Been there done that! I've tried the blogosphere before. It was good for my writing discipline. But I stopped. Not sure what that says about me and my discipline really. But here I go again. If one is to blog, one must join it to one's addiction, in order to be successful.
At last week's CreateWorld 2011 AUC Conference (South Bank, Brisbane), I sat in rooms full of really great people. Social people. Really smart people: Geeks, semi-geeks and wanna be geeks. (I say this in the most affectionate way.) I've been in rooms of geeks at conferences before, but this one struck me as social. Collaborative even. Something new to me for a tech-based gathering. I figure I had previously been going to the wrong ones. The hierarchy of geekiness was missing as undergrads presented papers that were the highlight of a session, and breaks were filled with exchanges of information, networks, knowledge and generally good cheer. "I like these people", I thought to myself. I don't often think that when I am in a room of strangers.
What I loved about being in a space that collected keen adopters of technology, was the screen glare in the room as an audience member. Try it sometime. It really is the digital version of eavesdropping. Sit up the back of the auditorium and while listening to the speaker/s, watch the screens pop up. Tablets, phones, laptops - you name it. (Mainly Apple ones of course because of the AUC connection - but I was also pleased to see I was not the only android phone user around that week). It made me sit up and take note. A room full of screens on, and yet there was connection with the speaker and one another. I had always thought of the screen-glare as a distraction ... not a connection.
As a lecturer who has witnessed the mobile computing world enter auditoriums and lecture rooms and not been quite sure how to handle it, I got a totally new perspective at CreateWorld. A digital-epiphany of sorts you could say. It was long overdue and probably really just demonstrates I am not a digital native - more a digital parent!. While some screens were pointed at Facebook, Twitter, email and other daily digital distractions, I figured this was no different than day dreaming your shopping list and still taking in a portion of it. We all do it. We are a multitasking species. What worked for me, like the white light of a million screens, was the connections people were making. Tweeting their reactions to the speakers making social connections with others at the conference, uploading pics of iPad symphonies to Facebook, and sending each other digital business cards across the conference spaces. And that was just screen connections in the room.
Meal breaks saw just as many screens glaring as it did people chatting to one another. Good eavesdropping freelance writer that I am, I overheard conversations of people who knew each other from the Twittersphere and Second Life who were meeting face-to-face (FTF) for the first time and connecting in an instant after the initial micro-second shock of "you don't look at all like your avatar". Personally I was pleased to meet people from my own institution I had never met in person - alongside writers of articles I had read from other parts of the world. I was overwhelmed by the sharing of knowledge and genuine interest in digital creation. The conference was a microcosm of the best of both FTF and digital relationship and network building. The connection worked.
And thus this blog begins. A blog about how we connect with one another. Specifically how we connect using digital communication. Hardware and software. Synchronous and asynchronous. Human to human, yet hopefully mediated by kind computers and clever programs which will enhance our experience of being relationship with one another. Of course in the end it is up to us how effective these relationships are. But more on that later. At the very least this blog is a space where waxing lyrical about digital communication will not be driven from a "the devil is in town" perspective, but rather one of thoughtful opportunity seeking. In the words of Dale Spender in Nattering on the Net (1995): "The challenge for us ... is to learn to live with computers and to make a better world". And I suspect it all starts with how we connect.