Reboot Britain, Savoy Place, London

Today I attended some of the afternoon sessions of Reboot Britain, a conference which is part of NESTA’s Reboot Britain program looking at the challenges of a networked digital world. Topics such as Government, schooling, the economy, gaming and participation by the individual were amongst the ground covered.

Reboot Britain is also as series of essays exploring online participation & digital tools, You can download the Reboot Britain essays.

The event comprised of multiple streams, with no breaks between the sessions of different lengths of an hour or half hour, so I ended up missing the beginning/intros, which became a bit confusing. There were also several spontaneous breakout sessions by people who wanted to carry on the session found somewhere to chat. All in all a bit frustrating and difficult to tell quite what was going on.

Here’s a few points from the sessions I attended…

Is the web female?

I arrived close to the end, so I got the summing up points from the chair & panel:
• established that the web is organic…
• it is global
• using generalisations for what makes something female doesn’t add value
• if we notice things about places like Twitter that we can change to create an environment more hospitable we should note them
* look out for what we can do for people who feel disenfranchised and make them feel more valued
• women are using the web, but want to take out the testosterone – e.g. Slashdot
• how can we make it more participatory and a better experience?
* what will make the web more attractive is to make – Simms & second life are aimed at women but a waste of time – being able to chose your hairstyle is a crap way of making something more feminine!
* Mixed reactions to whether we should do anything to make the web more feminine
* We should clean up the web, e.g. youtube
There are some women entrepreneurs
* Programming is an ideal feminine activity because it gives you something to play with

I missed most of this session, so I can’t really comment on the sentiments!

TLS: leading practitioners on learning technology

A session on learning & tech with various teachers, specialists and interested peeps

* the biggest barrier is not trusting our children
* Derek Robertson – teachers are reinventing how learning is being presented to kids through games
* Leon Cych – on exemplary projects, such as orchid growing project – you’ve got a spine of examples of action research models, if you collected them together then you’d have a system that would affect change & enable grass roots projects like a magnifier

Stan Stalnaker – Founder of Hub Culture

‘Hub Culture is a real network bringing together the physical and the virtual’

Hub Culture is a ‘socially operated movement’ which uses technology to create environments and has it’s own private currency, Ven, the first P2P social currency. They have clubs or ‘pavilions’ around the world in hub cities for members to meet. In London there’s one in Carnaby Street, it works totally on virtual payments and is £29 to join. There are also clubs in other cities such as New York and San Francisco, Bermuda, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Howard Rheingold

I really enjoyed listening to Howard and I loved his colourful, fun style – definitely reflective of a creative person. Anyways, I’ve taken a ton of notes and quotes…

Howard began by stating that we need to go beyond ‘skills’ and on to literacy, and talking about social media. He’s got a list of 5 literacy areas that he considers the most important, these are: attention participation, cooperation, critical consumption and network awareness – he feels they all need to be put together.
Online media has been social for a time time…

In a world where there were search engines before Google, such as early Lycos, he used to help his daughter with her homework. She used to search the internet for help, but he explained to her that things were changing – for example that you could take a library book and trust that someone had checked the content, but on the web you could not assume that someone had checked it and the content was factually correct. He taught his twelve year old daughter how to be a critic – he told his daughter to:
• check who the author is by putting the authors name in the search engine
• check to see who links to the author
• you have to be a detective
• she needed to set a crap detector on it

When Howard has a new class, he says ‘the first thing I do is to shut their laptops, turn their phones off and shut their eyes and see what happens – the mind will free associate without any outside stimulation’.

‘Attention’ – ‘I’m not sure that schools is the place where this kind of education is going to happen, school is the place where we park our kids while we go to work’

‘Participation’ – ‘Never before have we had ways to connect with our peers that our parents couldn’t spy on!’ and ‘How many boring blogs and twitter accounts say that participation isn’t enough?’

‘From passive consumption to active participation, young people create as well as consume online even, if it’s just pimping out their My Space page’.

‘Coordination’ – ‘Humans have used their collective media to co-ordinate action’.

‘Collaboration’ and ‘Critical Consumption’ – ‘Using technology to do collective or collaborative action gives us more power than doing things alone’. Howard gave us examples of this such Chilean school kids, Fair Trading campaigns in London, Gobama campaign, the search for Jim Gray, a Microsoft employee who disappeared on his boat – 12000 people helped. As well as the Asian tsunami where people donated money and equipment and the Katrina hurricane – people were posting on Craiglist and other areas to find people and geeks got together to scrape info and bring searches together. People always rush in to help with disasters, but now with the help of technology it’s global!

Social capital know-how is evolving – the capacity to get things done without conventional means such as Twestivals around the world to help bring clean water to people in villages who needed it. This creates ‘network awareness’.

Reputation is increasingly important online – the presentation of self and identity.

‘Networked individualism’ – ‘Since the invention of the telephone you called a person in ‘a place’, nowadays online you don’t know where they are. There are some serious questions of how we’re going to handle this in the future’.

Personal learning adverts – if you find people who you trust online, make friends with them and consult them.

Twitter is an example of a great medium that does not teach you how to use it. Hybrid literacies – Twitter – ‘Don’t try to see all the tweets while you’ve been asleep you need to sample the flow, there’s a triage skill to this stuff’.

On security – ‘There’s so many panics about the dangers of the internet – parents are frightened to death of their kids safety – it’s not that there’s not dangers, but there’s awareness of falling for bullshit’
Howard then quoted Henry Jenkins formerly of MIT who wrote about participated literacies and wrote something very important about confronting participatory 21st century, which I must look up!

In 1995 Howard Rheingold was asked what an online learning would be like, he came up with – ‘The most interesting change for participative media was moving from a classroom made out of rows and into a circle – there is no back row in a circle – you’re not hiding from the teacher you’re hiding from your peers – it’s much better to talk together and get the students to do the teaching too. It’s not guaranteed to work, but when it works it’s amazing!’

“In teaching you need to keep your eyes not just on the technology but the literacies’.

Further reading:

‘Smartmobs’ – Howard’s written a book about how technology & the internet generate collaborative action – ‘There’s a combination of technology and social convention’.


‘How can we trust networks for evaluating news? Trusted brands used to be newspapers and television – we’re watching the emergence online, but we may drown in that noise of spam, porn & misinformation unless we have people looking at the crap detection – we need enough people developing crap detectors!’


A mixed afternoon for me – things I enjoyed:
* Lego Reboot Britain – my contribution was a bit off the wall, but what the hey!
* Meeting up with friends and meeting some new people
* Hearing Derek Robinson contributing to discussion in a quite informal session
* Howard Rheingold and his amazing technicolour outfit 🙂
* Thinking about ‘crap detectors’ – an amusing term that might stick in my head 😉

..things I didn’t enjoy so much:
* The schedule having changed on the day, so my pre planning going out the window – needed one of the screen’s put to use with updates
* No breaks between sessions, so I kept missing the beginning/intro & ending up confused
* Too much to chose from
* Running up and down 3 floors with my heavy rucksack 😉

Could have done with…
* Some actions or ways of actioning stuff
* Clear stream outlines for talks – e.g. games, government and learning
* Name badges – didn’t have a clue who people were
* Vegan friendly snacks ;-P