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Archive for August 20th, 2010

Escaping the Constraints of Space and Time

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 August 2010

The Amplification of Events

Image of a man with a megaphoneWhen Lorcan Dempsey coined the term ‘amplified conference’ the image I initially had was of a megaphone so that people outside the conference space could hear what was being said.   However after I had created the Wikipedia entry I realised this image was inappropriate as, with Twitter, for example, we are amplified the discussions within the conference as well as amplifying the discussions for an external audience.

Escaping The Constraints of Space and Time

An  alternative metaphor I have used previously describes how a variety of networked technologies can be used to ‘escape the constraints of space and time‘. If you think about it the talk at a conference takes place in a non-interoperable ‘walled garden‘. Wikipedia describes a walled garden as  “a closed or exclusive set of information services provided for users“. This analogy normally refers to access which is restricted due to technical barriers. In this case, however, the restricted access to talks is due to physical constraints (not being physically present) and time constraints (not being in the right place at the right time).

“Ye Canna Break The Laws of Physics”

We don’t normally think of a talk given at a conference as being in a walled garden.  This may be because, as Scotty put it “Ye canna break the laws of physics“. But although this may not have been possible in Star Trek, our very own Doctor Who famously does travel across both space and time.

If Doctor Who Arrived On Planet Earth Today

Image of the TARDIS

Source: paulstallard WordPress blog

Back in November 2007 I wrote a post on The History Of The Web Backwards which Tony Hirst described as “a trick [used] as a tool for helping out with the creation of risk assessments“.

Tony’s post described Reversible, Reverse History and Side-by-Side Storytelling – an idea which I’d like to revisit. Image Doctor Who visits planet earth in the early part of the twenty-first century. His sidekick discovers the excitement shared in some circles for the, at the time, new concept of amplified events.

Sidekick: Why are the earthlings so excited about amplified events? How else would you learn?

Doctor: Up to the start of the twenty-first century the earthlings had to travel to large centres of learning called ‘universities’ (or schools for the young).  A complex system called a timetable was created which ensured that the elders of the tribe met the young people in the same location at the same time.  This system had been in existence for many eons – and some speculated that Stonehenge was the first timetable scheduling system.

Sidekick: But that’s crazy and inefficient!  Why didn’t the elders simply record their knowledge on a multimedia device?

Doctor: They did – it was called a ‘book’ (although it only contained text and static images). Remember computers had only been around for about 50 years at this time – and this was about 20 years since the Earthlings had thought that digital watches were a pretty neat idea.

Sidekick:  OK. But once the multimedia capture and playback technologies became available they must have started to use them straight away.  Didn’t everyone have a mobile phone then?

Doctor: That’s the strange thing.  They argued against it. “It’s rude” they said. Or “Not everyone has such devices so nobody should be allowed to use them“.

Sidekick:  How strange.

Doctor: But even worse was how the mega-organisations reacted.  They made money out of lots of students arriving at the same place at the same time.  And they were resistant to change.

Sidekick:  Ah yes, the Luddites.

Doctor: Not quite, these were called Professors.

Sidekick:  What’s the difference?

Doctor: (unsure, changes the subject) …

The Interoperability of Amplified Events

We are now seeing how technology can be used to save talks from the walled garden of the place and time at which they were given.  We can now take videos of talks, mash them up with the discussions which were taking place (using, for example, Martin Hawksey’s iTitle Twitter captioning service) and embed them in digital resources – for example see Chris Sexton’s talk which she gave at the University of Sheffield from 14:00-14:45 on Monday 12 July 2010.

We’re now making the physical world digital and interoperable :-)  But why aren’t we doing more of this?  Shouldn’t the default position be that conferences are amplified unless there are good reasons not to do this?

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