Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Playing your digital joker

If you're above a certain age and outside a certain demographic, chances are that your first recourse in a campaign or a project won't be to digital tools. Old instincts die hard, so why not hack your meeting with the digital joker.

Not this kind of joker...

Picture by Steve Collis 

But this joker

Getting outside your computer comfort zone

Maybe you see the Wonderland world of the web, of social media, and now apps (wot NGO hipsters is now calling digital) as a bolt on, an afterthought to the main campaign. Perhaps you suspect they could be really helpful – transformative even – but talking about them is waaaaaay out of your comfort zone.

Personally, I think the lower age limit is about 35-40. That's my generation – the people were finishing their education when the internet broke out of the science labs and came into the home. Like those older than us, our formative experiences are fundamentally pre-digital.

And consider this: in my experience the majority of people creating and coordinating campaigns at the grassroots are 35+. Heck, the majority of people in those groups are probably 35+

So, ask yourself where Twitter, Facebook, online petitions, Youtube and much more sit in your toolbox? Do you remember that they are there? Do you feel comfortable using them? Do you grasp their potential? Do you think that your fellows will bring it up as more than an afterthought?

Thoughts are like mountain streams – they follow the path of least resistance. If something's worked for you in the past, chances you'll be favourably disposed to again. And again. Even with the intention to do otherwise.

To disrupt your brainstorming of a campaign or a communications plan – to let the stream run in a new channel – you need to consciously disrupt the process in a positive way.

So why not Jokerise it?

Simply agree* with your fellow planners/activists/psych-hackers/whatevs that you'll place an ordinary playing card joker face down in the centre of the table, or pinned to a board or a flip-chart. And whenever you feel the conversation needs more or more creative thinking about online tools, turn it face up in the centre of the table.

Bringing up the digital elephant in the room might also lead to some difficult conversation about lack of knowledge, about the need to find out more or for training. It might involve turning to the younger people in your group (or the ones you're only one degree of separation from) for ideas and help – and that's no bad thing either.

If nothing else, it'll ensure you don't overlook something you might ordinarily be minded to miss.

*Agreement is important - using the joker ought to be like prepared piano, not loading the dice.

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