Digital Media and Learning conference 2011

Last week I went to Long Beach, CA for the Digital Media and Learning conference. It was great meeting a ton of people (too many to list, sorry), sharing a room with Moses Wolfenstein and Sean Duncan, having breakfast with fellow DML Summer Institute people, getting dinner with fellow Terror Novans, and seeing demos of really cool projects (cf below). The highlight of the presentations was definitely the ignite talks–quick 5 minute talks with an auto-advancing slidedeck. One presenter couldn’t make the second ignite session, so Alex Halavais took to the stage and did an improv talk with slides he had never seen before! And it was it was hilarious, on-point, and relevant!

Fiona Barnett's photo of Fab@Home

Last year, Jeremy Hunsinger and I set up an etherpad for the conference where anyone attending could collaboratively take notes and chat about the sessions. This year, I set up the same thing with a Google doc and blasted the url to Twitter periodically. I’m disappointed in the turn-out of the gdoc use, especially given that the theme of many of the talks was about collective and collaborative/participatory production and understanding of cultural artifacts, curricula, etc. I saw many people using laptops and iPads to take notes, but those notes will forever be sequestered, not shared. 🙁

My reasoning is that together we can attend everything. There were 7 concurrent tracks. Together we could have let everyone learn about each one.

As it is, I think the few of us who used the gdoc hit about a quarter of the sessions. I think for next year I’ll suggest an official gdoc or other collaborative note-taking tool be used.

There was also some backchannel activity in an IRC which got pretty snarky. I think that’s fine and quite entertaining but I wish naysayers in that backchannel would ask questions during the sessions they had particular problems with.

Overall, the type of talk around digital media literacies and games took a step backwards, I think… or maybe just treaded water from last year. There’s two things that contributed to this I think. It seemed like this year there were many more people coming from non-profits and non-academic places, so they had to be caught up with new-to-them ideas. Additionally, there was a confluence of people from different disciplinary backgrounds, so they too needed to step back a bit to lay some foundational common language down. One example was the IRC discussion about the label “gamer” and whether someone is a “hardcore” vs. “casual” gamer. I think it was a useful discussion, and, yes, it did help me better articulate things in my head. Yet games people such as the scholars who regularly attend GLS had already covered that ground a year or two ago.

Two highlights of the talks, besides the ignite talks, for me were both in a constructive/destructive technologies panel. Dan Perkel gave a fascinating study of deviantART community-based discussion regarding the sharing of work, ownership, privacy, “safe” space, and the nature of the interwebs. Stuart Geiger gave a very entertaining and eye-opening talk about Wikipedia bots and collective response to automated procedures, touching on guidelines and policies and how they affect user behavior and participation.

Next year, DML (March 1-3) will be in San Francisco right before GDC (March 5-9), so I won’t have to choose between the two again!

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