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VanBarCamp 2008

Just arrived at BarCamp – taking place on Granville Island instead of Workspace for the first time. I cycled along the seawall and it was lovely – cool and fishy and seaweedy smelling.

I popped in late to Joe Bowser’s session, on the new Vancouver Hacker Space. This is a really exciting project and I’m glad it’s getting off the ground. I saw Joe at Last H.O.P.E. in NYC this summer and it seems he was as inspired by the different hacker groups there as I was.

I went to Dave Ng’s session, From the Information Highway to Information Literacy, next. Dave runs the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory at UBC, which has a “bifocal mandate to train scientists (university students and faculty)…and to inform the public at large on the societal, cultural, corporate, political, economic, and ethical nuances of the general sciences, and life sciences in particular.”

Dave  has spearheaded a number of very cool web projects (for a scientist – no offense), like his google bombing exercise This is the Truth (by you the reader) – still on the first page of a google search for “truth”. His literary science website,  Science Creative Quarterly was one of the first to publish the  flying spaghetti monster cartoon  And then, of course, there’s the science scouts badges.

Dave is interested in assessing the public’s knowledge of science, and to figure out how to increase scientific literacy through viral campaigns. “What is it in the web that makes certain things fly, that engages people?” A question that parallels my own research. Acknowledging  the web as a powerful tool for mobilizing people to think and create, Dave wants to figure out how to channel that power into projects for social change. His latest project is an effort to increase scientific literacy in kids using the Pokémon model – instead of getting kids to memorize useless facts about those cute little cartoon characters, why not have them learning about local flora and fauna, and developing a knowledge of the ecosystem that surrounds and sustains them? The basic idea, Dave explains, is that “Once you’re informed, you can take that knowledge and actually do something good with it.”

I also went to Luke Closs’ session, Elections and the Internets, which was a brainstorming session to see what can be done to help educate and mobilize people to make informed, progressive votes in the upcoming Canadian federal elections. The general takeaway is that there’s a lot of info out there on the web, but it’s time consuming to find/access and if you don’t know how to access the info, or don’t even know it’s there, then that wealth of information is useless. So some sort of collaborative, wiki-like site would be needed to aggregate all info and allow people to connect their website or project into a central hub in order to build a comprehensive resource. J Karen Parker talked about an interesting web project she’s working on around informing Vancouver voters for the next municipal election, something she envisions could hook into or provide a base for a national website covering the three levels of politics.

Finally, Karen Quinn Fung‘s session – BarCamps for non-techies – was quite interesting. Karen is an SFU grad whom I met at Web of Change – a real smart cookie and go-getter who got involved in community organizing at  Toronto Transit Camp. Public transit is Karen’s passion, and since returning from the tdot, she’s gotten all up in Translink’s grill. She’s now on their payroll, running an independent blog and liaising with their public engagement team. Karen’s also organizing a Skytrain unconference (under the auspices of Translink) for Oct. 4 at SFU Surrey. There was a pretty lively discussion around that – the political use of barcamps and the co-optation of a community organizing tool as corporate focus-group/PR tactic. But, as Karen pointed out, “even though translink’s putting on party, the projects can be executed by anybody.” One incongruity: the Bus Riders Union is not involved yet – but should be, as Tara Robertson pointed out. This is more the case if the unconference really wants to bring together all parts of the transit community, and also have cred with the transit activists, who have been doing good, hard work for a long time.

That was about it for me and BarCamp. I liked the Granville Island setting but not how far apart the three locations were. It was good to see all the usual suspects, and meet a few new peeps. I always forget how much fun it is… Check out Miss604 for deets on WordCamp and other BarCamp nuggets.

2 Responses to “VanBarCamp 2008”

  1. Raul Says:

    Sorry I missed you Kate but I didn’t go to BarCamp (the actual event, I was at the party and part of the organizing committee for BarCamp too) because I was ill. I’m on the Drive right now :)

  2. countably infinite » Blog Archive » BarCamp Vancouver 2008 - Unconference Meta Says:

    [...] questions is my answer. It is not everyone’s answer. Tara (and Kate Milberry, who was also very active in this discussion) say that the Bus Riders Union needs to be at the unconference for it to be meaningful. While I am [...]

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