DICKENS ON THE STRAND AND GALVESTON
REBUILDING SUPPORTED BY INTERNET COMMUNITY
Web 2.0 tools like Facebook and Twitter used to promote Dickens on the Strand, Galveston Historical Foundation, and Galveston disaster relief.
Dickens on the Strand returns to GalvestonIsland on December 6th and 7th.
Dickens on the Strand, GalvestonIsland’s signature holiday event, entertains its visitors with 19th century-styled food, entertainment and parades. With this festival’s emphasis on history, it’s therefore surprising to see how Web 2.0 tools, such as Facebook, have been used to promote the special event, as well as other rebuilding efforts on the Island.
Hurricane Katrina, which landed in 2005, created a flurry of stand-alone websites and calls for support, but Hurricane Ike became the first “Web 2.0” storm, the first in which internet users could use more powerful social networking and blogging tools to prepare, then report on the hurricane, then about the rebirth of Galveston and nearby areas.
Charles Dickens himself would have approved of the serial nature of Web 2.0, with its frequent updates – as his fame began with the “Pickwick Papers,” a serial novel published over time in the London papers. Dickens was known for his frequent cliffhangers, with many of his novels appearing in three or more parts.
Among the top Web 2.0 tools is Facebook, a highly popular social networking tool for friends to keep in touch. Developed originally for college students, Facebook has become an important tool for charities and businesses, as well as individuals of all ages.
Dickens on the Strand, Galveston Historical Foundation’s key event for historic fun and fundraising, now has its own “fan page,” a group of over fifty users on Facebook.
Sherri Page, a "BOI" ("Born on the Island", or native of Galveston Island), is an artist in London, England, and is a member of the Dickens on the Strand group on Facebook. "I loved everything about Dickens!" she explains. "It was always such fun, good food and drink, nice atmosphere, and of course, the Strand is just a wonderful place to be." She dismisses stereotypes that Facebook is used only by college students and teenagers. "I am 55 and have tons of friends, of all ages, from all over the world. In my experience that stereotype does not apply at all."
Page notes that technology has made a difference in keeping in touch with family and friends who were evacuating from the Island. "Following Ike was much easier than following Alicia. I was in New York City at the time and remember speaking to my mother the night before Alicia hit. When I tried to call her the next morning her phone was dead - I got very little if no news on my family for days. The internet and modern technology made it much easier to keep up with Ike."
Page is also using Facebook software to raise funds for Galveston disaster relief, using an application, Causes, developed specifically for the Facebook platform. Causes allows users to recruit friends and pledge money for charity. Matt Mahan and Sarah Koch first created the Gulf Coast Hurricane Relief page in the autumn of 2008.
Over 33,000 users of Facebook have since joined the Gulf Coast Hurricane Relief cause, (http://apps.facebook.com/causes/115006?m=4c64c1a1&recruiter_id=17506007), including Page, who is now an administrator of the group. In a few short months, the group has raised over $6,000 for Convoy of Hope, a non-profit supporting survivors of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. There are similar groups created on the Facebook network, including a 71-member student group of GalvestonHigh School students, supporting hurricane relief (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=26511697982).
Facebook pages are sometimes used in tandem with a feed of data from Twitter, whose popularity soared during Hurricane Ike. Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) allows users to send and receive brief text updates via cell phone, which are also available on the web.
Among the most popular Twitter feeds prior to the storm was chronsciguy, or Eric Berger, a science reporter for the Houston Chronicle, who reported on the then-growing threat from Hurricane Ike in the Gulf. After the disaster, both reporters and amateur bloggers were able to report back on the status of Ike, including leighjones (Leigh Jones), a reporter for the Galveston Daily News; and markmayhew (Mark Mayhew), a Galveston local who calls himself a “crowd-supported journalist”. Help4galveston is also a popular twitter feed, run by Erin Toberman, who helps manage the charitable response to the storm through a traditional website (http://www.help4galveston.org), but also sends twitter updates about Galveston’s rebuilding.
It’s likely that many “citizen journalists” and professionals alike will continue to use Twitter and Facebook to describe the Dickens event.