I went along to #brewcamp last night in Walsall. It was lovely, I got to hear about the amazing open spaces and wildlife in and around Walsall from Morgan Bowers and Mark Blackstock's story of growing a local aggregator which confirming that people come back to places that send them away.
As this was a local government focused group (although it nicely blurs the boundaries with lots of others involved) I took along a copy of Local Government to show. Thinking about it this morning, I realised how much of the success of the evening was down to mediation through social objects.
Social Object #1 – The event itself: #brewcamp was inspired by #teacamp which in turn came out of Jeremy Gould's experience of attending #tuttle – which demonstrates the self-propagating nature of social objects (people experience one and think "I could do that") and the inheritance of properties (the mix of non-alcoholic beverages, chat and informal learning).
Social Object #2 – the venue – Starbucks helps people connect, whether it's in agreement or disagreement over the standard of the coffee, it also provides some familiarity through consistent branding and decoration, though of course I chose to subvert that later on. It's important to recognise that different people connect differently through a social object. Social Object owners often think/wish they can control or heavily influence what that connection is. Nuh-huh. I have to also say that the baristas in that store were great, helpful, they stayed open late specially for us *and* allowed me to hack the space.
Social Object #3 – talks without powerpoint – taking away the visual aid forces the talk and the talkers to be the social object rather than the bullet-points on the wall – speech on its own seems to be a more conductive social object than speech+visual aid.
Social Object #4 – the film – is the obvious one, I wrote a bit about what I'm trying to do here. We're well practiced in watching a film and talking (before, during and) after it. What I also noticed was what people tweeted about it while it was showing and the pictures that turned up on twitter and how the conversation drifted on afterwards.
Social Object #5 – the projector – I've borrowed the Time/Image pico projector to do this. A few people were just interested in the kit. It's a PK301 from Optoma and costs about £250. It's not the cheapest but it works really well and simply and it really is not much bigger than a couple of iPhones strapped together.
Social Object #6 – hacking the space – the act of appropriating a bit of a Starbucks, getting them to turn some of the lights off and turning it into a pop-up cinema is a social object in itself. It's not just the film that people have gone away talking about, it's the thing I did, the combination of it all, the idea of showing a movie to a small group of people that isn't about booking a big cinema and isn't about having people crowd around a computer screen. It's one I want to repeat over and over. I love doing it and look forward to seeing how it'll work in other places.
Social Object #7 – curry afterwards – how can you do an event in the West Midlands without it?
Can you see any more?