17 April 2019

Birkenhead Sixth Form College students have been treated to a talk from one of the media industry’s leading technology experts.

Investigative journalist and author, Jamie Bartlett, visited the College to speak to Media, Film and Politics students about his work as a specialist in the realms of the internet, discussing topics such as the dark net, crypto-currencies and the influence of tech companies on elections.

Along with regularly writing for national newspapers, Jamie has published three books and also presented the two part BBC series ‘The Secrets of Silicon Valley’.

Jamie talked students through the research he put into his books, operating undercover for the first two, ‘The Dark Net’ and ‘Radicals: Outsiders Changing the World’, placing himself into online subcultures of racism, drug markets and anarchism to better understand the people involved in operating in the darkest corners of the internet.

He then moved on to speak about his third book, ‘The People vs Tech’ which looks at how fast-changing technology is altering the course of politics and democracy at its core, highlighting the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal where the organisation helped influence the Trump election campaign and the Brexit vote.

Students were also able to ask Jamie a wide variety of questions and get their books signed by the author.

Jamie said: “I think this age group of 17 or 18-year-olds need to prepare themselves for what the world is going to look like in ten or 20 years when they’re in charge, they’re deciding which political party to join, which newspaper to subscribe to and who to vote for. All of the trends that we’re seeing now are going to be even more pronounced.

“If we think back to 20 years ago and try to imagine how you would react if someone told you about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, you would think they were mad. So I’d like them to consider how they need to think about these problems in a long term, serious way, looking at what’s really going on rather than obsessing about the small details.

“We can talk about the issues that they’re dealing with in their classrooms – monopolies, disruption from technology, information bubbles -  and try to imagine how they will be when they roll forward.”

Jamie, who explained how he took it upon himself to dig deeper into topics that journalists were talking about but not properly understanding, such as the dark net, described how important media awareness is for today’s young people:

“In my opinion, media literacy in the single most important thing you can teach. You have access to the world’s information now; anyone can go and learn all the wonders of the world, more than we ever could’ve imagined. This issue is how you make sense of it, how you understand it, filter it and make judgements on it. It’s a skill. You don’t just pick that up, someone has to teach you that.”

The students much appreciated Jamie’s time, talking about fascinating topics which have a huge part to play in everyone’s life.

For more on studying Media Studies at Birkenhead Sixth Form College, click here.