Monday, February 1, 2021

A Virtual Conference

They tried.  I have to give them credit for that.  

The production values were excellent.  For the most part, the transitions were seamless, with hardly anyone forgetting that they were still muted.  Cornelliana festooned the backdrops and other surroundings of those who trying their best to make us feel as if we were there.

Where?  Anywhere.  Last year we were in Las Vegas, just as the reality of Pandemica was beginning to creep in.  Most of us stayed within the confines of the ballrooms of the hotel; hardly anyone ventured out to the art at the Bellagio or to a show anywhere else.  The airport was deserted when the cab dropped me off; there were no fares waiting for him.  

Inside the conference there was laughter and conversation.  Ideas were exchanged.  New people spoke to me, and I spoke to them.  There was none of that in the virtual experience.

We were lectured to by speakers who could not gauge their audience's involvement, or lack thereof.  No one told a joke.  Some were uncomfortable with the medium, and it showed.  Others loved it, talking over one another so that nothing was heard.  

Have I mentioned that I really don't like COVID?

The best part of this alumni leadership conference has always been the snark behind the propaganda.  Difficult issues are talked about in an academic code that is often missed by those of us living in the real world.  But sitting next to those who are conversant is an enlightening experience.  And for those issues we understand but can't believe we're still talking about this, there is always someone else who's rolling her eyes.

Online, Crowdcast has a robust chat feature but Hi, from Long Island was about as deep as it got.  As always, the students were the most fun, the most interesting, the ones with the freshest takes on whatever topic was in play.  Young people today are dealing with a world so different from the one that TBG and I experienced; it's hard to keep up.  In the past, I've hung around the fringes of the conversations the panelists had after the session ended.  That opportunity cannot be replicated virtually.

Plus, there was no swag.

I appreciate the efforts made by the University to have this event at all.  I'm not complaining.  I'm describing.  It's a good thing the sessions are archived; it was too much screen time all at once for me.

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