Frankly, I just don't have enough exposure and experience to figure out when something is a workshop, a conference, or a meetup. They are all very cool, in that you get to see great work being done and learn a lot. It's just that the taxonomy is a bit arcane. In any case, I was lucky enough to attend last week's Digital We from the Social Apps Lab at CITRIS at UC Berkeley. There were fantastic presentations from a range of people within and across disciplines, all with a common interest in increasing people's participation in social causes and society. The participants ranged from a social scientist trying to come up with a "phylogeny of forms" of participation (I'll steal Alenda Chang's links to Kelty's works: “Birds of the Internet” and Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software) to undergraduates implementing a very Crowdmap-like tool for tracking and combating the spread of dengue fever (sorry, no direct link, but background here).
(You can see more updates by searching the Twitter hashtag #DigitalWe.)
Two notes -- one personal and one professional.
The professional is that one of the overarching themes of the day, sometimes stated explicitly, is that neither technology nor social science would be sufficient to save the day. Not only are both necessary, but both working together (sorry, those who dream of entirely computer-generated products) are needed for designing products, tools, processes that are efficient, effective, and engaging. Hearing this as an I School grad, it was very, very cool to hear that the way we were thinking about things there isn't totally off-base, or limited to our own little world.
The personal is that I would love to work in this sort of environment. Or this environment. So many of the skills we learned at the I School can be and are applied in these projects, though the sharing of expertise, research, and background is still far from transparent and frictionless. Researching how people think of doing things, what their actual problems are, and ways to help them naturally and engagingly make themselves and the world a better place. What can I say? I'm a sucker for the campfire rule.