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Tuesday, 29 April - link

A Call for Conference Stenocaptioning

Last week was the Emerging Technology conference. A heady mix of the old and new technology thinkers (ie, W.E.L.L. founders and web loggers) each within arm's reach of each other and their laptops. Jane and I attended, hosting a group discussion on games.

The event was wired-up for wireless internet, and the O'Reilly hosts were smart enough to provide power strips strewn throughout. So attendees could be online and powered up - a recipe for real-time reporting or complete distraction.

During a break in the ETConference proceedings, six attendees sit side by side at a table ignoring each other's geekflesh in favor of the web.
Persons more disciplined than I took notes and have posted them to the Internet. I was wrapped up in an extra-conference chat interface provided by the folks from Game Neverending. Confab was the closest thing to a location-based game at the event - a large web window showed a map of the Westin Santa Clara. Click on a room, and you joined a group chat happening between people who chose to be located there. If you saw a friend you could add them to your buddy list.

Confab was a relationship database that existed for only the length of the conference, and it was a great social toy that added a feeling of being a part of two dialogs at once. Any chat room can create that feeling, but this was especially liminal, as it mapped on to the convention I was attending.

Except for exceptional moments during lectures and slide shows, I had my head down into my computer, paying attention to this temporary autonomous community. Suddenly, the room would erupt in laughter and I would pick my head up confused, "What? What happened? What warranted group feeling or emotion?"

The chat rooms mapped to real rooms, so we were ostensibly chatting about the subject at hand. The best moments in the simultaneous dropout groupthink came from PB and others occasionally transcribing notable quotes. That gave us netizens something to riff off of.

My suggestion for all conference chat applications - have a Closed Captions-style transcript of the remarks being made on stage running through the chat room. Then the hyperactive information obsessed webloggers using chat alongside their writing and reading can be made aware of the remarks in text as they might be filtering in through their ears. They can cut and paste and reflect and link to their heart's content. Also, people from far away who have dropped in on these chat sessions can follow the thread and better participate.

Jane thinks I have a hard time with speeches - broadcasted information has to fight for my attention. (Though Brenda Laurel gave a talk today to a class at Stanford and she is a genuine shit-kicker. No choice but to pay attention there). A transcript in chat would help. Sometimes I like to think that in the future, there will be more people like me, raised in part by computers, awareness supported by a media harness - if you want us to sit through your conference sessions while connected to the infosphere, give us the presentations on all channels. Transcripts are great because you can search them, readily cut and paste them, add your own remarks inbetween. The audience will spread speaker-wisdom through their available channels, "I'm at this conference, listining to this gal, and she just said [cut and paste]."

Some real-time "live" bloggers approach transcription, as they type fast during lectures. But I want someone, maybe two people, doing word for word writedowns - a stenocaptioner for conferences. Maybe that would embarrass speakers? To see their literal rephrasings and off the cuff remarks in print. But there's so many cameras and computers at conferences these days, it's hard to imagine speakers being afraid of close recording and surveillance in that context. Let the info flow!

Posted on 29 April 2003 : 21:48 (TrackBack)
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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.