Image: 2005’s Pop!Tech conference at the Camden Opera House.
I only get white guilt around white people. I missed the opening conferences for yesterday’s Pop!Tech conference, but I managed to make the cocktail reception at a private club on the bay in Camden, Maine, to sip red wine among the coifed and fleece-clad attendees, who may not be here to change the world, but certainly wouldn’t mind doing so if they have the opportunity.
There’s skepticism and then there’s pessimism. While I tend towards the latter I’ve been trying to reach for the former, especially since so many of the people at the conference are doing legitimately interesting and capital-G “Good” projects in both science and technology. They’re why I came. I hate conferences, but know I can’t remold my grim, outmoded look on life in front of an RSS reader in my apartment.
Maybe it’s Camden. It’s a resort town on the New England coast, with a too-precious downtown strip of art supply stores and sweater vendors, where even the cheap motel I’m at is staffed by friendly townies proud of their new set of Wi-Fi antennas hidden under whitewashed gables. But even ignoring the dread inherent in hazy russet hamlets like Camden fueled by Lovecraft stories and cult movies, there is a malaise here that pop-in conference goers may ignore but its residents cannot; Camden had for a time one of the highest teen suicide rates in Maine.
Or perhaps I’m still angry at the women in the room above me, whose yodeling orgasm woke me in the middle of the night. I was about to tip my nightcap to her and go back to sleep until I realized it wasn’t midnight, but morning. Oh, God, no no no.
It is my intention to be inspired by others today. If I’m drinking my bitters before the meal, forgive me. I just hope that I’m not in the middle of another circle jerk of intellectuals and affluent activists, trumpeting multiculturalism and change while taking yacht rides through the bay. And worse, by participating in their celebration of human endeavor yet contributing nothing myself—or worse, enjoying myself*—I’m twice as culpable.
Pop!Tech’s theme this year is “The Human Impact.” You can watch live steams of the talks online. In fact, I’m not even sure why there is any need for bloggers to be here, except perhaps to be cranky and dubious.
* When in New England, try the local Puritan self-loathing.