New Kind of Conferences

There is a growing trend to organize events that are breaking the established and rather rigid form of conferences. People are tired, both to listen and to give presentations with slides in a dark conference room(s). Also, only very few of us are really good speakers with charisma and interesting things to show.

I guess the reason why we need different kind of events is related to new (social) technology. With Internet we may very well just read, listen and watch presentations online. There is no more reason to travel to other side of the world to do this. In most of the cases I am just happy to get the book of proceedings, especially if it is online. Even better if the papers are just published in one of the Open Access Journals.

This has opened the request and possibility to organize different kind of events. It looks that people want to get together to do something productive: to share experiences and ideas and to come-up with new ideas. This requires different kind of arrangements and practices. These new ways of working in a conference or meeting are not necessary that new at all, but are now fashionable among tech. people.

I’ll list here some of my favourite events, which go under the category of “new kind of conferences”.

The Future of Learning in a Network World. This looks – at least on the website – a real “killer event” (sorry for the poor expression) organized by Leigh Blackall. I would love to organize a similar kind of “travelling open space conference” (of course with Leigh, as it is his concept) in Europe. Anyone else interested in?

Doors of Perception is probably the oldest (and the greatest) of the new kind of conferences. Actually they have stopped to call themselves a conference. They nowadays call themselves encounter. I am personally very thankful for the Doors. The Doors and the network around the conference have been critical for me in the process of finding my professional identity as a designer/researcher. Some of the topics brought up in the first Doors conferences in the early 1990’s and in the mid 1990’s were also behind the founding of the Media Lab UIAH in Helsinki, where I currently work.

Conferences and events organized by the Arki research group of the Media Lab UIAH are always worth of participating. They have made number of “design experiments” to find out new forms and concepts to arrange interesting and useful gatherings that are using new media in a meaningful ways. The Media Lab 10-years seminar with panels and pop-corn launch for follow-up discussions with those who were interested in to continue the discussion, worked out very well. In several events – e.g. in the Media Lab 10-years and in the Good, bad irrelevant conference – they have used the TV-studio of the University to shot with several cameras all the panel discussions and presentations. The live editors of then videos have then wrote metadata to the time stamps, to make out of the video material meaningful clips that can then be searched and reorganized online by the users. In one event they gave for all the panel speakers a pile of papers that were speech balloons on which the speakers where then writing their main keywords and showing them while saying their comment. The keywords where then used as tags pointing to that part in the video. BTW: The Arki group also produced the great video of Larry Lessig’s talk in Helsinki in May 2004.

Last autumn I took part in the Nokia Community Involvement Stakeholders Days. Actually the event was rather “traditional” series of presentations with discussion. But, what was very nice in there was the way they used media to document the event. All the sessions were shot with two cameras, a group of business students were writing notes about the discussions and a professional photographer was shooting everything. Well-written memos of the sessions were then given for all the participants during the breaks. You took part in the morning sessions and when coming back from the lunch they gave you notes with pictures from the morning session. Some weeks afterwards they sent a DVD for all the participants with videos of all the sessions.

Aula events are nice, even that the format of them have often been rather traditional. But just for organizing free and open events with very high profile speakers and for getting people from different fields together to talk about technology in a large context, Aula should be rewarded with some kind of innovation award (we have number of them in Finland).

Both, the first and the third (I missed the second) Readme festival have made me feel good. No more to say – you must experience them.

Feel free to comment and add links to great events of yours.

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2 Responses to “New Kind of Conferences”

  1. Leigh says:

    Yes mate! I would be very interested in seeing the Euro end of "The Furture of Learning" go ahead. Drop into the wiki for the New Zealand leg, and add your ideas on how we can make this connection happen in September, and flow onto something in Europe.

  2. Bee says:

    "They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom
    for trying to change the system from within
    I'm coming now, I am coming to reward them…"

    First the penguins gather in NZ, and then connect in Europe

    Teemu, this is a brainwave … Tux samba in Brazil next :-)

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