I was moved by the Ceremony to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela. I watched the build-up to the celebration of Mandela’s life and the unfolding ceremony held in that rain drenched stadium whilst sitting at my desk at work on my Mac. As I watched the BBC coverage, the twitter feeds and social media responses which accompanied it I was reminded of the first time I had watched such an event in this way… and how far we have come in cyberspace.
At the end of the summer in 1997 my family had gathered around the television to watch the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. I also watched some of the ceremony online which Sky News was ‘narrowcasting’ on its website. This was revolutionary at the time and must have been expensive too. A year or so earlier Sky News had carried live coverage of the OJ Simpson trial and had posed questions about the procedure to their panel of experts via emails from viewers. Email was still in its infancy. At the time this was all very new and very cutting edge.
Now – a decade and a half later – consuming global events with multi level media is commonplace. We can read the tweets, re-tweet the tweets, catch comment on the blogs, watch reaction on YouTube and build our own personal take on events through the vast array of social media blasted onto our computer screens, mobile devices, ear pieces and even wristwatches…and all that driven by great chunks of ‘content’ from the TV and radio which are then chopped up and re-purposed.
So, like thousands of people around the world I wanted to have my say. Social media allows us to do that these days in a way which could never been imagined when Nelson Mandela began his protests against the apartheid regime in South Africa. In recent years revolution, uprising and freedom of speech has been channelled through social media. So I wanted to say something. Make my feelings felt in one of the many virtual equivalents of a book of remembrance. But….
It was a small error and for a fleeting moment made the wrong person famous… But with all this technology, all this amazing ability to communicate and the vast and complex collection of wires and waves and plugs and pulses which get used to disseminate this information there was a reminder of the reliance all this technology still has on human intervention. On the BBC website, below the live feed of the many dignitaries filing into the stadium in the rain to pay their respects to Mandela, was a little innocent looking link to the BBC Twitter feed @BBC_HaveYouSsay. Unfortunately for the BBC some poor junior producer buried back in White City HQ had put in the wrong link. If you wanted to have your say on the BBC twitter site the great media organisation directed people to @haveyoursay…. a twitter site for a lady calling herself B Nora and describing herself as an Australian Housewife.