Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Blogging the Robot Bloggers

Here at @Bristol Walking with Robots is running a 3-day workshop for students and researchers in robotics, artificial intelligence and animatronics. It's a kind of masterclass whose objective is to train those students and researchers in science communication, with the hope that they'll be motivated to get involved in public engagement. I'm not going to talk about the training workshop here because it's described elsewhere in both a recent UWE press release Making Science Fun for Everyone and on EPSRC grants on the web here.

What I want to blog about here are the robot bloggers on

The workshop has four streams with about a quarter of the students signing up for each. One of those streams is New Media, which is training its group in online reporting. Here is picture of the online newsroom.

These students have been tasked with publishing stories from the other three groups. Remarkably, the blog was up and running by mid-morning Monday and has provided a more-or-less real-time record of the workshop since then. The newsroom has been busy the whole time, but never more so than right now. This afternoon the whole workshop has had an amazing opportunity to put their activities to the test on the floor of @Bristol, and since this is the half-term holidays it's pretty busy out there (to put it mildly). Our robot bloggers have been out on the floor too, recording with still photos, video and text, the extraordinary excitement of the interaction between our students, their robotics, AI and animatronics activities, and the children and families. Scroll down wwrobots and you'll quickly get a sense of that excitement.

Of course I'm focussing on just one aspect of the workshop but it was, for me, perhaps the most surprising. Firstly, by opening my eyes to the potential for Web 2.0 media to provide - in effect - real time interactive reporting; a kind of worldwide outside broadcast. It seems to me that, with this approach, there is remarkable potential to enhance and extend the reach of many kinds of public engagement or science communication.

But secondly and even more significantly here, our robot bloggers bound together the whole workshop in an altogether unexpected and enriching way.

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