Fooing the (News)Foo

On the first weekend in December, I had the good fortune to be part of a group of 150 people brought together at ASU in Phoenix, Arizona, by O’Reilly, Knight Foundation and Google for Newsfoo, a Foo Camp on the future of news.

A friend had been to such things before.  I asked her how I should comport myself at a Foo Camp.  She told me:

* don’t be a tool, contribute, and be peripatetic
* come with your mouth open, your ideas half-formed
* you will often feel like the dumbest person in the room.  that’s because you probably will be. [OK, I added that very last bit.  No, really.]

Following this, and wiki advice, seemed to act as a reasonable amulet (n00bery during my virgin round of Werewolf apart).

I won’t pretend it wasn’t daunting to begin with – as a hand-selected group, it was a formidable cluster of skills, achievements, futures – but it felt quickly more natural to explain my presence there by referring to what I do/know than by saying, as I did initially, “Because of a grotesque clerical error*.”  Everyone I interacted with (including those of us with jetlag-induced narcolepsy) was open, generous and discursive, and I hope the contributions I made helped.

This discursiveness was considerably enhanced as an experience by the general adoption of the Foo Camp ethos of “being present” as far as possible, by setting aside laptops, mobile devices and such (although a number of Newsfoo-ers wielded iPads – clearly a different, magical device-class), and of using common sense and courtesy as to what could be shared through social networks and blogging (see the second Steve Buttry post below for more on this).  This meant that almost the only interruptions were phone calls, but by this stage I was enjoying the freedom, so I let my phone battery run down.  Not that I took extensive field notes, or drew elaborate sketchnotes in every session, but I was definitely having uninterrupted, whole conversations, which felt nutritious, enjoyable, and freeing.  I should issue, however, a blanket apology to fellow attendees for inadvertently saying “rhizomic” twice over the course of the weekend.  Jetlag.

Newsfoo is an unconference, and as such each person’s experience is likely to be quite different.  Here’s the Rasho-blogging of Alex HowardSteve Buttry, Matt Bernius (once, twice, three times an anthropologist), Wade RoushAlex Hillman, and Dave Cohn (let me know if I missed anyone).  [16 Dec 2010, 5.53pm, adding the glory that is Meg Pickard, and the Storification of Mo Krochmal.  6.58pm: Andrew Walkingshaw's provocation to the US press, and more from Alex Howard.  Looks like it's accelerating.]  Something from me very soon [Update, Jan 21, 2011: here's a short one about Green Lions, Isaac Newton and the news business, and another shambolically stalking one such Green Lion, and getting rather badly mauled].

* For the record, I am not Samira Ahmed.  Also, if you don’t understand the title of this post, I apologise.

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