This morning I read a great post from Steve Wheeler over at his blog, Learning With 'e's. The post deals with a ban of social media during the upcoming Annual Meeting of the American Society Cell Biology. Here is restriction as it was sent to meeting participants:
"Use of cameras and all other recording devices (this includes digital, film, and cell phone cameras, as well as audio recordings) are strictly prohibited in all session rooms, in the Exhibit Hall, and in all poster and oral presentation sessions. Twittering (see above) and other forms of communication involving replication of data are strictly prohibited at the Annual Meeting or before publication, whether data presented are in the Exhibit Hall, poster area, poster sessions, or invited talks, without the express permission and approval of the authors. Persons caught taking photos, video, or audio recordings with any device or transmitting such information with any device will be escorted out of the hall or rooms and not be allowed room re-entry. Repeat offenders will have their meeting badge(s) revoked and will not be allowed to continue to attend the meeting. This policy is necessary to respect the willingness of presenters to share their data at the meeting as well as their publication opportunities."
Steve speculated that the ban might be because of the sensitive nature of the data presented. Meaning it would be wrong to broadcast data that was unpublished. And I agree, that is probably the best way to handle that. The conference organizer actually clarified the ban stating just what Steve assumed, in that the ban only covers unpublished data elements. They actually encourage debate and discussion. The organizer goes on to say that the way the policy is written is not what they intended and are currently revising.
However, recently there have been some recent, high-profile cases where using Twitter at conferences and presentations has caused a stir. One such case involves Social Media Researcher Danah Boyd. At the Web 2.0 Conference she experienced what a Twitter Backchannel can do to a person and a presentation. To sum it up, she was being criticized and her talk picked apart as it was happening. There are also some cases going as far back as 2004 where the audience, using a backchannel, disrupted a presentation.
So all this got me thinking. Would you go to a conference or a presentation the banned Twittering or Social Media during talks or discussions? I don't think that causing a disruption or disturbance is warranted in any case. However, if you can't stand the heat....The Twitter stream and backchannel provide a place for the audience to comment, in real-time on what is being discussed.
As a conference participant and presenter I have to ask some questions. As an audience member, why should I not be able to question and comment on what is being presented? Should I just sit and accept, without question, what is being said? As a presenter, do I not want people to discuss my work and ask questions, and yes, even criticize? (After all, isn't that how we get better and do better?)
Would you attend? What if there was a ban on Tweeting and Social Media? Would you do it anyway, sticking it to the man so to say? Is a backchannel to be expected now at conferences and presentations?
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