August 25, 2006

Incestuous Tech Conference Syndrome (ITCS)

When I was a wee lassie at the University of Buffalo, an undergrad in an advanced English program featuring some of the most respected literary figures of our time as professors, I learned a couple of things. 1) it pays to have someone type your paper for you when you own a crappy IBM selectric typewriter and your entire grade depends on that one paper. 2) Great writers don't study writing. They study everything else.

The best of my teachers and mentors told me: wrap yourself in textures of what there is, not in the exercise of writing. Writing is not for studying. Philosophy, religion, politics, ethics, world history those are subjects to study. Read everything about them, because writing is merely the act of understanding them out loud.

That got me thinking about our collective Technology, Web 2.0, blogging and social media conference fetish. What we really learning in attending this never-ending run of conferences -- more about technology, more about blogging, about journalism, about social software and social networks, more about the Internet, more about online communities.

We're drilling down, sure, but are we drilling up? Or at least sideways?

I don't think so.

What I liked about SXSW was that it was more than tech, more than blogging. It was music and film; it was about artists performing and sharing. And even that fell short of what we should be doing more of.

We need to get out of our own way, our own heads, and our own networks to be truly social.

Can we send bloggers to conferences and gatherings outside of tech, off the web, and see what that does to our writing? To the blogosphere? Can we encourage some tech and web2.0 sponsored conferences that have nothing at all to do with what we're doing? Is the best way to break into new formats and platforms, to inspire innovation, to discover what seems completely unrelated?

I think it could help move us beyond this annoyingly noisy barrage of blogspeak, at least a little bit, at least until some of us remember how to write, or at least offer new contexts for our content. I know I'm game.

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