Oct 24 2008

Sneaking into EPIC 2008

Last week was the fall vacation for universities in Denmark, so their facilities were used for conferences such as AoIR 9.0 and EPIC 2008.  Many of the people who participated in either conference did not seem to know about the other one, even though to me there were many connections and overlaps. There was a big contingent from CPsquare traveling to Denmark, mostly to AoIR.

Outside the EPIC Conference in Copenhagen
Outside the EPIC Conference in Copenhagen

Originally uploaded by xeeliz

Beverly Trayner and I had been corresponding with Gitti Jordan about a CPsquare-sponsored dialog on Sunday October 19, so to get the conversation going we snuck into the EPIC conference to join a workshop she was leading on Mobile Work and Mobile Lives. After we’d looked around to determine whether we could get in, we had a coffee waiting for the conference attendees to finish lunch and talked about billing rates and business models.

Once we had begged to be admitted and had sat down to talk with people, we were surprised and delighted at how welcomed we felt and we both ended up being the reporters for our respective discussion groups. Here’s roughly what I reported on for one of the three groups:

  1. Looking at issues such as worker and work mobility, work at a distance and with distant partners as daily practices:
    • We tend to frame these questions at an individual level, at the risk of missing opportunities and problems at the ensemble level.
    • Collaborating and living with people at a distance, across many time zones now seems to be the norm, but it’s also a challenge we can’t quite handle or necessarily understand.
    • We need to look at implications both for “the workplace” as well as for “the home.”
  2. Big themes for mobile workers who collaborate at a distance:
    • What does it mean to have roots? Where is home?
    • Is multi-location, multi-time zone work liberating or enslaving?
    • How bound up is our thinking about these issues with our own social status, seeing all these issues as pertaining mainly to “knowledge workers”?
    • Is the germination of powerful ideas still necessarily a co-located, face-to-face event?
    • How can we be so obsessed with purposeful research while relying on serendipitous encounters and surprising discoveries?
    • Can we “stand outside” somehow to understand the importance of “where we live” physically and in terms of the succession of generations?
  3. There were all kinds of issues on the edge of our awareness, that fell into two main areas:
    • How can we “study” these phenomena? What is “observation” (can we do it at a distance)? What kinds of scale issues are there?
    • What would the value of insights into these issues be (were we to understand them)?

It was really fun!

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