Monday, October 5, 2009

A Dollar...and change

I am thinking today about the nature of change in institutions like a University or Community College and the challenges that "change champions", and change agents face in organizations that seem sometimes hard-wired to resist change at all costs. So much of my work and my life seems to be about facilitating change and working through the resistance that change might present. A few chestnuts to start with:

Q: How many academics does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: CH-CH-CH-CHANGE? What do you mean change!!?

"Why is it that faced with the option of either making change or proving why it isn't needed, so many academics will get busy with the proof?"

Sorry I can't provide reference for either of these - they aren't mine, but I don't have the originating source at hand. However, I just finished reading a novel (State of Fear) by Michael Chrichton presenting an alternate view of the current take on climate change. In the epilog at the end of the book, Chrichton pontificates on a lot of issues relating to the current state of science research and politics. Some of it is pretty controversial, but I particularly liked one comment relating to the inability to change the model of science research. "The world changes; idealogues and zealots don't". He also states "I am certain there is too much certainty in this world."

It has been a point of interest for me for some time to explore why some decision-makers in academic areas are resistant to change (see related articles on my ePortfolio research site or my Class in the Cloud podcast with Stephen Downes). In my discussion with Steven Downes, he cautions that I should not use terms like "technophobia" or "fear of innovation", suggesting that such folks have no reason to fear change - rather that there are valid (and often economic) reasons for resistance in many cases. Agreed that there are great reasons not to simply change for change itself, but it seems to me there is also plenty of inertia when it comes to change that would be very obviously beneficial and that is where the notion of responsible technology conservatism does not help explain the reluctance to embrace change.

King Whitney Junior presents an interesting take on change and the emotions that accompany it: Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.

I'm the confident kind, I guess.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Halifax Podcamp 2009

7:00am is an early start for a Sunday morning at Halifax Podcamp 2009, but I think that it was time well spent. For a free event, I feel I got a lot of value. I started out "camping" with Hal Richman on Convergence of Business and Social Media. The message? Unsure, but it seems that some folks have had some success utilizing social media tools to accomplish business objectives, but many find it difficult to get past the hype and make a real connection to do more than a marketing exercise (that might be done better in other formats). Said Hi to Steven Downes who seemed to make pretty well the same rounds as me for the session choices.

Session II: MediaBadger - The State of Social Media in Atlantic Canada. As the barriers to entry to publication (editors, publishing houses, costs to publish) gets ripped down by social media tools, marketers are finding new ways to get to the 18-34 demographic that heretofore has been difficult to reach - but will become highly political and important over the next decade. Meantime a gap is clear between internet users in the lowest wage groups (47% actively using internet) and the highest wage groups (91% usage). Interesting stat - 67% of Canadians watch TV and are online at the same time. I thought it was just me??

Session III: I decided to go with Chris Campbell's "Small, Specific, Real: Storytelling" presentation. I note that he lost a bunch of folks right off the draw when he exposed his technology for the presentation - sticky notes and the audience. Too bad for them - although Chris' style may be a little disjointed for some, he had some great notions about how to tell a story in a medium like blogs or tweets. Keep the storyline tight (small), the delight is in the details (specific), and genuine things that mean something to you (real) will always make for compelling stories. A couple of other good notes in the margins - like understanding that you don't have to tell people the meaning of every story and that entertainment is still a social construct - good stuff. I will try to find his podcast (Bad Metaphor) and give it a listen.

After lunch I took in the keynote with Andrew Baron (RocketBoom) - a bit of a waste of an hour and a half, but a couple of good (albeit altruistic) takeaways: If you find yourself explaining the notion of Web 2.0, you are probably talking with the wrong audience. Also - and this really resonates with me - aggregation is the true promise of the semantic web. His final notes were no real news: To be a success in social media marketplace you will need to capture two of the following characteristics: be the first; be the best; be the most unique. Good thing this wasn't the only draw for the event.

Last session of the day was a chat with Craig Moore ( and was chock full of great production and post production notes for adding video to web presence. Having a long drive out to the countryside I didn't stay aaround for the final framing - hoping it was taped and will be available/ linked on the podcamp wiki.