I attended the opening cocktail for the We Media Conference this evening at the UM School of Communications, and will be at the conference most of tomorrow; (I'll miss almost all of Thursday due to teaching and other commitments.)
There are three things that are unusual for me about this conference.
The first is that it's a rare pleasure to have a conference come to me, instead of having to take a plane ride somewhere, and I'm very grateful to Blyth Daylong and the good folks at the UM School of Communication for making it affordable for me ride along. The list price of admission is pretty high, and full fare would well outside my price range, even without having to pay travel.
The second is that I'm not speaking. One way in which I usually ration my conference attendance is by mostly just going to the ones I speak at. (CFP is the most common exception.) That keeps down the expenses, but it means I miss out on some fun ones, and also may make for a certain samey-ness that it may be time to bust out of. Perhaps I should just go to stuff more often? (Any suggestions?)
And the third is that this is a Media conference: it isn't either of the two types of things I usually go to — either academic lawyer and cyberprofessional lawyer events or techy geek policy events. The pre-conference materials sound different from what I am used to: less specific content and far more ebullience. Indeed, judging from the cocktail party people I met, there are far more people at this who know my brother than there are people I've met before (and half of them think I'm him). It's good to meet new people, and different kinds of people; if I'm lucky I'll learn a lot. If not, at least I get a cultural experience.
OTOH, I did meet a Slashdot editor at the cocktail, so there are some familiar types floating around. But overall, so far, it seems as if the thing in my life which is most likely to connect with this crowd is being a director of a startup hyper-local media company which eventually went under. The one time I mentioned that to someone this evening, their eyes lit up: I had just come into focus for the first time.
It is certainly a varied group. In addition to the various small media moguls and big media moguls and assorted big media assistant moguls, there are people pitching the next big thing, and (tomorrow at least) some people with deep pockets. And of course the lady from the US Dept. of Defense PR shop who was explaining to me how nice Gitmo is, how well everyone is treated there, how much prisoners in the US jails would rather be there then the vastly worse US jails, and that the high suicide rate is because the people there are hard core ideological opponents of the US — which I took to mean they do it to make us look bad. I kid you not.
But I also had the pleasure of meeting a visionary, Corinna J. Moebius of Imagine Miami, an organization dedicated to building community in Miami-Dade via civic networking. It would seem, based on what I've observed here in the last 15 years, to be an almost hopeless task given the various linguistic and cultural divides and the absence of civic pride, civic tradition, and even civic spaces. But listening to Ms. Moebius for a little while makes it evident that she has the sort of passion for what she's doing that actually makes things happen….