Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On Web 2.0 and Change

On Sunday, I was the keynote speaker on the topic “The World- a SingleComputer – Web 2.0, Web 3.0, Web 4.0 and Change”. The audience were 170 German speaking change facilitators who meet annually to exchange and network. The tradition of the meeting calls for an input on the first day, and for an Open Space workshop on the second. So far, guest speaker presented new facilitation methods such as Max Schupbach who demonstrated his Worldwork concept in 2008.

Matthias zur Bonsen had the courage to invite me for a talk about a topic which was alien to many of the participants: how technology can support change processes. I basically gave an revised and translated version of my Atlanta speech from 2008, and I encouraged people to twitter and blog during the meeting.

In the weeks of preparation (yes, I prepared weeks for a two hours presentation), I had no clue about the level of knowledge and skills of the crowd. I live in two worlds – the world of facilitators who work with flesh and bones, real people in real time, and the world of Web 2.0 geeks who are part of the political and social revolution that is going on the Web. I tend to forget that the “real world facilitators” know little about Web 2.0, while many of the social dreamers in the Web know Open Space Technology (because they use it all the time and call it Bar Camp, or Social Camp). I thought it would be nice to polarize a bit to stir up some dust. So, I took the liberty to recite Stowe Boyd who said that social collaboration on the Web is the last hope for the world. I went so far to say that Web 2.0 is the continuation and the extension of Large Group Facilitation. I said that the Web is thoroughly democratic and will help to make better world. Besides, I said that some Web 2.0 technologies are handy for marketing and they can also be used for documentation of large workshops.

Soon after I started, there were two phenomena to observe:

1. About 20 of the participants started to twitter right away with their laptops and iPhones, and continued so throughout the workshop. If you understand German, read the tweeds from the start onwards - it gives a good overview on the flow of the conference.

2. A controversial discussion started about the good or evil character of modern technology. Hey, I enjoyed that (I like heated debates) but I was surprised that some people were more interested in that debate which you can have over a beer than going more deeper into exploring what is.

For those from outside Germany I need to explain something: Although we have the best engineers of the world and probably the most patent holders (and the best cars anyhow…), the generation which was born between 1950 and 1960, i.e. those who are now between 50 and 60 are critical or should I say cautious towards technology in general and to IT in particular. I am not (well, I don’t like nuclear power plants, and I think cars should be fuel efficient), so I always want to understand why people resist to technology. In this case, it was particularly interesting to understand why people who call themselves change facilitators seem to resist to innovation (as one other participant communicated via Twitter "I felt like being in a congress of conservatives.")

In the given case, these were the main lines of argument:

- web technology is rather used for control and manipulation than for grass-roots democracy,

- our kids are deprived and not able to create social relationships because of mobile communication technologies,

- computers and cell phones are causing electro smog and consequently cancer,

- in a meeting, use of technological devices distracts and destroys relationships.

And there were the two worlds: the early adaptors who created their description of the meeting in real time (I was excited about the tweeds going back and forth), and those who preferred to talk about the risks of technology. It was good to have this discussion and the feedback to my input was overwhelming.

Fair enough. Looking at the Max-Neef model of human needs, I would interpret the needs showed as needs for protection, understanding and leisure.

This for a first start of the dicussion. Here is my presentation:


  1. Hi Holger,

    for me as a participant of the "Lernforum" I can summarize my learnings in a few sentences:
    I learned to know the anciety of groops and individuals that technic and espacially the internet can take over the control of their lifes.
    The second point is my own experience in this workshop: using Twitter for the first time in my life, switching from one application to another etc. and in the same time trying to follow discussions and arguments, come in contact with people, feel the energy and follow the flow.... All together is impossible....
    After all I prefer to contact people in workshops face to face. But in addition, Twitter and Wiki and Blog are great for some notes inbetween. And they are unhittable the weeks after the workshop to stay in touch with the other participants, share impressions, links, knowledge, come closer in contact.
    Finally I stayed in Twitter and I started my first own Blog. And it brings fun and value.

    Thanks for this experience
    Michael Kucht

    Visit my Blog:

    Follow me in Twitter:

  2. Hi Holger,

    wouldn´t I have started to get into the topic e.g. bei joining tweeter, reading articles before the "Lernforum" really started, may be I would have ended in the "conservative congress". I was really sceptical about the opportunities and espacially the benefit of using web 2.0, tweeds and blogs etc. But once I got in it - I was really excited about what was happening.
    The summary in Michael Kucht´s comment expresses completely my impression: "After all I prefer to contact people in workshops face to face. But in addition, Twitter and Wiki and Blog are great for some notes inbetween. And they are unhittable the weeks after the workshop to stay in touch with the other participants, share impressions, links, knowledge, come closer in contact."