James Currall on Events 2.0 and IWMW

24 07 2009

In the fourth blog post written by IWMW 2009 plenary speakers James Currall reflects on his early experiences of IWMW events and on the need for greater active engagement with participants at events and tells us that this year he “intends to be more radical“.


When I arrived at IWMW 2008, I was met by Brian Kelly who took me on one side and said “there is a really cool voting system in the lecture theatre, can you incorporate its use into your talk – yes?“.  Well that coupled with my eschewing of PowerPoint in favour of a less linear Compendium as my visual comfort blanket and doing about five miles walking during my presentation was part of something that I call Teach 2.0 – in which there is significant participation and engagement rather than some bod standing behind a podium talking to PowerPoint.  This year I intend to be more radical, but you will have to be there or join remotely to find out what that means:-)

At the recent JISC Digital Content Conference I complained that lots of ‘2.0’ things were being presented and dealt with in a ‘1.0’ way.  By that I mean that an ‘expert’ presents in a one-way fashion to a room full of people who absorb the words of wisdom and there is generally little time for questions and answers at the end.  Adding a twitter feed to such a scenario does little to improve the interaction between the ‘speakers’ and the ‘audience’, since there is a considerable gulf between them.  There were workshops, but in the ones that I attended (and I did not mean ‘took part in’) for the most part there were three or four presentations and again little time for Q&A.  All very ‘Conference 1.0’ and JISC should be leading the way:-(

Amongst the meetings/conferences and such like that I take part in (note I didn’t say attend), IWMW goes the furthest to being a ‘Conference 2.0’ event, with a serious attempt to move away from a speaker>audience model, that is why I like it.  Brian, Marieke and everyone else are to be congratulated on how far they have moved it over the years.  I contributed techie stuff for the first few years (possibly the first talk that indicated practical things that could be done (and I was doing) with XML/XSLT.  I then wandered off in management wildernesses for a few years and didn’t keep up with IWMW, but when I got on board again last year in Aberdeen I was really heartened with how things had moved on.  Its not about what technologies you chuck at it (although Brian has tried just about everything over the years and many such have proved to add little), its about allowing everyone to be a contributor, because between us we know a heck of a lot more about stuff that any of us do individually.

At Essex, I will probably disagree with Derek Law who likely wants more control, agree with Mike Ellis whose line on setting content free of the technology used to deliver it is a marvellous breath of fresh air.

You might like to ponder how you get the meat out of the Times Good University Guide so that you can do serious analysis on it – suggestions welcome:-) I am also looking forward to Andy Powell’s workshop.  The eagle-eyed will have figured that this is all about content, with technology playing second fiddle – this post as a whole might give you a clue as to what WE are going to be concentrating on in my session.

See some of you at Essex and those of you that will not be there live, but will be joining us over the wires.  I, meantime, will have to be very careful not to upset sponsors with rude remarks about CMS systems;-)


James Currall is a statistician who has always worked in multi-disciplinary environments. He has been involved in the support of software, ICT planning and user support and training at the University of Glasgow for nearly 20 years. His main job currently is as Director of Information Strategy where he interacts with records managers, archivists, librarians, information technologists, academics and university managers. From a position of being none of the above, James has on a number of occasions been described as an iconoclast as he does not hold dear much of the ‘baggage’ that these professions have accumulated through time. For two years he was on secondment to the University Learning and Teaching Centre, transforming the support of the University Virtual Learning Environment (Moodle) from a tool for enthusiasts into a well supported and managed service, during which time he was very much involved in the management and strategic planning of ICT in Learning and Teaching.

James is also a Senior Research Fellow in the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII), where he has, for the last ten years, been developing applied research into information issues drawing on his service and strategic experience and also more theoretical work on the nature of digital objects and the problems associated with their management, security and retention. James has been involved with the highly successful Glasgow MSc course in Information Management and Preservation since its inception, in which he teaches about the transition from storage of information on physical to digital media, the management and preservation of digital materials, information security, the role of numbers as information and a variety of other topics including risk and information management as an investment. In this latter context he was the Project Director of the espida project which developed a sustainable business-focussed model for digital preservation.

James will be giving a plenary talk entitled “ What is the Web?“.

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