Uses and Abuses: Thoughts on Programme and Structure

I’ve been working out the programme for the Social Media: Uses and Abuses event on June 26th. In addition to the speakers that have been arranged (Thanks to Andy, Toby, Gillian and Rachel for agreeing to give a presentation on the day – plus those who are contributing to panel discussions) – I’ve beenĀ  looking at ways in which we could try out some of the techniques that having been emerging from unconferences that have been popping up over the last couple of months (Recent examples on my radar include Amp09, DigitalBritain, Manifesto for Change, Notts MediaCamp and our very own University of Leicester’s Learning and Teaching in the Sciences)

The “social media” element of the event is going to be the first of its kind from our department and I’m wanting to ease them in gently. Some of the traditional structures remain (the layout, set schedules, presentations, questions and answer sessions, phd panels and the expensive catering) but I don’t think we’re ready to throw a bunch of like-minded people in a room and get them to organise themselves into informed conversations (as much as I would love that to happen!) – I’ve still got head of department to convince and to give a bit of guidance for those who are trying out the tools for the first time.

The three areas I’m borrowing from unconferences are the following:

Paper-free event – All details for the event will be available on the blog: and all important information will be relied from email (and for those who use it) Twitter. I’d like to think that most attendees will bring a gadget or two with them (laptop or web-enabled phone, preferably) however, I can’t exclude those who do not have access nor want to lug their technology along with them. I hate fliers and bits of paper and am very comfortable with keeping almost all of my thoughts and information digitally. I am also still considered an oddity. So the information will be available on .pdf to allow those who want a physical copy of the programme and/or participant’s slides (via the blog and slideshare) to print them and bring them along with them. We’re based in the library as well, so I’d hope people feel happy to pop out and print documents if they require so.

Breakout session – They’ll be three breakout sessions (followed by food and/or coffee) throughout the day. This will be an opportunity to break the group down to talk about chosen subjects in closer detail. There is an eclectic mix of people and backgrounds attending, so this space will offer the chance to breath and digest some of the information. Although they will be seen as an open and informal, they will be facilitator-led – if only to allow a bit of guidance and structure – and to make sure everyone gets the chance to speak and, more importantly, be heard. The breakout session will conclude with “one tweet” – something I seen at Amp08 – where participants were asked to summarise their discussion in one tweet and tag with the event’s tag (in this case, #usesandabuses) This will be collected and summarised during the closing comments of the event.

Audience Questions: Finally, the speakers will all be asked to leave the audience with a question after each presentation. They will be used to prompt the discussion during the breakout sessions. The questions should provide a bit of a framework for follow up at a later date – they are not necessary things that need to be answered on the day, but again, should provide some structure to the discussion.

They’ll be people in the audience who will be tweeting regularly – and that is fine, as that is what they will do. For those who, for whatever reason, are starting off on the day, the One Tweet initiative will “take the edge off” – with them only having to remember to tweet after the breakout session as a bare minimum. Furthermore, if they don’t want to use twitter, they can take pictures, record video or blog about the day at a later point – we’ll emphasis the tag so that it can be picked up and shared with the participants during the follow up. They’ll be a briefing session before for those who want to try things out but aren’t sure where to start!

I know there are many in the university who are funny about web 2.0 – or indeed anything that’s not on paper – but I’m hoping by only focusing on a couple of social elements, we’ll be able to have a exciting and slightly different twist on the traditional seminars my department are used to having. I don’t want people to miss out – I want to include as many people as I can, but I also want the chance to try something new and perhaps get them to shake off the whole talking about new media as if it is just an object.

Feel free to share anything that you think would go well, or think that I should change to make the event better. I’m completely open to suggestions – I’m a one man show at the moment! :-)

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