Open Space Discussions

What to expect from Open Space Discussions at the Global DH Symposium on Saturday, March 23rd in the MSU Main Library, Digital Scholarship Lab, Flex Space (2nd Floor, West)!

How many times have you attended a conference and realized some of the most insightful and mind-blowing moments were during coffee/tea breaks, at lunch, at the hotel lounge in the evening, or even (gasp) in the lines for the restrooms.  Yes, it is often that serendipitous moment, that could never be planned, when you found the exact right person (or people) to speak with about a topic that has been burning in your brain.

These unplanned moments are the inspiration for the Global DH Open Space Discussions (OSD).  OSD is a flavor of the trendy “unconference” sessions that pop up from time to time.  However, OSD (based on Open Space Technology) has been around for over 30 years and has proven to be a very effective conference and solution making format.

So how does it work?  At Global DH, during the opening remarks on Saturday, the 23rd, we are going to gather in our space and have an “Opening Circle” where the principles of OSD will be explained and when attendees will be invited to propose topics for discussion.  (We have designated two time blocks during the conference during which parallel conversations will be happening in multiple circles of chairs.)

There is no limit to the number of discussion topics that can be proposed and all will be accepted – just go with the flow.

Everyone will have an equal chance to propose a topic (or topics).  Although we do not take topic suggestions in advance, you might want to think about those burning questions you have or exciting ideas you want to share and be ready to share with others.

What kinds of topics are right for Open Space Discussions?  Anything and everything!  Whatever is on your mind.  It could be a challenge you are having with a software product.  It could be a philosophical question you have about work/life balance.  It could be musings about the next generation of Digital Humanities students.  If you wanted to discuss a topic that didn’t make it to the Global DH program, OSD is a great place to raise it.

Also, while we will collect many topics during the initial Opening Circle, other topics can be added at any time during the course of the day.  So, if you attend a breakout session that inspires you to continue the discussion for the following session, propose an OSD.  If you feel a breakout session skipped over something important to you, propose another OSD session.  If you are presenting a session and feel like your Q&A needs a bit more time, propose an OSD session.  If you think of something new, go for it.  The possibilities are endless.

OSD is a very low tech format – circles of chairs and maybe a flip chart.  No screens, no projectors, no microphones.  Just a group of people delving into something that is important to them.  You might have 3 people in your sessions or 30 – you just never know – but they will be the right people.

At the end of the day, we will convene an OSD Closing Circle, where people can share their experiences with OSD, talk about “next steps” towards a solution they discovered for a problem, and/or reflect on an unexpected insight.  

Still confused?  Not quite sure what this is all about?  No worries – just come with an open mind and a passion to learn and you will be in great company.  One of the tenets of Open Space Discussions is “Be prepared to be surprised.”  Relax – it will be worth it.

See you soon in East Lansing!