Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Real-Time Event Collaborations Across Mixed and Transmedial Realities (Workshop 1)


“The smartest person in the room will no longer be a person but the room!” - Adeline Koh

"Real-Time Event Collaborations Across Mixed and Transmedial Realities" is made up of two half-day workshops coordinated by the Social Media Knowledge Exchange (SMKE) being held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge. The Twitter tag for the workshops is #SMKEreal

Workshop 1 is 'Event Management'  to be staged on 20 February 2013, Wednesday, 9am – 12 noon at CRASSH. A Prezi will be used to present a lecture on the background to Event Management and is available here. This blog entry provides extra links, materials and case studies that cannot be accommodated in the Prezi for Workshop I. Event Management. Consider the following the readings for the workshop.
1.  The boundaries of space in mediating events; the virtual present and the presence virtual
Space is not simply the room one is located in any more. The presentation of seminars, speeches and lectures can include virtual environments, streamed media, social media and augmented reality content. Organizing these media takes time and consideration. 

a) Virtual Worlds
A virtual world is a persistent three dimensional shared architectural space that is populated by interactive agents that operate in synchronized real time communication and interaction. Virtual worlds offer a wide variety of affordances for collaboration, communication and expression in the context of academic events. A case study for the use of virtual worlds as a totalizing platform for an event is the SLanguages conference. The SLanguages Conference, in its first and original incarnation, was run by Gavin Dudeney as a non-commercial, community-driven and supported event for language teachers from 2008 - 2010. Since 2010 it has been run by an international collective of teachers and trainers (AVALON) and brings together practitioners and researchers in the field of language education in Second Life for a 24-hour event to celebrate languages and cultures within the 3D virtual world. Archiving content from virtual worlds is about the same as from the physical; recording is important; video, audio and photo.

SLanguages provides a case study for using a collaborative virtual environment for the sharing of knowledge. More information on the SLanguages conferences (include keynote summaries from 2012) can be found here.

b) Social Media Backchannel
Barrister speaking on twitter: "As I'm sure your lordship is aware a hashtag allows users to search for a particular topic." - Heather Brooke
Backchannel is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or live spoken remarks. The term was coined in the field of Linguistics to describe listeners' behaviours during verbal communication, Victor Yngve 1970.

First growing in popularity at technology conferences, backchannel is increasingly a factor in education where WiFi connections and laptop computers allow students to use ordinary chat like IRC or AIM to actively communicate during class. More recently, researchers from Penn State University have explored bringing "backchannel" up front in classrooms - "ClassCommons, " to increase students' participation and promote community building.

Twitter is also widely used today by audiences to create backchannels at technology conferences. When audience members add an event hashtag to their tweets (for example, #w2e was the hashtag used for the Web 2.0 Expo New York in 2009 - however one should always be careful of overly simple hashtags), anyone can run a Twitter search to review all the backchannel tweets related to that event. Logging and archiving tweets is important following an event, something I return to below in the Case Studies. This is one way of keeping track of your subjects. Tagging is very important for maintaining coherency in documentation of an event.

c) Streamed Content

Streaming content from an event is literally live TV; it can be risky, but it can be knife-edge exciting too. The live event should be streamed over a number of channels; a Twitter feed, a video stream, possibly audio, and live updates for images. If you are making an archive of the event from existing platforms it tends to be distributed over the various sites that support such media, or alternatively you can build a single site to link all the materials together. Blogs are good for this, as are some of the newer archiving sites for Twitter. A YouTube channel can be a way of archiving videos. With permission from IP owners after an event, these can easily be ripped and reset, or linked to. Tagging is a way of getting participants to build an archive together. If you build your own archive, an attention to design is important. Simplicity and elegance is the key, as an event involving more than just 50 people can produce a lot of material. Navigating is the necessity. Speed of delivery and being able to refer back (i.e. link directly to a video or blog post) is vital. 

d) Augmented reality
The physical design of the classroom, seminar room, lecture room has changed little in the past 500+ years. However, the space of the room as a set of relations has changed dramatically in the last 20 years.

The physical space of teaching is now permeated by wireless signals that can be controlled by the teacher. Internet, intranet and more even more local networking such as Bluetooth and cloud applications such as Apple's Airdrop make it possible to link devices. This digital layer can be blended with the physical space, or used to extend it out into virtual environments. A classroom or event can have an equivalent site in a virtual world such as Second Life. However one should be wary of attempting to replicate over virtual and physical spaces: they should compliment each other. For this to happen an awareness of a 'grammar of space' is required. 

"However, we believe that turning the active conversations of communities into aggregated data (and thus turning publics into passive audiences) strips these groups of their agency and rejects their capacity for participation." - Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, Joshua Green

2. The ethics of crowd contributions, or, “Watch out, I am behind you!”

In November 2009 social media researcher danah boyd gave a presentation at the Web 2.0 Expo. The presentation "Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media" was back-dropped by a large screen carrying a live Twitter feed:


 It soon became apparent that the Twitter feed was not with danah, she describes it;

I only learned about the Twitter feed shortly before my talk. I didn’t know whether or not it was filtered. I also didn’t get to see the talks by the previous speakers so I didn’t know anything about what was going up on the screen.

When I walked out on stage, I was also in for a new shock: the lights were painfully bright. The only person I could see in the “audience” was James Duncan Davidson who was taking photographs. Otherwise, it was complete white-out. Taken aback by this, my talk started out rough.
Now, normally, I get into a flow with my talks after about 2 minutes. The first two minutes are usually painfully rushed and have no rhythm as I work out my nerves, but then I start to flow. I’ve adjusted to this over the years by giving myself 2 minutes of fluff text to begin with, content that sets the stage but can be ignored. And then once I’m into a talk, I gel with the audience. But this assumes one critical thing: that I can see the audience. I’m used to audiences who are staring at their laptops, but I’m not used to being completely blinded.
Well, I started out rough, but I was also totally off-kilter. And then, within the first two minutes, I started hearing rumblings. And then laughter. The sounds were completely irrelevant to what I was saying and I was devastated. I immediately knew that I had lost the audience. Rather than getting into flow and becoming an entertainer, I retreated into myself. I basically decided to read the entire speech instead of deliver it. I counted for the time when I could get off stage. I was reading aloud while thinking all sorts of terrible thoughts about myself and my failures. I wasn’t even interested in my talk. All I wanted was to get it over with. I didn’t know what was going on but I kept hearing sounds that made it very clear that something was happening behind me that was the focus of everyone’s attention. The more people rumbled, the worse my headspace got and the worse my talk became. I fed on the response I got from the audience in the worst possible way. Rather than the audience pushing me to become a better speaker, it was pushing me to get worse. I hated the audience. I hated myself. I hated the situation. I wanted off. And so I talked through my talk, finishing greater than 2 minutes ahead of schedule because all I wanted was to be finished. And then I felt guilty so I made shit up for a whole minute and left the stage with 1 minute to spare.
A difficult situation. But one that offers reflection on how one should integrate real-time, shared social media into a live presentation. Positioning and the scale of screens should be considered carefully.

Notice in this image the presenter is not overshadowed by the multiple screens. Granulation is applied here. Asking the audience to move their attention between screens also engages them on a physical as well as a mental level.

Presenter should be consulted well before the event. That a presented is not involved in the design of the presentation is beyond all consideration.

Tweetchat on livetweeting at conferences issues include the nature of academia, privacy concerns, and intellectual property theft. For a extensive Tweetchat discussion on the ethics of live tweeting, see this Storify archive: #Twittergate: What are the ethics of Live Tweeting at Conferences?

Other issues from digital media documentation in live situations include the distribution of video online by audience members after the event, with the possibility of personal attack from trolls and opponents,

3. Designing an Event with Digital Infrastructure
Consider the audience and if they are willing to step over into being participants. How motivated are the presenters? Are the people taking part in event familiar with each other already? Can you harness existing linkages between them? Have you got enough time and motivation to work at building a community before the event? (I have tried this, it depends on the nature of the event; regular cyclical conferences are much easier than one off events, if the audience is somewhat homogenous, based on location, department, or discipline in can be easier). How many people are we talking about? Were are they physically distributed? What is the venue/s for the event?

The spaces you are going to be working with are important. One should first consider the purpose of using digital infrastructure in relation to the event - is it to increase dissemination? To create a document or record? Will their be a significant improvement in the quality of the event if digital infrastructure tools are used? Creating digital dimensions to an event DOES NOT SAVE TIME OR MONEY in and of itself! It does create in and of itself! It does create artifacts and connections and spaces and ideas. It can cut down on travel budgets, but it does not replace face-to-face interaction. Digital mediation can change the dynamics of a space. The presenter is no longer necessarily the center of the room. Topics can be multiple, synchronous and asynchronous, a deeper more stratified record can be created as a result of networked mediation at an event.

The duration of the event should be considered. After three days even the most dedicated tweeter is exhausted. The longer the event the more data will be generated as well. Material can be generated after the event and it can take considerable time for a complete archive to be up and running. Once again the use of digital infrastructure should be considered in light of the goals. The concept of the 'Long Tail' can be considered in relation to timing for events:

"Now, in a new era of networked consumers and digital everything, the economics of such distribution are changing radically as the Internet absorbs each industry it touches, becoming store, theater, and broadcaster at a fraction of the traditional cost" (Anderson, The Long Tail p8).

While the physical event itself may only last two days, it can be sustained in synchronous and asynchronous communication for weeks, even months. The book 'Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution' by Howard Rhinegold spawned a group website unexpectedly that has lasted more than a decade.

Media formats and 'reach' are the final points I would consider in setting up digital infrastructure for an event. Most online social platforms are available to all with a computer and a good Internet connection. Some virtual worlds can run heavy on CPUs and have a steep learning curve (In my experience it takes about three months of almost daily use for someone to be comfortable with socializing, communicating and inhabiting a virtual space). The perceived gravitas of social media (or lack thereof) may be worth considering if the topic of the event does not suit mass participation or sources or material have to be protected (I was asked not to tweet details recently at a presentation about undersea optic cables and web infrastructure - the presenter was trying to maintain her sources in the military and homeland security sectors). Finally, reach has to do with how far your event can be cast out from its location into space; in terms of dimensions and number of people. Having a well run backend (servers, websites, streaming channels, wireless, capacity for avatars on a virtual site etc) is essential. Technical support that can work directly with the front end users and actors (students, lecturers, theorists, researchers, performers etc.). Languages should also be considers, being based in Sweden, so much of my work is conducted in English - (I wish it could be Mandarin and Arabic and Spanish as well).

One of the great advantages of using virtual worlds is the presence of translation tools, such as these in Second Life. Maybe reach is not important and the event is to be confined to a specific group. This is then an important consideration, as once something is loose on the web, it is nigh on impossible to shut it down.

Archiving the Event (tagging streaming storing collating)
Every archive has to have an entry point and be searchable. Just making those two decisions is a major set of hurdles crossed. Most commercial sites on the web that host content will offer a interface and some form of search; even if it is the Google motor embedded into the frame. For the past decade I have been archiving my own material with 3 personal blogs,, the Free Music Archive, Soundcloud, Slideshare, Prezie,, a national registry of academic publications in Sweden (DIVA), YouTube, Flickr, Delicious, Scribd, LinkedIn and I now coordinate it all with a site called This is an archive of a sorts; it contains an entry point, it is searchable, and much of the material in it is tagged. Tagging is the key to managing material online.

The other important factor in building infrastructure for events is analytics. I use Google Analytics to keep track of who my audience is, what sort of attention I am getting online and why, where it is coming from, and what opportunities does it present for me. Not all attention online is good, if you have websites and other content online outside the domain of your institution you run the risk of being singled out in some way. You must always remain conscious of this; keep sites up to date, monitor comments and contributions, do not allow links to die or even worse, descriptions of people and events to fall out of date. Living on the web is not a nine to five occupation, as these two contrasting examples illustrate from Facebook (the first in Swedish but translatable with Google - although badly). First the Scandinavian supermarket chain Coop keeps control over a online protest about it stocking endangered Yellow Fin Tuna over a weekend, despite it stating it will not sell endangered fish species. In response to a photo being posted on Coop's Facebook site of the Yellow Fin for sale. Secondly, retail giant H&M, which apologized for its delay in removing a Facebook posting that spiraled out of control with nasty and disparaging comments. It took a month for  H&M to address the violent and threatening comments. Paying daily, (even hourly if something is active) attention is important to keep your online project on track when dealing with networked and social media. Other tracking tools are, StatCounter and Extreme Tracking. Google is the best of these but your details are not your own and they are being shared

4. Identifying practical digital tools for using in event management (20+ Tools)





Sharing and Backup

Community Audio Tools

Presentation Production


Ustream (advertising)

Many More Digital Tools Available Here
(Note: I distinguish tools from platforms. A platform is a stand alone assemblage that can be used to create, project or mediate. A tool makes, changes or alters something else by acting upon it. A tool has an object. A platform creates subjects. Of course the two are not exclusive and the use of the tool, as Heidegger argues, creates its meaning and in turn results in subjectivities for users).

Case Studies
In presenting the following case studies my intention was to share the format of each, but also show something of my own development in using digital media and digital tools and platforms in staging events, teaching and keeping a record of the documentation. I made mistakes all along the way; learned things only after doing them. It is always a process in the digital. What is important is what you retain along the way. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, to experiment and to occasionally make a fool of yourself. The famous design agency IDEO has a motto; "Make mistakes early as it saves time later". Words to live by.

The presentation of seminars, speeches and lectures in virtual environments is not uncommon today. Many universities are investing in virtual worlds for teaching and learning. But in attending many presentations I have as often been disappointed as I have been inspired. Designing the seminar in the virtual space to ensure an experience for the presenter and the audience that leaves them feeling rewarded, rather than wondering why it was not just streamed over the net as a video, is not simple. Recognizing the affordances of the particular virtual world medium is a key element in designing the seminar around what it is that the presenter wants to convey. From this link I recount some of the ideas and problems that were met when a group of researchers, artists and technicians worked together on presenting a single seminar in simultaneous physical and virtual space.

HUMlab hosted a two and a half day symposium Media Places 2012: Infrastructure Space Media. It was a pleasure to be part of such a well organized and high standard colloquium in which some of the preeminent critics, theorists and practitioners in the fields related to media in space/place gathered. My role in the proceedings was to assist in documenting the exchanges, ideas and perspectives that emerged during the symposium. Part of this documentation was using Twitter. I tweeted as much as I could, but I was joined by many in what I consider to be a successful back-channel discussion. After two and half days I archived a total of 863 tweets tagged with #MediaPlaces2012 (I know – a long tag, I have learned) on Storify, one set for each day:
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
This same archive of tweets has now been visualized on TagsExplorer and spreadsheet by Kim Knight (Image above is from the TagExplorer site).

A collaborative blog for organizing and staging the Social Media Cultures project between Umeå University (Sweden) and the University of Wollongong (Australia). The project is based in HUMlab at Umeå University, a digital humanities computing lab and studio. Social Media Cultures was a three-day collaborative workshop between the University of Wollongong (Australia) and Umeå University (Sweden) on social media in research and learning in September2011. Seven guests researchers and teachers from University of Wollongong, as well as Deakin University in Australia attended the workshop. The workshop was an open forum for discussion around a number of themes related to social media. The goal of the workshop was to develop further research and teaching collaborations by showcasing the work going on in each university and finding common areas of expertize and interest. Umeå University, the Faculty of Arts and the University of Wollongong sponsored the workshop.
 Image of a student project in Second Life. Three dimensional space is used to connect images, objects, text documents, audio and visual materials.
4. Second Life films and exhibitions in HUMlab (Kulturanalys- och museologi studenter)
Culture Analysis and Museum Studies students in the Culture and Media department presented their work in the form of films and exhibitions made in Second Life, a persistent 3-D virtual online world in which users interact with each other via their graphical representations, or avatars. The significance of using Second Life is that the interaction in its world enables the relatively easy constitution of representational forms, such as films and gallery exhibits, which may be created by students and, in so doing, become learning tools in themselves. Indeed, the point of the exercise was precisely for students to give form to the theoretical ideas which they have learned in their course, such as stereotype formation, gender theory, relations of power etc. The result is not only a demonstrated deeper engagement and thought with theory but also an impressive outlet for creativity and graphic skills.
Machinima project, 'Another Love Story' (2010), which problematizes gender and sexual norms in a narrative created and produced by students and distributed online as well as shown to live audiences.

Yoshikaze is an artists' studio in Second Life, run by Goodwind Seiling aka Sachiko Hayashi with support from Humlab, Umeå University, Sweden. Its main activity is to provide a SL residency programme for SL artists ("Up-in-the-air" Residency). The residency is project based and can be applied to throughout the year. The artist is expected to give at least one presentation of the project at the end of the residency. The residency length is normally 1-3 months. The blog for the project is here and you can visit the (virtual) space here.

Short video of the presentation by artist Garrett Lynch following his residency at Yoshikaze.

6. Putting Machinima in (or out of) Cinema: A Roundtable on Films Made in Virtual Worlds
"I am excited by [machinima] essentially because it can be personalised - it should perhaps become like letter writing used to be - one to one in abundance - where everyone had his or her own handwriting. Don't put it in the cinema - you will kill it." - Peter Greenaway

Machinima - films created in game or virtual worlds - converges cinema, animation, video games, television, puppetry, performance, music video and social virtual worlds, among others. No other media form in history pulls off such a smorgasbord of media in its makeup, or so defies placement in the mediascape. The challenge is to locate machinima's hybridity, preferably (as Greenaway implores) without killing it, in the process re-visiting our definitions and conceptions of cinema and, indeed, the future of the moving image. Beginning with a short reel of a few machinima films, this roundtable seminar features three speakers who will discuss machinima as an emerging media form. Does machinima provide a new visual regime for the digital moving image? Or might it provide new answers to what cinema is - or will be - in its slippery dialectic between the real and the virtual?

7. Understanding Machinima: Essays on Filmmaking in Virtual Worlds (Bloomsbury 2013)

In what may be a new genre of academic machinima, we are introduced to the forthcoming collection of essays and interviews on machinima making, viewing and theorizing from Continuum Press; "Understanding Machinima: Essays on Filmmaking in Virtual Worlds" edited by Jenna Ng. The machinima explains the origins of the book project, outlines its underlying theoretical perspectives and gives some insight into why everyone interested in machinima should read it. As an unprecedented event in academic publishing, the collection is augmented with an dynamic online media collection that readers can access through QR-codes embedded in the text. While reading about machinima the reader can go to films, images, links and written texts that support the book chapters. 

Thank you for your interest and participation. The second workshop in this series will be on 22 February 2013, Friday, 9am – 12 noon at CRASSH, Cambridge. In that session we will be looking at 'The Knoweldge Economy' and some approaches to working in it as an academic.

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