Thoughts on Lynne d Johnson’s UnKeynote

I’m nearly recovered from an exceptional Web Visions conference. I had a great time and the feedback on my session has been extremely positive so far. But more on that later.

I wanted to talk briefly about Lynne d Johnson’s UnKeynote from Thursday and why it prompted me to modify my presentation to add a new slide.

For those who weren’t at the UnKeynote, Lynne started the presentation by encouraging audience participation. She wanted to see what sort of presentation or conversation she could facilitate. She has written more about what she wanted to accomplish and her thoughts on how it went. I encourage you to read about her experiment.

For most of the presentation, people would chime in with a thought or two, but the presentation was moving along fairly rapidly. And then Lynne put up the following slide:

This slide remained on the screen for almost the remainder of Lynne’s presentation. Yet, this slide contains only three bullet points about how Japanese youth are reading and writing books on their mobile devices.

This was information that the audience couldn’t accept. It was amazing to see how many people challenged these three facts as data that was either incorrect, trends that can be explained away by cultural differences, or some variation on how reading on phones may be fine for other people, but “I’m never going to do it.”

The audience was resisting the idea of people reading books on their phone. Not simply that they didn’t want it, but that many couldn’t even begin to fathom how this could be true.

My suspicion is that if Lynne were to have presented the same information to a European audience, that they would have nodded their heads in agreement at her points. The experience of Japanese youth is ahead, but not tremendously ahead, of those in Europe.

So I added the following slide to my presentation for Friday morning:

The data in this slide comes from a great discussion we had on the Forum Oxford mobile list that spurred a comprehensive post from Tomi Ahonen.

The point of my slide is simple: an American audience is so far behind in the adoption of mobile technology that we can’t envision, nor accept, the way mobile is being used in other countries.

Like the prisoners in The Allegory of the Cave, the audience couldn’t accept the new reality and even at times strongly challenged Lynne as they tried to reconcile her talk with their current experiences.

This is yet another reason why I tend to think of myself as a mobile evangelist. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do in the United States when it comes to mobile.

P.S. Thanks to Lynne for a great presentation and for the conversations we had afterwards. One of the highlights of the conference was getting to meet her.