Is it ironic to wish you were in the room for a realtime web conference?

Today I watched a webcast of the Media140 OzPolitics event held in Canberra. Media140 is an independent organisation committed to the application of the real time web (social media and related tools) to politics, business, NGOs and communities. Like a specialised TED, they have run a number of symposiums and events globally to explore the issues, ideas and social change arising from the new communications.

What made this session different from the usual range of social media training, conference and talks was (aside from Julian Morrow’s MCing of the afternoon), was the range and experience of the panelists and presenters.  Using politics as a (paradocixaly) unifying theme, the event explored:

– Lessons from Obama’s Campaign
–  Dissection of real time web use in the Australian Federal Election
– The UK 2010 election (a fantastic presentation from UK Academic Dr Clare Wardle)
– GetUp case study and NGO/activist engagement with realtime web.

There was a good cross section of experienced voices in the room, and there were some quite substantial differences of opinion – particularly about whether the ‘realtime web’ is good or bad for democracy/reportage/politics/engagement. The differing stances are predictably driven by  the perceived gains or losses arising from the shift in voice and participative nature of this new environment.

Big themes today included:
Control versus participation
Realtime web asks for participation, and democratises information. Media, politicians and businesses who strive for control (of the message) in this environment are missing the fundamental difference inherent in the new environment.

Its only the beginning
These are early days for the technologies and the usage patterns. Looking at the extreme growth in the use of twitter for example (which still doesn’t approach the daily volume of SMS used globally) it is apparent that while there are patterns of use, communication and behaviour now, these will evolve as more people adopt the technology – it will change language and behaviour.

Know your purpose
Whatever realtime tools become available and however they are changing the discourse, some principles don’t change. Check your sources. Do your research. Go where the fish are.
The quote that stood out for me was from social activist David Hood: Rather than being too broad, “be a social media acupuncturist. Apply pressure only where you need to for results”.

All of it was fiercely tweeted (#media140), particularly by those in the room, as documented by Crikey cartoonist First Dog on the Moon.

Audio from the sessions is being posted at .

ABC Radio Canberra has done a stoic job transcribing some of the panels.

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