Playing Junto

Kristin: Yesterday I had the privilege to experience Junto (, in its first outing. I came across Junto through following @VenessaMiemis, who is a Director of the Foresight Education and Research Network with me. Not that we’d met until yesterday. Venessa’s ‘Emergent by Design’ post helps to explain more about Junto:

In case you haven’t been following along, Junto is a concept we’ve been discussing for a global communications and collaboration platform. It starts with a simple interface, combining video chat with a text box and a twitter backchannel, all streaming in public, real-time. It could be used for any number of projects or goals – organizations could use it for open innovation or to show how they are taking social responsibility in the world, groups with similar initiatives could use it for huge group discussions and meetings in order to accelerate the process of organizing and taking projects from idea to action, and individuals could use it to engage in dialogue and create shared meaning and shared understanding across geographic and cultural barriers. For more context, check out the original post here.

The first time I logged on, the primary mode of connection was through typing text, coloured to identify each individual. And the conversation was around getting used to the interface and how people intereacted with it. Made slightly more interesting for me by the reaction of two of my children (age 4 and 6). They thought it was amazing to be able to wave and talk to people in the US. They took a shine to Dave who demonstrated his iPad, and made up a song about him (which is why we’re on mute). They asked me again that night and again this morning when they could talk to America again. My observations?

  • Although they access global networks through Moshi Monsters, Barbie or Mathletics, these interfaces all hide the real individual, and the nature of interaction is controlled. Access to a network of real live people is something that even I don’t get as fully through Twitter, Facebook or Skype.
  • Even their reaction to the interface was interesting. One tried to touch the screen to move around the video images – to grab them to make bigger or link them together. (and we don’t have iTouches, iPhones or iPads at our house – yet). Imagine the iPad application for Junto!
  • They also explained they liked Dave because he was in the middle, which was fascinating given we’d observed that the placement of people might indicate something about the conversation dynamic.

And the conversation dynamic was different in my second Junto. Partly because there were only three people when I joined, talking about the potential of collaborative conversation and the ownership of ideas. I experimented using Twitter as a backchannel, listening with the video off, but finally it got too interesting and I dived in. This time most of the conversation was through speaking, not texting and it had a more consistent theme and flow, allowing for more personal contributions and deeper insights. For me it was the roles we adopted that was new – there were the 2-3 people fully engaged in speaking to each other, a role for annotating and summarising ideas, a role to draw in new ideas through the backchannel or posting links, and a role for newcomers to the group (and maintaining the health of the group). All important to model and show the potential of Junto.

So why I am interested? Because I agree that the type of conversations that can be had through Junto, with people who have a common interest in creating better worlds will bring a collision of ideas and relationships. And that Junto enables us to have the conversations we’re already having in a better way, but also that in using Junto we will develop new ways of connecting and turning those ideas into action. I’m in for the ride.


  1. Thank you, Kristin, for sharing your impressions. Had not seen this until you tweeted today.

    Agree, the placement of the avatars (like virtual chairs) affects the conversation dynamic. When someone enters the “room”, it is no longer necessary to interrupt the chat flow with “hello, welcome” and other nicety. Just enough if everyone moves their avatar to make an open space in the, um, circle for the newcomer. Who slides right in.

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