The principles of open information sharing are almost a decade old, and had their roots in the evolution of the Internet, with the web moving from being provider-centric, to user-centric. The term "Unconference" was first used in 1998 at an XML Developers Forum, and has since been used to describe events which distance themselves from traditional conferences.
Beyond Borders, is a voluntary youth organisation that does development and social work, and their projects have always been in the forefront of using innovative and sometimes unconventional methods to share knowledge.
UnReel, a documentary Unconference was the latest initiative put forward by the Beyond Borders project, at the British Council auditorium on May 3, with around 50 people taking part.
The documentaries were sorted under the themes Sex and Gender, Peace and Conflict, Development and Poverty, Environment and TED Talks.
The participants were as varied as the themes – journalists, activists, movie-makers, and students.
Commenting on the event, Shafraza (20) said, "It was different, mainly because there was a variety of people. I liked the documentary on the LTTE's Propaganda Mechanism, and the discussion that followed. I don't necessarily agree with it, but the discussions were good."
Keeping with the principles of participant-driven events, all participants were requested to bring along content that they wished to contribute, and these were also added to the catalogue.
It kicked off with introductions on Beyond Borders, and a small brief on Unconferencing. The event had rough start and end times, but no agenda. "The content, agenda and how the flow goes are decided by the participants. If they feel I am not a competent facilitator, they have the option of changing me as well. The principles are participant centric to that extent," commented the Knowledge Sharing Guru at Beyond Borders, who was also the facilitator at the event.
These types of events have four golden rules, being,
Whoever comes are the right people
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
Whenever it starts is the right time
When it's over, it's over
According to the team, the discussions which are created at the event branch off and continue, and therefore technically, "it's never really over."
The documentaries covered a wide variety of topics such as Hijras: The Third Sex of India, Suicide Bombers of Sri Lanka, Truth Tigers: The Propaganda Mechanism of the LTTE, TED Talks on Development, and on Religious Literalism and its effects on Homosexuality. The Beyond Borders project also hosts monthly discussions on varied subjects, with the expectation of stimulating discussions.
Even these are held using open space technologies such as Unconferencing. More information on the event, and the work done by the Beyond Borders project, and information on how to join the initiative can be found at their blog, httpp://beyondborders.wordpress.com
TED (Technology Entertainment Design) is an annual conference previously held in Monterey, California but which, as of 2009, will be held in Long Beach, California. The conference is also held bi-annually in other cities around the world.
It defines its mission as "ideas worth spreading," and indeed the best talks given at TED are made available to the public for free on its website. Its lectures cover a broad set of topics including science, arts, design, politics, global issues, architecture, music and more. The speakers themselves are from a wide variety of communities and disciplines and have included former US president Bill Clinton, Nobel laureate James D. Watson, television producer and political activist Norman Lear, and Murray Gell-Mann, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The TED Conference also has a companion conference, TED Global, held in varying locations.
Some 200 TED talks are provided for viewing online. It has been reported that over 30 million viewings have occurred. The talks can be seen and downloaded at the TED website, www.ted.com. The video sharing component of TED is supported by German automaker, BMW.