Special Conference Panel | Streams | Talking Circles

The Conference program will consist of a mix of plenary and parallel sessions, running from 6-8 November 2010.

Click here to view the of the 2010 Book Conference (link will open a pdf file).

Comprehensive presentation details may be viewed on the Session Descriptions page.

Attention Presenters

Data projectors will be provided in all of the parallel session rooms. However, you must supply your own laptop for your presentation. In addition, if you are a Mac user, you will need to bring a VGA Mac connector.

Special Conference Panel

The Digital Sphere: Opportunity for Growth or Existential Threat?–Monday, 8 November 2010

Digital technologies are not mere tools applied to stable phenomena. Instead, they are essential factors in the creation of a new space — the digital sphere. Although the digital sphere shares many characteristics with traditional productive and social realms, it also introduces mechanisms and possibilities that make it profoundly distinct.

The digital sphere provides novel opportunities and challenges to the publishing industry, raising key questions about the ways in which publishing and related sectors might be accommodated. This panel will serve as a forum for the examination of these possibilities through a consideration of key questions, such as:

  • Is the book publishing industry in better shape than the music industry, and therefore better equipped to cope with digital downloading?
  • What does social media mean for book publishing?
  • Is the ‘long tail’ approach to sales and distribution just fashionable hype, or can it lead to increased profits? If yes, for whom?
  • Is downloading of greater interest to publishers than Print on Demand?
  • How big of a problem is piracy? Is it an inevitable fact of life or a profound threat?
  • And, more generally, what is the publisher’s role in the digital sphere? What is the key to success in this realm?

These and other questions will be addressed by distinguished professionals from the publishing industry, including:

  • Eric Merkell-Sobota, Executive Vice President, Springer Science+Business Media
  • Jochen Gutbrod, Raffay Group
  • Tom Hall, Lonely Planet
  • Lucy Küng, Media Management and Transformation Centre, University of Jönköping (Panel Moderator)

Biographical information on all panelists is available on the conference website:

This panel promises to provide significant insight into the impact of the digital sphere on the publishing industry and, consequently, on all aspects of the world of books.


The Conference is divided into general topical areas or streams. These are very loosely grouped – approximating perspectives, knowledge-bases, professional practices or disciplines. As much as possible, we try to program parallel sessions relating to each stream into the same room. This means that it would be possible, if one wished, to follow the same stream for the whole Conference. Each stream also has its own talking circle, a forum for focused discussion of issues.

You will be asked to select one or more streams when you submit a presentation proposal. If you select more than one stream or ‘other’, the Conference organisers will choose a stream based on a reading of your title and abstract, or which seems to fit best with other presentation proposals that have been submitted.

The Book Conference Streams

  • Books, Writing and Reading
  • Publishing
  • Libraries
  • Literacy
  • Educational Resources and Learning
  • Information Society, and Print and Electronic Texts
  • Other

Talking Circles

How They Work
Possible Session Contents


Talking circles are meetings of minds, often around points of difference or difficulty. They are common in indigenous cultures. The inherent tension of these meetings is balanced by protocols of listening and respect for varied viewpoints. From this, rather than criticism and confrontation, productive possibilities may emerge.

The Purpose of Talking Circles in this Conference

The purpose of the talking circles is to give shape to a conference that is wide – ranging in its scope and broad-minded in its interests. They also give people an opportunity to interact around the key ideas of the Conference away from the formalities of the plenary, paper, workshop and colloquium sessions. They are places for the cross-fertilisation of ideas, where cycles of conversation are begun, and relationships and networks formed.

Talking circles are not designed to force consensus or even to strive towards commonality. Their intention is, in the first instance, to find a common ground of shared meanings and experiences in which differences are recognised and respected. Their outcome is not closure in the form of answers, but an openness that points in the direction of pertinent questions. The group finally identifies axes of uncertainty that then feed into the themes for the Conference of the following year.

How Do They Work?

The talking circles meet for two 45-minute sessions during the Conference, and the outcomes of each talking circle are reported back to the whole Conference in the closing plenary session. They are grouped around each of the Conference streams and focus on the specific areas of interest represented by each stream. Following is the talking circles outline that is currently in use, but we welcome feedback and suggestions for improvement from participants.

  • Talking Circle 1 (45 minutes): Who Are We? What is our common ground?
  • Talking Circle 2 (45 minutes): What is to be done?
  • Closing Plenary: 15-minute contribution to the closing plenary by the Talking Circles co-ordinator.

It is important to note that each talking circle may be organised in any way that members of the group agree is appropriate. They may be informal and discursive, or structured and task-oriented. Each talking circle group has a facilitator.

The Role of the Facilitator

The facilitator must be comfortable with the process of thinking ‘out of the square’ and also embracing multiple and diverse scenarios. The process is one of creating a kind of collective intelligence around the stream. The facilitator should shape a conversation that is open to possibilities and new lines of inquiry or action; they should embody a spirit of openness to new knowledge rather than the closure of advocacy. The facilitator is required to keep a record of the main discussion points. These points need to be summarised for the talking circles facilitator who will make in a 15-minute presentation in the closing plenary session at the Conference.

Possible Session Contents – Suggestions to Assist Facilitators

Talking Circle 1 (45 minutes): Who are we?

  • Orientation: members of the group briefly introduce themselves.
  • What could be the narrative flow of the talking circle sessions?
  • What could be the outcomes of the work of this group and its contribution to the closing plenary session, the Journal and the Conference as a whole (including the themes for next year’s conference)?
  • Assessing the landscape, mapping the territory: What is the scope of our stream? Do we want to rename it?
  • What are the burning issues, the key questions for this stream?
  • What are the forces or drivers that will affect us as professionals, thinkers, citizens, and aware and concerned people whose focus is this particular stream?
  • Where could we be, say, ten years hence? Scenario 1: optimism of the will, Scenario 2: pessimism of the intellect.

Talking Circle 2 (45 minutes): What themes are emerging?

*What are our differences?

  • The setting: present and imminent shocks, crises, problems, dilemmas – what are they and what is the range of responses?
  • What are the cleavages, the points of dissonance and conflict?
  • What are the dimensions of our differences (1)? Politics, society, economics, culture, technology, environment.
  • What are the dimensions of our differences (2)? Persons, organisations, communities, nations, the global order.

*What is our common ground?

  • Where are the moments of productive diversity?
  • What are the bases for collaboration (1)? Politics, society, economics, culture, technology, environment.
  • What are the bases for collaboration (2)? Persons, organisations, communities, nations, the global order.

- Alternative futures: outline several alternative scenarios.

- What are the forces that drive in the direction of, or mitigate against, each scenario?

*What is to be done?

  • What’s been coming up in the parallel sessions in this stream since the last talking circle?
  • What is the emerging view of the future?
  • Can we foresee, let alone predict alternative futures?
  • Looking back a decade hence, what might be decisive or seminal in the present?
  • Scenarios: can we create images of possibility and agendas for robust alternative futures?
  • Directions: conventional and unconventional wisdoms?
  • Strategies: resilience in the face of the inevitable or creative adaptation?
  • What could be done: review the scenarios developed in Talking Circle 1.
  • Axes of uncertainty: working towards the right questions even when there’s no certainty about the answers.

Closing Plenary: 15-minute contribution to the closing plenary by the talking circles facilitator based on summaries provided by each talking circle.