THE VOICES IN THE HILLS
I hope it’ll be above all a listening experience – sharing ideas and perceptions, experiences and aspirations. Rich and salty, enlivened by humour, sharpened with a few touches of controversy, and embroidered with performance and display. I hope traditions will be celebrated, innovations welcomed – and both examined and critiqued. I hope cultures and languages from our so-called ‘marginalised’ homelands rub shoulders and emerge from the experience richer. Lastly, I hope we’ll be able consider economic activities, social initiatives, cultural expression, personal development and political possibilities globally, without creating unnecessary distinction between them. No pressure, then.
I have no experience at all of running digital gatherings and so will offer no opinions on the processes involved. From involvement in more conventional conferences and seminars, I’d like just to flag up two central problems/ issues that seem always to need sensitive navigation. The first is the clash between a desire to share everything important with everyone, and the need to enable individuals and groups to come together in areas of specialist interest. The second is between vertical and horizontal structures: the formal, guided, progression between keynote speakers, seminar groups and reports back with a Chair summing up – or the more democratic and sometimes chaotic patterns involving self-selection, free movement and open-space technology.
Seems to me sometimes that something vital can be lost when an event such as this treats performance and display as intermissions between the real business of talking, or at best illustrations. I’d argue strongly for foregrounding the arts – opening the day with a performance, for example, and creating an immediate space for participants to interact with the performer(s). And for keeping this dynamic active throughout the event.
We’ve always talked until now about a one-day seminar, but there could be a case for a one-day plus event. Personally, I could see the event enriched by the addition of a second day of live and voluntary ‘practical’ interactions (trying to avoid that word workshops…) where those who wanted could examine and enjoy a couple of songs and poems, some pictures and crafts, a virtual visit to an experimental initiative and so on. This could be a rewarding conclusion to the gathering, or it could also take place before the symposium day, acting as a dynamo and stimulus and bringing participants to it already excited and curious.
I’m hoping to add some details of people I think could contribute to the event, a little later – more as an example to compare with those of others than for any other reason.