On April 21 2016, The Still Point Journal, that is, we, published a new blog post:
We invite creative responses to the experiences of working across analogue and digital, and between real and virtual worlds…
Two little words in our call for submissions for Digital Selves in Research – “across” and “between” – held more meaning than we realised at the time. So much of what our contributors have expressed, and so much of our own experience in organising this symposium, hides within those words. We seem to be recognising, in so many nuanced ways, that exploring the digital and the real isn’t about choosing one position or the other. We’re the hybrid generation, the researchers learning how to use the internet for scholarship. Is this what a period of transition feels like?
Our invitation provoked myriad responses, but they all avoided this digital/IRL binary we could not help but set up. Our own vocabulary during this symposium has felt increasingly useless, out of time and place. We are still grappling with how to talk about the experience of being human, being researchers and practitioners in 2016 – but we hope this symposium has pushed our language further.
This symposium was organised through a disorderly mix of whatsapp, google docs, email, face to face meetings, twitter, facebook — but then, so are most offline events, ‘nowadays’. More peculiar is that most of the organisers, contributors, participants and readers have never met each other, and perhaps never will. As editors, we know our contributors through a few emails, static profile pics and tiny bios.
You, the attendees, the delegates, are even stranger for us. Our virtual symposium has had a virtual, largely invisible audience.
Is there really anybody out there?
In her interview on Footnotes on Wednesday, PhD student Rachael Kent described this phenomenon facilitated by social media, of “privately viewing and not publicly feeding back”.
We’ve seen the stats counter ticking upwards on the blog, we’ve seen tweets gaining impressions, and ‘followers’ have gone up. But it’s strange not being able to make eye contact, to share tea and biscuits after each session.
We’d love to see and hear you all in a lively question and answer. We almost wish we could see some of you dozing off during the last speaker/writer of the day, or skipping out to get the train early, or putting your hand up at the end, “this is more of a comment than a question…”. It’s that strange longing that comes from being “across” and “between”, not comfortably “in” or “without”.
And maybe you find us strange too. We are clearly in time, but not quite in space.
Where are we? Who are we? We asked ‘Does the internet knew who you are?’, but do you know who we are? Or does the internet know who the The Still Point is?
We worry a little that we seem like a machine. We schedule with faceless efficiency. We think in hashtags. We anticipate the vibrations of notifications. Do you believe we are real? Can you touch us?
But, we do not want to end with existential crisis. The symposium has also done what social media is so famous for: brought us together regardless of our GPS positions. We heart the tweets, the likes, the feedback from readers. We’d love to know whether we’ve missed a conversation, or if our contributors have made you think again. This was never intended to be fixed or total.
As we post this (or as the wordpress robot releases on schedule), we’re preparing ourselves to be holed up in the King’s library, with friends and twitter-friends, for our Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon. We’re hoping to enter into and create new conversations, and embody the openness that we have loved to hear about this week. Join us — wherever you are in the world!
A final word of course has to be tapped out in ‘thank you’, to you lot, our readers, whether you’ve been a lurker or given us a like or an RT. And to our contributors and keynote speakers, who have been so generous with their time and ideas, and shown us so many ways of thinking about being a researcher, maker, and writer, in a (post)digital world.
You can read and listen and watch the whole symposium here: https://thestillpointjournal.com/digital-selves/
James & Fran
The Still Point Blog Team