Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Random observations on information labor at the 2005 SHOT conference, Minneapolis

Just returned from my one annual academic conference, the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) meeting, which was held this year in Minneapolis, MN. Other folks blog choice sessions from conferences like this in realtime, but not me. However, I've been thinking that this year my interaction with the events of the conference was structured and bracketed by information technology in new ways, so I thought I'd ponder some of them.

- I registered for my hotel online, but was forced to send my conference registration in by physical mail. I wonder if this meant more early registrations or more late registrations.

- I paid $12 per day for parking, and $10 per day for wireless Internet access. Each of these represents about 1/10th the cost of the actual hotel room.

- The wireless Internet access which I purchased only worked in my hotel room (actually the whole floor, which coincidentally included the pool). If I wanted access in the lobby I had to purchase it again, from a different provider. This meant I was constantly running back to my room throughout the day (because I'm too cheap to pay for something twice.) I had a fun time imagining how in the future we'd have to pay for air, electricity, and water on a micro-locational-specific basis as well ...

- The actual conference rooms and exhibit halls were unable to receive any wireless Internet access, paid or not. People who relied on such connections for their presentations were out of luck. And a bunch of colleagues who had brought laptops found themselves huddled in the hotel lobby, checking email, finishing up grant applications, weblogging, or just checking the news. I suspect some of them were creating ad-hoc computer-to-computer networks for the purpose of trading files and messages ...

- For the first time I not only used my portable computer to craft my presentation comments at the conference site, but read my comments from the screen like a teleprompter and then emailed my comments to colleagues who had asked for them, a short hour after the presentation concluded. I felt strangely disconnected when I returned home, without any "conference clean up" emails to send.

OK, enough rambling. I'm finishing up my second book this month so posts to the weblog will be light. But wanted to let my vast cadre of readers (all three of them) know that I'm still here. Cheers,


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