For an academic, conferences are a way of life. At their best they are crossroads and meeting places between academics working either on the same topic or with the same method or theory. In the worst case they are an event where you meet the same people, talk about the same things and re-draw familiar battle lines. Don’t get me wrong even these “worst case” scenarios conferences are still valuable as they are all about meeting people.
But then there is FSCONS.
Once a year for five years my own workplace is transformed into the conference for free software and free culture. The participants are not their because they have papers to present but because they have ideas they want to spread. The audience are not there because they are working on developing their position in an academic hierarchy, but because they believe in the importance of the fundamental premise of the conference.
This is not to say that this is all about preaching to the converted. The audience is very dedicated, and knowledgeable about their topics. Take for example the first talks in the first session:
Karsten Gerloff “The Water in Which We Swim: Policy issues around Free Software”
Jeremiah Foster “Embedded Free Software/Open Source in your car”
Fredrik Gladhorn “Accessibility for Qt and KDE”
Daniel Berntsson “Bitcoin: Decentralised Currency”
And the whole conference continues in this way. The hard hackers meet and mingle with the digital rights activists.
In addition to this it’s all about the people. The relaxed social event to this evening was filled with a breadth of discussions. We had comparisons between 1984 & Brave New World, the cult of leadership & superstar CEOs, penicillin and yoghurt, hardware hacking & aduino, the role of royalty in free culture NCOs… Everywhere you turn their is a passionate group arguing intently on everything from the gender of Jabba the Hut & Admiral Akbar to the purpose, meaning and ability of democracy.
In a moment of strangeness a discussion turned to walls: their meaning, construction, definition and more importantly how to differentiate between walls and wall-like structures. Everyone had opinions and the light-hearted discussion continued for longer than such a question normally would or could last.
When I next checked on twitter I had been challenged to hold a lightening talk entitled: What is a wall?
How could anyone not love FSCONS?