Yesterday I was in Birmingham for the JISC Conference – you can read about individual sessions in the other blog posts I’ve done but I wanted to post some general reflections on the event.
Firstly, it’s worth acknowledging the effort that had gone into the online side of the event. There was a ‘social network’ for the event at http://jisc08.crowdvine.com, tags to be used on blog posts, photos and microblogs had been advertised in advance, and you could join the event on Facebook. Lorcan Dempsey referred to this kind of activity as ‘the amplified conference‘ (also some interesting posts by Brian Kelly and Matt Jukes – the latter being involved in the organisation of this JISC conference)
What this added to the day is hard to say. The ‘crowdvine’ tool meant that I had a list of people I wanted to meet, and I used the ‘personal schedule’ tool during the day to know where I was meant to be. I met two of the people on my list (out of six I’d listed), which I guess is a start.
The use of the tags jiscconference08 and jisc08 means that you can view a large amount of material relating to the conference via Google as well as via ‘Onetag’ in a number of guises:
This definitely captures the event, and gives it an online presence well beyond the boundaries of the one day conference. Also, via Twitter, I was able to find out how to get wi-fi access (and I wasn’t the only one), as Matt Jukes was following all this background buzz, and responding to questions – which was great.
However, I did have a couple of problems:
Firstly, there is a an issue with information overload though – during the opening keynote I was trying to follow the ‘twittering’ as well as blogging the event, and in the end it was too much – I had to turn off my twitter tracking on my mobile.
The second issue I have I think is related to the event more generally, rather than just the online side of it, so I’ll come back to this in a minute.
So – what about the event overall? I think the opening keynote by David Puttnam was well delivered and contained some challenges that are worth thinking about. My experience of the parallel sessions was that they were trying to squeeze huge amounts into far too short a time – leading to both overruns (cutting into time to network in the breaks) and also leaving me wishing some topics could be explored in more depth.
Overall I think there is a lack of ‘space’ to discuss the issues covered by the conference. JISC activities are so many and varied, one day to cover everything leaves the impression of rushing through things, without ever leaving time to catch your breath and debate the issues. I felt that perhaps spreading the conference over two days might help – giving a better balance of work and social interaction, and leading to more thoughtful discussion of the issues on hand. I also think that the sessions need to be seen as the seeds for debate – some achieve this, but some fall short. Coming back to the online presence – although there is lots of online information, there seems to be a lack of online debate around the issues linked to the conference (I mean via the conference channels, not in general).
So – for next year, what do I think (if anyone is listening!):
- Use the online tools again, but think about whether there are ways of taking the debate online
- Reduce the number of sessions and increase the amount of time available (possibly the Edinburgh venue will lead to more people staying overnight – can this be exploited?)
- Run sessions that provoke debate, and find space for the debate to flourish