May 2, 2009

Crossroads: A Real-Time Experience

CrossroadsWriting from Boston at 3am and digging up the experience that I had earlier during the Crossroads conference in Cambridge, I refuse to let any of my experience just slip away into mere memory. So I came up with this first post on the series about what transpired earlier:
As usual, I arrived late. I missed the first speaker, who spoke about the "meaning" of life. And the amateur "Citizen Science Journalist" that I am, had no audio recorder. But I had a thought recorder, in the form of twitter. So I whipped up my laptop and my new Android.
And as soon as my Twhirl and Twidroid loaded up, and my fabled "Citizen Science Journalist" hat was firm on my noggins, the game was on.
But hush now, there is one secret: Nobody knows that I was conducting a personal experiment:
I wanted to know how it felt like, to be in the midst of it all. To engage the speakers, to be in there capturing snippets of thought, and broadcasting them in real-time. Actually, it was more than broadcasting. It was like "thinking out loud" onto a HiveMind. I was a Twitterer incognito (or so i'd like to think)!.
On the part of the twitterer, the experience is exhilarating. I know because I experienced it first-hand: I was listening to very interesting people. And then I tweeted as they spoke about interesting things. I acted like a node. A live human medium to the global community in real-time. I also asked them questions that I was deeply curious about. And then I "compressed" their answers concisely so I can tell the whole world about it quickly. Twittering makes you listen, and tweeting actually makes you think!
Now perhaps the presence of a twitterer is a horror on the part of the speakers. It may be arbitrary, but if I was one of the speakers, I would certainly be terrified knowing that someone in the audience is waiting for me to blunder so he can tell the whole world about it unedited and!
But no one knew what I was up to. So I avoided Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: With these scientists not knowing that a twitterer was among the audience, it would not affect their behavior.
And here is my initial conclusion about the whole experiment:
This form of "real-time" media journalism will truly take off like never before in the near future. It will make conferences more engaging, more interactive, more exciting and more cerebral. Citizen Science Journalism will explode.
Tell me if a speaker didn't want to be "heard" by a global HiveMind in real time, and then to evoke reactions "as it happens"?
The fact that he is a speaker means he wants to be heard, and heard big time!
And tell me who among any "Citizen Journalists" would not want to be listened to by his or her "followers"? Tell me who would not want the thought that people could be eagerly awaiting for the next tweet?
Why didn't I bring a digital recorder? Perhaps I knew somehow that I will not listen to the recording anyways. Maybe I knew that listening to it all over again would just be a grudging work to me, transcribing would be a pain. For me, what mattered was the "Now" moment, and the "Aha" that comes in the midst of it.
Atop it all, it was an exhilarating experience to stand face to face with the great scientists of our time. And knowing that perhaps I might never get the chance in my life to meet any of them ever again, makes it all the more cherished.
My heart was thumping like drums as I looked into their eyes, and then I asked my questions.
Truly it was proven to me once again that asking questions is one of the greatest experiences of a human being.
It's alright to be afraid to ask questions, but listen to your heart and let it all out: Ask your questions anyway.