Matt Jukes, in a post about the JISC Services Skills Day, used the term “Amplified Conference” to describe the approach to be taken to the event. This term, which was coined by Lorcan Dempsey, describes a conference which exploits networked technologies to enable the topics addressed at a conference to be heard and influence a larger audience than would normally be the case.

As I mentioned in a trip report, the JISC Services Day exploited the (excellent) network facilities at Said Business Business School by having a dedicated blogger, who produced a blog post in realtime for all of the plenary talks, and a tag for the event (‘skillsday2007‘) which would enable the data created by users of other Web 2.0 tools – other bloggers, Flickr users (Stuart Yeates used this tag for the photographs he took on the day), people, like myself, who used del.icio.us to bookmark relevant resources, etc. – to be found and reused. And, incidentally, a photograph Stuart took of me managed to attract the attention of one person, with the comment “what a great portrait! full of life and twinkle. He looks like a good regaler.” (I’ll treat that as a complement!)

In retrospect, however, it struck me that the approach taken merely amplified the voice of the speakers, by providing a transcipt of their talks. What we didn’t get was an amplification of the views of the participants at the event, or, indeed, the views of people who were unable to attend the event.

At UKOLN we have been organising Amplified Events for some time. The technologies we have used include:

  • Blogs: As with the JISC Services Skills day we have been lucky to have had a skilled writer (Owen Stephens) who has been comfortable enough with blogging technologies to provide real time blog reports which, as can been seen from the examples at UKOLN’s IWMW 2005 and IWMW 2006 events (and the UCISA 2004 and UCISA 2007 conferences) are readable and comprehesive, providing an excellent example of how to amplfiy talks at conferences.
  • Skype: On a couple of occassions we have had remote participanmts who have listened in to an event using Skype (with Skype’s chat facility being used as a back channel, which allowed a local mentor to support the remote particpant).
  • Wikis: At IWMW 2006 and IWMW 2007 we made use of MediaWiki followed by WetPaint to support the brreakout groups. As can be seen from an example from IWMW 2007, this amplified the report of the discussion sessions which took place (moving away from the tyranny of the closed and non-interoperable world of flip charts!)
  • Chat facilities: I feel that a chat facility provide the most democrat tool for amplifying an event, as it can be decoupled from buy cheap drugs plenary talks and discussion groups, allowing all participants an equal voice. The Gabbly service was used to provide a chat service at IWMW 2007, although other tools, such as IRC, have been used at other events.
  • PowerPoint slide illustrating impact of people in the UKPodcasting and VideoCasting: Recording a talk or videoing a presentation can allow the content to be amplified in a time dimension, to complement the geo-spatial amplification provided by the other tools I’ve mentioned. I should add that the benefits of this approach were brought home to me at the JISC CETIS Conference 2006, when, in the closing plenary talk on Blended Learning: Pragmatic Innovation, Jim Farmer (from the Center for Scholarly Systems Architecture, Georgetown University, USA) mentioned me in his list of people in the UK who had influenced his thinking. It turned out that Jim was referring to the recordings of the plenary talks for a joint UCISA/UKOLN/CETIS workshop on Initiatives & Innovation: Managing Disruptive Technologies event on I organised in February 2006. It seems that Jim listened to the recordings of the talks by Oleg Liber, Robert Sherrat and John Dale (but not my talk as I was unable to record my talk while simultaneously speaking!) during on long journey and cited the work described by these three speakers at various events and meetings over in the US.

I think it is important to acknowledge that use of such technologies is not for everyone (as Matt Jukes recently mentioned, although he has several gadgets he enjoys using, at events he prefers to use a pen and paper for his notetaking. And not all events would be supportive of participants typing away at their keyboards while speakers are talking. We recognised this at IWMW 2005 (when we initially encouraged exploitation of the WiFi network at a UKOLN event) and ensured that we asked the participants for their feedback on this experiment. For this community the feedback was very supportive and we have built on this approach since then, although we still encourage feedback and seek to address the concerns of those who do find it distracting to be sat next toi people who are typing away during a presentation (perhaps we should have a quiet corner at such events, or perhaps a training course on how to type quietly! )

And note that UKOLN has published various briefing papers on the exploitation of WiFi networks at events, including ones on Exploiting Networked Applications At Events (briefing 106), Guidelines For Exploiting WiFi Networks At Events (briefing 107), Guide To The Use Of Wikis At Events (briefing 104) and Use Of Social Tagging Services At Events (briefing 105). These all have Creative Commons licences, so feel free to reuse the contents of the documents provided acknowledgements are given to UKOLN.

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