I’ve been to unconferences and barcamps before; in fact, I’ve run a few myself. But judging from the content on this site, and given the problems using this Wordpress installation, I’m worried that a week from now, a bunch of well-intentioned people are going to be scratching their heads wondering what we’re doing in DC for a Saturday, and we’re going to spend most of the day of the unconference trying to hammer out some common purpose, instead of pursuing that common purpose, because so far the organizers of this event haven’t been very clear about what is going on.
To wit, as best as I can tell from reading the posts on the site, there is no “convener” of this unconference. Who is curating the participants and the content frame? It’s a complete mystery to me.
Second, as best as I can tell, there are several staffers from the Holocaust Museum who are interested in getting feedback on their ideas for incorporating social media into their work–be that membership development or interactive features of the exhibit experience–who have posted session proposals. That’s all well and good, but based on their proposals I’m being led to think that this “unconference” is more like a way for the Museum to get a bunch of free/smart (those two words may not belong together) advice and feedback about how to proceed with its social media efforts. Some of the other proposals posted look like they’d be very useful in an academic discussion of social media and social change, but are they appropriate for this day? Will we be invited to apply the “vote with your feet” rule of unconferences and leave or avoid sessions that don’t interest us? (And again, that gets me back to to the “who is the ‘us’” that are coming question.)
I see two problems that need addressing. First, someone from the Museum really needs to step forward and more clearly project a frame around this encounter. Who is coming to the meeting and why were these attendees selected? What are you concretely hoping to get out of the day?
Second, we need some clarification of what it means to you to “use social media for social good.” Which social good are you hoping to focus on? Here are some possibilities:
-the social good of raising money for the Museum
-the social good of improving the Museum’s web presence
-the social good of engaging Museum visitors in doing something about genocide and racism
-the social good of getting more traffic to the Museum’s website
-the social good of opening up the Museum’s processes to a more collaborative, open and participatory approach (in tune with the way the web is empowering individuals to be co-creators of meaningful content and action)
-the social good of connecting people to each other in positive dialogue
-the social good of enabling people to directly confront racism where they encounter it (online or off)
Personally, I am most interested in learning about how the internet is changing institutions with a social mission, like the Holocaust Museum, and also in discussing how we should think about the problem of racism and anti-semitism online–where both hate speech AND positive speech is easier.
I’m sorry if this post injects some frustration into the work of the people planning this meeting, but I’d much rather be a fly in the ointment now and have a better event a week from now, than say nothing and suffer…