EuroDIG: Interconnected Spaces

The problem with remote participation is that of linking the physical space and the virtual space into a single space. When it comes to EuroDIG and IGF, during the conference the physical space has always been primary and I believe this is not about to change. However, what can be changed is the connection of the virtual space into the physical space.

Interconnecting spaces

After remotely participating to IGF, I made some remarks, which can be found here. In Internet governance, interconnecting the physical and the virtual is, first of all, mandated by the focus of policy making – i.e. the internet -, and second, by the approach used in the policy making, namely multistakeholder model. Multistakeholder model, as a democratic model, requires that all participants be able to participate regardless of their ability to be physically present.

Ruth Hennell also blogged about it. The case in IGF was that there was no proper tweet wall to interconnect virtual and physical, but instead this connection was created by physical attendants’ personal devices. EuroDIG is more advanced in this sense, since most rooms have a tweetwall.

Hashtag Controversy

Concretely, the connection is created by the tweet wall that has been configured to follow a certain hashtag. Today, during the plenary session of EuroDIG’s day 2 concerning Net Neutrality, a debate arose, starting from Dan York noticing that the discussion related to the plenary was going on in two hashtags, #eurodig and #eurodignn. People joining in to the conversation were, in addition to myself, mainly Mattias BjärnemalmManuela Zlateva and hvale vale.

The basic problem presented was that having multiple hashtags caused the discussion to fragment. People discussing at #eurodig didn’t notice the comments at #eurodignn. #eurodig was having most of the conversation, but the tweet wall was configured to #eurodignn. This caused a fragmentation of spaces – something that has actively been avoided by the whole Internet governance field.

 

 

Solutions

Solutions were then offered. I supported the hashtag #SingleHashtag and good guidelines for using them, maybe supplied in the program, but also in a neat manner for remote participants. Mattias Bjärnemalm suggested the use of two hashtags, one for the event and a differentiating hashtag for the workshops and plenaries. EuroDIG’s twitter account replied as well.

The discussion continued and I have omitted a lot of comments from this short summary. Feel free to have a look at it, just follow the links above.

My conclusion

This year EuroDIG has been using, in general, the hashtags #eurodig and #eurodig2015. In addition to these, workshops and plenaries have also had their own hashtags; workshops – as far as I know, with the number of the workshop, e.g. #eurodigws2 – and plenaries with a topic-based hashtag. For example, the plenary concerning data protection had #eurodigDP, new media #eurodigNM, and net neutrality had #eurodigNN.

My personal preference is the following: One hashtag for the event, which is not used in the tweet walls of the sessions. One hashtag for each session, preferably named with topic-based shorthands. One tweet wall in session that displays only the tweets of that session. Sure, we could also have one tweet wall in general that displays all event-level tweets (i.e. general #eurodig tweet wall).

Thinking about possible solutions, I do think that it could be possible to join the plenary session hashtag into the overall event hashtag, but it might get too confusing.

3 thoughts on “EuroDIG: Interconnected Spaces”

  1. Interesting blog post, and I was actually somewhat involved in this morning’s Twitter discussion as well. Generally, I disagree with your conclusion – I think that one hashtag for the whole event should be the [imperfect] preference. Yes, there will be some confusion in the parallel sessions, but I think that this is acceptable when set against the fragmentation that we have seen already and the fact that additional hashtags are (almost) invariably longer than the original hashtag e.g. #(event) vs #(event)(topic) – when you’re dealing with limited characters, that matters!

    As I said, I acknowledge that this is not ideal, but I do tend to think that we need to set the barrier for involvement as low as possible to produce more effective remote participation.

    Chris

  2. Thanks for a great summary of the discussion. Most likely the topic of hashtags in tweets might ironically best be discussed in another format then tweets.

    Now the problem is that we have different interests that do not neccesarily align, and we have different tools we use for twitter.

    There is an interest for the remote participants to interact with the correct room at any given time. That creates a need for a unique hashtag for any given room at any given time.

    There is an interest for on-place participants to find other people at the conference. Here it is important to minimize the amount of different hashtags one need to keep track of to see who is present.

    At-place participants also have an interest of a coherent use of hashtags so that their followers can get an easy overview of their impression of the event.

    All participants also have an interest of using topic specific hashtags to tie in their tweets in a larger narrative. This makes them prone to use pre-established hashtags (like #netneutrality).

    Finally we have the character limitation of Twitter giving everyone the need to be restrictive with the use of characters put into tags.

    Weighing all this together I see the best response from the organizers to be as follow:

    Promote one hashtag before the event (#eurodig). There is no need to divide by year as all tweets have a date in the metadata that is presented with the tweet.

    Promote the same hashtag (#eurodig) for all opening sessions, keynotes, etc (sessions where there is no parallell activity). Use the same tag for the twitter wall during these events.

    Promote the use of two hashtags for workshops. The genereal hashtag (#eurodig) and a short identifier (#ws7 etc). And then use the short hashtag for the twitter walll of that room. This will make give remote participants a way of ensuring that their comments end up at the right place while still giving people who want to follow everything that goes on at the conference one single tag to follow.

    1. OK, I think I’m starting to align with you, Mattias. That does sound very reasonable and easy to use.

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