Sunday, March 12, 2006

SXSW: some observations

I'm having a good time, for sure, but it's interesting to be someone who's really on the outside in a number of ways. First, I'm not "in the industry." And second, despite the fact that there are quite a few women around, we're still in the minority.

Last night, we went to the opening party which was at a warehouse. Basically, we stood in the parking lot drinking beer. I felt like I was in high school again. At least the beer was free. The funniest thing is the people who walk around looking like they're looking for someone. What they're really looking for is someone who looks cool enough to talk to. I never qualified--just like high school.

An awful lot of people here are young (25-30), white, and male, looking for that big break. I don't have a problem with that at all, but it makes it hard just to have a conversation when it becomes obvious that I'm not going to bring them any business.

Why am I here, then? Well, I originally wanted to come to meet up with people who shared my interests, but what I'm finding is I don't want to talk in acronyms all the time. I actually want to bridge the gap between the people who talk in acronyms and the people who call the web the internets or the interweb and would prefer not to go near it. In the Book Digitization and a tagging session I went to, there was some discussion of that. Thanks, Liz! But generally, the acronym people just want to reach other acronym people. Unless we all become acronym people, I don't think that's a good long-term strategy.

This morning, I went to a session on the future of education. It was really interesting. I think the biggest issue facing education is that no one quite agrees on the goals of education. We're still working on a 200-year-old model of what education "should be" and there isn't the political will to move beyond that. The NCLB program ingrains that model even further. Next year, I want to see people like Will and George and Barbara up there. I mean, the people up on the panel were great and I talked to Jessica later and think what she's doing is very interesting and important, but I still think the conversation needs to widen. This topic, you can tell, is hugely important. The room was packed. People were talking passionately. They really want to figure this out.

I think educators increasely need to have this conversation. Four out of the five people on the panel were with corporations. If the education industry doesn't figure this out soon, the corporations will do it for us. And we may or may not like the "solutions" they come up with.

You know the Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who? Well I feel like the whos sometimes, running around yelling as loud as I can, The Web is here, the web is here. What's it gonna take before someone hears me?