New Media Knowledge Seminar: Blogging – A Real Conversation

Went to the New Media Knowledge seminar Blogging: A Real Conversation yesterday and did a 14 minute (it was closely timed!) talk on objectivity. Although I decided not to show my mindmap to the world during the talk, I’ve uploaded it to Flickr. It doesn’t encompass everything that I said – for the last five minutes I was extemporising on the blogosphere and how subjectivity is an essential art for marketers to learn if they are going to be capable of understanding and fitting into it. (Must learn to judge the timings of my talks better.)

Still, it was very interesting to see what else was said. I enjoyed Johnnie Moore‘s discussion on authority – who gives it to whom and why – and why we blog. Less of a talk and more of a chat, it was a nice change of pace.

I disagree, however, with Johnnie’s dislike of having speakers. Yes, having speakers stand up in front of an audience does create an us-them dichotomy which is especially false when you are in a room full of your peers, but in an ideal world that’s because the speaker knows something the audience doesn’t, and the audience wants to find out what. As a speaker, I don’t feel that I seize the authority to stand up in front of people talk about the stuff I talk about, I feel that I am granted grace to do so by the audience and that I had better damn well say something interesting. I do like more open-space/discussion type formats too, but I do see the value in a good keynote.

The corollary to that, of course, is that a crap keynote makes you feel like you’ve just wasted precious minutes of your life that you are never going to get back. But then, so does a crap discussion or a crap open space session. Can’t win ’em all.

Adriana Cronin-Lukas outlined a stark choice for marketers: either learn how to engage with your customers in a way which they find acceptable, or find yourself being forced into more and more outrageous attempts to capture attention. Her point that interruption-based advertising is outmoded and doomed to failure as we find better and better ways to route round it was well made. We are in an arms race now, as the marketers find new ways to grab our attention and as we create new filters (both mental and technological) to get rid of adverts. I wonder what the future of advertising holds – people are generally pretty media savvy these days, but when the kids of today grow up, having been used to dealing with the media their whole lives, will they be so savvy that advertising no longer works? Or will they be just like us, perpetually annoyed each new crappy gimmick?

I also liked Adriana’s equation:

bias + transparency = credibility

Works for me.

Was lovely to finally meet Rafael Behr, journalist and Observer blogger, and I say that not just (although possibly partly) because I’m on their blog roll. He had some interesting stuff to say about blogging and the media. I really like what he’s doing with the Observer blog – I particularly like the fact that it really is a bloggish blog, which just rambles along from day to day covering whatever subjects Rafael feels like writing about. Just like a normal blog, and not at all the journalistic behemoth that some people seemed to assume it would be. Good to hear Rafael’s perspective on how all that works and what the pitfalls are, though.

Sabrina Dent, the beginning of whose talk I unfortunately missed because I was a bit delayed getting to the venue, talked about whether or not blogging is a new communicationsn paradigm, and decided that no, it wasn’t. I missed the quote about the bees, so have had to lift if from Paul Goodison (who took notes – I’m going off memory):

Of most interest was her quote from a book called Out of Control by Kevin Kelly, which described the behaviour of bees when they find new food sources and how they communicate this back to the hive. The more vigourous and exciting the dance, the more bees visit that location.

Nice analogy.

Mike Beeston talked about how people have been doing bloggish things for centuries, but that the shift now has been the immediacy with which we can make links and transfer information. Couple of hundred years ago, one had to send off horsemen into the unknown with messages in order to organise insurrection. Now we can do it instantly via a whole bunch of technologies.

I think he missed a point out though – it’s not just instantaneous communications that are changing the way that we act and interact, but also persistency. Arrangements can be made for a temporally constrained event synchronously (e.g. proxy meetings which are organised on the fly via mobile phones) or asynchronously (e.g. via email).

We’ve always had asynchronous communications, and the problem with them is if you miss the boat – if the communication goes astray and it is ephemeral (a letter lost in the post, for example), then you never know that you didn’t get it. The difference now is that both synchronous and asynchronous communications have persistence – they exist online allowing that data to be more easily and more widely disseminated. If you miss the IRC chat in which your insurrection is being organised, the logs can be made available. If you’re using a blog, then it doesn’t matter when the details were posted, people can continue to read it up to and beyond the event you are organising.

Lloyd Davis has made a wiki for notes, and is posting the audio up too although that doesn’t appear to be available yet. UPDATE: Audio is now up.

I’ll be interested to listen to it, if only to find out what I said. (Oh, and on that note, if you were there, please do give me feedback on my talk – I really want to know whether it was any good or not, and what I could do to improve my speaking style.)

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3 thoughts on “New Media Knowledge Seminar: Blogging – A Real Conversation

  1. Hi Sue. I can’t remember what I actually said on the day but I certainly don’t want to turn it into an either/or thing (either speech OR conversation). I was having some fun playing with the model though!

    And good point about the authority/grace the audience gives the speaker.

  2. On what you said: I think one important point missed is that objectivity gained its hold for good reasons. The need for objectivity in science was a way of cutting out all of the complexity in order to be sure that what you are doing is understandable and repeatable – if we hadn’t done this we wouldn’t have had the technology that makes life so complex. The need for objectivity in corporations was to separate the endeavour from the individual so that one merchant wouldn’t be wiped out by a single shipwreck. These needs are more or less valid still. Your point, well made, is that the press release variety of objectivity is one whose life is over – it worked for mass industrial production, but it doesn’t work for knowledge production, because we need to do our own simplification and triangulation to make up our minds and we have the tools to do it.

    On how you said it: I’ve just listened back to the audio and it comes over well in my view. I think it would have been good to share the mind map in session, but then I’m an evangelist for these sorts of things. You should smile more, you have a nice smile. And you should choose whether to walk about or stand still behind the lectern, I seem to remember you shuffling quite a bit, which is difficult for me when I have no visual aids to distract me.

  3. Johnnie: I actually do agree with your points about the way that traditional conferences can be a big crap, but I think the problem is that many of the people who are doing interesting things are not people who necessarily know how to communicate well. For some lucky people it comes naturally, but the rest of us have to work on it. I would love to eventually become a speaker as good as Danny O’Brien or Cory Doctorow, but I think it’s going to take a lot of practice and maybe some training.

    Lloyd: Yes, I agree with you about the reason for the rise of objectivity, and were I to do that talk again I would put that in. I don’t think this is going to be one of those talks I repeat though, and I am still not convinced I said anything that useful.

    The mind-map I had only made up the day before, and I wasn’t entirely sure how I would navigate around it on screen without it interrupting my flow. Maybe I just need to experiment a bit more with that sort of thing.

    Thanks for the feedback too. I hate standing behind lecterns – I hate feeling that there’s something between me and everyone else – but equally, I suppose I am not quite confident enough as a speaker yet to walk about. I’ll try not to shuffle next time. Don’t want to be mistaken for a zombie.

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