Wednesday 14th September 2022, 10.40am (day 4,038)
I was just passing, honest. The crowd who were in the foyer of University Place next door were doubtless heading here shortly after I did so, ready to spoil the pristine purpleness of the carpet, at least. But I’m sure the posters were interesting.
Welcome to the era of the ‘hybrid’ academic conference, run by hassled people in rooms trying to get the technology to work properly. If we could just stand up and talk it would be a lot more reliable. Still ,Marije — and the other members of the KBSI2022 team — did their best, and it has been worth coming over to the Netherlands, rather than sitting at home and doing all of this crap.
When academics grow up they still behave as their students do: sitting at the back and hoping no one picks on them for input. I wonder how many chairs there are at the University: tens of thousands I imagine. Perhaps the entire student population could sit down there at once, but many of them would definitely be visible at the front.
Golly, an academic conference. Face-to-face, with real people — the first one for me since Bucharest in January 2020. And plenty of evidence as to what we’ve been missing in the travesties that are the ‘virtual conference’ (of which I have only managed to do one, and that briefly, basically because I liked the people that organised it and didn’t want to let them down). Discussion, spontaneity, conversations in the lunch queue, empathy. To the neo-liberal interests, tech giants and health fascists who say we can all do it online now — I say, get stuffed.
The house of Heythrop Park is 300 years old, and built for the first Duke of Shrewsbury (not that we are very near Shrewsbury here). 300 years ago, they clearly believed in symmetry. And I’m quite fond of the principle myself, if truth be told; enough to get annoyed at not only those people who left the spare picnic table out, but who couldn’t co-ordinate the curtains on each side of the facade. The guy taking a break from the conference? Well, he’s just unplanned humanity. Him, I excuse.
I’ve been here before by the way: first visting (for the same conference, or rather ‘strategy forum’) in February 2018.
95 of the shots on this blog have been taken in Norway, making it the third most-depicted country after England and Australia, but there have been none since I took off from Tromsø airport on the morning of 26th April 2018. I was supposed to be there now, probably I would have journeyed over yesterday, stayed until the weekend, enjoyed the 24-hour sunlight, and the company of friends and colleagues. I could have stood once more where these singers are, namely the balcony at the top of the cable car, on Storsteinen. But we are all prevented from doing these things, and life is diminished as a result. I appeared at the ‘virtual conference’ because I didn’t want to let down people that I respect and like — but I’m not going to be attending any more of them.
The stuffed panda sits on a desk waiting to be helpful, while the two attendees wonder where everyone else has gone (answer: they’re in the lecture theatre listening to the keynote — unlike your humble photographer who bunked off that one too). It’s conference season.
The reason I came to Germany was to come to a conference here, at the University of Passau, right in the bottom right-hand (south-east) corner of the country. The best experience I had at it was to get plugged in for ten minutes to an amazing virtual reality rig — created by students — which replicated, and rather well, the experience of being in a zero-gravity environment, specifically an abandoned space station. Once I got over the dizziness and tried to forget that my legs were relevant in this place, it was very effective. I wish I could somehow have photographed my own immersion, but that didn’t prove possible, so here’s fellow delegate Reni playing with it, after me.
The idea for this shot came to me as I was listening to the last keynote speaker at the conference, and for me the last event of it, as I headed for Oulu airport straight after it had finished. It was a bugger to get all things in focus though, and when I managed it, he wasn’t quite doing the interesting things with his hands that he was on other shots: so they look a bit like a big lump here. Still, this is basically the shot that I was trying to capture.