Open Space

We have set aside one afternoon during the conference for an Open Space workshop (aka "unconference"). The goal of this event is to allow participants to discuss any topic in computational semantics they are passionate about, in small groups of people who care about the same topic. Open Space events are self-organized: topics are proposed by participants, sessions are run by participants, and all the conference organizers do is facilitate the process.

The IWCS 2013 Open Space event will be structured as follows:

  • On Thursday at 13:30, we meet in the lobby of the conference venue. After a brief introduction to the Open Space format, anyone can get up and propose a topic for a session that they would like to happen that afternoon. This topic can be anything you like; it could be as specific as your favorite theory of scope ambiguity, as general as how to reconcile logic-based and distributional semantics, or even something that usually has no place at conferences (computational semantics education? ideas for shared tasks?). The only requirement is that you would enjoy talking about this topic.
  • Sessions will be organized into time slots that start at 14:30, 15:30, and 16:30. During that time slot, everyone who is interested in a topic is welcome to join the session. The crucial rule we will follow is the "Law of Two Feet": If you find that you are not learning anything and not contributing anything, you are encouraged to get up and leave the room. In this particular context, this is not a sign of impoliteness; it is a way of maximizing the time you're spending in a place that you enjoy, and of ensuring that everyone who remains in the session can be certain that everyone who is there is having a good time.
  • Throughout the afternoon, we will keep a coffee break area open. If there is no session going on that you find interesting, you are welcome to hang out in the coffee corner. If you left your session, you can go there to refresh yourself, and perhaps join some other session. The key goal is that you enjoy yourself and feel that you're participating in discussions that you care about. Whether these happen in your original session, or some other session that you join, or just while you're hanging out having coffee -- that's all good.
  • We will rejoin for a final session at 17:30 to give everyone a chance to talk about things they learned that day. When we're done with that, you will be ready for dinner.
  • We will set up a public Wiki for use during the conference. You are welcome and encouraged to take a few minutes at the end of your session to summarize it in a Wiki article. If you feel uncomfortable sharing your discussion, you are of course not required to do this. After the conference, we will take the Wiki offline and distribute a reader with all articles to all participants.

You can find more information on Open Space in general in its Wikipedia page and in the Open Space user's guide. A brief video introduction is here.

We have previously experimented with the Open Space format on a smaller scale. Although all content is contributed spontaneously by the participants, without any central control and very little pre-planning, the format has worked surprisingly well: we have consistently found that it can lead to very intense and rewarding conversations. We look forward to trying it out on a larger scale with you!