Assessing Barcamps: Incentives for Participation in Ad-Hoc Conferences and the Role of Social Media

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Barcamps are conferences without predened content, often referred to as ad-hoc conferences or unconferences. Therefore, the outcomes of a barcamp are largely unknown before the event. This raises the …

Barcamps are conferences without predened content, often referred to as ad-hoc conferences or unconferences. Therefore, the outcomes of a barcamp are largely unknown before the event. This raises the question of participants' motivations to attend and contribute. To answer this question, we conducted an exploratory empirical study at the Barcamp Graz 2012. We applied a mixed-method approach: First we used a sociodemographic questionnaire (n=99) which allowed us to characterize the 'typical barcamper'. Second, we conducted qualitative interviews (n=10) to get a deeper
understanding of the participants' motivations to attend, expectations and the use of social media in that context. We identied three concepts, which could be deducted from the interviews: people, format and topics. We found that the motivation to attend and even a common identity is quite strongly based on these three factors. Furthermore, the results indicate that participants share a set of activities and methods by following the barcamp's inherent rules and make extensive use of social media.

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  • 1. Dennerlein, Gutounig, Kraker, Kaiser, Rauter & Ausserhofer I-KNOW – 13th Conference on Knowledge Management and Knowledge Technologies, 4 Sept 2013 – Graz, Austria Assessing Barcamps Incentives for Participation in Ad-Hoc Conferences and the Role of Social Media
  • 2. Overview ● Introduction to Barcamps ● The Rules of Barcamps ● Research Questions ● Method ● Results Questionnaire & Interviews ● Discussion & Outlook
  • 3. Introduction: What is a Barcamp? ○ ad hoc or un-conference without predefined content ○ open to the public ○ open, unconstrained and self organized exchange of knowledge Photo: Rene Kaiser
  • 4. Introduction: What is a Barcamp? ○ Origin in the Web 2.0 community ○ Usually free of charge ○ Participants define the session topics themselves ○ Session planning on the spot ○ No strict difference between speaker and audience Photo: European Forum Alpbach Photo: Rene Kaiser
  • 5. • 1st Rule: You do talk about BarCamp. • 2nd Rule: You do blog about BarCamp. • 3rd Rule: If you want to present, you must write your topic and name in a presentation slot. • 4th Rule: Only three word intros. • 5th Rule: As many presentations at a time as facilities allow for. • 6th Rule: No pre-scheduled presentations, no tourists. • 7th Rule: Presentations will go on as long as they have to or until they run into another presentation slot. • 8th Rule: If this is your first time at BarCamp, you HAVE to present. (Ok, you don't really HAVE to, but try to find someone to present with, or at least ask questions and be an interactive participant.) Introduction: The Rules of BarCamp Source: barcamp.org
  • 6. Research Questions 1. What is the motivation of people to contribute to an unconference such as the barcamp? 2. What role do social media play and how are they used in the context of barcamps?
  • 7. Method ● Object of study ○ Barcamp Graz 2012 and its attendees ○ Characteristics: ■ yearly changing combination of sub-camps (e.g. politCamp, wissensCamp) ■ organized by volunteers ● Methodological approach (Cresswell & Plano Clark, 2011) ○ Mixed methods research ○ Explanatory sequential design: quantitative → qualitative
  • 8. Method ● Questionnaire: ○ Administration: paper based / Analysis: Descriptives ○ 8 questions: age, gender, education, place of residence, technical affinity, number of previous barcamp visits, expectations, recruitment for follow up study ● Interviews: ○ Administration: semi-structured interview ○ Analysis: Qualitative content analysis (Mayring,2000) ○ Questions: ■ What motivated you to attend Barcamp Graz? ■ What were your expectations towards Barcamp Graz? ■ What role do social media play in context of the barcamp?
  • 9. Results - Questionnaire Sociodemographics: • Age (n=92): 16 to 61 years with a mean age of 29 years • Gender (n=98): 25% females • Education (n=98): average education level was secondary school • Place of residence (n=92):
  • 10. ● Technological knowledge and skills (n=90): ○ barcampers describe themselves as rather technically affine ● Frequency of participation (n=85): Results - Questionnaire
  • 11. Results - Questionnaire ● Expectations of the participants concerning the Barcamp (n=99) ● Recruitment of participants for follow up interviews: 48 promises
  • 12. Results - Interviews What is the people’s motivation to attend BCG? • the barcamp people “Learning from the youngsters in the IT-sector” • the format and structure of the barcamp “I´m interested in self governed organizations” • the topics of the (sub-camps) “I´m interested in the topics web, social media and socio-political contents”
  • 13. What expectations did the participants have regarding the BCG and to which extent did they come true? • freedom to express one´s own opinion • giving others input on their ideas • in-depth discussions • enjoying the event • ... “That I can get to know interesting people and that there will be in-depth discusssion and that I gain new knowledge.” Results - Interviews
  • 14. Do social media play an important role in Barcamps? Generally important role attributed to social media “On the one hand I´m a strong fan of participation and on the other hand it adds value for everyone.” Results - Interviews Before the barcamp During the barcamp After the Barcamp promotion of event  half of the interviewees found out about the event through social media - to spread news, highlights, interesting thoughts or quotes (using Twitter, blogs or wikis) - as a communication tool to connect to other participants and keep relationships alive
  • 15. May social media also constitute a barrier? • possible decrease of attention during the sessions „In my opinion, it [the use of social media during sessions] keeps me from actively participating in the session.“ • one-dimensional way of promotion through social media  barcamps partly seen as insider events Results - Interviews
  • 16. Discussion ● Aspects of Motivation: ○ People: Meeting and networking with interesting and diverse people of the barcamp community ○ Topic: The common topic of the (sub-)camp implies shared interest between participants and determines the emerging and to be discussed themes therein ○ Format: Little restricted structure and open format of knowledge exchange of the barcamp → format / community is enabled by shared activities: ■ Rules ■ Use of social media
  • 17. Outlook ● Are barcamps a kind of Community of Practice (CoP; Lave & Wenger, 1991)? ○ motivational aspects of barcamps are similar to the characteristics of CoP ○ explore how the theoretical framework of CoP is fruitful to explain mechanisms of barcamps ● Investigation of similarities and differences to other concepts of knowledge exchange ○ scientific conferences ○ open source movements ○ open space theory
  • 18. References ● Creswell, J.W. & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research. Sage Publications, Inc. ● J. Lave and E. Wenger. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation, volume 95 of Learning in doing. Cambridge University Press, 1991. ● P. Mayring. Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum Qualitative Social Research, 1(2), 2000. Web: ● www.barcamp-graz.at ● www.barcamp.at ● www.barcamp.org
  • 19. This work was conducted by members of the Wissensmanagement Forum http://wm-forum.org/ Read the full paper under http://know-center.tugraz.at/download_extern/papers/sigproc-sp.pdf