Putting the social back into security

DWP has launched a YouTube channel.  It’s not the first for a UK government department – No 10 and the FCO at least were there before.  And there is no easy way of telling whether it is the first government use of YouTube as a campaign channel – that’s one of the problems with emergent classification – but it’s a brave attempt to explore new ways of communicating.  This isn’t about grand policy or prime ministerial speeches – it’s about helping and encouraging lone parents to find their way back to work.

Various thoughts come to mind when watching them:

  • This is very much niche entertainment:  one video has been up for six weeks and has been viewed 1,400 times, the other has been there for a couple of weeks and has been watched 400 times
  • There is a nod to the amateur ethos of YouTube:  the earlier video in particular has shaky camera work and a self-referential knowingness – “say hello to the camera”.  This is not the style of public information films, but also doesn’t quite get past the professional trying hard to look slightly amateur.
  • There is a deliberate blurring between staff and customers.  In this video,
    the Jobcentre Plus lone parent adviser reveals that she is herself a
    lone parent and a past beneficiary of the support which she now gives others.  This is government trying to act like big sister, not look like big brother.
  • YouTube is in many ways a social network – it is about sharing and contributing, not just about passively watching.  Government hasn’t quite worked out how to do that yet:  on the lone parent videos, comments are disabled.  This is still, in its post-modern way, a monologue  not a conversation.
  • But YouTube is more subversive than that.  The conversation is going to happen anyway.  Looking at the videos on the YouTube site, rather than embedded  here, is a different experience.  From this page, there is a splendidly anarchic list of “related videos” – starting with Jobcentre Wierdo and followed by a number of others which don’t quite toe the official line.  It is a success of social engagement of a kind – I suspect the FCO doesn’t have many related videos with their customers setting their experiences to music.  And indeed, looking at Haydon Warren-Gash, British Ambassador in Colombia  sitting behind a desk speaking straight to a static camera, his head framed by the British and Colombian flags, the semiotics point in a very different direction.  Yet even here there is a conversation to be had – viewers can add comments if they want to, though so far none of the 136 viewers has chosen to do so.

Comments

  1. Great that DWP finally realising that Youtube presents a great opportunity to reach customers. It is just a shame that the organisation’s internal IT does not allow any employees to access the same site. Youtube could also be a very useful way of direct communication between customers and staff. When’s this coming?

Comments are closed.