Creating Knowledge Conference 2021

On June 3rd and 4th, several of us from the university library here at UiT in Tromsø organized the 10th Creating Knowledge conference! The theme is information literacy, and the conference has been held approximately every other year, since 1999, in one of the Nordic countries.  Creating Knowledge conferences are arranged by NordINFOLIT, a Nordic collaborative forum for information literacy.

The conference was supposed to be held last year, but along came corona, so we postponed one year. Unfortunately, it wasn’t safe enough to have a physical conference in 2021 either, so we made the tough decision to have a digital conference. We considered hybrid, mostly digital but with some physical participants, but realized that this would be too complicated. It’s a shame because we really wanted to welcome guests here to exotic, beautiful Tromsø during the magical summer with midnight sun!

I’m trying to think positive though… For the organizing committee, one advantage of a purely digital conference is that we didn’t have to organize hotels, meals, coffee breaks, activities or billing. Another advantage is that it was accessible to everyone, especially since we didn’t charge anything. We had over 600 participants, much more than the usual 150-200, and some from as far away as New Zealand. (These were the women that I was supposed to work with there on my 2-month research stay, but of course that didn’t happen either…)

A major disadvantage of a purely digital conference is of course that you can’t meet people in person. Networking is an important part of conferences. To compensate for this we had a digital “lounge” where people could chat together informally.

We had 4 wonderful keynotes:

1. Karen Douglas (Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Kent, UK), who talked about the psychology of conspiracy theories. This is a very relevant topic these days, and quite controversial, so we weren’t permitted to record her talk.

2. Roger Säljö (well-known researcher of learning in Scandinavia), with an excellent keynote called “Learning in a designed world: Information literacy from rock carvings to apps”.

3. Jane Secker (Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at City University, London, and information literacy guru!), with her inspiring, informative keynote on “Frames, models and definitions: Rethinking information literacy for the digital age”.

4. Tove Dahl (educational psychologist at UiT, and most importantly, my main supervisor!), with her amazingly inspiring keynote called “What if being or becoming information literate were an adventure?”

The last three of these keynotes were recorded and will very soon be available on our conference website. If you’re feeling a little stuck or unmotivated in your teaching, be sure to see Tove’s keynote about tigers!

Many participants presented papers or held round-table discussions, and we had 2 or 3 parallel tracks to chose from during the two-day conference. This was all a bit challenging technically, but our competent organizing-committee members, together with tech support from RESULT, managed the Zoom-rooms perfectly. Everything worked!

Torstein and I presented research from our article about measuring IL on Friday. It felt really strange to sit alone in my office and present live to over 150 people! We presented right after my acquaintances from New Zealand, and since the talk after us was cancelled, the four of us used the opportunity to discuss IL-assessment for 30 minutes with anyone interested – and there were several of them – so that was great! I was a bit nervous – mostly for technical stuff – but everything went smoothly. It wasn’t as scary as presenting in person. As a PhD-student, I got 2 credits for presenting at an international conference, which was a nice bonus. 🙂

I was also chair for a session with four presentations – a first for me. I’d written down some questions for each presentation, just in case no one else wrote questions in the chat, and that was a good thing!

Between papers and keynotes were prerecorded performances from the choir TAKk. The women sang outdoors on a cold, windy “summer” day, in beautiful locations around Tromsø. Other cultural contributions were a presentation of a collection of old maps entitled “Creating Knowledge of the Far North: The earliest printed maps as icons of (mis)information“, a fun talk entitled “Tromsø: A likely city in an unlikely place“, and a slideshow (my photos) with beautiful scenery in the Tromsø area (interspersed with slides with conference info).

Although I didn’t do nearly as much as some of the other members of the organizing committee (especially Helene, Torstein, Mariann and Mark), it was a lot of work! It got especially intense the week of the conference – I didn’t do anything else.  And of course, there were plenty of last minute changes, including cancelled presentations, that we had to constantly deal with during the conference.

I was impressed with the quality of most of the papers that I heard, and with the enthusiasm of conference delegates. However, since I had several roles during the conference, including answering e-mails from delegates with various problems that needed a quick fix, I didn’t actually get to listen to many of the presentations. This was unfortunate, since I was interested in nearly everything. Papers in the parallel sessions weren’t recorded, and aren’t accessible. Oh well – it was exciting and instructive to help organize the conference, at least! And evaluations we’ve received from delegates so far have mainly been positive, despite the fact that the conference was digital.


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