söndag 4 november 2012

I'm the official blogger...

...for Naturskyddsföreningen's [The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, SSNCautumn conference. The conference theme goes far beyond anything you might think a society for the conservation of nature would do. The theme for the conference is: "What do we do then? The economy, the climate and the future". The connection between conservation of nature and the economy is according to SSNC "the changes needed in the economic system in order to meet climate challenges".

The conference language is primarily Swedish and most guest speakers are thus Swedes, for example Svante Axelsson (general secretary of SSNC), Lena Ek (Swedish Minister for the Environment), Johan Rockström (internationally renowned professor and executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center and the Stockholm Environment Institute), Mattias Klum (world-renowned nature photographer) and Jonas Sjöstedt (Chairperson of the Left Party).

Beyond keynote speakers and panel discussions, the conference splits into five parallel tracks in the afternoon, and I have big problems choosing between three of the tracks that all sound very interesting:

- A) "How have we handled crises historically?" (looking at history to gain useful insights about what to do in the present and the near future)
- B) "In climate negotiation talks nothing new" (about the upcoming COP 18 talks in Doha, Qatar that starts at the end of November)
- C) "Do we need a new economic system?" (can we solve the climate crisis within the bounds of the current economic system - or do we need a new economic system?)
- D) "Where will the money come from?" (how will necessary transformations of society be financed?
- E) "How much can technology do for us?" (are new technologies enough to build a new and better society, or do we also need to change our values and lifestyles?)

My first-hand choice was E (which I chose partly for job-related reasons). My second-hand choices were C followed by D. They both for sure sounded interesting, but I've already heard at least one speaker in each of these two seminars and I can't be in three places at the same time.

I very much look forward to go the conference and I have even rescheduled two seminars in my university course about social media to be able to go. Despite this, stronger reasons are needed for me to write about an upcoming conference - something that I have never done before on this blog! All other conferences (and workshops etc.) that I have written about on this blog has been stuff that lay in the past at the time when I write about it on the blog. The reason for this "deviation" is the fact that SSNC, in their call for participation, also looked for seven "official conference bloggers". I submitted an application and was chosen to be one of the chosen few! This is, in a weird sort of way, my first "sponsored" blog post. This is the deal:

I can go to conference for free (not just the entrance fee, but also food and coffee is included). In return, I have pledged to write two blog posts about the conference; one before the conference and one after. This is my pre-conference blog post and I would have written a post-conference blog post even had I not been chosen to be one of the seven official conference bloggers. I anyway always write a blog post that sums up (scientific) conferences, whole-day workshops or similar events that I attend.

<Sponsored message> I personally think the SSNC conference is going to be really interesting. It will be held in central Stockholm on Friday Nov 23 between 8.30-17.00 (SEK 600 for members, SEK 1200 for non-members - but membership is only SEK 295). Sign up here before Friday Nov 9! <End of sponsored message>.

SSNC's motivation for recruiting "official conference bloggers" is to "spread the knowledge to places we might not ordinarily reach, and with angles we don't think about". My "fresh angle" in this blog post is a short analysis of this whole "official conference blogger" thing and partly based on the fact that I have taught a course about social media technologies to our 4th year media technology students at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) for some years.

I think it's really smart of SSNC to spread a call for "official conference bloggers". It really does not cost them much - if the conference isn't full, it really doesn't cost them anything at all to have seven persons go for free. It's like giving away or selling the last (empty) seats on a plane that is about to lift for hardly any money at all. The only costs SSNC has is for food and coffee for me and my six fellow official conference bloggers. So what do they get out of it? Perhaps some PR and attention of course. But also "free" coverage by a number and variety of persons and angles - wanna-be conference bloggers had to specify 1) info about their blog and what they write about, 2) who reads it and 3) why I want to blog from the conference. For SSNC to hire a person to document and write about the event would be expensive. Now they basically get seven persons who document the conference for the price of one. Seven bloggers can for example cover most, or perhaps even all of the five parallel tracks. Seven blogger will also provide seven different views of the conference and will thus provide a variety of (independent) feedback and input to the conference organizers. To take myself as an example, I write in English and there might be value for SSNC in being able to direct people to this blog for that particular (if for no other) reason. 

One risk for SSNC is of course that they don't really have any control over what I will write about. If I don't like (some aspect of) the conference, they run the risk of me writing about it and "broadcasting it to the world" (not that I have that many readers in the first place, but...) That is on the other hand perhaps just the kind of feedback and input they indeed need to make next year's conference better... I also presume that SSNC will have a lot of goodwill among the seven official bloggers (we will soon starts to sound like Cinderella's seven dwarfs in my ears).

All in all, I think the "official conference blogger" thing is a really smart move by SSNC. I haven't heard about someone else doing it before - have you? If so, please write a comment about it below! In fact, it would be very interesting to talk to the person at SSNC who had this idea and who weighed the pros against the cons before that decision was taken, and to learn a little more about how they reasoned. 

As soon as this blog post is published, I will send the link to my SSNC contact person/web communicator. Who knows, perhaps SSNC will post the link to this text somewhere prominent on their website? Perhaps this will become my most popular blog post ever? If so, and for all you new readers, please read this short introduction to the blog and do check back three weeks from now when I will publish my post-conference blog post that summarizes the event!

Also for prospective new readers, here are some "conference reports" from previous "green" conferences I have attended during the last year:
- Green futures (May 2012)
- EIT ICT Labs (March 2012)
- Green Hackathon (Oct 2011)

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