My First Stint as a VConnecting Buddy

On Thursday I had my first seat in the control room as a Virtual Buddy for a now expanding project ( started by Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue. I had been a participant in the session on Tuesday; this week there were several sessions set up for the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute happening this week in Madison, Wisconsin.

Wow, all the cool kids were there.

A new thing for Maha and Rebecca was expanding the roles to people besides the group that did the first Buddy sessions. The premise is to have someone attending a conference, event, as an Onsite Buddy, do a live Google Hangout to bring folks at the event together with people who are not. It’s not about streaming presentations or sessions, but sharing some of the informal conversation that naturally happens with people who cannot be there.

I got to join one briefly while at the April et4online conference in Dallas, and was present for one in June at the DML Conference. I thought Maha had asked me to run the hangout from DML, but she said that Mia Zamora was slated to do it. No problem, but we joked privately about if they were ready for male hosts. I said “joking”.

So the joking picked up when on Tuesday night Maha asked me if I could host one on Thursday because both she and Rebecca were not available. At 8:30 AM Central Time which is two hours earlier here. Sure, it's just running a hangout, and setting an alarm clock. We did not have much time to recruit people on the remote end, but I did get a tweet of interest from Nick Kearnery (in the UK)– and I was glad in the middle of the session we did when Apostolos Koutropoulos who everyone calls AK who is in Boston (I think) joined too.

Okay, the Thursday session was during the breakfast break before the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute agenda started, we knew we had only 15 minutes or so with the folks in Madison. The onsite buddy was Andrea Rehn. Also present was Anne Cong-Huyen, Kris Shaffer (an “Embedded Pedagogue”), and the main draw was Adeline Koh who was leading the Identity Track

(Thanks Rebecca for grabbing the screen shot, I totally forgot!)

So here is the entire archive of both the live conversation with the folks at Madison with a bit of followup discussion with Nick and AK

I tried to challenge the Intro Via Long Bio by asking everyone to share their oldest or most unusual online usernames. Watch, you'll see the responses.

What first is refreshing is that the frame of identity was not the usual stuff about all the bad things that happen and why one should maintain polished online presences. No, there was a lot of activity around the challenges of access and ethics, and working on things in a vein of social consciousness.

One resource shared in twitter was a resource list for Digital Humanities and Social Justice.

Key for me was getting a sense they way Adeline, Kris, Anne, and Andrea described the structure of Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute was how far it was from the old tired conference parade of presentations. It was a gathering to not only network and share, but build stuff. You can find what was done in the identity track via

And we had some great conversation too on the value of social presence that we were experimenting with in Virtual Connecting

The Wisconsin folks had to run off to the sessions, but Nick and AK and I stayed for followup conversation (I refuse to invoke sports analogies). We picked up more the idea of presence and ways to do conferences differently.

And as AK noted this need to have “publications” and “papers” is a very European/North American frame of what it means to be an academic “your ideas do not have as much value or currency unless published in a peer review journal, but the quality of peer review is often a very mixed bag”.

We talked to about some ways to see beyond personal branding to having a networked presence of reputation that asserts your work.

I liked this structure of having a 15-20 minute conversation with people on sit and then carrying on more discussion with the remote folks. It provides a secondary level of reflection what we heard. I do wish I could have had a fuller room, and yeah, it was three guys. But that was because there was about 24 hours to find people.

Rebecca wrote about this with a question I likely wrestled poorly wih

Today’s session marked the first time that neither Maha nor I were on the virtually connecting hangout. It also marked the first session where the gender balance tipped predominately on the male side rather than the female side. This is something we had been very curious about – was there something specifically gendered about the idea of virtually connecting? We’ll be watching to see how this grows.

I was happy to be part of two sessions this week; this to me is a kind of Secret Revolution approach to conferences saying “Okay if you won’t change your structure we will do it around the edges”. And like Rebecca has stated, there is huge value of getting in conversation with people you have not talked to before (of them all I have been in previous hangouts with AK and Andrea only). If you expand your network of connections by just one or two people every few weeks, well it adds up.

it was fun being on the monorail, thanks Maha and Rebecca.

Top / Featured Image credits flickr photo by insertnamehere.99999 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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