Something to watch for at any presentation

volcano by Clearly Ambiguous

A Groundswell at SXSW: How The Audience Revolted and Asserted Control:
[Via Web Strategy by Jeremiah]

For the second year, I experienced the SXSW Interactive Festival, an event attended by thousands who have love for media, the web, and gadgets. SXSW is a bubble of the tech elite assembling, in many ways it’s a glimpse into the future, exposed on a Petri dish today.

[A Groundswell Occurred at the SXSW Interactive Festival as the Audience Revolted And Took Charge]
Last year, Twitter gained traction at SXSW 2007, this year, it fully ramped up to be one of the most prominent and power shifting tools of the festival –we witnessesd a Groundswell. What’s a Groundswell? It’s a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions. Dan Fost, writing for Fortune Magazine reports that this is Social media is putting an end to the passive role attendees traditionally play at business gatherings.


The ability of attendees to communicate with one another in realtime during a presentation will become more and more prevalent. I expect few scientists currently use Twitter during a talk but the ability to carry on back channel communications will make its appearance some day. The example at SXSW was a little more raucous than I would expect to see at the annual meeting of the AMA but it might be as rancorous.

Part of the problem here was the relative anonymity of the chatter. That is, the speakers were not seeing any of this discussion and so were unaware of it direction. I would expect that as we progress, others will monitor the channels and help keep the presenter aware of just what is happening. How about tweets posted on a monitor for the speakers?

In my personal experience, I have seen some very creative approaches used by the audience to produce some wonderfully useful items. At the second ETech meeting several of us used a program then called Hydra, now called SubEthaEdit, that allowed users to create a collaborative document in realtime using WiFi to connect. Four or five of us would take notes, often catching items others would miss. Someone would add Web links for relevant items. We could write in comments, etc. and create a very rich document that was much denser in its information content than if any of us had written it by ourselves.

I am surprised more of this is not happening at meetings or even in class. Study groups could produce very robust documents for the group. I would imagine that there even might be a market for these sorts of notes, for those who slept through the presentation.

So audiences can be more than just unruly.

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