At SXSW Interactive yesterday, things were a little bit nuts. The registration line was four city blocks long when I found the end of it. By the time I reached the front (two hours later), the line had stretched to six city blocks. I’m not making this up.
Thankfully, I had a fascinating conversation with the director of social media for a major national financial institution (where I happen to do all of my banking and insurance, I might add).
A little later over coffee and beer with the executive editor of Patheos, we couldn’t help but invoke the tired Gutenberg analogy. The world is changing around us, and the people in Austin for this conference are out at the front of this change.
Change is good. I like change. I’ll even vote for change sometimes in national elections.
But yesterday felt more like noise than change. We squeezed through Disney-sized crowds with no Dumbo to ride at the end of the line. In fact, the only thing at the end of the line was another crowd.
I don’t mean to sound grumbly, but I felt a bit like Grendel. If you slept through Beowulf in High School, let me remind you. Hrothgar and his men party every night in his Mead Hall. (Mead is something like beer made from fermented honey.) Grendel is evil because of the actions he takes, eating and destroying men. But his motivations are easy to understand. He can’t deal with the noise.
Sometimes, I get a bit tired of noise myself. Sometimes, I want to rage a bit against the noise because I lose hope that there is any signal of truth in the loop.
1000 years of history
This conference began at the poet’s fire
where Grendel raged under the weight of noise
and Beowulf wrestled the angry son of noise,
when Mother Earth gave birth to English.
Words crawled to breasts to suckle.
Fathers filled steins with mead.
Let us drink the honey until our minds run
dry and the natural laws of the world trickle
down our foreheads, drops of sweat drawn
out by the warm red of the hearth.
(Special thanks to mortenjohs for posting this image on Flickr under creative commons.)