell us more.

If you’re coming along, please add your name to our Lanyrd page.

Date: Tuesday 5th March
Time: 18:00 -21:00
Venue: Barcelona NQ, 6 Hilton Street, Manchester M4 1NB
Entry is free, as usual

Oversharing: How is it different for men and women? Find out on 5 February at The Northern

1837188648_efdbba28d3Facebook positively encourages you to share, bloggers share every time they post, on Twitter you are theoretically sharing with the entire world. But can you share too much?

In February, SMC looks at how men and women share intimate details of their lives on the internet, but differently.

From anonymous female sex bloggers to men using Twitter for Movember to raise awareness of male-only cancers, via the “nice guys” on dating sites who are bitter they can’t get laid – everyone’s rushing to put the most private, the most taboo and also the most normal out there for all to see and read. Or are they? There are also generational differences when it comes to keeping our private stuff, well, private.

In February SMC is going back to our original format of simultaneous sessions for small groups to discuss the sharp issues such as Googling prospective dates, taking responsibility for your online profiles, sharing your sex life (or lack of it) publicly, how oversharing may have an impact on your professional life, are there things you should never share, and more…

Confirmed session leaders so far: Laura Sharpe (@sharperecruit), Ella Wredenfors (@runpaintrunrun), Helen Purves (@insnit) and Ally Fogg (@allyfogg).

If you’re coming along, please add your name to our Lanyrd page.

Date: Tuesday 5th February
Time: 18:00 -21:00
Venue: The Northern, 56 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LW
Entry is free, as usual

Image credit: Bob Simmons / Flickr

We’re having a get-together on 8 January at the Britons Protection. Join us!

The Britons ProtectionAs is customary for SMC_MCR in January, we’re seeing in the new year with a simple get-together at the Britons Protection pub. Due to the first Tuesday of the month being New Year’s Day, we’re shifting it back a week to the 8th.

It’ll be an opportunity to meet likeminded folk and chat over a drink in an informal setting. There’ll be no formal programme, just friendly people having a chat about the Internet, social media, digital innovation and whatever else they feel like.

We’ll be back to the usual programmed events from February.

So, join us from 6pm onwards on Tuesday the 8th of January 2013 at The Britons Protection, 50 Great Bridgewater Street, Manchester, M1 5LE.

Image credit: Adam Bruderer / Flickr

Join us for SMC_MCR December: The lawyer, the politician and the journalist

SMC_MCR returns on Tuesday 4th December at The Northern, from 6pm. Join us for what is sure to be a fascinating open debate on the law, the media and their intersection with social media.

As the use of social media has exploded over the last five years, one undisputable truth has emerged – existing media law, with all its complexities regarding libel and court reporting and ethics, has been completely outpaced. The boundaries were once sharply defined – the press reported, sometimes under restriction and often pushing at those boundaries, and the public read or watched the news.

Now the boundaries are gone or at least very blurred – anyone can “report” on Twitter but it means libel spreads rapidly through retweets, for example. With the backdrop of the Leveson enquiry and report, and the libelling by 10,000 people of Lord McAlpine in November, our panel will offer their perspectives.

The lawyer: Steve Kuncewicz – interprets the law and advises on it.

The politician: Loz Kaye of the Pirate Party – wants to change the law.

The journalist: Iram Ramzan – NCTJ-qualified freelance journalist – trained in, and subject to, media law.

If you just want to come along and see what everyone else has to share, please add your name to our Lanyrd pageIt’s always a fun night with a friendly crowd.

Date: Tuesday 4th December
Time: 18:00 -21:00
Venue: The Northern, 56 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LW
Entry is free, as usual

Image credit: Bloomsberries

SMC_MCR September: Something interesting in 5 minutes

We have something a bit different lined up for October’s SMC_MCR (more on that nearer the time). In the meantime, for September we’ve got another chance to share something interesting in 5 minutes. If you missed it last month, Northology has videos of the talks (thanks Nathan!).

This is a chance to share interesting new technology, discussion about online social movements, online trends, innovative digital projects you’re involved in or anything else you want to share – come along and tell us about it. The only thing off-limits is promotional talks for commercial enterprises.

So far, speakers include:

Ben Light of Salford University discussing his work with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Imperial War Museum. Both projects are concerned with how you might engage people via digital media and he has some initial thoughts to share about the visitor/audiences perceived appropriateness of this.

Lee Evans of Stockport-based mobile startup SurveyMe on how the latest mobile technology developments are rapidly pushing the boundaries at the cutting edge of customer experience management.

Adrian Slatcher discussing a transmedia fiction project that formed part of the recent AND festival in Manchester.

Christopher Hackett on why you’ll want near-field communication (NFC) capabilities built into your next phone.

Duncan Hull on what Manchester and its universities can do to keep students from leaving to pursue science, engineering and technical careers elsewhere in the world.

If you want to take part as a speaker, please fill in the form below and we’ll be in touch.

If you just want to come along and see what everyone else has to share, please add your name to our Lanyrd page. It’s always a fun night with a friendly crowd.

Date: Tuesday 4th September
Time: 18:00 -21:00
Venue: The Northern: 56 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LW UPDATE: We’ll now be at Barcelona, 6 Hilton Street, Manchester, M4 1LA (map)
Entry is free, as usual

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Image credit: Christopher Sessums

Share something interesting in 5 minutes at SMC_MCR August

After last month’s SMC_MCR made international news as the BBC launched an exciting experiment in Perceptive Media, this time we’re back at The Northern and opening up to short, five-minute talks about… well, that’s up to you.

Interesting new technology, online social movements, online trends, innovative digital projects you’re involved in or anything else you want to share – come along and tell us about it. The only thing off-limits is promotional talks for commercial enterprises.

If you want to take part as a speaker, please fill in the form below and we’ll be in touch.

If you just want to come along and see what everyone else has to share, please add your name to our Lanyrd page.

Date: Tuesday 7th August
Time: 18:00 -21:00
Venue: The Northern: 56 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LW
Entry is free, as usual

Image credit: Squidish

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Perceptive media and digital art at SMC_MCR July. Join us!

After taking July off following the success of our Manchester: A Digital Future debate in mid-May (catch the video here if you missed it), we’re back for July with a couple of exciting demos of emerging technology:

  • The word on the street says BBC R&D has a demo of Perceptive Media which only a selected few have experienced to date. Ian Forrester from BBC R&D will lead a discussion about the technology and it might include a demo too. If you’re into the future of storytelling or media, this promises to be something you won’t want to miss.
  • Elliot Woods is a media artist, technologist and educator from Manchester. Discussing the process behind his most recent digital art installation in Korea with studio Kimchi and Chips, Elliot will reveal his practice and reflect on digital aesthetics and the open source digital arts community. Elliot will also introduce ScreenLab, a digital media arts residency that he co-curates as part of the University of Salford Arts Programme, and will reveal details about upcoming personal research projects.

To attend, please add your name to our Lanyrd page.

Date: Tuesday 3rd July
Time: 18:30 -20:30
Venue: Cornerhouse, 70 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5NH
Entry is free, as usual

Image credit: Pit-Yacker

What issues need tackling at our big debate about Manchester’s digital future?

Our May event, looking at Manchester’s digital future is fast approaching, and we want to make sure it covers the right issues.

Core to Manchester’s digital future is the Greater Manchester Growth Plan, while Manchester City Council recently outlined its ‘ambitious plans for a digital city‘. These will be good starting points for the discussion, and we will of course be opening up the debate to the floor for questions and comments from the audience, but what issues are important to you?

Please leave comments below this post and we’ll draw on them when we’re planning the flow of the debate.

Interest in this event has been enormous, and we’re already at full capacity, but we’ll open up more free tickets as and when we can. It takes place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Manchester city centre on Tuesday 15 May from 6.30pm. You can add yourself to the waiting list here.

Image credit: Marek