i³ Conference in Aberdeen

The Information: Interactions and Impact conference ran from 22-25 June – three half days and a full day. I attended the following sessions:

  • Knowing and learning in organizations: Information and the enactment of
    meaning, knowledge and decisions (Keynote address)
  • Teachers’ Conceptions of Teaching and Learning in the Context of a School Library Project. A Follow-up Study in the City of Oulu, Finland
  • Students requests for help and the teacher’s strategies of support in a secondary school classroom working on a research assignment
  • Complexity, coherence, constraint, cognition & context (Keynote address)
  • Students, question formulation and the issues of transfer
  • Information Seeking Behaviour of Computer Science and Information Technology Undergraduates
  • Dealing with Web 2.0 genre: How do competitive intelligence professionals assess online sources’ credibility?
  • The Information Behaviour of an Information Provider: A Sequential Mixed Methods Study
  • Like an open book? A student-centred view of e-books and a new model for delivery
  • King Saud University Female Students’ use and perspective of Online Communication
  • Information Literacies beyond rhetoric: developing research and practice between the intersection of information seeking and learning (keynote address)
  • Formal learning in an informal setting: investigating the student learning journey
  • Optimizing Students’ Information Interactions through Mediation Experiences
  • Information Literacy Training for Postgrad and Postdoc Researchers: a National Survey and its International Implications
  • Making a difference? Assessment of Information Literacy Education at Linköping University Library

(Unfortunately I had to miss Michael’s paper on Theatre Professionals, as it clashed with another paper that seemed particularly relevant to my current role.)

Probably the paper I enjoyed most was Complexity, coherence, constraint, cognition & context, by Dave Snowden. Most of what he said wasn’t devastatingly new (e.g. if you are looking for something you will probably fail to notice other stuff, even if it is really obvious) but he delivered it very well, with lots of engaging stories to prove his points. And it was really refreshing to hear someone with high-level corporate experience talk about management strategies, etc, and say that they are basically bulls**t. He has put the slides, and a podcast of the talk, up on his website – it probably would have been more effective to combine them into a vodcast (particularly since one of the slides included video) but I guess that would have been more time consuming to organise.

There were no real standouts in the other papers (though I was a bit chuffed when the first keynote used the Challenger and Columbia disasters to illustrate a point, since we had used the exact same stories as one of our case studies in the Risk Management training). I’d had high hopes of the paper on eBooks, but in the end it didn’t really tell me much I didn’t already know, though it was nevertheless useful to see that current studies are still confirming certain generally accepted truths.

At one point, I was talking to someone who said that he was a bit tired of seemingly endless case studies that don’t really seem to be generalisable. I’m a bit inclined to agree with this – particularly since in many cases they also don’t seem to be able to be turned into specific practices either. They were not uninteresting, but I’m not sure how much theoretical relevance, or practical applicability, they had outside the world of the case study.

But having said this, learning about some of the contexts in which the case studies took place was fascinating Рe.g. the arrangements at King Saud University (gender segregaged campuses), the way health information is collected in Scotland, setting up school libraries in Finland, how information literacy is assessed in a particular course at Link̦ping University.

As well as the papers, there were other conferency events – a Civic Reception at the Townhouse, a half day trip to a Crathes Castle, and the Conference Dinner. The Castle was quite small, but not uninteresting, and the gardens were lovely. The food offered at the dinner was good, but not enormously to my taste (though I learned that even if there only seems to be one dessert on offer, if you ask you may be able to get an amended version of it – in this case non-alcoholic – which was nice). The entertainment consisted of a group of three violins and a keyboard playing mostly traditional Scottish music (the keyboard player was so into it, he was practically dancing while sitting down) and an a cappella singer – both thoroughly enjoyable.

Finally, the other key point of a successful conference is who you talk to, and in this case I met some very interesting people. So all in all, the good very much outweighed the not-quite-so-good. It was definitely a worthwhile and enjoyable experience.


I’m resurrecting my blog to cover our four week holiday in the UK, which incorporates a conference, a fencing competition and some driving around the Scottish Highlands.

The flight over was not quite as horrible as usual. We managed to get upgraded to Premium Economy, which meant much wider seats, with much more legroom and more of a recline. It was also a set of two rather than three, so I wasn’t stuck between Michael and a stranger. As a result, I actually manged to get a couple of hours sleep. I also watched a few TV episodes of programs I had already seen, and five movies:

They were all quite watchable, though I can’t say I regret missing any of them at the cinema. I probably enjoyed Michael Clayton and Inkheart the most.

We arrived in Aberdeen at about midday, only to learn that my fencing bag was still at Heathrow. However, they promised that it would be on the next flight up, and I wasn’t too fussed since the fencing competition isn’t until the other end of the holiday.

On the taxi ride in from the airport, we quickly learned why it is called the Granite City – even the suburban houses were made of granite rather than brick, and looked really nice in the sun. (Though I have since discovered that this is not the case in all suburbs, it was certainly a lovely introduction to the city.)

After we had checked into the hotel, showered and changed, we went out to wander around for a bit. The sun had gone in, and it was starting to look a bit overcast, and it was at this point that I remembered I had packed my raincoat into my fencing bag. Not the best move.

But it wasn’t actually raining, so we went out anyway. We walked down the main street, went to the Maritime Museum and were then wandering back to the hotel when the heavens opened and we had to take shelter in the doorway of a restaurant. Fortunately it only lasted for about ten minutes (and we weren’t the only people taking shelter in that doorway!)

On Saturday, we went to Provost Skene’s House, a 17th century house that is almost entirely surrouned by tall buildings (and the signs pointing towards it weren’t as helpful as they might have been). It had a fairly amazing painted gallery, dating back to 1622 and restored as best they could (i.e. one or two places are completely blank, and the diagram just labels them as “scenes from the life of Jesus). As a complete contrast, the other memorable feature of the house was the enormous rocking horse in the nursery.

We then went to the bay area: we walked down the Esplanade and into a suburb called Footdee, which apparently used to be a fishing village. The little houses were very charming and completely non-touristy: it was just somewhere people were living. Though this did mean that our assumption there would be shops and somewhere we could by fish and chips were mistaken.

Finally , we went to the Art Gallery. It had quite a nice collection of 19th century painting, but I thought the most striking piece we saw was a sculpture on the ground floor. It was called Feedback Loop 2003, by Kenny Hunter: I have linked to an online photo of it, although this doesn’t really do it justice. Michael described it as Manga meets Chairman Mao, and this is pretty much what the notes in the gallery said. I can’t really say why I liked it (except that the online photo doesn’t really capture the power of it).

On Sunday we did a walking tour of Old Aberdeen, which included Kings College Chapel, the university’s Botanical Gardens, St Machar’s Cathedral (a fortified cathedral!), Seton Park and Aberdeen’s oldest bridge. A lovely area, and the guided tour was reasonably informative.

The conference started today, but I will hold off on blogging it until the end.