Four years ago GELA (Greater Edmonton Library Association), LISAA (Library and Information Studies Alumni Association), and FLA decided that it would be a great idea to collaborate on an event. This nebulous desire to do something together was channeled into the first Netpub (also billed as Pub.net and Pub 2.0), in 2007. The event was held in conjunction with the Netspeed conference, which focuses on changing technology in the Library world. The intention was to provide a purely social event that would engage Library folk from across the province who were in town for Netspeed. This year marked the fourth Netpub, where once again we sought to take “…social networking out of the computer and back into the pub!”
At this year’s event I was once again struck by the desire of people to have real time contact with like-minded colleagues. No matter how fast the online environment has changed the context of personal contact in cyberspace, there is no replacement yet for the face to face engagement that occurs over a drink and some appetizers. Netspeed’s theme this year, The Human Side of Technology, seemed especially appropriate as I watched people chatting and socializing. Despite the increasing number of webinars and online professional development opportunities, it seems that in-person attendance at a conference is still very rewarding. It might be due to the removal of the usual distracters, all those things that demand our attention in our offices that somehow are easier to forget about for awhile in a hotel ballroom, or it could be the energy generated by a room full of people.
A good keynote speaker moves me to think, to question, and to look at something from an alternative viewpoint. Jesse Hirsh, Netspeed’s opening keynote speaker talked about the dangers inherent in getting the majority of our information online. He pointed out that our bias to only engage with material that supports our views and opinions on the Web is easy. A speaker who challenges those opinions or leads you to consider other ones has great value, especially if you disagree with him, I might never have sought out the opinions of this speaker but I did find what he had to share engaging and thought provoking.
In a similar vein, Kevin Franco, the closing keynote, opened a whole new world of possibility for storytelling. Kevin demonstrated the difference between knowing something could hypothetically be done using new technologies, and creating something gloriously new and transformative with them. After all, few of the tools he used to generate the transmedia story of One Child, from Facebook to YouTube, are unknown to most of us. What is exciting is the way those tools are combined. The resulting story approaches an event more real than how the novel could have been experienced as a story in the traditional format. This is due largely to the opportunity to perceive a level of personal, social interaction with both the story and the characters. Something like the difference between emailing a colleague and joining them for a drink at the pub!
Events like Netspeed give us the opportunity to look at our increasingly technological world and the Library’s place in it, without forgetting that it is our collective energy as social beings that makes things interesting and keeps us engaged.
by Michelle Sinotte