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Two elements of Edinburgh Napier’s annual cycle of staff and research student development are a couple of events that I’m becoming involved with: the Business School research conference and the whole-university staff conference. The research conference focuses on the work of current students, with some guest speakers and other contributors. The staff conference always has a theme, this year it’s technology. Both will take place at the Craiglockhart Campus, as illustrated above.

I would like to see the use of social media to produce a record of these events, combining the contributions of different people through a variety of media. In order to present these ideas to colleagues I put the following ideas into a couple of emails, which I’ve edited and am posting here for a wider audience.
Part one:

I’m interested in using social media and other tools to create a record of the staff conference – something engaging and reflective of the different sessions and experiences from the day. This was partly inspired by the Storify post that a friend of mine (@dgmcgillivray) put together for one of his events.

You can see that he’s used his own media, alongside tweets and other stuff from people who were there on the day. I therefore see a three part process...

Before the conference (maybe with a week to go)
Those who are signed up to the conference can be invited to attend a pre-conference workshop / seminar / symposium / chat to discuss the tools that could be used and ways of capturing the day. This could include…
  • Pictures: which can be taken with phones and cameras [uploaded to Flickr]
  • Video: captured in some of the sessions, as well as short interview, etc. [posted to YouTube]
  • Audio: more short interviews [posted to Audioboo]
  • Text: documents, write-ups, etc. [on blogs, Twitter and reports]
This chat could also decide upon a hashtag for the conference – something unique that can be used to link all of the above. I think this needs to be decided in good time so that it can (if the organisers are happy) be added to the conference literature. That way everyone who attends (and those who don’t) can use the tag in their contributions. It doesn’t matter if they come to the chat, if they knew what our hashtag is they can use it on the day.

My hope is that by having this meeting before the conference we can pull together a core team of interested people, some of whom will be familiar with all these platforms, some just a few. I hope that some people will use this as an opportunity to try something new and to share their enthusiasm for tools they like using.

On the day
Some will be charged with carrying out particular tasks – interviews and the like. Some will just send the odd tweet. Others will take some photos, or write up their day on their own blog. A mix of structured work and free-flowing conversation is great, so long as we’ve done some of the ground work to be able to bring it all together afterwards.
This is a conference about the use of technology, so let’s use some as well as talk about it!

We (I?) will have to find ways to bring this together. This could result in a Storify post, or perhaps a whole new blog with different posts for different aspects of the day. The joy of uploading this material to social media platforms (Audioboo, Flickr, etc.) is that it can then be embedded into other places – hence the use of YouTube with all its tools, which is then brought into your own work. That’s why it’s more about collating the work from various sources, rather than copying and pasting it into a new document.

That said, we’ll hopefully be able to find out how many times the hashtags get used on Twitter, etc. This is something I don’t know much about as yet, but I can ask around…

The finished product can then live online forever, available to everyone who was at the conference or wasn’t able to make it. With a comments board open people can also continue the conversation, though this may require moderation from the conference executive.

Part two:

After writing the above I had a reply asking whether attendees would come on board with it, and I agree that this might be tricky. However I don’t think we should expect everyone to engage. In my mind there would perhaps be three types of contributors:
  • Those ‘on the team’ who are deliberately setting out to capture the event.
  • Those ‘interested parties’ who come to the pre-conference meet-up to see if they can bring something to it.
  • Those ‘existing users’ who will be doing something like this anyway, but can be encouraged to add their contributions to the main body of work (through hashtags, etc.).
This is not an exact science, it’s all about experimentation and bringing your own ideas to the party. If we can plan ahead though it should be easy enough to collate and present the data after the event in an accessible and engaging way.

I shall report back on how this project continues. My hope and expectation is that there are plenty of people within the university already using social media, enough to carry an online conversation through the conferences and have something to show for it afterwards!

Image: ‘Craiglockhart Hydropathic’ / flickr.com/photos/22087304@N07/5131371927/

DREaM workshop three. (Part four of five events.)

The Onward March.