Changing nature of conferences

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Martin Weller
28 October 2009

One of the things I am interested in is the subtle ways in which new technology begins to alter standard practice over time, and without these changes being planned. In the academic world I think the conference is one such area. The academic conference can be seen as one of the core practices in higher education. It achieves many vital functions in academic practice, including:

  • Knowledge sharing - you get to present and listen to other talks
  • Validation - by sharing research and ideas within a subject community you get validation
  • Networking - you establish a network of peers
  • Recognition - publishing conference papers is often a first step for researchers to publishing papers and are recognised outputs
  • Socialising - slightly different from networking, there is a social element to conferences which make them enjoyable

Over the past few years remote participation has become more commonplace. By remote participation I don't mean solely online conferences, but rather the sort of vicarious, casual participation many of us undertake. This type of participation is often unofficial, and uses low key, free technology. It is often a hybrid of the following examples:

  • Twitter hashtags
  • Live streaming (whether official or via an individual)
  • Blogging
  • Live-blogging
  • Video/audio updates
  • Flickr streams
  • Slideshare presentations
  • Cloudworks/Friendfeed aggregations

There are a few things that interest me about this. The first is how does it change the nature of the conference to have this broader participation? Secondly, how can conference organisers and presenters best take advantage of it and incorporate it into the conference? Thirdly, what is the experience like for the remote participant compared with the 'real thing'? For this last question, I have created a quick 5 question survey to get a feeling for how remote participation compares with real attendance.

In this debate I'd really like to get opinions and views from people on how conferences have changed and, perhaps more importantly, ideas for how they could change in the future.

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AJ Cann
12:48pm 28 October 2009 (Edited 1:32pm 28 October 2009)


I'm all for augmented conferences which mix real people with virtual people. We're going to have to find out how to do this much better over the next few years as education and carbon budgets are progressively cutback, so the quicker we get on with it, the better. Note that I don't want to do away with RL conferences and replace them with online events, I want to use technology to extract the maximum bang per buck (or per kg of CO2).

Which technologies? In principle, all of them. Go to where the audience is rather than expect them to sign up to whatever crappy website you've just invented. The snag with this is that there is a risk of salami-slicing the audience and consequently the discussion. Roll-on the Google-Wave enabled conference when everything can be everywhere!

Gráinne Conole
12:59pm 28 October 2009


Hi Martin thanks for kicking this off. As someone who goes to far too many conferences and is looking to cut back, I think attending remotely has alot of advantages. Indeed I didn't go to ALT-C this year but participated remotely via cloudworks and to be honest felt I got far more out of it as a result, particularly as you and others live blogged sessions, which made a big difference. I think face to face conference still have a roll of course and for all the reasons you mention. But for me what is exciting now is the ability to augment them through the technologies - not only during the event but afterwards. @ajcann I totally agree with you - not one technology but a combination, go to where the audience is. I am not as sure as you seem to be that google wave is the answer,,,, I think the trick will be in seemless interioperability between the technologies so that individuals can custimise the space the way they want to and so that they can particiate through different channels.

AJ Cann
1:06pm 28 October 2009


Yes, I don't think Wave is The Answer, but I do think Wave and similar tools (such as FriendFeed) provide a way to empower augmented attendees to be able to use the technologies in the way that they want to rather than the way that conference organizers attempt to mandate. The aggregation attributes of FriendFeed and the drag and drop features being developed in Wave empower people and make the whole virtual presence thing much more attractive in that regard.

Martin Weller
1:27pm 28 October 2009


@AJ - yes, I wasn't proposing we do away with f2f conferences, but as you say with funding and green issues to the fore, I think we could make an argument that goes something like: 'If you get about 50% of the benefit, for 75% less C02, and it takes 25% of the time, then it may be worth making that trade-off for a few conferences.' Also I think institutions/managers could start encouraging this by specifically allocating time to it.

Of course it's a bit different if you are presenting, but I think we can start exploring new forms of conference here too, with maybe a hybrid approach.

Oh, and Wave _is_ the answer - we just don't know what the question is yet :)

Laura Czerniewicz
2:50pm 28 October 2009 (Edited 2:56pm 28 October 2009)


This is a most pertinent discussion as I discovered recently when I inadvertently "walked" into a debate at a conference ironically called Literacy in the Digital University. I was several thousand miles away so  what I  mean is I had picked up a  hashtag on twitter from far off Cape Town, (very usefully for me by the way, great papers). But I discovered later that the twitter stream was itself the subject of contestation at this event, where some felt it might be hijacking the educational agenda. For both sides of this experience see http://literacyinthedigitaluniversity.blogspot.com/2009/10/great-lidu-twitter-debate_23.html and http://design-4-learning.blogspot.com/2009/10/digital-literacies-lit-meets-tel.html

A delightful example of the very issue under discussion.

 

 

Matt Jukes
2:52pm 28 October 2009


I agree that its a mix of technologies that is key and not trying to enforce a particular technology that doesn't fit your audiences usual habits..

I also like the idea of a move towards smaller events that are held regionally and then amplified via the web - the events can build on each others themes/findings - the Carsonified FOWA/FOWD tours and Devdays are a nice example of this..

Martin Weller
3:04pm 28 October 2009


@Laura - thanks for this, I'd missed the 'harshtag' incident. It is a good example of the way technologies are changing conferences. It may be as Dave suggests a kind of mob rule, but it's also a way of getting feedback on, and then improving, your presentations.

@Matt - yes, I'm interested in different types of events, so maybe having one main event and a number of link ups with satellites eg another university sets aside a room for some staff and we have a link up.

Gráinne Conole
3:08pm 28 October 2009


Hi yes I agree we need to explore more alternative ways of delivering things. I have done alot of presentations via eluminate for example in the last year and they have worked really well. We have all the technologies we need to make this work - now all we need to do is think of clever and interesting ways of putting it all together  ;-)

Owen Stephens
4:20pm 28 October 2009


I think one of the issues about getting as much out of remote attendance is that I end up not putting as much in. I will 'attend' remotely while trying to do my usual work. Probably the opposite way round to physical attendance when I'll be focussed on the conference and snatching time to check email etc. in between.

I think I'd get more out of remote attendance if the time was 'set aside' - that is, it was accepted that I was 'at the conference' even though physically I might be in the office. This is a difficult mental shift I think (for me at least).

Owen Stephens
4:30pm 28 October 2009


On the 'harshtag' stuff - there was a good post from Marieke Guy earlier this year http://remoteworker.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/back-in-the-playground-bitching-on-twitter/ around the same issue. In the comments I suggest (and I still believe) that embracing the 'backchannel' is a way of modifying behaviour. If the twitter stream had been projected would people have been so pointed in their criticism?

Owen Stephens
4:35pm 28 October 2009


I'm not, in general, a big user of virtual worlds - Second Life etc. However, I have found attending virtual conferences in SL to add something to the experience. I suspect this is about giving a 'sense of place' in some way which you don't get through textual interaction. I think also being able to feel part of a 'crowd' that is attending also adds something - you can get an immediate feel for the 'size' of the conference.

Gráinne Conole
5:26pm 28 October 2009


Interesting Owen - I haven't been to a conference in Second Life yet but did lurk a little at the ReLive SL conference lat year. I must admit I found sitting next to a giant chicken somewhat disconcerting ;-)

Alan Levine
1:04am 29 October 2009 (Edited 1:04am 29 October 2009)


It's easy to  ake potshots about the characters one comes across in Second Life (I am a dog there, because I can), and I'm hesitant to paint broad strokes about its effectiveness vs something else, like everything mentioned here, there are spectrums of atrocious to wonderful.

At my organization, we constantly shit our platform for our online conferences- we see a value in trying newer ones rather than just staying with what we know worls; in 2006 we migrated them form web-based environments (like Elluminate/Connect) to Second Life. We've done at least 10 events (paid registrations) and have a good sense of what it takes to run them.

What I can say qualitatively is the amount of pariticipant to participant interaction has been much richer in the 3d environment; we see people tending to stick around between sessions, continuing conversations, informally teaching. In webinars, people bolt as soon as it is done. Our surveys indicate a more "connected" sense of presence from people who have participated; and (with some encouragement) presenters start to use the affordances of a 3D world rather than shjowing 2D slides.

Martin Weller
8:21am 29 October 2009


@Owen - yes that's a good point that Marieke makes - if you embrace/integrate the backchannel then it becomes your friend. It's true that we're also still learning how to use a backchannel.

Re SL - I'm not much of a fan either, but I can see how for  online conferences it does add something. It might be worth exploring as a hybrid model eg there is the 'real ALT-C and the SL ALT-C running simultaneously'

@Alan - I think SL probably mirrors what people expect from a conference more closely than the loosely coupled tools approach. So it works well for purely online conferences, but I don't think it works as well for the kind of vicarious participation in a real conference.

And this is my favourite typo ever :) "At my organization, we constantly shit our platform for our online conferences"

Laura Czerniewicz
8:52am 29 October 2009 (Edited 9:05am 29 October 2009)


The notion of what is a "real" conference is widely understood and deeply entrenched. The disruption currently being caused by technology also offers an opportunity to reconsider how satisfactory traditional conferences really are. I had an experience of a "conference" on ICTs for Development recently which consciously set out to challenge entrenched conference practices (I blogged about this at http://blogs.uct.ac.za/blog/laura-cet/2009/10/12/not-an-ordinary-conference).

I am now a convert to OpenSpace- opening up conversational spaces.

In this discussion here the focus has been on how ICTs are being used in unplanned ways. They can of course, also be used to widen participation, and grow communities, in planned ways (as in this case in Dakar).

Owen Stephens
9:39am 29 October 2009


Perhaps there is also a danger of thinking of a 'conference' as a single type of event. Of course there are common aspects, but conferences differ in flavour and structure, and so perhaps online participation needs to be tuned to this. Even within a single conference different modes are used.

Grainne says she got more out of ALT-C attending remotely this year. Now it may well be that the various parts happening 'off camera' or 'off blog' weren't of interest, but as far as I know there was no facility to take part in the various workshops online, and although the keynotes were well blogged and twittered etc. the smaller presentations would be hit or miss depending on who was in the audience, and they weren't filmed.

I'm involved in organising a more 'unconference' style event where the afternoon is about hands-on projects trying to find interesting uses for library data. We are about to run the 3rd of these events, and each time we've had interest in 'remote participation' - but doing something like audio or video streaming seems (to me) both complicated (how would you cover 10 small groups) and probably of little value to the remote 'participants'. We need tools here to bring remote people into the hands-on work - which both means a different set of tools, and a different mindset from the physical participants.

So far we've failed to get any real remote interaction, but I'm keen to push for it this time - whether it will be successful or not remains to be seen...

Frances Bell
10:09am 29 October 2009


Like this cloud - lots of interesting ideas.  I have seen some pretty silly 'acting out' type behaviour when twitterstream is broadcast in room - sexist comment on presenter, me me me type comments.  I think that we will learn how to 'behave' in these situations once they are less new, and in the mean time conf organisers can use services like Coveritlive that allows for a bit of moderation and organisation.  However, some of the 'bad behaviour' is genuine  frustration that comes not only from the poor quality of the keynote  but perhaps more from the sense that a particular speaker may be using their position for dominance rather than inspiration.  "here's what I think - I don't care what you guys think"

I think that there are some real risks with changing forms of conferences that there may be an even greater shift to the 'great and the good' getting to do the f2f stuff and and the 'plebs' yammering away on the back channel.  What will replace coffee time encounters in an online conference?

I am dipping into CCK09 this year and it's pretty tame compared with CCK08, though there some interesting forum conversations driven by participants.

Peter Miller
12:33pm 29 October 2009


I haven't been to an NMC conference in SL yet (they do have a great reputation) but the Virtual Worlds Best Practice Conference at Easter was an interesting experience with 4000 avatars, multiple parallel streams, posters, field-trips, socials, etc. I was totally in awe of the organisational skills of the volunteers who put it together on a shoestring budget, albeit with help in kind from RL entities such as ISTE.  ALT sadly was notable for its absence although, to be fair, it has dabbled a little with SL workshops. I do wonder whether there aren't significant commercial vested interests in keeping RL conferences besides the obvious professional ones. Maybe it's just that distances in the UK are less.

As others will doubtless have noticed, death-by-powerpoint is just as prevalent in SL as RL although the backchannel is some consolation, more available and arguably more versatile. The best presenters, however, make innovative use of the 3D environment. Of course, that's easier in some subjects (teaching in VWs) than others. The capacity to organise space dynamically in SL should lend itself well to alternative un-formats, albeit with a significant training overhead and some inevitable pain at the start.

In SL an event called Burning Life has just finished. It's run on a large number of contiguous sims modelled on the RL Burning Man which takes place in the Arizona desert. There were some educational builds there alongside amazing artworks and events and a fair bit of well-intentioned dross (in the eyes of the beholder etc). The notion of a similar scale /format educational conference would be intriguing (and I'm not saying BL organised itself).

Matt Jukes
2:50pm 29 October 2009


I think in regard to the 'acting out' on the backchannel when the stream is displayed the experiences at the Guardian Activate conference and the technology they used is interesting (http://www.guardian.co.uk/open-platform/blog/curating-conversations) - it is certainly something I've been thinking about for future events but it is important not to drift into censorship rather than moderation..

This quote below from Frances does rather nicely sum up a lot of my worries about the future of events though and its exactly this scenario that we need to avoid.

"I think that there are some real risks with changing forms of conferences that there may be an even greater shift to the 'great and the good' getting to do the f2f stuff and and the 'plebs' yammering away on the back channel."

Owen Stephens
3:05pm 29 October 2009


"I think that there are some real risks with changing forms of conferences that there may be an even greater shift to the 'great and the good' getting to do the f2f stuff and and the 'plebs' yammering away on the back channel."

I see what you mean, but surely the opposite is true. We already have a system means that the 'great and the good' get to do (more of) the f2f stuff. If we focus on improving the remote attendance I can only see the situation improving for those who are either not able to travel, or because 'the boss' gets to go instead.

AJ Cann
3:16pm 29 October 2009


Yes, I agree. The plebs who pay extortionate fees to attend conferences in fancy venues are finally getting a fair crack of the whip by being allowed to participate in discussions and agenda setting.

Frances Bell
3:23pm 29 October 2009


I think both are true Owen - online conferences can increase impact and participation BUT also serve to reinforce power differences.  In the mid 90s when the Internet was dominated by white middle class males, we were told that it was 'democratising' us.  That was a possibility not an outcome.  Now in late noughties, women outnumber men on the Internet but I can't imagine that anyone would claim that women dominate public discourse online.

I use gender only as an example, other power differences still exist,  as you suggest in your post.

Gráinne Conole
3:24pm 29 October 2009


I agree and being able to capture and aggregate these discussions is very powerful too. I was amazed by how much we captured from a workshop I ran last week in Vancouver for example http://cloudworks.ac.uk/index.php/cloudscape/view/1903

Owen Stephens
3:30pm 29 October 2009


Frances - I definitely agree - the idea that 'remote participation' could democratise participation is only a possibility, not a given. This was one of the things in my mind when I posted the comment about being able to set time aside for a conference even when participating remotely - if you aren't given this time, your ability to participate is very restricted even if the conference is supporting remote participation.

Owen Stephens
3:40pm 29 October 2009


Another thought about remote participation options. At the moment do we see this in a rather binary way - you either attend physically, or you participate online.

Is there a way of mixing this. I'm thinking of the example of remote workers making use of shared space to work together (e.g. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/sep/23/co-working-silicon-valley-job-crisis). Could we look at local 'hubs' of attendance which would reduce travel, but still give some networking benefits etc? It could even be effective within a single organisation?

Are there any examples of this?

AJ Cann
3:44pm 29 October 2009


I don't see it in a binary way, I see a full spectrum from physical presence alone to remote attendance only. Sitting in the multi-parallel sessions at ALT-C 2009 in Manchester, I spent most of my time augmenting the reality of the talk I was at with the data flowing out of the talk(s) I would like to have been at. I was there, but I was also elsewhere.

Peter Miller
4:06pm 29 October 2009


Of course, if you're augmenting but not at the conference at all, you don't have to fight for power sockets, limited bandwidth or the coffee queue.

AJ Cann
4:09pm 29 October 2009


Oh, that's a low blow Peter, but oh so true :-)

I wonder how long it will be until we see conferences venues with power sockets in the seats, like planes and trains. Probably not until after we have wireless power :-(

Owen Stephens
4:15pm 29 October 2009


Alan - I agree about the multi-parallel sessions - I did the same at ALT-C. But I haven't seen any examples of hub and spoke attendance - the idea of there being a central physical location, and then many smaller physical locations where people can remotely attend together.

Peter Miller
4:26pm 29 October 2009


@Frances I would say that women have a very significant, indeed pivotal, role in SL. I suspect the hypermediated nature of the environment suits females particularly well (compared to guys like me who struggle to walk and chew gum at the same time). While they may not always choose to occupy the most visible roles, they frequently occupy key positions as connectors/facilitators/enablers and are widely acknowledged for this. My guess is that you are finding CCK09 "tame" in part because of the absence of one of the prominent (RL female) SLebrity avatars.

Peter Miller
4:37pm 29 October 2009


@Owen I can at least give an example of a virtual hub-and-spoke model. There is an SL inworld TV program called Metanomics that attracts a significant viewing audience inworld. The audience, of course, attends inworld for the backchannel. As its size exceeds the capacity of an individual SL sim, the program is broadcast as a video stream to multiple sims and you choose where you want to go, assuming there is space. Of course, you go where there are likely to be avatars you know but the chat is broadcast across all the sims. You are, however, aware of who is in your sim and can IM them off the public channel.

Matt Jukes
4:51pm 29 October 2009


@Owen re the local 'hubs' idea the bTWEEN conference http://btween.co.uk/pages/btween-09-0 this year did something called bTWEEN Cities - where the keynotes and several other sessions were live streamed to other venues around the UK (the Watershed complex in Bristol being one).

The Bristol one was interesting (can't speak for elsewhere) as it was shown in a cinema with wifi so the effect was quite interesting and the gaps between streams was filled with the usual networking activity plus a few adhoc barcamp style sessions and discussions..

John Traxler
5:37pm 29 October 2009


hi everyone, I'm at mLearn in Florida but noticed this thread.

One of the issues implicit in this discussion seems to be the changed blurred and fragmented understandings of what's private, confidential or transient and what's public, visible or permanent and this seems to me to have ethical implications

john traxler

 

Peter Miller
9:39pm 29 October 2009


I think AJ and Owen have sorted it between them. The spokes will be railway stations with trains that never go anywhere but do offer power and internet connectivity at every seat. :)

Frances Bell
10:41pm 29 October 2009


@Peter I don't doubt that women can be competent and influential in SL.. You say "While they may not always choose to occupy the most visible roles, they frequently occupy key positions as connectors/facilitators/enablers and are widely acknowledged for this."  Being acknowledged as a facilitator does not mean you are influential in public discourse IMHO.  SL isn't really the public sphere.  Look at A list bloggers (and who they link to) , look at 'pronouncers' on Twitter - I think you will still see gender imbalance in the public sphere.

The SL person you mention form CCK08 (Prokofy?) was not gender typical in any shape or form.  She did liven things up a bit and question the assumptions of CCK08 but tended to shut down debate by her invective - she was allowed to question CCK08 assumptions but it was difficult for anyone to question her.

Peter Miller
11:55pm 29 October 2009


@Frances I wasn't referring to the "public sphere" and was specifically highlighting what I perceived as a more even balance in SL where actions (by the nature of the medium) tend to count for as much, if not more, than words. 

My allusion to Prok was mainly in the context of your describing CCK09 as being "tame".

All this is getting rather off-topic IMHO.

Peter Miller
5:19am 30 October 2009


@Frances I take that back. The SL stuff may be a digression in terms of being a minority interest but the power relations issue is clearly not off-topic. My interest conference-wise is primarily in carbon reduction, time-saving and educational opportunities for students but that is not the topic of the cloud. 

Frances Bell
7:13am 30 October 2009


Thanks Peter - a generous retraction. If conferences are means by which ideas and knowledge are surfaced and explored, and begin to enter the public sphere, then the online and social media elements are worthy of examination.  We agree that power relations are important and I am very interested to see how they are played out in the changing technological landscape.

Martin Weller
7:14am 30 October 2009


The time-saving/management element is an interesting one. Obviously remote participation does not hold such a monopoly over your time as actual attendance. One can select the sessions you want to pay attention to, do other stuff while the presentation is taking place, but also much of the participation can be asynchronous (to an extent, it doesn't have to be immediate always but equally you can't leave it until the conference is over).

When compared with travelling to a conference and then devoting days to attendance this is a big saving (although with wifi we can at least do other work while at a conference now). When you take travelling into account most conferences occupy around 5 days - that's a big chunk of time and whether we like it or not, I think we'll find it harder to justify that kind of commitment now.

Like AJ I'm not suggesting it's an either/or, but maybe it's not just all face to face attendance now. We ought to consider some of the downsides - for instance although I lose all the 'wasted' time when there are no sessions on I am interested in and I end up in a dull, irrelevant one, I'll also lose some of the serendipity that being in a physical location forces on you. There are probably ways of achieving this remotely also I guess.

AJ Cann
7:34am 30 October 2009


And on the serendipity front, just being bored for a few days, compared with the frenetic day to day pace of the job, is often quite productive in terms of thinking. Call it reflection if you want.

Martin Weller
8:00am 30 October 2009


@AJ - Yes! I get some of my best ideas for papers, blog posts, research etc while at conferences, which wouldn't happen if I was doing all the normal stuff in between. This 'headspace' element is really important and one I'd missed off my original list

Gráinne Conole
11:35am 30 October 2009


@AJCann @MWeller totally agree - I often find that being away at a conference is a good way to get some writing done and also to take ideas forward. Having to give a talk and come up with some new ideas or a new angle on things. I think I primarily think visually so tend to map things out visually in Powerpoint and then flesh the ideas out through talking them through and ultimately writing them up. That has certainly been the approach I've adopted with some of my latest thinking around the notion of "open design" - which funnily enough I am talking about today at the AECT conference! ;-) Here's a link to the cloud for it.

Nathan Lomax
5:48am 2 November 2009


Alan, "we constantly shit our platform for our online conferences" - is that one of the functions of the dog avatar?

I have checked out the education sections in SL (British Council aisle/ conferences) and, unfortunately, always found myself alone. For English language teaching, I have found educational games such as moshimonsters etc more effective than SL due to the focus on the puzzles and less chat room interaction with 'giant chickens', who may expose my students to inappropriate language/ topics.

Peter Miller
8:26am 2 November 2009


@Nathan

If you went to somewhere in SL for a conference and found yourself alone, the chances are you got the time wrong. Most times are quoted as SLT which tends to be 8 hours behind us. SL is very much an event-driven environment so many education sims are quiet for much of the time. You can close sims to avoid interlopers though personally I've never had a problem during classes and brief the students on e-safety and appropriate use. There are also behind-the-firewall options if you want more stringent control.  I don't want to get into a debate on the merits or otherwise of teaching in SL as that is not the topic of this thread.

Nathan Lomax
10:09am 3 November 2009


@ Peter

Yes I think you are right- have to try to be on time in future!

Thanks

fenton-jones
4:32am 9 November 2009


Martin,

I think you make the point well (perhaps unwittingly) when you say; "This type of participation is often unofficial, and uses low key, free technology". The idea that people who can't possibly attend should be considered is just not a part of an edu institution's charter; so using technology like the accessgrid or EVO to run a series of well publicized distributed conferences in (say) three sites (unis) at one time is unlikely to happen in the edu world. It's still hub and spoke ( I'm reading)

If you're not in the academic scene it's unlikely you ever will be, and if you are, you attend conferences to 'give a paper' and improve your ranking.That's the system.

The thing I've been noticing over the past 12 months is that people in the .gov space are getting their heads around the online tools to include remote citizens in their conferences. (do a google on public sphere 3  .au). .Gov institutions have an imperative, while .edu institutions don't.

So how might academic conferences change in the future? I think firstly, they will become more like workshops and secondly, run as a series, not as one offs for the in crowd. And if social inclusion is the principle driving this change, then I guess unis will have to be considering them as marketing devices. TED seems to be pointing the way, without the continuing online stuff.

I'm looking forward to seeing how 200 OER unis collaborate to run global conferences/discussions.

Gráinne Conole
8:27am 9 November 2009


Yes the TED series is excellent. My feeling is that we will get a mix - there will still be a range of face-to-face events - some big, some small, augmented with technologies enabling those at a distance to participate. The use of eluminate and access grid is of course only likely to increase - I am doing an increasing number of these kinds of sessions, in fact I am doing a 'virtual fieldtrip' of cloudworks on the 16th to Canada. For me both face to face and online are important and fulfil different purposes. I am going to the JISC CETIS conference tomorrow. I've set up a cloudscape and a number of us will live blog it, but I am looking forward to catching up with people there face to face. One of the most important parts of face to face conference is the conversations between the sessions.

Elisheba
2:17am 16 November 2009


This is a great conversation. I am thankful for remote participation because in many cases, physical attendance is not even an option. I reflect on these issues in this post on my virtual conference experiences.

I concur with Owen Stephens that it's hard to dedicate time when participating remotely while physically in the office. Despite clearly marking my calendar, I have been literally dragged from my desk and headphones to attend a meeting.

My preference is for synchronous live video/audio streaming with the option to post questions via chat. This way, any participant whether attending in-person or remotely can follow and add their own commentary via tweeting, blogging...etc. For remote participants, these sessions are good substitutes for the face-to-face experience but of course, time difference becomes a barrier. The other limitation is that conference attendees receive presentations on USB drives which remote participants may never get access to.

Beyond the technology for supporting the actual conference/forum, thought should be given to archiving the recordings, presentations, tweets and other material for post-conference access. This is usually overlooked once the buzz is over and yet provides the potential for sustaining the dialogue generated by the conference. Below are decent post-conference archiving examples that I have come across. They are not in academia but show how different social media tools (blogs, tweets, slides...) can be compiled on one portal to give a snapshot of the forum. 

 

Juliette Culver
10:18am 16 November 2009


Thought this was rather interesting about a conference where laptops etc. were banned.

http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/11/quarantined-conferences-claust.html

Leslie Carr
5:58pm 22 January 2010


This discussion is an excellent example of one of the ways that our technological support of academic engagement is very weak: 49 comments over 19 days yields a single 10' 3" scroll of debate (not including this comment). No better in email, twitter, facebook or any so-called social networking tool. An extended academic debate seems to be either ephemeral and uncaptured, implicitly linked between many media and channels of communication or unwieldy when archived in a single place.

Gráinne Conole
10:53am 23 January 2010


Hi Les

Nice to see you in here! Hope all is well at Soton!

Some thoughts on your post....

I think it partly depends what the debate is for and how structure/formal/intense it is. In cloudworks there seems to be developing a mix - some clouds have signficant, others don't and are more fleeting discusions. Personally I dont see a probelm with this. As with any conversation - it takes more thatn one person by definition! ;-) and successful conversations are oftern moderated/structured - so again where there has been some mdoeration or synthesis of key concepts that seems to work well.

Isn't the fragmented nature of disourse inevitable nowadays? There is no single channel for debate - indiviudals have to choose their own mix.

Interestingly at the moment there is a parallel debate on theory and methodology here in cloudworks and in a hotseat for the networked learning conference. As 'initiator of both of these I feel a responsibility to help move the debate along and I plan to synthesis the dicussions and feedback. 

Final point! We are still debating in the team the best format for the dicussions - personally I dont like this narrow column, apart from anything else its a waste of space, we are also discussing whether we should have some form of threading or keep to a sequential metaphor. We have already  now got tabbing as a way of organising clouds in a cloudscape - see for example the recent cloudscaoe that has been set up for a forthcoming learn about fair. So in defense we are still very much watching and learning/adapting based on user behaviour in here!

ADAM HASAN
11:18am 10 April 2011


Hi All,

It has taken professional bodies a long time to make simple changes in conference change so that attendees for obtain credit for continuing professional development. In order to count as CPD, there must be objectives and evaluation. How would this work as a virtual attendee? Unless there is credit available for participation in flash debates, I can't see how people who also require CPD will choose this kind of debate, despite the advantages in terms of flexibility and cost.

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Tags

conference   debate   participation   web2

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