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Inclusive Event Guidelines

5. Digital

5.1. Digital conference packs

 

The most important thing in this area is considering how to use the unique (and relatively versatile) benefits of digital resources at all stages of planning for an event, and in all diverse parts of your communicated materials, in order to maximise accessibility before, during and after your event. This is not, however, intended to present a wholesale alternative to physical materials. As noted above, some measures of accessibility are only possible with physical resources.

 

Accessible file formats

If you are using online materials, it is important that you provide these in file formats that are most accessible across devices. PDFs are the most widely used file type, but often not the most accessible. Some PDFs are merely images of the relevant pages, with no information that is readable by screen readers and other assistive technologies included. To ensure that you make the information accessible to the most people possible, we recommend making it available in either an HTML or RTF format. HTML is the most accessible, and formatted plain text in a Word document can be fairly easily converted. RTF is also accessible, but is less readable on some devices, since it sometimes requires particular software to run.

If you have no other choice but to generate a PDF version, you must ensure that it is accessible, including machine-readable text and with proper tagging. This should be easily done by utilising the section style features in Word and converting to a PDF. However, this is not guaranteed. A useful guide for checking your PDFs, and advice on ensuring accessible PDFs is available here.

There are many reasons to provide accessible file formats for your online materials. Users will often be using personal computers, rather than institutional ones, when accessing these materials before or after your event. This may be because they have more useful software to mitigate factors that might otherwise preclude their inclusion in events (such as text to speech software) and that these can be specific to an operating system (i.e., incompatible with the general use of Windows on institutional computers) or to a handheld device (which are typically non-Windows based). Alongside this, users may be well served with accessing your online materials via their handheld devices during your event, for similar reasons. Handheld devices tend to have minimal support for some file formats (such as Word’s .doc/.docx).

For more information on accessible file formats, the following guide from an external discipline is a good primer: http://adasoutheast.org/ed/edpublications/itseries/11_accessible_file_formats.doc

 

Incorporating digital accessibility into physical materials

In order to integrate your digital and physical resources for your event, you may consider adding hyperlinks to the literature. Whilst this is sometimes useful, the majority of your file locations will have lengthy and cumbersome URLs (i.e., web addresses) that will often look ugly in paperwork. Also, hyperlinks in general (but particularly long versions) minimise the use of these resources during the event. This is because if you encounter the link on a physical copy of your literature, it entails the additional labour of typing the address into a browser.

A more useful form of link for physical literature is the QR code. Like the hyperlink, this acts as a link to a relevant webpage. Unlike the hyperlink, it is accessed by using a smartphone camera to detect the shape of the code (whether built into the camera app, as in iOS, or a dedicated external app); once the code is detected, the link will automatically open. This is a clear advantage of this method with the much greater accessibility of online materials (in terms of their native adaptability, zooming functions etc.). It is also achievable freely and with little additional effort using online resources (such as http://goqr.me and https://www.qrstuff.com/). To demonstrate the usefulness of QR codes, we include one you can follow on the back cover of this document, using your smartphone, and visit our website!

5.2. Online conferencing

We recommend that you consider hosting some form of online conferencing for delegates who, despite any arrangements you make, are unable to access you event. This will not only allow access to your event to those who need to cancel close to the event or are unable to attend, but also to engage with a larger number of participants than your physical venues may be able to accommodate. This means that providing this facility may be beneficial for you, as well as increasing the access to your event in general. It bears repeating that online conferencing should be an additional accessibility measure and not replace any other measure(s) of accessibility which you may be able to achieve.

 

Live streaming

There are three main things to consider when you want to include a live streaming element to your event: platform, equipment, and ways to incorporate online feedback on talks.

Your central decision will be the platform you use to provide live streaming capacity, as this will determine the minimum equipment you will need and what commenting features can be used. On this, there are a number of options you can pursue:

  • Institutional software (e.g., lecture capture)

If your event is located within a university, you may have access to local software that can act with pre-installed equipment (e.g., microphones) to help you create a live stream. This may be able to be streamed directly to your event website, or might be restricted to certain online venues. Your institution should be able to help you set this up, and advise you on the local functionality. The experience enabled by this set-up will generally be one-way; you will be streaming audio (and perhaps video) live without a function to provide real time comments.

 

  • Social media streaming

A more versatile and less labour-intensive method for live streaming is via some form of streaming direct to social media. This can typically be done with simply a laptop and/or smartphone with a decent camera, but you might consider using higher quality camcorder equipment for larger events. These methods provide a more interactive experience for virtual delegates, with the ability to make real-time comments, and they give you access to a potentially larger audience. Where you want to incorporate real-time comments (whether generally or in specific sections), we recommend that you use a laptop that is separate to your recording method to monitor this. It would be useful to have a specific member of the committee monitoring your live stream throughout each session. The following is a non-exhaustive list of platforms you might consider using:

  • Facebook Live

  • Periscope (Twitter)

  • YouTube Live

  • Google Hangout

  • Skype

 

Each platform has their own tutorials for use. During their 2018 conference ‘Queer Identities and Philosophy’, MAP KCL used Facebook Live to good effect, for example.

Whichever method you use, you should get an idea of how many delegates will want to participate, and then you can test the connection, quality, position of microphone relative to speaker, etc. before the event.

 

Privacy issues

You may have some concerns over the privacy of your speakers’ talks and/or their reproduction, especially considering copyrighting. The impact of this on any live streamed event will be dependent on the platform used. Some of these platforms do not routinely store the data used in a publicly accessible way. Where the platforms do have such routine public access (such as Facebook Live, Periscope and YouTube Live), there are ways in which the videos can be removed at the time of your choosing after your event. Note, however, that prolonged access can be useful to you, by increasing access. Consider your privacy concerns with the respective platforms before you commit to using any method.

It is also important to give speakers the opportunity to opt out of the recording process. Make sure to communicate this information to your speakers in advance, and ensure that you have positive commitments to each recording from the respective speaker(s).

 

Live tweeting (and other social media posting)

In order to increase engagement with your event (both with attendees and the wider online community), you might consider live tweeting or live posting on other forms of social media. To do this, you might consider creating an event specific handle and/or using your personal/departmental account for this purpose. If this is done well, it can increase visibility to the wider philosophical community, and potentially drive subsequent online discussion regarding the talks at your event. When tied in with methods of live streaming, this can act as a forum for getting questions from the wider community for speakers. One thing you will need to keep the discussion cohesive is a unique hashtag (e.g., #MAPUK) which participants can use to channel posts into a single venue. If one of your committee monitors the hashtag and the social media posts during the event, you can use this to your advantage by engaging with your wider audience. Even if this is imperfect (which it typically will be during a busy event!), it will allow important added access for those unable to physically attend your event. Make sure to communicate your event hashtag in event literature and your introductory remarks.

 

Post-event release of recordings

Instead of live-streaming your event, you might consider making the recordings available (perhaps for a limited time) after your event. You can do this by recording with the use of the equipment above and any sound/video recording software. This can then be uploaded to the platform(s) of your choice after the event. This would allow you to edit and refine the broadcasts, cutting any extraneous material (such as errors and/or the gap between talk and Q&A). There are various formats that this could take. You might want to release the audio as a regular podcast after the event (through platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Overcast etc.), to sustain interest and engagement with the various talks. Or you might want to release the full video recording to YouTube and other platforms. Each format will work well in some contexts but not others.

 

Blog series

Alternatively, you could collaborate with your speakers to produce a blog series surrounding your conference. This would allow speakers a platform to advertise their work to a wider audience, with extra time for revision in line with comments received at your event. We would recommend a format of short-form blogposts summarising the arguments made in the respective talks. If you department or project has a regular blog presence, then try to incorporate this series into its schedule. The main advantage of this format is the ability to sustain a conversations with the respective speaker after the event (for those interested in monitoring their blogpost); speakers may gain more insight into their research by the considered questioning involved.