The Delicious Discomfort of IWMW13

Last week was IWMW13 – The Institutional Web Management Workshop – held this year at the University of Bath from 26 – 28th June. At this point I usually spend a lot time talking about the event amplification that went on, but this year it just happened. Nobody really mentioned it much, the University led it using their Panopto service, Kirsty and Rich Pitkin supported it with Twitter and there didn’t seem to be any major problems – apart from when someone left a light on in the filming room! My attempts to get someone to write about it from the viewing perspective fell on deaf ears too. As John Kirriemuir explained:

Tweet about event amplification

So that’s that. Streaming events is the norm. And to some degree so is remote working (or at least working from home in some capacity). I now work for an organization where everyone does it. Maybe my blog has now become redundant?! [OK, so I’m not ready to shut up yet…]

So instead of the streaming I want to talk about the conference in more general terms.

Well, firstly it was an excellent event, all the speakers were great and gave insightful talks with well-constructed arguments. The themes that emerged were around flexibility, agile development and re-thinking (or maybe repackaging) what we do. The pre-decided theme was ‘What Next?’ and I think what we actually got were some very clear answers to this question: times change and so does the way we do things. Working in Higher Education is hugely different now from when I started at the University of Bath 13 years ago, jobs are no longer secure and the need to show impact and return on investment (ROI) is essential. The talks by Paul Boag, Headscape (Institutional Culture Is Crippling Your Web Strategy!), Martin Hamilton, Loughborough University (The Inside-Out University), Ranjit Sidhu, SiD (9am, 16th August, 2012: “What the fcuk just happened then?”) and Amber Thomas, University of Warwick (Turning our Attention to Supporting Research) in particular backed this up.

There were also some interesting discussions around openness in education. Cable Green, Creative Commons gave the opening plenary (Open Education: The Business & Policy Case for OER) and talks on open badges (Doug Belshaw, Mozilla Foundation (Mozilla Open Badges and a Learning Standard for Web Literacy)) and MOOCs (Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou, University of Bath (Et tu MOOC? Massive Online Considerations)) followed. It became apparent that there are some real tensions between Universities increased need to be competitive and the transparency of openness. This is an area I hope to explore more as part of my new role working on LinkedUp, we are planning to set up an open education working group. Ideas around how HEIs can dabble in open data were considered in a parallel session that I ran with my Open Knowledge Foundation colleague, Tony Hirst (Open Up: Open Data in the Public Sector). I’ve written the session up on the LinkedUp blog.

The atmosphere of IWMW was very different to usual due to uncertainty around the event’s future. UKOLN has now been reduced down to 6 people and both Brian Kelly and myself have been officially made redundant. I have every faith that Brian will pull the cat out of the bag and make sure the event happens again, the community seem to vehemently support this too. On the last morning we were treated to a talk from Neil Denny, allLD on The Delicious Discomfort Of Not Knowing: How to Lead Effectively Through Uncertainty. Neil isn’t part of the Web community but has worked with people going through change. His message was about how we need to be comfortable with uncertainty and find strategies for surviving at the edge of our comfort zone. We can survive by listening to others and adopting the attitude of an artisan (trying new things). His talk really touched a nerve. All of us from UKOLN are going through big change, but change is good, if you don’t change…you stand still. I have to admit I actually love that point when change can happen and I’ve actively strived towards it. It’s at that point that all possibilities still exist.

The three days of IWMW13 was pretty emotionally exhausting. As well as the conference we also had a number of social events including a drinks reception to celebrate UKOLN – or a ‘wake’ as somebody put it :-(. Lots of present and past UKOLNers came along and it was lovely to see people, though also incredibly sad to mark the end of era. I want to end with a few photos of great colleagues and even better friends.

past and present, out in Bath, June 2013

past and present, out in Bath, June 2013

Larger versions of these images are available from the UKOLN Flickr site. Apologies to people who were there who haven’t been included in this collage.

All resources for IWMW13 have been curated on Brian Kelly’s blog.