During dinner this evening, I had the most wonderful conversations. People think these things are about technology, but we talked about Old English Literature, Emerson, Joyce, Imperialism, Faulkner, the future of education, and much more. I loved hearing Barbara, and Jeff, and Jim, and Patrick and Angela share their stories. There was a lot of laughing at our table and a lot of aha moments. And most of these conversations were continuations of moments in the hallways, of Twitters, of blog comments, weaving together our "real" and online lives in ways that some people might think is just plain crazy, but man, was it fun.
And, of course, there were so many others that I felt honored just to be in the same room with, much less to be able to talk to: Alan, Gardner, and Steve. It was just great to hear what they were thinking about, what they're doing; it was inspiring.
Steve said after dinner that some of his colleagues find it so odd that he is "friends" with people that he knows only online. But he said, and I agree, that he feels like he knows these people. I would never have met Barbara or Bryan or Steve or Gardner if I didn't have a blog or if they didn't have blogs and my life would have so much less rich without them in it. They make me think and challenge my thinking.
One of the things that I thought about as I was listening to Barbara talk was how the Academy (capital A) is not always about struggling to figure out what you have to say (as I am doing now) but about having something definitive to say (complete with footnotes and other apparatus to prove it). Participating in this event has given me permission to continue that struggle. It is this struggle that's the hard part. Figuring out what we're doing. It's not about the technology. That part's easy (as Steve said), but technology has cracked something open that we can't close anymore. Again and again, people brought this up, the struggle, but also the great reward at the end of that struggle, the learning.
I know I'm rambling now, but let me close by saying that I'll be thinking about this experience for a long time to come. Thank you to all the UMW folks for letting me be a part of this. It's going to be hard to go home, but my suitcase is definitely fuller.