In today’s guest blog post on openness Kirsty Pitkin introduces the JISC-funded Greening Event II projectand describes her involvement in developing an event amplification toolkit which aims to document best practices for opening access to conferences which, as touched on recently in a post on Adventures in Space, Place and Time by my colleague Marieke Guy, have traditionally been “trapped in space and time”. It is particularly appropriate that this post is published today, the day after the Amplified Conferences Wikipedia entry has been reinstated.

Opening Up Events

Workshops, seminars, conferences: just some of the learning opportunities that are often closed, with any knowledge or resources contained therein accessible only to those who are able to physically attend a fixed point in time and space where the event takes place. Yet these are some of the key ways we can disseminate and share knowledge in a really interactive, practical way.

UKOLN has a well-established role at the forefront of what have become termed “amplified” or open events. These are events where the event materials and discussions are amplified out via the local audience to their own professional networks using online social networking tools. Such activities overlap neatly with the emergence of hybrid events, which are specially designed to allow a remote audience to participate in an event simultaneously with the local audience. Amplified events can often be used as a stepping stone for organisers who are consciously looking to move into hybrid events, or organisers who are just looking to increase their audience without substantially increasing the carbon impact of their event.

The JISC GEII Event Amplification Toolkit

Event amplification at IWMW 2012

I have been working with UKOLN in this area to help develop an Event Amplification Toolkit, as part of the JISC Greening Events II project. The toolkit is designed to help event organisers decide what type of event is most appropriate for their needs (a traditional, hybrid or a fully virtual event) and provides tools to help organisers approach the task of amplifying their event.

The toolkit has been developed using lessons drawn from a series case study events, including Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2011), UKOLN’s Metrics and Social Web Services workshop, and most recently the 7th International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC11). These lessons have been condensed into a number of simple templates and two-page best practice briefings, which can be mixed and matched according to the event organisers’ requirements. As new online services are emerging all the time, whilst others wane in popularity, these best practice briefings focus on general amplification activities, rather than specific third party tools. The toolkit covers approaches to live video streaming, live commentary, discussion, and curation tools, providing examples of existing services, business models, resourcing requirements and risks which need to be considered. The templates provide models for assessing risk and structuring an amplified event to achieve specific outcomes.

Open Approaches vs Open Tools

Whilst an event may be considered open by virtue of being amplified, many of the individual tools and services used to achieve this are third party commercial services, which may vary in their degree of openness and accessibility buy pills (depending how you define open, of course!). This means that organising an open event can become a pragmatic exercise – using open platforms where available and offering alternative options where necessary to help make the event accessible to the widest range of users.

Copyright Shutterstick. Used under licence. prime example of this is the most popular tool for use at amplified events: Twitter. Whilst Twitter is considered to be one of the more open social media platforms, participants must have an account with the service in order to take an active part in an event discussion. If you don’t have an account, you can only watch the discussion unfold, you cannot contribute. Opening up an event to the widest possible audience means you must consider those people who do not want to have a direct relationship with a service provider, like Twitter, by establishing an account with the service, no matter how little personal information is required in the process. Tools like CoverItLive and ScribbleLive can provide the option for remote participants to offer comments and questions publicly without a registered account and without having to part with any information about their identity. The role of an event amplifier would then involve integrating these comments into the wider discussion beyond in a sensitive manner, particularly if that discussion is taking place prominently on Twitter.

As this example demonstrates, an amplified event may need to provide a mix of access points to open up all aspects of the event. This means that, in many ways, openness in an events context is less about the specific technologies employed and more about the attitude of the organisers and the way they blend a selection of tools to provide open access. An open attitude when running an event could be summarised as:

  • A commitment to the online audience as first class citizens, providing the same opportunities to access and interact within the live event as those physically in attendance.
  • A commitment to sharing resources in multiple contexts as an aid to future discovery and reuse.
  • A commitment to linking between resources so the audience has a clear path to guide them to other event resources or the same resources in alternative formats.
  • A commitment to the use of creative commons licences, with respect to the speaker or copyright holder.

Looking Forward

We intend to amplify the toolkit itself according to these same principles and using the same techniques detailed in the report.  Our hope is that these resources will help others to approach the problem of opening up their events and reduce the carbon impact of their event by facilitating more people engaging from afar.

Kirsty Pitkin is a professional event amplifier. This is a newly emerging role, which involves working with conference organisers to help deliver an online dimension to traditional events by leveraging social media and other online tools to expand the audience for the event. She explores current research and best practice associated with amplified and hybrid events in her blog. Kirsty holds a Masters in Creative Writing and New Media from De Montfort University.

Twitter: @eventamplifier