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Aleks Krotoski, Cory Doctorow, Tim O'Shea and more: IT Futures on Disruption

I'm beginning to wind down for the xmas break - just the Student Systems Board tomorrow, a meeting of the Applications Architecture Governance Group, a review of the first phase of development for the new university web site, then a xmas curry with the web site team on Friday, and that will be me off for a couple of weeks.  But before I finish, I want to record some thoughts about our IT Futures conference for 2013, which was held last week.

We started planning this in January, when we were thinking about ideas for a theme and potential speakers.  I had the idea of inviting a science-fiction writer to give an outsider's view of what higher education might look like in the future.  This was tossed around a bit and Jen Ross suggested Cory Doctorow.  Meanwhile, the theme of "disruption" rose to the surface.  We put the two together and a potential agenda began to take shape.

The next step was to add a less technical and more people-oriented take on "disruption".  For this, the name of Aleks Krotoski was suggested.  So we contacted both Cory and Aleks and were very pleased when they both agreed to speak.  The Principal, Tim O'Shea, also agreed to give his views of the challenges facing the University.  We had a programme.

And on the day it went very well.  Aleks actually gave her talk by pre-recorded video and then joined a response / Q&A session via Skype, with Chris Speed engaging Aleks in a discussion about some of the key points; this format worked rather well given the theme of the day.  Cory also strayed from traditional academic style, sitting on a table and talking with no need for slides.  Our other presenters were more traditional (not being media stars) but made good points.

The only thing that went less well than planned was the audio for the concluding panel.   I had suggested that we structure this like a radio chat show rather than a traditional academic panel, to make it more engaging.  In terms of content, it worked - the discussion was rather interesting - but unfortunately the audio wasn't up to handling that number of microphones in close proximity and there was rather a lot of interference so that people at the back of the hall couldn't hear the conversation properly.

Overall though it was a very good day and I'm glad to have been a small part of it.  I really had little to do with the actual organisation of the event.  I'm not being modest - I simply didn't have enough time to devote to this on top of the day job, however much I would have liked to do so.  So my thanks to the rest of the team for turning all our ideas into reality.


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