The Olympic Torch Relay has arrived in the UK, accompanied by the media spectacular and celebrity-fuelled symbolism we come to expect of the world’s most significant mega event.  It’s going to be difficult for any one media organisation to capture the attention of the public during the Torch Relay, especially when in reality what’s happening in Kendall will be of little interest to the people of Kilmacolm or Kyle of Lochalsh.  That’s where the participatory ethos of #citizenrelay comes to the fore.  We don’t want to (and can’t) compete with the large media conglomerates to become the website or hashtag of choice to ‘follow’ as the  Torch meanders through the nations and regions of the UK over the next 70 days.  To passively ‘follow’ is in itself problematic to the philosophy of the #citizenrelay project.  We’re all about involvement, participation, subsidiarity, engagement, empowerment and ownership.

Commerce meets culture in Stratford

#citizenrelay is not about commercial cultures around the Olympic Games.  It’s about offering people the opportunity to be media-makers in the most accessible ways possible.  It’s about enabling families and friends, co-workers and community groups to feel ownership of one small part of a distant mega event by connecting, producing and sharing.  #citizenrelay works on a distributed model, wholly reliant on the motivation, tenacity and creativity of its advocates.  These advocates include interns, reporters (nearly 50 trained across Scotland) and our extended networks (you).  Success is measured not on the number of retweets, likes or official endorsements from ‘official’ bodies but by the extent of participation from volunteers across the country.

Three examples from this week illustrate how our advocates have interpreted the philosophy of #citizenrelay and turned it into practical outputs for the project.  Firstly, Yutsil Martinez from Wester Hailes in Edinburgh left the reporter training and within a few days had made contact with a Torchbearer and captured his thoughts on a Youtube video. Days later, Jad Baaklini created this video when interviewing another Torchbearer in Edinburgh.  Jad had received his first ‘training’ on video interviews only days before, illustrating the can-do, DIY ethos of the project in action.

But this project is not just about citizen journalism practiced with a smartphone, flipcam or interaction on social media channels. One of our co-consiprators is Belinda Langlands of the University of Abertay.  Belinda has been working on a number of drawings of runners in preparation for the Olympic Torch passing the East Coast on 12th June 2012 and making a visual comment on the event passing the area. Belinda’s work represents another form of creative expression around the Torch Relay and its meaning to the people and communities it passes through over the course of a week in Scotland.

These examples express more clearly than any quantitative measure what the #citizenrelay project is all about.  It’s easy to participate from now by using posting content to youtube, titling or tagging it #citizenrelay, tweeting about what you think of the coverage consumed elsewhere (@citizenrelay & #citizenrelay), tagging photos on Instagram or via uploads to flickr.  As the title of this post suggests, participate and help us realise our ambition to open up media production to a wider audience.   This is about a culture of co-creation and not commerce. Isn’t that in the spirit of the Games?


dgmcgillivray has 42 post(s) on Citizen Relay: Tracking the 2012 Torch Around Scotland