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Traditional science cafe with streaming and distant participation

This is the basic starting point, well established in Florence [] and Rome []. This scenario is well suited when there is a strong local community and a dispersed community.
It starts as a standard science cafe, organized in a public location, possibly in a pub, a café or a bar or a library, with a disposition of seats that allow people to see each other and feel at the same level of experts
  • When possible people are arranged around tables, so that they can discuss locally with neighbours following the results of the cognitive ergonomy (people are intimidated by crown but supported by a small clique).
  • Two experts and a moderator/facilitator. The two experts present themselves and the theme of the meeting in a quick way (about 20 minutes each) and then the floor is given to the public for questions. In order to have a successful discussion, the topic of the event has to be well known by the attendees. Ideal for “hot” topics like transportation, energy choices, pollution, medical or ethical choices, Internet, education, etc. For highly technical questions (for instance: the use of hydrogen for transportation, invasive ants, the point on AIDS, etc.) the formula “cafferenza” is better suited.
  • The event is video-recorded in high-quality (for podcasting) and streamed using Google hangout and YouTube (automatic). Other streaming services can be used, but Google hangout has several advantages:
  • People can participate to the hangout (up to 10) or watch the YouTube streaming
  • YouTube is a well-known service
  • Distant participants via Google hangout can participate via chat, via Query&Answer (a participative add-on) and can use the post-it add-on being developed in this project
  • People following via YouTube can interact via chat
  • The event is automatically advertised to people belonging to circles, and can be easily extended to Facebook and Twitter
  • No need to install extra software (but improvements are possible).
  • An audio system is needed both for local amplification and for streaming. The best arrangement is that with a microphone or two for the experts, a wireless microphone for the moderator, and a wireless ice-cream microphone to be passed to the public. A mixer with digital output is quite useful, so to avoid noise in the analog/digital conversion and for avoiding overcharging the computer for streaming. A further microphone can be used by the streaming control for communicating the questions by remote attendees to the public. A good strategy for interactive communication is the following: expert present, with the aid of slides, only the essential parts, and then, if needed for enriching the response to the questions by the public, can finish presenting the video material.
  • The actual streaming is done using a computer and a webcam (or using the same camera for hi-res recording via firewire or analog-to-usb conversion). The audio input is taken from the digital mixer. If possible, it is useful to load also the slides to be displayed on the same computer and use the Google hangout capacity of switching between webcam and screen sources to show the slides in high resolution to the remote public.
  • A good network connection is needed. For low-res streaming a mobile connection is sufficient.
  • In general the event is recorded in high resolution and mounted with slides and titles to produce a good-quality podcast, to be uploaded to YouTube. However, since Google hangout already records a YouTube podcast of the event, if the webcam offers a good resolution it is possible to avoid the local recording and the production of a separate podcast.
  • It is theoretically possible to use more webcams (possibly wireless to avoid cables), either motorized (pan and zoom) or fixed, and in this case one can switch in real time the source of the input, offering a more exciting (but also more demanding) show.
  • For making the local people aware of the recording and of the possibility of remote participation, it is useful to display on the projection screen the web interface (including the chat), i.e., the same view of distant participants, maybe switching view for slides.
  • The human resources necessary for this arrangement are: 1 moderator, 1 control technician for the streaming and for reporting the questions of distant participants, one person for moving the camera (experts/slides/local public).

Examples of science cafes with streaming can be found on YouTube (caffescienza channel)

Community involved

Florence Citizens on line citizen


We organize our Science-Cafés in the premises of a mutual aid society, SMS-Rifredi


Classical Science-Café + streaming and chat

The ingredients for this scenario are:
  • a scientific or technological topic
  • two experts
  • one facilitator
  • the public
  • a web-moderator

The platform allows us to embed a video streaming using a public Google hangout (i.e. streaming on YouTube) and a chat in our site, so that people can see the event and participate with question.
 During the event, one person is devoted to moving the camera for the streaming and interacting with the distant participants. It is highly important to give feedbacks to them so that they do no feel to be alone, since they cannot rely on visual clues and feedbacks.
This online moderator has also to solve small technical problems (quality of sound, restarting the streaming in case of problems) etc. We discovered that sometimes the slides are not well seen through the webcam recording, so when possible they are streamed directly from the moderator computer in full resolution and this implies that the moderator has to “turn” slides in synchrony with the expert, and switch from slides to the webcam when appropriate.
The most important task of the moderator is to gather questions from distant public and report them to the expert. This has also the effect of making all public and experts aware of being actually followed by people on the Internet.

Technical instrumentation

  • A personal computer
  • Internet connection
  • A webcam
  • A mixer
  • Two microphones (one for the experts, one wireless for the questions of the public)