I was a facilitator at a session of the Internet and Society conference put on by the Berkman Center yesterday. I had a great time. It was a little overwhelming. My working group was called, appropriately enough UNIVERSITY and its library and I led the session with David Weinberger and Cathy Norton from the Woods Hole Institute Library. I must admit I felt a little out of my league (library director! author & technologist! um…. Jessamyn!) but I’ve never let that stop me before. I also learned that being the youngest and greenest member of a facilitating team means that you get the full-on “why don’t YOU do the introductions?” offer which I trepidatiously accepted. Of course, since I’m stuck somewhere between the digital native and digital immigrant personas, I also followed the IRC backchannel, my IM buddy list, Twitter, wrote on the chalkboard, took a few pictures, and tried to pay attention to things like the schedule and the pre-set list of tasks. I think it went well, but I felt like I had been river rafting by the end of it. A few people told me they thought it went well. You can see the list of what we came up with, in these Flickr photos (oooh very 1.0!).
The rest of the day was lunch [getting to talk to the head of network security at Harvard and his very very fascinating job] a second session [UNIVERSITY vs. RIAA with Wendy Selzer and Doc Searls and Lewis Hyde which turned into a few hothead professors and one or two industry/network guys and a few Free Culture students really just talking past each other in ways that were interesting but somewhat frustrating to listen to in an unstructured environment] and then dinner with a good friend of mine who works for One Laptop Per Child his friend just in from Oxford and a super interesting guy from Connexions. We ate pizza and messed around with the OLPC laptops and rehashed some of the “knowledge beyond authority” concepts that washed over us during the day.
It was neat to be at an academic conference where the speakers could toss around some fairly high-level vocabulary and jargon and be pretty sure that people in the audience could keep up. It was great to be someplace where all the technology just worked. It was fun to sit next to Dan Gillmor at the wrap-up and realize that he multitasks pretty much just like I do, but his inbox is fuller. I didn’t do a lot of actual blogging at the conference — well none really — but I did write a few things down. A lot of the pithy sayings that stuck with me were things that David Weinberger said. He’s great to be in a room with, very self-effacing, very friendly, very “hey I’m just like you” but also extremely well-spoken on many society and technology topics that I think a lot of us have trouble putting effectively into words. A few random notes from me, sorry they are a little stream-of-consciousness. I didn’t really have time to both attend the conference and blog the conference. In some ways I’m amazed that people can actually do that. I’m typing this up from my Mom’s house, with a cat in my lap and a cup of coffee, really feeling that I need thirty minutes or so of downtime to effectively rehash a day of solid uptime.
The general gist: knowledge beyond authority, truth beyond power, what is university’s responsiblity?
What about university as client?
What about teachers? is their digital identy as “digital immigrants”
DW: “Do libraries succeed by being where people go? Or, do libraries succeed by going where people are?”
DW (about the import of having a PhD): ending a conversation with saying ‘I have a PhD’ never worked well and it REALLY doesn’t work now
From a speaker at the wrap-up: The elephant in the room that limited the conversation was profit, there is an assumption that there is something primary and supreme about business that must be assumed to be given prominence and deference in the discussion about how to effect change (many people mentioned this)
DW from the wrap-up, about community knowledge and mailing lists: “The knowledge is in the list, the knowledge is smarter than every person on the list!”
I also got to shake hands and say hi to a few more people I’ve known sort of just through the Internet including Ethan Zuckerman (go start reading his blog right now please) and Matthew Battles who has written one of my favorite books about libraries.