Sunday, November 18, 2007

Embodied experience and the post-conference buzz

I'm not sure if it's true for everyone, but I notice that starting by the end of my first day at a conference and lasting for weeks after, I often have so much more energy for writing than usual, even though I've keeping long hours and maybe having drinks as well. So what accounts for that?

On one of the now numerous email lists of which I'm member, someone posted about how interacting face to face always creates some energy that flows around between people. I'm not sure if that's always true; sometimes socializing can be a bit of a strain, if for some reason it feels awkward. But on the whole, I think that's right. Whenever I go to conferences and meet even one person I really connect with, I'm energized. Once I've made these connections, I can usually solidify and sustain them through a combination of email and skype, facebook messaging (and playing) and so on. I even find these virtual contacts energizing, if I have real conversations. And lately I've experienced something of that energy even with people I've never met in person, but in those cases I also feel an even more urgent wish to meet in person.

But I think there is something about physical presence that so far can't be replicated or replaced by any virtual modes of contact. In a way it's like falling for someone in that there's a a similar feeling of immediate connection, of excitement, except it's over a different kind of prospect; an intellectual potential, rather than romantic. --Or maybe romantic too, for some people. ;-) Or maybe only I feel this way. Most academics would hesitate to admit this, even if they felt it, I think, because though even porn is starting to be accepted as a subject for study, it's still not really ok to talk about being motivated in our own work by pleasure, other than the most intellectual and abstract. I think that so many academics are suddenly not only joining Facebook but also getting really involved in it is that it allows expression of some of that same kind of pleasure that we experience when meeting in person.

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