Body language in the connected conference

Posting this from mid-session in ALT-C (and just to show the connectedness of the whole process there’s a QR code on screen which some of the participants are scanning in the room).  Of course, this being a learning technology conference, the space here in Manchester has a wireless network, and participants are encouraged to blog or tweet.  So it’s interesting to see how much this connectedness alters people’s body language.  Historically, a participant in an audience getting out a computer or a phone might have looked like evidence of them losing interest.  Now it could be evidence of a participant picking up on a point – either by publicising it or by looking on the web for background information.  I’m doing both right now: the organisers have helpfully put individual wireless network credentials on the back of the conference badges.

Incidentally I note there’s a qualitative difference between using a laptop, as I’m doing now, because it involves the screen appearing as a sort of barrier between the member of the audience and the speaker, and using a tablet which can sit flat on a desk and so is less obtrusive.  Also I note how readily people use their tablets as cameras – they may be a very different shape from other cameras, or camera phones, but the body language of somebody taking a photo with an iPad is remarkably similar to that of somebody using one of the old Polaroid cameras in a previous generation.

I guess that right now about 60% of the people in the room are using devices of some sort right now.  And I notice that people are putting the devices away, rather than getting them out, as a formal presentation comes to a close.

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