Many stories loosely joined: live blogging at the nmc

Photo attribution:

It has been several days since the nmc summer conference ended. The attendees have left Disneyland for other perhaps less bizarre locations. Folks are back at work, filling out trip reports and submitting receipts. The conference is over and successfully so. And yet I still find myself processing what I saw, heard, and learned while there.

As one of the designated “conference bloggers” this is a funny place to find myself right now. My fellow bloggers, Gardner and Natalie, have already posted their reports and moved on. I continue to ruminate.

The good news, I guess, is that I was not expected to live blog. Live blogging emphasizes the immediate, the instant and even the sensational. It is a snapshot, and not necessarily a fully formed thought. It works well when one is trying to capture action as it unfolds… as in a sporting event, an accident, an act of God…

Here is a good example of a situation where live blogging works well (thank you Ryan): A group set about to live-blog activity in Tenderloin district of San Francisco , that is, one of the most interesting, and dangerous, and complex intersections of people, beliefs, of the city. This is a great example of the subject matter meshing beautifully with the qualities of social media: The posts, videos, tweets, images, interviews… each snippet acts as a little fractals within the volatile urban kaleidoscope it was trying to capture.

Since academic/technology conferences generally don’t have knife fights before breakfast, and because there is an orderly schedule of events to follow, and because those events are meant to provoke thought, comment, synthesis, questioning… Live blogging, and its rapid fire splurt of information, is only one part of the chronicling of events.

But the Tenderloin project was more than just live blogging. It was a community-mediated and media-ed effort. Not one blogger, not one videographer, not one tweeter could capture everything. The site is an aggregation of all of those stories joined together as a way to capture the complexity of the place. Many stories, loosely joined, sometimes overlapping, sometimes contradicting, with no one story pretending to be the full definitive story.

Which brings me back to my job as a conference blogger, and a confession of failure. Mimi Ito provided the opening keynote at the nmc. She delivered her thoughts at a rapid fire pace. Her delivery was clear, and she was extremely articulate, but there were no pauses…no breaks in her delivery. I found myself struggling to keep up with the ideas, craving a pause here and there just so I could stop taking notes and think a bit. My two blogging colleagues also struggled … at the end each of us could only come up with two of her three major points. I went and asked Ms Ito after the event for the elusive third point. We got our notes together. We parted ways.

Natalie and Gardner got their posts completed in a few hours. Meanwhile, I stared at a page of hopelessly tangled notes. I realized that I felt much the same way I used to feel in some of my high school or college classes. Maybe you remember that feeing?: the precise moment during a lecture or a class when you realize, dang, what I am hearing is really interesting and I want to think about this a bit more but whoa, I am not writing this down and I am never gonna be able to recreate this on my own.That tension between not wanting to write and wanting to listen… just not knowing where to begin. And then.. the talk is over.

Enter my fellow bloggers’ post. Enter the twitter stream. Enter the “non official” bloggers. Enter Rachel’s phenomenal visual presentation skills. Enter the nmc’s own video recording of Mimi Ito’s talk (soon to be published on the nmc site) . Enter many viewpoints and media loosely all woven. No one representation is the perfect one, and yet every one of them reinforces the other. And sometimes they contradict each other. But together? together as a group they form a more complete depiction of the talk than one blogger, one tweet, one lense could ever do.

Consciously or not, the practice of having a massively multiply mediated event was a celebration of some of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the need to create curriculum that provides its learners:

* Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,
* Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
* Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.

In the end, I never caught up with Mimi Ito’s bullet train. But thanks to other voices in the room, there is a wealth resources for me to review, and now the time to reflect, find connections, and breathe.

I hope to include some of those thoughts in my post about John Seely Brown. And pecha kucha as a teaching tool. And the connections between blogging and jazz. Oh and the “Hacking Yer Syllabus workshop…” Stay tuned.

Natalie’s post:

Gardner’s post:

Rachel’s visualization:

The video of the talk: (check the nmc site: coming soon!)

Other blog posts about Mimi Ito’s keynote:

Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!

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