Last night Gil and I spent a fine July evening as guests on the patio of bullfrog_hawker's home, sipping Jim Beam and snacking on Salt & Simulated Ant flavour kettle chips. Typical in such company, the conversation was robust and ranged from how geographic information technologies are transforming cartography to how the British SAS survival book teaches that all ants are edible - and that they taste strongly of vinegar.
bullfrog_hawker is working on a master's degree in geography. As I currently understand his thesis, he is looking at interactive, web-based systems for the compiling and sharing geo-spatial data about the recreational trails in Edmonton's river valley. More specifics on Hawker's work is on his blog at http://wiserpath.blogspot.com/. I'm interested in this kind of geographic knowledge management for the kind of support it can provide to developing more sustainable community behaviour.
Reflecting on the evening, I'm struck by the teaching that went on. My knowledge of Hawker's work marginally increased. All three of us sampled some young wild lettuce that was growing in Hawker's backyard. And the importance of caning your raspberries in the fall, not the spring, was galvanized in my mind. In the fall you can tell the live canes from the dead ones. By caning in the spring, Hawker now has a patch of only first year raspberries. I think I knew this, but now it's really clear in my mind.
It was like a conference session. A very relaxed, enjoyable conference, characterized by a sense of fellowship.
In the aftermath of the RCEN AGA, I've been thinking about conferences in the age of the internet and the new world of increasingly available electronic communication. It makes less sense now to convene in-person meetings, at great expense, for the sole purpose of conveying information; sitting in rooms listening to experts talk content. Conferences today, if we are to have them, should capitalize on those things that being together in-person enables - fellowship and shared experience.