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[Interview] Tim Davies - PracticalParticipation.co.uk

Differently from our usual interviews, instead of having one of our alumni, today we have an expert who has recently worked with the Diplo team on the use of Web 2.0 tools during a conference. Tim Davies, from the UK, shares with us some of the experience recently held in Sharm:

DIPLO Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme (IGCBP): Tim, during the IGF in Sharm you worked with a group of people interested in
the use of Web 2.0 tools to have a better experience of the conference.
Can you describe to us what happened?

Tim Davies: Yes. We worked with a group of young Egyptian students who were new to issues of Internet Governance, and with recent graduates of the Diplo Internet Governance Capacity Building programme to use different Web 2.0 and social media tools to 'report' on the conference.

Each person working with us chose the tools they felt most comfortable using - so some of the group were using CoverItLive.com to 'live blog' sessions; others used Flip video cameras to create short 2-minute interviews with panelists and other delegates at the forum; others wrote blog posts to report on the sessions they had been in.

We used NetVibes.com to pull together all this content in one place during the conference - and projected it on a screen outside the Youth Corner, and we were also making use of Twitter to share short updates about the event, and to follow what other people were talking about.

The young Egyptian students also created a printed newsletter each evening of IGF, drawing on the reporting they had been doing throughout the day, and this was distributed as widely to delegates as we could get it.

We put together this guide: http://bit.ly/a41HcJ which gives a good overview of what Social Reporting at IGF was about.

DIPLO IGCBP: What were some of the results that exceeded your expectations? Please select some highlights of concrete, specific uses of Web 2.0 tools.

Tim Davies: The linking up of online reporting, with a printed newsletter was a really interesting development. It showed the groups selecting and using appropriate technologies. For interviewing someone - a Flip video camera. For finding insights and ideas from across the event - Twitter. For sharing back some of what they were hearing to delegates, who were probably ending up with 100s of work e-mails whenever they opened their laptops and connected to the WiFi - a printed newsletter.

I was also really pleased to see how some of the team from the Diplo courses took to social media tools to help them reflect on their own experiences - and how some individuals who had not used Twitter before started to use it actively - and have continued to use it since.

Using social reporting at events to help people build networks that last after the event is one of the things that I find most exciting about it as an approach.

DIPLO IGCBP: In a perfect scenario of development and adoption of communication technologies, how do you see a IGF 2015 happening? What would be the main advancements?

Tim Davies: We've been thinking about better ways to make sense of all the content that is gathered - and it would be great to be able to link together the live & recorded web-casts, the transcripts from sessions, twitter messages and live-blogging on particular sessions, and short video interviews with participants - to create a rich record of every session.

We've started exploring how all the content from the event can be aggregated at http://igf2009.practicalparticipation.co.uk - but making this sort of technology far more flexible would be great.

The biggest technical and practical advance I could see for 2015 though, would be continued development of remote participation, so that sessions are not just about the people physically in the room, but are also taking in input from Internet users across the globe.

There are some barriers to that right now down to the adoption of communication technologies, but I think the biggest barriers are about facilitation skills. Chairs and contributors for sessions need to really think about how to run 'blended' sessions that link up physical and remote participants.

And this requires being attentive to the different skills of participants in and outside the event - so that sessions can be truly inclusive of a really diverse range of experience.

DIPLO IGCBP: What about the risks and dangers that we should pay attention to this growing trend? What can be lost? And how should we prepare ourselves?

Tim Davies: More doesn't necessarily mean better. Just because we can get more content out of IGF events, and more voices in, doesn't mean that will automatically help people understand IGF issues, or help IGF to understand better the issues facing Internet users across the globe. As we develop new technologies, we have to pay particular attention to developing the skills to make sense of the content and conversations it can generate.

DIPLO IGCBP: You have been working with digital participation and have a lot of knowledge and experience. What are the top advices that you can give to those who are interested to continue pursuing this field?

Tim Davies: Three things I think are really important:

* Play. The only way to learn about how many new communication technologies can help you to share learning, amplify conversations and improve decision making is to explore them and try things. There is no one right way to do social reporting, or to do digital participation - and finding the ways that work for your organisation or event is key.

* Pay attention to inclusion & power. How can digital participation help tip the balance of power in favour of those who are most affected by decisions, but often do not get the opportunity to influence them.

* Blend. Try to link the online and offline. Listen to what people are saying online during an event, and ask their questions to speakers on their behalf. Feed the responses back to online participants. Project what online participants are saying into physical rooms, or print it in newsletter. Try many different ways to blend online and offline events together as you can.

For anyone interested in exploring social reporting at IGF more, then there is a group over on the Diplo Internet Governance website that might be of interest:

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