Webcoast - An unconference
Per Olof Arnäs from Logistics and Transportation attended the unconference Webcoast at Lindholmen Science Park on March 16-18. Of course we wanted to find out more.
What is an ”unconference”? It sounds a bit strange to say the least…
An unconference is a conference where the participants create the program on-site. At a normal conference, both academic- and trade-, the program is set from the start. The normal conference organizer invites specific people to do presentations and the visitors know in advance what will happen and when.
At an unconference, there is no initial program, there is only an empty schedule on the wall – the Grid. Each cell in the Grid represents a time slot (20 minutes) in a certain room. Anyone can claim one or more of the slots by putting up a note on the Grid describing what the session will focus on.
So, a bunch of people show up without knowing what will happen. What if no one wants to arrange sessions? Do you all go home then?
There is no chance of that, trust me. At Webcoast, the grid opened up at 20:00 on Friday. At 20:01, almost all of the available slots were filled. It’s a tremendous experience, to see 250 people flocking around the Grid – some of them to post sessions, some only to watch and discuss.
Was there no topic or theme to the conference?
Well, as the name suggests, the overall topic was the internet (in its widest possible meaning). There were sessions on programming, web design, entrepreneurship, organizational development, social media, transportation, business models, e-business and more.
There were participants from all over Sweden, from several industries, spanning all ages. Web designers, researchers, media professionals, journalists, consultants, artists, entrepreneurs, teachers etc. All with a passion for networking, knowledge and the web.
Did you present anything at the conference?
Of course I did! I had a session on how the transport industry needs an upgrade when it comes to information exchange. We are stuck with version 20.0 of the homing pigeon, while much of the world around us have migrated into the 21st century. My speech attracted an audience of about 30 people and we had a good discussion both during and after.
Will you attend next year? Can you recommend others to attend?
I will of course attend next year as well. Webcoast 2011 was the best, most rewarding event of the year and last week’s version will undoubtedly be the same. I have never before attended a conference where the participants arrive before they have to and stay after it ends, just to prolong the experience. And I can really recommend that anyone interested in the communication age (that we are currently part of) joins me next year.
Finally, do you think that the unconference format could work outside the social media/internet world?
I’m sure of it! A certain amount of courage is needed when doing it for the first time, though. I have arranged almost 100 conferences before and the pre-determined program has always been non-negotiable. But I think that, for instance, a logistics unconference with a mix of researchers, industry professionals, entrepreneurs and politicians would be very interesting. I would go…
Last modified: March 23, 2012
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