• Making mind-meet magic

    One wonderful thing about THATCamp is that the humanities and technology is such a big space: people come from various disciplines – and various intersections between disciplines – to focus on projects closest to their professional hearts. That diversity of perspective is fuel for a magical aspect of the unconference: in the meeting of differently-tuned minds, innovation can arise.

    But to enable that, we need to invite and welcome and accommodate marginal perspectives – those of people who are different to oneself socially, politically, geographically, economically, however. Unless we consciously work to recognise marginal perspectives, they are likely to be subdued and ignored – in which case, we all miss out :/

    Here are some things we can do in each session to optimise our collective experience:

    • Appoint a facilitator – someone to moderate the discussion and to make sure that if people are quiet it is by choice, not because they lack confidence in the space.
    • If it feels right, appoint a scribe and/or a Googler/laptop driver.
    • Spend a few minutes getting to know the group. Identify a range of perspectives the group brings to the session – unless it’s a small group, this is quicker and more useful than doing intros one by one. List the perspectives/experience where everyone can see. You can go round in turn or people can call them out – but make sure everyone has the opportunity to add something to the mix.
    • Decide what you want the outcome/s of the session to be. The session host could propose one; others can extend, refine or alter it. Is it an opening-up-style discussion? Do you want to reach a consensus on something? Is the purpose to trade coding tools, techniques and tricks? To sketch a plan for an application?
    • Sketch an outline / structure for the session. Consider breaking big groups up for smaller-group discussion so everyone gets a say.

    Of course, the above are in addition to the informal ways we can (and do, in my experience) make everyone feel welcome. In between sessions, for example, talk to people you don’t know – especially if you notice someone who seems possibly isolated.

    Thanks for reading – and I look forward to some mind-meet magic!

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