Ending where I began #undisciplining

I’m writing this post from the same cat cafe where I began live blogging on Sunday afternoon. It feels like this was more than a few days ago, probably inevitably given how exhausting this week has been. Most of this was self-inflicted. The conference was preceded by one of the busiest months of my life and I didn’t prepare as much as I could have. But I also didn’t realise how much more complex it would be to organise an event of this kind in an unfamiliar venue. Novel session formats and the absence of the familiar scaffolding of the university converged to produce all manner of contingencies. It was inevitable I would feel stretched because I was co-ordinating the digital plan for the conference, leading the live blogging project with Pat, convening a slightly unusual session and ensuring the fluctuating AV requirements of the sessions were met.

It was also the first event I’ve organised since beginning an experiment with giving up drinking a couple of months ago. It became clear to me in the last few days how alcohol can displace stress, providing a hedonistic end point to an enjoyable day and facilitating detachment in the evening. I was much more present with myself than I would otherwise have been, as has been the case for the last two months. But when chronic organisational stress combines with recurrent social awkwardness, self-presence isn’t always a welcome thing. It was nonetheless an important learning experience, with this live blog inviting me to reflect in an extended way on how I experience conferences and what value I (fail to?) find in them. Ironically enough this included the realisation that I’m much less comfortable sharing myself through digital platforms than I had once been. This is particularly the case for Twitter, increasingly something I feel uncomfortable with as much as I still recognise it can be indescribably useful in professional settings. The experience of publicly reflecting during a time of immense stress has left me rethinking how I use social media, as well as how this can leave me being used by social media. The live blogging project has been immensely interesting on a number of different levels.

Though it might sound negative, it nonetheless feels congruent with the spirit of the conference. I have thought a lot in the last few days about a lot of different things. Our approach to social media was to encourage reflection, treating this as part of the fabric of the conference which participants had to exercise responsibility over rather than being a singular activity we issued rules for. The prospect of institutionalised meta-reflection was what animated this live blogging project. Furthermore reflection is a precondition for doing things differently in the way we aspired to with this conference. Therefore while I’m taking my own reflections offline for now, it seems important we leave this live blog open for some time. If you’ve been part of the project then please continue to upload your reflections. If you’ve not been part of it but would like to contribute something then please get in touch with me. Once Pat and I do a debrief, we’ll get in touch with everyone who participated and plan next steps. Meanwhile back to the cats!

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