Organizing our conferences differently?: Offline ethnography

Quick thought from attending the Futurespotters conference sessions today: much of what’s happening is lost because it happens in personal / informal small group discussions. And it does not feel good (and does not help much) to constantly bother people about posting on the platform. But true to how we do the knowledge discovery and sensemaking in our online platform, we could do employ offline ethnography for the next, similar conferences to capture much more of what is going on (for the final report etc.):

We’d inform all participants before that team members with a “community journalist” badge are there to take part in these informal discussions, listen and record them, or directly summarize them into information on the platform (which later gets the usual ethnographic markup). No live audio or video will be posted though except with explicit permission. The only way to get out of being subject to community journalism would be to tell the journalist that something is “off the record”. This could achieve a useful balance between privacy and information visibility.


Great idea, man

Let’s prototype it in LOTE4!

Like it!

completely agree Matthias. Perhaps we can actually videotape all sessions next time and throw them online afterwards?

Re: Organizing our conferences differently?: Offline ethnography

@Matthias wrote:

> much of what’s happening is lost because it happens in personal / informal small group discussions.

some folks in the US figured the same some years ago and developed a method for conferences called “open space”. does anybody of you know about this? it is very effectiv and powerful.

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Thanks Burkhard! Didn’t know, will look it up for sure. I have no reasons to reinvent wheels and stuff :slight_smile:

art of hosting, harvesting, open space etc

Yes, I do know and we can have a conversation


Maybe the collaborative book production could motivate us?

In tech culture, documentation is understood to be good, and many people in this community we dont need much explanation with respect to what good documentation looks like.  But this is relatively rare, most participants will need to be given clear instructions…as well as a reason why to do this.

I think the other aspect is that documentation in and of itself is not enough. It makes little sense if no one knows about it’s existence, so it needs to be done in a form that encourages it’s being shared and improved over time.

With LOTE4 we are stepping up our game (preliminary program here). So how can we work this idea into this call for contributions to the book that will come out of it?

Background: In Tbilisi a few of us got together and hammered out the aim and strategy for all future LOTE4 events. As well as the new format

Some thoughts

From what I have gathered, Open Space Technology is pretty much the “unconference”, and I would even say that the STF workshops in Armenia, Georgia and Egypt employed the very same technology. However, the OST does not offer the solution to document the informal, in-between-sessions proceedings. Hence the community journalists would be a great option. But then again, there should be a decision on what data do we want to collect? If a journalist reports some meeting, group discussion - we get her/his interpretation of what was happening. And it is enough for a curious  outsider or for anyone who was involved in another conversation/discussion etc. But for qualitative research purposes the raw information (a basic transcript) is more useful: it is richer primary data, that can be used not only for content, but also for deeper discourse analysis. On the other hand, it is less interesting for those, who want just a few bullet points to summarize everything.

My suggestion would be to have a few people, who will do transcripts as well as summaries of discussions. For privacy purposes the names/surnames/nicknames/anything that can identify a person should be withheld from the published transcript (unless the people agree with it), but some sociological data could be available for the researchers upon request (only for statistical/descriptive purposes). And then the transcript can be summarized in a few bullet points for more general use. It just seem like a double work, but for example, when I need to write an article, I transcribe interviews at first, and then work the raw text into a nice story. So in this case, no story, just a short summary and/or bullet points would not be a big burden.

Another thought:

diaries are common tools of ethnographers. You record not only your interviews, but also personal observations, various events, emotions etc. Of course, conferences do not last for months, but I guess it would be great to have more in-depth feedback from short diaries from some of the participants, who would agree to write down what they saw, experienced, felt etc. each day in the evening, and then later submitted it to the community. How is it different from writing down after each session? Well, it takes less time, it captures the main moments of the day, and still is a more detailed feedback than just the one in the end of the conference. And I suppose the privacy issues can  be worked out here as well.

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