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#enconf Using Storify to tell the story of an academic conference


Edinburgh Napier University, my employer, hosts an annual conference for academic and professional services staff – an opportunity to get people together, focus on chosen themes and discuss ways of integrating them into our teaching and learning. Technology is a recurring topic, as was the case on Friday 15 June with the title 'Enhancing, extending and empowering student learning within online environments'. The conference site is here, with the '3E Benchmark Framework' which underpins the university's efforts in this area here (available for wider use under a CC licence).

My job, somewhat self appointed, was to encourage the use of social media as a means of discussing and capturing what happened on the day. When pitching the idea before the event I wrote...

In my head 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.)
...with the first and third of those ideas eventually coming to fruition. A core of people attended the event knowing that we were going to use social media and were kitted up to contribute. For some that was a Twitter account on a smart phone, while others (notably two volunteers from our Masters in Event Management) were purposefully taking still photos and video footage for later use. As hoped for, there was also a large enough pool of type three 'existing users' who quickly started using the conference hashtag and got stuck into the debate online – expectations are such among some conference delegates that they will only wait so long to be told how to engage in that conversation before finding their own solution, so it was important that #enconf was publicised early and regularly. There was half a plan to have a pre-conference gathering of all those interested in using social media, where appropriate tools could be discussed, but in the end this didn't happen and probably wasn't necessary.

Two main goals were set: to enable/facilitate an online discussion on the day; then find a way to capture this for future reference and dissemination to those who attended, and those who didn't. Twitter was the basis of on-the-day discussion, with folk tweeting photos, links, questions and comments – this worked well. Capturing the day also used Flickr and YouTube to host the material from our students, with Storify acting as the basis of the final record of the day (as inspired by work like this from David McGillivray).

A quick note on Storify to finish this post, quoting from their site: 'Storify lets you curate social networks to build social stories, bringing together media scattered across the Web into a coherent narrative. We are building the story layer above social networks, to amplify the voices that matter and create a new media format that is interactive, dynamic and social'. It's a doddle to use, enabling you to drag in pictures, tweets, videos and more into the order you desire. You can add text to help set the scene, guide the narrative and link topics together. And as with so much of social media these days it's very difficult to come up with something that doesn't look good.

I was flicking between Twitter and Storify throughout the day, curating the story as I went which meant I had plenty to show the delegates during the closing plenary – hopefully some could see the value in the project as an ongoing resource. So here it is:

London 2012 Olympic Twitter archive

#citizenrelay Citizen Relay is just the start