ConGlomeration: crowdsourcing the sf convention

Paul Raven @ 03-08-2010

Well, would you look at that. After a good few years of folk kvetching and moaning into their ale about how the internet is killing off small-to-medium sized sf/f conventions, someone’s finally decided to take the bull by the horns and make the web work for conventions. Jay Garmon, head honcho of Louisville’s ConGlomeration, has teamed up with the stalwarts over at SF Signal and turned over the programming of next year’s ConGlom to the intermatubes:

After five years as a staffer at my local convention, Louisville’s own ConGlomeration, I’ve stepped up as programming co-chair on the organizing committee. But I come at this after 10 years as an online content producer and old-school social media Kool-Aid-drinker. I believe, as Doc Searls taught us, that hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. I believe that with many eyes, all bugs are shallow. I believe in black swans, tipping points, and the wisdom of crowds. And, above all, I’m looking for a few brave first followers.

I want the Internet – and especially the readership of SF Signal – to program ConGlomeration 2011.

[…]

ConGlomeration may be housed in Louisville, KY, but so far as I’m concerned, it belongs to all of sci-fi fandom – starting with everyone reading this SF Signal post. Conventions have always been labors of love, made possible by dozens or even hundreds of fans cooperating to create a shared, communal product. I see no reason why that collaboration has to be limited to people within arm’s reach. This is your con, too, and we want you to help create it.

Garmon sounds very idealistic and optimistic, and there’s a more than reasonable chance that his plan might falter for lack of enthusiam (though I sincerely hope it doesn’t). But what’s excellent about this for me (as someone who ain’t gonna be dropping by Louisville any time soon, sadly) is to see someone trying to bridge ‘trad’ fandom and web fandom without taking anything from either. Garmon’s far from being the first to do so (Cheryl Morgan is about as tireless a worker in both wings of fandom as anyone could ask for, for instance), but this is a big bold move, and I wish him the best of luck with it.

So go pitch in some suggestions, why don’t you? If you’ve never been to a convention, and you’re local enough, this might be an ideal first opportunity to get the full experience – cons at their best aren’t passive events like a movie screening, but fully participatory. Get involved, give something back to the genre you love… and you’ll get a lot more in return. Go on.

[ The caveat here is that I’m not sure the web actually is killing live-action fandom – though I only have limited experience of the con scene on this side of the pond, and none Stateside. Changing it, certainly… reinventing and streamlining it, perhaps… but killing it? Given how quick we are to say that sf itself is dying (which has been a common refrain since long before I was even born, by all accounts), I suspect rumours of the death of conventions have been greatly exaggerated… and maybe even exacerbated by the legendary conservatism and resistance to change that – very ironically – has always been a part of core fandom. Go figure. And after you’ve figured, go get involved. It’s fun. You’ll enjoy it. 🙂 ]

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2 Responses to “ConGlomeration: crowdsourcing the sf convention”

  1. Jay Garmon says:

    I appreciate your cynicism, Mr. Raven, and you may be the first person EVER to accuse me of either optimism or idealism. (My friends often refer to me as “The Misanthrope”.)

    I, for one, never bought the “Intarweebs is killin’ us!” excuse from the convention circuit. Comic-con and Dragon*Con certainly aren’t hurting for fortune or glory. But to your point, core fandom has been staggeringly resistant to change, and that’s why so many cons (my own included, in many ways) hang on to activities that have outlived their relevance. We’re a bit like the comic book industry in that respect, forever kowtowing to an eroding audience of change-averse traditionalists.

    And that’s just not my style. The cons that evolve will survive; the cons that don’t will slowly fade into non-existence.

    The indefatigable Cheryl Morgan has already reached out to me, blogged on my behalf, and put me in touch with some likeminded lunatics on other convention committees. Based on this morning’s e-mails alone, there’s an outside chance of something akin to a tri-continental meta-convention brewing. I’m certain I’m not the first guy to come up with the idea of crowdsourcing a convention, but I do think the technology and the only fan communities have matured to the point where we’re all primed to finally make it work.

    And thanks for the mention. I hope we can actually prove your cynicism (and my own) absolutely wrong.

  2. Paul Raven says:

    I hope so too! For what it’s worth, you’ve all the support from me that I can provide… even though it’ll probably amount to little more than a bit of cheerleading here when I get the time.

    Best of luck. 🙂