Last week I flew to Budapest to take part in the International e-Participation and Local Democracy Symposium. 3 days of hotel air-conditioning and PowerPoint presentations. Joy. Griff Wigley and a few others kept a blog through the event and I hope to be able to contribute to it soon.
It was great to meet some people I haven’t seen in a while and to meet some new people.
First the speakers: Etienne Chouard stuck out head and shoulders above the rest. Etienne is a French teacher of Law, Business and Computer Science. He wrote an essay to explain why he was voting Non to the European Constitutional Treaty in last year’s French referendum. It was a hit and the response was fantastic which lead to further notes and a very successful blog. This was all in opposition to the government and media. He embodied the idea that by being able to publish on the web, one person can resist the forces of authority and mass media and gather support for their idea with only their intellect and knowledge. No cash, little technical skill and certainly no newspaper. Mind you one of the most ironic moments was when fellow panelist, Michael Cross from the Guardian, was helping Etienne with some translations of questions and answers, it looked like mass media was feeding him with lines to give the audience.
Of the rest of the speakers… there were too many of us for starters and not enough seemed to contribute to the overall agenda of e-participation. Everyone on the workshops were given 10 minutes each and I’m embarrassed to say I topped the league of over-running. You can hear the presentation here and download the slides here: Download gallomanor_budapest.pps
(right click and select Speaker Notes to get an idea of what I was saying when).
I said that I was expecting 3 days of PowerPoint and although there was the usual mixture of "reading a speech from PowerPoint" and some really fabulous moving graphics, what struck me was how many speakers decided not to use any visual aid at all even though it would really have helped get their message across. The common denominator in this group was the seniority of the presenters. It almost said "I’m too important for PowerPoint" and the shame is that their message was not as clear as it perhaps could have been.
On the whole I felt that particularly on the plenary sessions the speeches lacked inspiration and passion (there were some exceptions but not enough). They lacked direction and challenge and as a result the symposium lacked purpose. That was a shame. More in a later post.