Monday, October 17, 2005

ConvergeSouth - Closing Thoughts

Finishing the series on the ConvergeSouth conference....

I am the slowest blogger ever - always the last one to write about any given topic. I guess I am not all that into speed and 'scooping the competition' and such stuff. I like to digest the news slowly before I write anything here. Most other bloggers have moved on and here I am, still harping on ConvergeSouth. But now that I look at the whole series (see bottom of the post for links), I am quite satisfied. All of them put together are better than any of the individual posts standing alone. I had several days to forget the details and only write about the big take-home messages, plus add my own musings to the topic.

As I have already stated in my very first impressions from the meeting, the whole affair was a blast. Fantastic hospitality by the hosts (thanks Billy, Dave and Ed for driving me to the hotel and back multiple times each!), great organization of the meeting, excellent choices of topics and speakers,....

The choice of venue, NC A&T was a stroke of genius. It is a beautiful modern campus. The atmosphere is serious and scholarly, and the students and faculty (including those who participated in the conference) are world-class. I should check out their biology department - I would have no qualms about moving to Greensboro (Dave's neighborhood looks expensive, but I can dream, OK?).

Dave fixes the best BBQ ever and his house feels 'at home' from the first minute one walks in. We had great time at the Friday night party and again at dinner on Saturday night (fantastic bar-steak at Cafe Europa - thanks Roch for hosting and for tipping us to the best, and best-hidden, item on the menu). It was also a privilege to finally meet Jinny in person - what a wonderful person!

Whenever I travel I start out with an assumption that I will NOT be able to access the WWW at any time during the trip and try to make my peace with it. Usually I get pleasently surprised, including this time. Two computer labs at A&T were set aside for us and rows upon rows of PC's were there, already logged in, ready to use at any time of day. The Marriott hotel (very polite and efficient staff!) had something they pompously call "Business Center" which is really a little room with one ancient PC - good enough to check all of my e-mailboxes, all my sitemeters, my favourite blogs, technorati and google searches, the facebook, blogs of people I just met... This is the millionth time I saw people like me happily logging on, while people with their own laptops are fuming in the hall, helplessly trying to get online via incompatible hardware...

A number of bloggers have already written their impressions and the MSM has reported on it as well, including this editorial in Raleigh News & Observer which came on the heels of a spirited discussion that transpired on N&O blogs over the past week. I have also heard Jay Rosen on NPR's "On The Media" today during a long segment on the future of TV (evening) news.

I am sorry, of course, that I had to miss almost 2/3 of the sessions. As you could see in the posts over the past week, I chose the sessions that explore the ways blogs build local, national or global communities, how such communities strive to become more diverse, and how such communities affect the world via their effects on journalism and politics.

This means that I have missed more explicitely political sessions by Ruby Sienrich and Sandy Carmany (both sessions I wanted to see), the Katrina session I was really excited about, as well as 'techno'-sessions: new blogging tools, Wikipedia, podcasting and videoblogging. I SHOULD have gone to those last four because that is my weakness. I am so behind the technological curve, I am going to miss being on the cutting edge. Again.

I tend to wait until a new technology becomes entrenched before I hop on the wagon. I am not impressed by the gee-wizz factor. I want to know how the new stuff is going to be useful to me and is it worth my investment. My computer does not have sound (OK, I'll have that fixed next week). I do not have a lap-top. I do not have an iPod. I do not have any downloaded music. I do not have TiVO. I do not have satellite TV. I do not have digital TV. I do not even have a cell phone. And I am a blogger who spends hours at the computer every day. If you cannot get ME to adopt a new technology, what are your chances with millions of people who are computer-illiterate, computer-apathetic or even computer-phobic?

In the meantime, on this old PC (with WinXP-Prof), when I go to Rocketboom I get a green puzzle-piece. Clicking on it offers the option to download Apple Player. What software do I need and can download that will let me watch those videoblogs on my computer?

It is time now to move on and take a look at the future. There will be a podcastercon in Chapel Hill in January and Anton is planning a different kind of bloggercon later on next winter in Chapel Hill, too:
"But sometime in 2006 I hope to organize a conference on storytelling. More about that in the coming week, and how a storytelling conference might bring together storytellers, bloggers, genealogists, oral historians and the senior citizens of our communities to put our “institutional memory” online."
The previous bloggercon Anton organized was a blast. The next one intrigues me. Let me use that brief cryptic statement of his as a starting point to dream out loud what kind of sessions I would like to see in the future bloggercons. I want to spread out maximally in blogspace and in blogtime.

First, I am interested in the future (thus 'blogtime'). Not 6 months or 5 years in the future, but more like 50 years or 100 years (or 1000 years!).

I want to know how will the world of blogging look in 50 years. Why not invite Cory Doctorow? He's the only one who has written a sci-fi book speculating about the future of the Internet and he is a famous blogger.

I want to know how the blogs will change the world, including politics (Get Joe Trippi?), science (Carl Zimmer as a panelist?) and journalism (Jay Rosen again?).

I want to know how blogs will change education and academia.

Finally, I want to know how the historians, librarians, archivists, students and journalists 50 years in the future will look back at us: are we blogging in a way that makes their job easier? Are we representing the real Zeitgeist to the audience of the future?

Second, I am interested in a broader scope (thus 'blogspace') and reach of the blogosphere, beyond the usual focus on would-be-journalists, political pundits and techno-geeks.

I have written before (here and more recently here) about the importance of expert-bloggers - the people who know more about a topic than your average journalist and are bypassing media filters to disseminate the best information and the most informed opinion on any given topic. Let's bring some expert bloggers.

There are gazillions of lawyers and legal scholars on blogs - let's bring one. Foreign policy experts (Juan Cole). There are philosophers (Brian Leiter?), academics and historians (someone from the HNN?). There are scientists (PZ Myers would be a blast to have here), physicians, avian-flu experts, global warming experts,....and many others.

Also, majority of blogs are personal journals. Many of those are quite well written. Some of those have serious pretensions of becoming writers. I'd like to see a session (or more than one) about blogging poetry (see what Billy thinks about it), stories, essays and novels. About online book publishing (and making money on it, if possible) - Cory Doctorow again? About well-known writers using blogs to converse with their readers (Sarah Dessen is here in Chapel Hill). About essayists letting commenters on their blogs fact-check and critique before the thing gets published in hardcopy (David Brin does that all the time).

Another thing - I would like to see an effort to get professional journalists help bloggers (those who want to do this) become better journalists. I think this is a fantastic idea along those lines.

Also, I would like to know what is the best way to spread blogging. How to teach it to newbies. How to make it available to everybody. How to make more people WANT to do this.

Just some ideas....

ConvergeSouth - First Impressions
ConvergeSouth - Some Pictures
ConvergeSouth - International Coverage
ConvergeSouth - Building Community
ConvergeSouth - Blog Carnivals
ConvergeSouth - Ethics
ConvergeSouth - Policing the Media
ConvergeSouth - Blogging from the outside
ConvergeSouth - Local Online Alt Media
ConvergeSouth - Creative Branding on Blogs
Related: Teaching Blogging

Check the Technorati Tag: ConvergeSouth

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:50 AM | permalink | (6 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink