Dave Sag is in Copenhagen this week covering the COP15 climate change summit for Anthill. This is his first post in the series.
COP15, the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen (the COP does not stand for Copenhagen, by the way — it stands for Conference of Parties) is already shaping up to be a watershed event for social media, and it hasn’t even started. Of course, people have been twittering away about COP15 for many months, but it’s the real-time streams of guff from wired-up correspondents like myself that are shaping the way events like this will be covered in the future.
The obsession with the ‘now’ of media kicked into high gear over a decade ago with what we then knew only as CNN moments; the first US attack on Baghdad, the death of Lady Di and then, of course, the definitive CNN event… the collapse of the twin towers on September 11, 2001. People the world over were glued to their TVs watching the same awful events unfold over and over again. If there’d been twitter back then we’d have seen streams of commentary tagged as #iraq, #di or #911 weaving its way through the lattice of repetition on the screens. But twitter was barely a twinkle in anyone’s eye back then.
The first true twitter moment for me was just a week ago when the Australian Liberal Party tore itself a new one. The traditional press, well, Annabel Crabb and Samantha Maiden, were posting tweets in real time and the news that Tony Abbott had won the #spill was announced on twitter a good ten minutes before it hit the ‘real’ news. Abbott’s press conference, which I watched via the ABC’s iView as I was in the UK at the time, was accompanied by a real-time stream of comments, jokes, lamentations and hilarity and all you needed to do to tune into it was follow the hashtag #spill in your favourite twitter client, or on the twitter website itself. Within a few minutes, #spill was the 2nd most popular topic in twitter in the whole world.
As a viewer, watching from the UK, you got that sense of being in the room with mates all having fun shouting at the telly. And that’s why twitter is cool, and that’s why it’s the future of TV. When things happen in real time, people will tweet about it.
So, too, with COP15. Sitting in the first major press conference of the event today, I noticed at least 10 journalists tapping away on their twitter home pages. If you follow the #COP15 hashtag you’ll see what they, and I, were writing.
But wait, there’s more. You’ll also see the tweets of thousands of people who are not here in Copenhagen but who have hopes that COP15 will deliver results. And you’ll also get the moaning of NGOs about corporatism wedged in with the whining of the climate sceptics and their non-science views on the world.
For a couple of hours today I was following, entranced, the trials of the many hundreds of journalists who’d been barred from the venue because a lady from the Cameroon decided to leave her suitcase unattended and security decided, not unreasonably, that it was a bomb.
Visions of airborne colourful clothes as her suitcase was blown up by a bomb disposal robot. Actually, I don’t think they blew her suitcase up, so scratch that.
The COP15 organisers have official twitter feeds for the press to follow to keep us all up to date with what’s going on, and where, within the massive Bella Center where COP15 is host to some 30,000 people. They also have supplied a free iPhone app we can use to find out where we are, what’s going on and where we are meant to be.
The UNFCCC has embraced new media. They have a Facebook fan page, Flickr group, Cisco Telepresence suites, and more. The Bella Center only holds 15,000 people and a staggering 34,000 people have registered to attend. I’m not quite sure how that happened, quite honestly, but it seems that someone within the UNFCCC has trouble saying no to people.
To cope with this, the UNFCCC has set up complete news coverage and live and on-demand webcast on the official conference website http://www.unfccc.int and mirrored it to http://www.cop15.dk, which is the official host country outreach site. In addition to that there is a daily video channel on YouTube and some behind the scenes videos from the Government of Denmark via http://www.YouTube.com/cop15.
As Australian Anthill’s official COP15 Correspondent, I’ll be tweeting away in as many sessions as I can get into. Follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/davesag