Image credit: “Pittsburgh Comicon” by RL Johnson.
Let me be frank here, I love the bava, I do, I love the little fucker. And I pretty much say whatever I want on it, and really could care less about the consequences. It’s my little space to create and have fun, and I seldom, if ever, wield it as a hammer against others. In fact, that’s not the logic of this space, if, indeed, there is one. I also don’t brood over the blogging process, I write half-baked thoughts and let them die an ignoble death. That’s an important element of this space for me because it is a liberation from my grad school days of writing–a period that’s was a deep source of inadequacy and trepidation for me. I kind of think of the bava as an unlearning of that process, an intentional reaction to that prison house that I no doubt helped to create in my mind.
So, it’s funny how this process has recently become a source of anxiety for me in other regards. Namely, the idea of “creating a brand” through my blog. I absolutely hate the idea of framing one’s blog, online presence, digital identity, etc. as a brand. It is that very market-speak language of the web that robs it of any of its vitality. It makes what so many people are doing in this space for a wide variety of complex and conflicted reasons synonymous with some kind of consumer recognition bull shit. It turns these spaces about people, into a product-driven logic of statistics, rankings, and meager celebrity. It removes one from the very act of sharing and discourse that undergirds the power of such space. If we are using the term online branding to frame our conversations about institutions, personal blogs, or digital identities, then the apotheosis of people as product has been realized, and we might as well tattoo a bar code on our necks and get scan-inventoried at the local Wal-Mart. Resist market speak in education, fight the nefarious logic that seems to so innocently seep—or is the proper green, bio-metaphor of the moment “organically” more appropriate here—into a space that needs to remain ever vigilant about what the realities of markets do to any sense of community, culture, and camaraderie both to their own sense of mission, as well as for the culture at large they were designed to serve.
So, at this point in the post one might ask, “Hey, bava, why all the preaching and teaching, hoss? Get to the punchline already.” Well, the punchline is that my own exhortation is born out of an ambivalence about what I have to say next. You see, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” and I am capitalizing on this quote from Emerson to introduce an idea that has been bandied about on this blog in jest, and one which a quite persistent and rather funny blogger has been taking quite seriously. What I’m referring to here is bavacon. What the hell is bavacon? I don’t know, I might blame Bryan Alexander for it via his throw away comment here, and I also might blame Steven Egan for taking my attempt to downplay the whole thing with a joke quite seriously. But when we get rid of the idea of bava from this equation, what Steven is talking about really fascinates me, and I will quote extensively from his post on the subject below:
Might it be possible to arrange a digital conference thing with no physical location? A mash-up of sorts using different digital communication tools? AV chats, chat room discussions, feeds and more through a portalesque webpage to the individual locations? If needed I have a domain that would work well for this, and this goes right along with my plans for it. Unfortunately I don’t have the hosting or know-how to do that, or I would.
First is the timing. With the economy problems, travel budgets are shrinking. The technologies to be used are easily accessible and widely varied. People are taking a serious interest in education and distance education. That interest is starting to wane due to other pressures. So, having a digital conference, possibly with a physical location, could start a wave of accessibility to learning conferences. With some interest in pushing the conference model into the Web 2.0 and other interests in improving conferences, now could very well be the best time for such an experiment
Second is the draw. The Bava is a collection of creations by Jim Groom, who has plenty of contacts and could likely draw a crowd. That means the first event could be a big success. That would increase the chances of other conferences following suit. It also means that the word would spread, where if I were to try to do this there wouldn’t be the draw to make it work.
Third is the accessibility. Jim is a serious advocate of accessibility in learning, be it in tools, materials, opportunities or software. So I don’t doubt he would try to make the Bavacon accessible to the masses. This also came out of a discussion on not being able to attend conferences and events, so it isn’t just Jim’s ideals. It’s also the direction this thing started in.
Fourth is the potential. This is where it becomes important. The timing of this could make this a big event in the learning circles. The draw of him and his contacts could add to the bigness of the event. An accessible learning conference would mean that teachers, educators, students and the masses could attend. Together that makes for a potentially huge event where students, teachers and policy makers can attend and possibly participate. Yet that is just the tip of the ice burg.
Local viewings and discussions are a possibility. In a single chat room it is hard to deal with 50 or more people. Yet if you have up to around 20 people in a discussion it is entirely possible.
Live and archived videos, twitter, RSS feeds, live and archived audio, chat rooms and live physical viewings or the video with discussion sessions afterward are all possibilities. That’s all interaction and starting conversations.
The fact is, I think Steven is right about so many points, save the one where I might be the draw and impetus for such an event. What it could and should be is a collective happening that is distributed and would push a whole bunch of people to think about how we might be able to bring people together for a kind of focused learning party that is not dependent on geographic space. I think it would have to be an event for creativity and performance, not papers and research. We could synch our twitter accounts and watch films “together,” a model I saw here and thought was brilliant. We could get a venue in Second Life and perform our work—I was inspired by NMC’s Second Life conference “Rock the Academy” for the possibilities here this past November. We could create mashups, art, poetry and the like in a distributed space that syndicates into a site over the course of a specific period of time, and what else….? I don’t know, the ideas would have to be generated by everyone, and would be a large part of why this would be valuable. Namely, imagining ways to create these personal and social communions online at specific times and places throughout the distributed web. One thing I am pretty sure of, however, is that it would have to be free, open, and archivable with everything that was created and captured made freely available with an open license. Moreover, it would take a number of people interested and able to make this idea a reality.
All that said, a large part of me would much prefer being in the same physical space with these people hanging out and talking and riffing about these things (hence WordcampFred). That said, I think this model of a focused, distributed event might make for an interesting opportunity for thinking through and innovating with the very technologies that might point the way forward in terms of alternatives. So, to that end I have this to say, I’ll help Steven organize this if other people are see some potential value in it. The other condition is that we kill the name bavacon, let’s call it abjectacon or infocultacon or con-a-punk or something like that. Moreover, perhaps this is happening already, and such an event may just seem like more work or duplicated effort—something none of us need at this point. But I do know that I’d like to have something to work towards, and more times than not it’s the usual presentation venue and form that isn’t really pushing us to new ways of imagining how to share this stuff. That’s what I am interested in with this push, what do you think?