Something happens to geeks like myself when we create technology and give it into the hands of more eclectically trained creative types: we usually feel an odd sense of awe and resentment. Why? Well, artists, writers, and social thinkers will either do something completely amazing and creative with it that we could never do (see: The Incredibles) or something strange and weird that completely misses the mark in our eyes (see: The Cyborg Manifesto). This is something that I'm sure Donna Haraway would refer to as "creating webs of meaning as ideas pass into larger and larger discursive entities" or "mechanisms of idea production." This is sort of a lose/lose proposition for us... because we're not directly behind the creation of something like an animated motion picture (we're the machinists that make the tools that make the engine of that oh-so-cool sports car) on the one hand... and we'll likely take the blame for oppressing someone somewhere (be it women assembling circuit boards in Malaysia for paying them next to nothing while conglomerates in this country reap huge profits or people of color in this country for raising economic barriers to entry by making our society more technological) on the other.
Or perhaps it is just that we give this stuff to people who know (or knew) how to have an insanely good time and get laid on a regular basis when they were young and single, take your pick.
It is therefore with some trepidation that I come across events like the South By Southwest Festivals (SxSW). It sounds like it will be a great party... with all sorts of nuts, weirdos, and creative types that will make the people watching alone worth the registration price. What I loath about such gatherings is the nascent sense of cliquish prognostication that such a gathering often entails that any technical conference I would ever attend never could possess. There will be a million prophets in the room, some with their own toadies and groupies, all talking about stuff that will either a) never come true, or b) come true in a much different way than artists and social critics now ever could foresee. Let us remember people, no one really ever predicted the idea or the impact personal computers or the Internet until the prototypes for both had existed in various labs and garages for some time.
At its best, I'm sure the SxSW is a lot like Apple, a unique gathering of minds dedicated to producing something artistic and culturally valuable. At it's worst, it will be like a bad episode of Oprah -- just a bit overly self-indulgent. *sigh* I hear Austin is a great town, though. I'd love to visit some time though. One day... one day.
on 2005-03-10 at 2:58 p.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond