ORG: Conference Architecture (Was: Confronting The Singularity Conference)

Date: Fri Jun 02 2000 - 07:37:45 MDT

[I'm finally finished with a period of many weeks that included a lot of
travel and work, so I'm just now catching up on correspondence.]

Regarding the Foresight Senior Associates gathering, there's been some
discussion of "conference architecture" over the last week or so and I
thought I'd throw my two cents in. First, a big thanks to all the folks who
participated in the Foresight conference: I really enjoyed the chance to see
old friends again and to meet some for the first time (especially Damien and
Eliezer). Second, I agree with the comments that have been made that the
multi-tracking form of the "Group Genius" architecture has some serious
weaknesses, as well as some strengths. I know that Tanya, who was chiefly
responsible for organizing this year's conference, did a GREAT job, but was
also frustrated by trying to make sure that people got the most out of a
process that was always teetering on the brink between creative chaos and
total collapse.

I think the "Group Genius" form doesn't scale well. I was involved in a
similar kind of program hosted by Arthur Anderson about two months ago. That
two-day event had a much tighter focus than the Foresight events of the last
two years, had only about 30 people involved at the peak of its attendance,
and had a much higher ratio of "support staff" to "substantive participants".
 This event was a complete success in achieving its goals (review and
development of business strategy for a specific enterprise) but, even with
its tighter focus and smaller numbers, was a totally engrossing and draining
experience. Trying to scale this architecture up to an event including 200+
people and having multiple focii across a very broad range of topics, while
using a much lower ratio of support people, just doesn't work, IMO, at least
in regards to the goal of capturing and feeding back the "work product" of
various groups into the on-going process. Perhaps if the process were spread
over a longer time period, it might work with the larger number of people,
but such a longer time period just isn't possible for busy people who are
coming to a central conference location from geographically dispersed areas.

There ARE some good things about the multi-track pattern of the last two
Foresight SA gatherings. The small groups allow better opportunities for
interaction and insure that there is always something interesting going on
for everyone.

I can envision trying to get the best of both kinds of conference. Perhaps a
traditional auditorium for single-speaker/panels with large-group audiences,
coupled with a separate, nearby area in which "nodes" could be set-up for
ad-hoc discussions. The nodes MIGHT be labeled for use by people interested
in particular subjects. These node areas would have comfortable chairs,
places to put up posters, whiteboards, etc.

A "conference architecture" might be built around having only two large-group
presentations per day, and the rest of the time could be reserved for ad-hoc
discussions around the "nodes".

Does this sound like a workable concept for EXTRO5?

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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