Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Shirky: The backchannel and conference design

Ah, one of my favorite themes about the intersection between online and offline interaction. Clay Shirky on Many2Many takes a look at the impact of online channels related to F2F events in Many-to-Many: The backchannel and conference design.

I could blather about this for hours but here are the three thoughts I'd like to put out to the blogosphere.

1. How can we best use our F2F time, including at "conferences?" - I think it was Pete Kaminksi, but I'm not sure, who said something like "our F2F time is too precious for work." Now my dividing line between those two is fuzzy as hell, but I totally agree that it is time to think about the precious F2F resource and how best to use it. This challenges ANY conference model, but in my mind it suggests more things like Open Space.

2. What are the ways we can use pre/post online work to make the most of the F2F time? In the sometimes successful (yes, into every life a little rain must fall) Muckabouts I've been party to organizing, the use of pre for agenda creation and relationship creation/deepening and post for reflection and next steps has been powerful. I use this in my work in international development as well. It works. Furthermore, by starting online, people see how they CAN develop "real" relationships with each other as they verify what they first "sensed" online and then experienced F2F. Starting online also makes it easier to go back online. I know this goes contrary to a lot of "common wisdom" of starting F2F, but I believe in it strongly. Again, context and how you do it matters, of course!

3. Control and Responsibility - The more we can support people taking responsibility for their learning and experiences, the better off I believe we are. This is really what those jargon words, "capacity building" and "sustainability" are all about. A few individuals can catalyze all they want, but change or forward movement requires the whole wave to wash upon the shore, not just a few drops! I think these online adjuncts (or are they central?) are one area to explore to support the wave.

Now, the things I have been thinking about a lot in terms of technology in the room at F2F conferences (IRC,IM, wiki, group annotation, etc.)include:

  • How does this divide us? When is this productive? Deletory?
  • What are the preparation implications (tools, training, etc.)
  • When do you turn it off? Why? Who says?


Blogger Martin said...

Hi Nancy

I have posted a brief comment on the Critical Psychology blog -

11:26 PM  

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