I've just spent the last few days not just lurking but actively hiding from this comments thread (for all the reasons everyone else has mentioned), but as I did state publicly at ADA that I am going to try to lurk less and contribute more on our mailing list I guess I should actually take a tentative step forward here….
Thanks, Emma, for such a lovely summary of the weekend's events. It was great to have you along, and there were a lot of references to Bardic web through the rest of the weekend, so your contribution was continued even when you couldn’t be there.
The whole issue of participation is a bit of a background concern for the ADA list. Most of the time it’s pretty quiet, just carrying announcements, and it would be nice if it was busier and more communicative but most of us don’t have enough time to seriously cultivate that (and uhh, are serial lurkers ourselves anyway…), and it’s not necessarily a problem. There are some great models of really active mailing lists around digital / media arts, and the most notable at the moment I think are the IDC and Empyre lists where the moderators actively cultivate discussion around specific topics by inviting expert people to post. As Adam pointed out in our panel discussion at ADA, when someone of high status in your particular field asks you to write about a specific topic or project you feel much more committed to actually posting. I guess this is what Russell does already on PAS with inviting people to write regular or guest blogs, and what the caged debate idea would extend.
We’ve tried doing that a little with ADA, to encourage discussions around specific topics leading up to particular events, and it has been productive but is limited ultimately by how much time people are willing to put into it. And since I tend to avoid that level of contribution myself I don’t feel like I can really push other people too far on that one! (It’s actually the Audio foundation list where conflict tends to play more of a role in stimulating discussion (I was speaking about both at the symposium) – but I think that’s a more usual tendency of music-based forums, and it’s fun! (to watch from the sidelines anyway))
I think PAS is a great example of an active community of bloggers and commenters because a core group of people have actually, and I suspect not necessarily consciously, committed to contributing to discussion. There is real value in the level of discussion – issues get teased apart, new ideas get voiced, new content gets created for people like me to read while avoiding other work. But maintaining that level requires that people to feel compelled to contribute, and can manage that contribution without worrying about it for hours and days before each post. It’s that sense of commitment that I find really interesting here.