Unconferences often use variations on the Open Space Technology format/method developed by Harrison Owen in the mid 1980’s. Owen’s 1993 book Open Space Technology: a User’s Guide discussed many of the techniques now associated with unconferences, although his book does not use that term.
Typically at an unconference, the agenda is created by the attendees at the beginning of the meeting. Anyone who wants to initiate a discussion on a topic can claim a time and a space. Unconferences typically feature open discussions rather than having a single speaker at the front of the room giving a talk, although any format is permitted. This form of conference is particularly useful when the attendees generally have a high level of expertise or knowledge in the field the conference convenes to discuss.
The kink world has a few unconferences, do you know of any in ‘alt’ communities?
G.R.U.E – events have been consistent, successful and all over the US (and Europe!)
Kink For All – more sporadic events
I was involved with the first two years of the Sex 2.0 conference (that is no longer in production but I think was the jumping off point for Momentum/Catalyst) and it used some unconference principles. There were pre-planned sessions and presenters but there were also open sessions for things that developed on the spot or spilled over as well as lots of free time to encourage attendee interaction. The first classes I ever taught were at Sex 2.0 and I really valued the framework of the conference because I felt that it didn’t create this presenter/attendee hierarchy the way more formal events tend to.
I think that the GRUE model is also fascinating and have been wanting to attend a GRUE and potentially host one some day. I’m intrigued mostly that these conferences are often low-cost and based on principles of the free spread of information. I enjoy the democratic nature of them and I think they have the potential to address some of the significant class divide in kink communities.
I have not heard of any events that are like this. We do have a meet-up group that is similar to this. Topic discussions get decided at the beginning of the meeting.
I have a few friends who just finished hosting an unconference last week. It was completely un-related to alt community (it had to deal with local food and sustainability), but I will try to ask them for their input and advice. It was their 4th unconference, so they have experience and are getting better at it.
I’ve also personally been to an unconference about urban planning and it was great. There was roughly 200 people at that one and it had great buy-in from my city’s municipal government — so lots of good knowledge in the room. I think that is one of the critical features of unconferences, your attendees need to be smart and basically know their stuff — the event can easily fail if your experts are not really experts or if they have bad social skills in managing a crowd. Moreover, twitter was a surprisingly key ingredient to that successful unconference as many conversations were taking place online that added value to the offline conversations. There was even a giant projector screen so you could follow all the hashtags and feeds.