Wednesday’s evening I joined a couple dozen people in Maastricht for a celebration of Social Media Day. We gathered in the rather warm upstairs room at Cafe de Twee Heeren to listen and talking about social media and, more pointedly, Maastricht’s bid to be the European cultural capital in 2018. Although the group was organized by Jules & You (a student organization), the ages were well mixed, which gave a nice variety of perspectives. The event was actually arranged by the excellent European Journalism Centre and individual volunteers. Jules & You was the original location, which was changed because of a larger than expected turnout.
Ultimately it was a nice event, although most of the talks covered things I already knew since I spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook as it is. I would have liked to hear more of a discussion of blogging, but so it goes. I was intrigued by the presentation from Maas-media, which is a participatory journalism organization in Maastricht, and how they’re trying to encourage the cyclical consumption and creation of media by the general public instead of the old-fashioned simple consumption models. A number of interesting tools were also shared including: SocialMention, Tweetboard, and Reclaimprivacy.
The broader discussion of Maastricht’s bid for Cultural Capital and how social media can be used to promote it was interesting as well. The European Capital of Culture is designated once a year to give a city the chance to showcase and invigorate cultural development. As you might imagine it is a prestigious designation and has strong socio-economic consequences for the winners. Maastricht wishes the bid to promote not only the city but also their unique border region.
In the LinkedIn workshop, we discussed how the LinkedIn group about the bid was only in Dutch, which excludes internationals, as well as French and German speakers from bordering countries. Sueli suggest that something needed to be done to allow people from many language background to feel comfortable participating if Maastricht’s bid was truly going to be representational. I really like that idea; even if LinkedIn doesn’t offer any sort of translation tools. But with a good enough translation tool and maybe a team of translators to help out with mistranslations, a multi-lingual forum could be very interesting. And more accessible.
We also discussed, vaguely, ways to increase the cultural activities happening in the city that would attractive a broader section of the population including possibly having non-Dutch theater performances, etc. I’m usually hungry for English-language activities, so I can totally get behind that.
Curious about other efforts being made by the official VIA2018 organization (I hear a lot about it from other people), I dug up their website only to discover that it offers translations in French and German, but not English. Part of me can understand. Dutch, German, and French are the official regional languages of South Limburg and the “Maastricht Region”, and I haven’t really gone out of my way to be involved. But to be frank, this tells me that my opinion and participation as an expat is not welcome. It also tells me that international students, the same ones being discussed as vibrant and full of ideas at Social Media Day, are going to be discouraged as well. And some of them are better prospects to be come long-term residents, bring business, etc. than someone like me. It is a half-measure to tell internationals that you want their participation, but then close them out of formal conversations.
Maybe before any social media efforts are put in place, the people in charge of Maastricht’s bid for cultural capital in 2018 need to decide just who they want involved and start sending the right messages. Not necessarily to me, I know I may not be their target audience, but for the students and internationals who have made this area their permanent home.