I had been talking to my friend Chris Willshaw after Ewans 4ip presentation at Edinburgh Uni business school last night and had mentioned how essentially a football crowd is a 'Flash Mob' in waiting. Lo and behold today I find that a group of researchers from the University of Glasgow are set to revolutionise football terraces with the help of mobile technology.


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Comment by Steven Livingstone on November 30, 2008 at 15:28
There is a distinction of organized football hooliganism and ad hoc. I've read quite a few books on these, most recently John O'Kane's book.

I noticed a distinction between their kinds of organized battles (pre-organized using technology as you point out) and the other common occurrence whereby the (lack of) Wisdom of the Crowds sees one or two start things and a flash mob emerge of people who were simply there for the day (the latter being far more concerning imh0). I question whether given technology, this latter group are likely to "organize" to get more involved... maybe they'd wisen up or could be persuaded to real time by this mobile technology :)

In terms of the lunchtime forums, i suspect for a reasonable number - especially those vocal - they spend the remainder of the afternoon discussing the games in the boozer and so when they finally get back to their PC's to add comments to the fans forum, their views may have been amplified and most conversations end up leftfield of where they started. Maybe that's what you mean by the "pre-match boozer" comment.

There is a lot to say i suspect for catching the *real* opinion at that moment, although how wisdom fits into this could well evolve on a per conversation basis.
Comment by David White on November 30, 2008 at 14:18
There is definitely a potential in communication technology to do more harm than good to football crowds. Hooliganism is an extreme example- I think this sub-culture was the quick to explore the potential of mobile phone technology, though they tend to leave the pillows at home...

Also I think to an extent 'Fans Forums' have had a negative influence on the essence of a Saturday lunchtime for many football fans. Despite giving the average football fan a broader range for their persuasive power (and opening a more inclusive dialogue between the mass media and supporters), there is something in the micro-analysis of events that doesn't sit too well with me. Something in the wisdom of the pre-match boozer is lost on these sites, maybe it's because more ofter than not the 'wise' don't know how to use a computer properly!
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on November 30, 2008 at 12:48
Opting into technology vs opting out of society?

This is a a good intellectual polarity - but one that is easily exaggerated. In this field of activity who is the most valuable fan, the tech-obsessed instant communicator, or the guy who takes the under 16 youth team unpaid. One is opting into technology, the other may be technology-challenged but delivers a more supportive social function than any technology system or platform. Sometimes think I use technology to avoid human/social/public activity, and that can lead to the 'privatisation' of your life, which is the very enemy of football's core collectivism. Great debate nonetheless.
Comment by Michael Coulter on November 30, 2008 at 9:55

Here's a nice 20 minute presentation from researcher/designer Jan Chipchase of Nokia at this years LIFT conference.

He discusses nine trends shaping the future of social interactions.

He doesn't talk about football fans, but I do think some of his points might be appropriate to this thread.

Some of bis observations cover:

Serial-solitary interaction

Sharing as a default.

Opting into technology vs opting out of society?

Real time question answering. Real time associations.

Speed of change. The 'cradle-to- grave' lifetime of a service to users could be measured in hours.

Good stuff.
Comment by Steven Livingstone on November 29, 2008 at 18:36
Absolutely agree Stuart. I followed the second half of the Celtic game today "on the road" to my mums in Clydebank. For years now i can remember refreshing the page and the text commentary isn't great at all and all i have is SMS to talk back.

Lots of opportunity (in fact i bought WAPGlasgow in 1999 to do something, had some local WAP services, but was a bit too early really - had to spend most of my time explaining to people what WAP was and why it would be important!).

If Scotland has a market for anything where people spend without thinking, collaborate without a second thought (the terracing banter) it's football !
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on November 29, 2008 at 18:20
The other issue here is that even the BBC's rate-a-player tool with its poor mobile functionality is restricted to top English Premiership games. It will be years before it rolls out to the Scottish First, so I will have to rely on user generated mobile blogging.

Two 4ip themes for the price of one, the hyper-local capabilities of web 2.0 and the mobile capabilities of digital media.

4iP is already devloping in this area via a project 'down south' but its small compared with the potential of the Glagow project, so a strong argument for Ewan to aggregate them, or yo push forward with a bigger partnership on the Scottish front. We've talked about it but not had time to react yet.
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on November 29, 2008 at 18:01
Yes but it seems slow and as you say mobile interface is poor. Also think the moderation aspects are weighted against genuine fan opinion.


So earlier today St Johstone took the lead against rivals Dundee there were 2000 visiting fans from Perth, one of them logged as 'amonkey' sms texts the score to WAP, its picked up in california, bounced back , picked up again on an army bases in Germany by blogger injuredsaint who is in the army.

7 minutes later Jim Spence via the open all mics function on BBC Scotland reports the goal, and another four minutes later it appears on a text update on BBC.com. (Ok Dundee equalised but that's not
digital media's fault)
Comment by Steven Livingstone on November 29, 2008 at 11:31
You remember as a kid at Primary school the ball would be kicked and *everyone* from defenders to attackers would run for it in the same direction. Were we just a flash mob miles ahead of its time?

@David - the BBC allows live participation of user ratings on their web site and they even have a "Your Shout" section ... they just don't have a particularly good mobile interface as of yet.

Example : here
Comment by David Hamill on November 29, 2008 at 10:59
Thanks for the clarification Stuart. You did a better job explaining it than the BBC.

Perhaps you could use mobiles in some way for player ratings. In the paper you'd often wonder if the person doing the rating actually watched the game. Particularly in internationals. A lot of my mates get incensed by it.

Imagine if the man of the match that was decided with supporter input. You'd have to get some egg head algorithms in there to balance the fans out. Put the code of the player to vote for on the ticket and marry that up with something that you can only see if you're at the game.
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on November 29, 2008 at 8:16
As I understand it they are also using a range of different hand held devices including SMS, photo-blogging etc to track fan behavior rather than merely ethnographic research.

So: Radford72>Savo1-0>SingaporeSaint>2WAP>1884>208BusGoMad

The above 'code' if you can decode it has already tested the ethnography of how a serial blogger and fan forum administrator by called Radford72 reported a St Johnstone goal scored by Steven 'Savo' Milne, which was communicated by SMS to a Perth engineer living in Singapore, and then was communicated back via mobile message via the St Johnstone unofficial fan forum at WeArePerth (WAP) to a bus load of fans from the 208 St Johnstone Supporters Club, via the bus convener a women known as 1884, which is the club's founding date. The bus were stuck on a motorway an not yet in the ground, three minutes before the BBC Radio reporter was able to communicate with the broadcaster to announce the goal via the radio.

The practice is well known. It just needs to be harvested as a nascent form of digital information-based and fan-media, easily as important as the fanzine movement of the 80s and the subsequent web-forum stuff in the '90s.

What is remarkable is that is you showed the code to a traveling St Johsntone fan, the club has 1000 regular traveling fans, 90% of them could decode it without claiming any knowledge of digital media information. The 208 bus is family bus with members aged 5motnhs to 70 year old. It is split 50/50 by gender and is convened by a woman. The bus challenges every stereotype about football fans.

You can check out their photo-site which is also on ning at www.supersaints.ning.com, Radford 72 blogs and administrates on the forum Pie and Bovril and WAP is a dedicated St Johnstone forum at WAP

Just to reassure you that this is not fantasy and that these people are perfectly sane this is the bus convener Bev1884 at the 208 fancy-dress away game in Dumfries:


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