Early Friday morning, the four of us walked to the nearby Forest Sciences Centre for the “unconference” portion of Northern Voice called “Moosecamp.”
The facility is new, and as with all things sparkly, becomes an object of envy to those who know what it’s like with the Silverfish in CAB or the bunkers in the basement of Tory Lecture. The atrium in particular was breathtaking. Still, with the number of skylights in the common area, I was hoping for windows in the actual classrooms where the sessions took place.
Moosecamp by nature is ad hoc – topics are driven by attendee interest as garnered from the wiki on the website. When we arrived that day, organizers were putting the finishing touches on the day’s schedule. Although each presenter was given 30 seconds to pitch their session to the group, it was barely audible above the rustle and bustle of opening day excitement. So without a laptop, I had to select sessions blindly, as the descriptions were available only on the wiki, and some with limited detail. Perhaps I’m more traditional that way, but it was too last minute and chaotic for my taste.
At times, I felt like part of a cattle herd (or a moose herd?). The schedule only had one scheduled break besides the brief 45 minute lunch period, making it virtually impossible to digest the information discussed, get a coffee, or congregate. It made the day drag, and without a constant supply of caffeine, really uncomfortable.
At times, I did feel out of place. Nothing was deliberately exclusive (besides my inability to get online), but between acronym city, a fluency in the proliferation of Web 2.0 companies and services, code, and the incestuous network of attendees and presenters, it was a little overwhelming to say the least.
There were a few bright spots in the day, including two sessions I sat in on in the morning. The first was easily the most accessible to me, and focused on social media’s effects on cultural diaspora. The majority of the time was taken up by personal stories of roots, ethnic identities, community belonging, and increased engagement due to social networking. It reminded me of my English 363 class with this discourse on post-modern lines of thought regarding the fluid nature of identity.
The second session pulled some themes from the previous one, but instead of cultural groups, centred on online communities, in particular, how “communities” are defined (e.g. is active participation necessary? Consensus? Discussion?). Dickson didn’t enjoy this as much as I did, and though I agree that the topic was never fully dissected, and mainly talked around, I still marveled at the fact that everyone was so willing to contribute their thoughts on the matter. And really, the keyword record on the blackboard was pretty cool:
An observation from Moosecamp: multitasking, or multidistracting, which is rude in any other context is not only accepted, but encouraged. People were simultaneously blogging, e-mailing, IM-ing, uploading, and performing other computer-related activities during the presentation. Not doing so, or engaging only in active listening seems to become a sign of disrespect in some way.
By the end of the day, after yes, a session called “Mac Programming for Mortals,” and a “Geowalk” hour minus the “walking” part, I was ready to ship out. Megan felt the pain as well.
We ordered the combination dinner for 3-4, and as you’ll see below, involved quite a bit of food. The meal was nothing exceptional, but because the pictures turned out well, that alone makes them worth posting: