There is something about conference presentations that brings out the curmudgeon in me. Really, nothing gets me going worse than some over-degreed sufferer of OFS (Omnipotent Faculty Syndrome) honking vociferously about the "dangers" and "fallacies" of something I happen to be immersed in, and with which he has, in all probability, no actual experience whatsoever.
Today's winner of the "Not This Again" award shall remain nameless, but the focus of his terse little academic tirade was essentially to attack both the idea that computers can inspire and enhance creativity and the veracity of online communities. "It's not that I think these groups aren't important in some way," he said smugly, the OFS leaking out of the very pores of his skin, "it's just that I have a hard time calling them communities. "
If you're one of the 2.3 regular readers of this blog, you know that I am very passionate about online communities, not only as a forum for artwork and artistic exchange, but also as a social platform. Basically, Mr. OFS was saying that my entire artistic thesis is invalid and possibly even damaging to society. He then went on to blather a bit about the "dangerousness" and "isolation" that computers inspire ... which is thinking basically contemporary to the 1970s and Alvin Toffler's book Future Shock.
Really, sir. It's 2009. Have you not been paying attention for the last 30 years?
This is when my inner curmudgeon got the best of me. In another time, I would have sat quietly and tried to take in this point of view so antagonistic to my own, so completely informed by nothing even remotely resembling my experience. I would have tried to question my own ideas and reactions, and tried to comprehend where the speaker was coming from.
Today, I got up and left.
There is something to be said for being open to opposing points of view and interpretations of expereince that do not mirror our own. But there is also something to be said for believing in your own path. While I do the best I can to let the waters of life wash over me without stress, I also now feel that, if the water is too cold, I have not just the option but possibly the responsibility to get up and move to a different spot.
Artists face this challenge on a regular basis. What we do is often misunderstood or even denigrated. It is often labeled "elitist" or "pointless" or "unproductive." Or, even more frustrating, "easy." How many abstract painters have heard someone standing in front of their work mutter "my kid could do that"? How many photographers working in the field have been beseieged by strangers toting camera phones or all-automatic SLRs who blithely announce "oh, I'm a photographer too"?
Are we contributing members of society or not? It's not a question your average engineer ever gets asked.
It's enough to bring out the curmudgeon in anyone.