The Digital Commonwealth project builds upon #citizenrelay, a participatory arts and media initiative led by University of the West of Scotland, focused on the uses of citizen media around major sporting and cultural events. The project took as its focus the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay which travelled through Scotland from 8th-14th June, 2012. Emphasising the spirit of collaboration, #citizenrelay was delivered by an interdisciplinary team, bringing together academics, community activists, artists and community media specialists into dialogue with a variety of publics.
A team of citizen reporters (60 reporters and 8 interns) was recruited to support content generation before and during the visit of the Olympic Torch Relay. These reporters received basic training from community media specialists on producing audio and video content which was then pushed instantaneously through integrated social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and a specially designed project blog.
The speed of upload and circulation enabled the #citizenrelay initiative to break new information, providing a real-time representation of the stories emerging from the villages, towns and cities visited. Crucial to the project was the creation of a hybrid media environment and the low threshold of involvement which led to the co-production of in excess of 110 You Tube videos, 215 audioboo short podcasts, 1009 Flickr images and over 300 Instagram filtered images. The project highlighted the potential of the general public to produce and circulate content themselves, often using their own mobile devices, especially when connected together both physically and virtually. Projects like #citizenrelay demystify the ‘media’ through practice.
The Digital Commonwealth project extends successful elements of #citizenrelay but focuses more acutely on the gap in the possession of digital media skills in community and school settings and gaps in capacity and networks to support a more widespread use of accessible digital tools, techniques and environments to tell stories – again focused around a major sports event. Participants will generate a creative response to the largest multi-sport event that Scotland will ever host in a year when the nation will be asked to vote on an issue of fundamental importance for the future shape of individual and collective identities. School children, older adults, migrant communities and those living with a disability will have the opportunity to respond creatively as part of the Digital Commonwealth project.