Bethany manages, coordinates and edits social media content for Sustrans, connecting with over 70,000 supporters, volunteers and donors online. Her 300 Seconds,subtitled ‘what happens when you paint the street and talk about it online’, talk was on digital placemaking, and the relationship between people, streets, cities and communities (on and offline).
Painting sections of road changes the way people use it – they walk or cycle, and they talk to other road users, which enables them to connect with other people, and with their neighbourhood. Bethany showed how this then sparked conversations online, with local people commenting on how much their liked it.
Bethany talked about another example, where Sustrans pained a blue sun on Peckham Rye Lane. The day after it appeared, people took to Twitter to ask what it was, and who did it. The process of taking photos, sharing them, and saying what they thought of it reinforces the way that they see their neighbourhood.
The act of capturing and sharing gives people a sense of ownership over their streets. This, Bethany explained, is what they call digital placemaking. This, for Bethany, is the core of the social web. It’s why she loves the internet.
When people see their places differently, they go online and share their perspectives, and talk about it with others. This reinforces a pride of place and a sense of local identity. It connects them to other people in a way that they couldn’t before.
This process shows what a force for good social media can be. She gave an example of the conversation that developed when she shared a picture of Bristol’s Christmas Steps on Instagram. She was able to share the history of the street, and this conversation could mean more people visit the steps and explore the area around them – and go on to share photos themselves.
She concluded by urging others to get out in their neighbourhood and share their own special place.
Photo credit: David Pearson