Saturday 28 April 2012

Hello from Perugia

I've escaped the endless rain back in England, to spend a couple of days in the beautiful Italian hilltop town of Perugia.

I'm here for the city's International journalism festival that started last Wednesday and finishes tomorrow. The event's been going since 2006 and allows journalists, aspiring journalists and other media enthusiasts, the opportunity to network and attend a series of talks, workshops and discussions about journalism and its role in society.

The Palazzo dei Priori

I remember hearing about the event earlier in the year. I thought: "that sounds just like the sort of thing a media geek like myself would be into." Since arriving yesterday I've attended some really interesting discussions.

Common themes that have come up include; how can journalism survive in the digital age. Nobody knows how to make real money from the internet and this continues to be the Holy Grail of journalism. Another discussion I went to, looked at the theme of collaboration, and how journalism can get audiences more involved in reporting stories.

In between attending these discussions, I've had a chance to explore Perugia. It's not a big place, but I have to say It's stunning. It's perched on top of a hill overlooking the Umbrian countryside, the views are amazing. It's reminded me why I love Italy.

View from the city

I've traveled all over Italy, north of Rome and I think Perugia is one of those places that's a bit under the radar. What I mean is that when you think of visiting Italy, Perugia isn't somewhere you immediately think of going.

I'd still recommend it to anyone looking for a short weekend break, or a place to stop off at while travelling around Italy.

The centre of Perugia

Sunday 15 April 2012

The shrinking of the web

Last week it was announced that Facebook was buying the smart phone sharing app Instagram for a staggering $1,000,000,000 (£630m).

On the face of it, it looks like another buyout of a start up web company that although hugely popular doesn't actually make any money.

In the last few days, I've been reading about the various reasons why Facebook would want to spend so much on a small app.

One theme that's been interesting me, is the idea that Facebook's buyout is another example of big media corporations and governments trying to gain greater control of the web.

I read an article in today's Sunday Times that argued that tech giants like Facebook, Google, Apple and Yahoo want to buy up popular apps, so they can all be gathered into one space under their control.

All this is interesting as more people are accessing the internet through apps on smart phone or iPads, rather than using web browsers like Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.

In theory it could mean more content and information will become unavailable if you look for it on the web or through search engines. You'll only be able to access apps, social media and other content through a gate controlled by the big tech companies.

It looks like more people are becoming concerned at developments.

Today I was reading about how Google's Co-founder Sergey Brin was warning about the threats to an open internet from governments and corporations. But then I thought, aren't Google one of those major corporations that are looking to monopolise the web themselves.

It seems more like Google finding itself in a power struggle with Facebook. Google's power and influence as a Search Engine will decline if more people navigate the web through social media rather than search engines.

This week the Guardian are running a week long investigation into the battle for control of the web.

You begin to realise how revolutionary the internet is and how different interest groups around the world have their own reasons to try and control and manage access to the web.

With good timing I'm just about to start reading a book called The Master Switch by Tim Wu. The book explorers this issue further, arguing that the internet is the latest in a long line of communication technologies that started off as free and open before becoming centralized and closed through corporate power.

I shall let you know what I think of it when I finish.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

London Mayoral Elections 2012

I'm feeling a bit indifferent to the London Mayoral Elections.

I know I shouldn't feel this way. I'm all for elected Mayors, not just in London but I'd like to see them in other major UK cities.

I think my problem is that I don't feel it really matters to me who gets elected. I don't think it will have a huge impact on my life living in London.

Secondly, we've got a re-run of the 2008 election in terms of the candidates for the 3 main parties. Obviously there's Boris the current mayor, Ken who's running for a third term and Brian Paddock who ran for the Lib Dems last time.

It's all got a bit of a Groundhog Day feel to it.

In theory it shouldn't feel this way.

In London you've got two big personalities, in Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. They're both controversial and divisive depending on who you talk too. How many politicians are there in the country who are immediately known by just their first names?

With so many identikit, personality lacking politicians around, this year's London elections should be really exciting, but it doesn't feel that way for me.

Of course I will be voting, one I get my name back on the electoral register (I've got until next Wednesday to get my form in).

I won't be voting for Ken. I voted for him reluctantly in 2004, but decided to go with Brian Paddock in 2007.

Ken's had his time, and I feel there's an arrogance about him. I say this in the sense that it's as if he sees the role of Mayor as being his own personal job.

In 2000 when he got elected he was the maverick anti establishment candidate, defying the Labour Party. This isn't the case now, he's now been pulled back into the establishment mold.

To be honest, I wouldn't have a problem with Boris getting re-elected, but I don't vote Tory (how I envy the floating voter)so I can't go there. The only problem I have with Boris is that it's commonly known within political circles that he's ruthlessly ambitious.

His ultimate goal isn't just to become leader of the Tory Party, but to become Prime Minister. There's a feeling that he's using the position of Mayor as a stepping stone to something bigger and better. Is that what people want from an elected Mayor?

As for Brian Paddock, this time round I can only shrug my shoulders.

I'm seriously considering voting for an independent candidate just to shake things up a bit. I'm beginning to understand why minority parties and independents are starting to hold a greater appeal to people.

I can't quite explain what it is, but it's about sending a message out to the main parties that says, people want something different; although I'm not really sure what that is. but it must be something otherwise I wouldn't have this feeling of indifference.

If you're a Londoner, how do you feel about the elections? Who will you be voting for and why?

Let us know