What is an Unconference?
“an unconference is a participant-oriented meeting where the attendees decide on the agenda, discussion topics, workshops, and, often, even the time and venues. The informal and flexible program allows participants to suggest topics of their own interest and choose sessions accordingly. The format provides an excellent opportunity for researchers from diverse disciplines to work collaboratively on topics of common interest. The overarching goal for most unconferences is to prioritize conversation over presentation. In other words, the content for a session does not come from a select number of individuals at the front of the room, but is generated by all the attendees within the room, and, as such, every participant has an important role.”
Budd A, Dinkel H, Corpas M, Fuller JC, Rubinat L, Devos DP, et al. (2015), ‘Ten Simple Rules for Organizing an Unconference’ PLoS Comput Biol 11(1): e1003905. http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003905
How will this actually work at Glasgow?
First, participants are invited to register using this website, so that other participants know who’s coming and connections can start to appear. Once you’ve registered, you can also post to this website information and links about projects you’re working on, films or links you’d like to share.
At the beginning of each day on Saturday and Sunday, we will meet in the plenary/resources space. In this space there will be posters, printed material, the Radical Independent Bookfair, Radical Film Archive, and some refreshments. These will remain throughout the day.
The meeting starts by setting the schedule for the day. We start with a blank grid for the four rooms available, over three time slots. Participants propose session topics, and a facilitator helps find the best spaces and times for the sessions proposed. The breakout sessions then run for the allocated time; each session is run by its participants around the chosen topic, and they can use whatever format suits best – open discussion, short introductions/presentations, film clips and discussion, etc. All rooms have a projector, flipchart, and whiteboard. Each session is asked to choose a rapporteur to make notes of the discussion.
Towards the end of the day we reconvene in the plenary space and gather some of the ideas that have emerged, with a view to develop them further the next day. On Sunday morning we again start by setting the schedule and work in a similar manner.
After the event, we will gather the notes to put together informal proceedings.
What time will I be on?
There are no scheduled presentation or screening spots, since the idea is to engage in conversations rather than present a paper in a traditional way. However, the two days will have a different emphasis. On the Saturday, the focus will be on knowledge sharing. The sessions may be more presentational as people get to learn about each other’s projects. So if you responded to the call for participants with a specific topic you’d like to discuss, Saturday may be the most appropriate time to present your work.
Sunday will emphasise reflection and discussion, in particular engaging with the events taking place at the broader festival. Discussions will be picked up from the previous day and new ones started.
It is important to make clear that these are very broad guidelines and that the actual schedule is set by the participants. The best way to ensure that the topic you want to discuss actually gets discussed, is to come to the morning plenary and propose a session, finding common interests with others. You can, of course, participate in any of the sessions you choose. So – you’re on all the time you’re in the unconference space. We expect to be doing stuff between 9am and 3pm approx. to give people time to go to other RFN events in the afternoon and evening.
It is general practice in this kind of meeting that people can leave a session halfway through. The resources space will remain open so you can come and browse some books or videos, or just take a break.
Venue: Gilmorehill Halls, 9 University Avenue, Glasgow G12 8QQ.
Access: Ramp access and lift to all floors.
Public transport: The bus routes 4/4A stop just outside the building. Nearest Subway station is Kelvinbridge.
Times: Friday 29 April 2016, 3-6pm: Welcome desk and resources space open.
Saturday 30 April 2016, 9.00am-3.00pm: Day One
Sunday 1 May 2016, 9.00-3.00pm: Day Two
Monday 2 May 2016, 12-2pm: Radical Film Network general meeting.
More information about the unconference format
The unconference model has developed from various sources including radical and popular pedagogy, collaborative work in tech and programming/hacking, and non-hierarchical organising in activist communities. There are many different ways of doing this so you pick and choose what tools are relevant for the group. Some examples of the unconference model in practice, with their particular adaptations, include ThatCamp (digital humanities) and EdCamp (education).
Some of the tools developed to organise in this way are referred to as Open Space Technology. The Open Space on Arts and Democracy held last year in Budapest offers an example of how this worked there – here’s the report.
OST is also used in corporate contexts so perhaps take with a pinch of salt:
Michael Herman’s resources and experiences in OST: link
Chris Corrigan’s resources and advice on OST: link
If you have experience of this kind of format, and would like to share notes, please comment! This is what we make of it so let’s make it fun, interesting, memorable…