Travel Portrait #35
The Pilgrimage: The Conference Bubble
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Y2K--the majority of the American public were completely
enraptured by, in shock of the looming Twenty-first
Century technologies--the change that was burgeoning
in their every day life at home, and at work. Desktop
computers and electronic gadgets would not begin to
replace the time-honored methods of communication,
information sharing, the ways of doing business, and
personal/private record keeping. So was the groupthink
of the Unfathomable Society, counter arguing
the Early Adopters and true believers who requested
more from the digital gurus.
So was the making of his accepted premise for a
workshop to be held at the Seventh Conference of the
International Society for the Study of European Ideas
(ISSEI), which was to be held in Bergen, Norway. The
conference theme was "Approaching a New Millennium:
Lessons from the Past--Prospects for the Future."
The title of his workshop was Future Shock Revisited:
Europe Facing the New Millennium. He, a Generation
X American, thought to keep the topic focused on the
geographic region; however, his intentions were designed
for a much larger scale. The workshop description
read as follows:
Future Shock Revisited: Europe Facing the New
In his book Future Shock (1970), Alvin Toffler
defines future shock [a]s a time phenomenon, a product
of the greatly accelerated rate of change in society.
It arises from the superimposition of a new culture
or an older one (p. 11). It occurs when individual[s
are] forced to operate above [their] adaptive range
(p. 344). We are forcing them to process information
at a far more rapid pace than was necessary in slowly-evolving
societies... What consequences this may have for
mental health in the techno-societies has yet to
be determined (p. 355). [O]ne widespread response
to high-speed change is outright denial. The Denier's
strategy is to "block out" unwelcome reality...
A second strategy of the future shock victim is
specialism. The Specialist doesn't block out all
novel ideas or information. Instead, he energetically
attempts to keep pace with change--but only in a
specific narrow sector of life... A third common
response to future shock is obsessive reversion
to previously successful adaptive routines that
are now irrelevant and inappropriate... Finally,
we have the Super-Simplifier, [who] invests every
idea he comes across with universal relevance...
He trades a host of painful and seemingly insoluble
troubles for one big problem, thus radically, if
temporarily, simplifying existence (p. 359-361).
[T]he future shock victim who does employ these
strategies experiences a deepening sense of confusion
and uncertainty. Caught in the turbulent flow of
change, called upon to make significant, rapid-fire
life decisions, he feels not simply intellectual
bewilderment, but disorientation at the level of
personal values (p. 363). Social rationality presupposes
individual rationality, and this, in turn, depends
not only on certain biological equipment, but on
continuity, order and regularity in the environment.
It is premised on some correlation between the pace
and complexity of change and man's decisional capacities
This workshop would like to revisit the future shock
theme by discussing those psychological factors
that will impact Europeans as the European Union
and the respective nation-states attempt to establish
it's own form of tradition, philosophy and democracy
during this Digital and Global Age.
His hopes were to approach Routledge for a book deal,
of which he would be the editor of the essays collected
from the conference proceedings. Several top professors
from various universities had submitted an abstract.
He, too, had written
a new essay.
He, an Independent Scholar, was not affiliated with
a university. He had been going to international conferences
since 1994 (the 4th ISSEI: Gratz, Austria) and in
1996 (the 5th ISSEI: Utrecht, Netherlands). He was
fortunate to attend the first Crossroads in Cultural
Studies conference in Tampere, Finland, that July.
Each of those conferences he paid the fees out of
pocket, traveling during his vacation. However, for
his trip to Bergen, he would need the consent of his
wife, who had been aware of his colloquium travels
while they were dating. Now married, he thought best
to discuss with her the plan. Before they were married,
he returned to Finland with her for the second Crossroads
(1998), and tacked on a bus trip to St. Petersburg,
Russia, as arranged by the conference planners. She
had studied Russian in high school and always dreamed
of visiting and speaking the language. The two split
the expenses of the trip.
However, traveling to Norway, alone, would be an
expense that needed justification--especially as a
would-be father. Being that he was not an Academian,
there was no practical reasoning that the conference
would be good for his career. His job was working
as a Information Architect for a start-up e-business
solutions consulting firm. His wife understood that
this would be his last foray before parenthood. This
unnerved him slightly; he loved her support, yet he
was not certain if this counted as a joint effort--more
so as an act of selfishness. Besides, he remembered
back in '98 when he spent ten minutes riffing from
the audience during the final plenary session Q&A,
concerning what he called the Apollonian and Dionysian
Portrayals of Homosexuality in the Films "Philadelphia"
and "Silence of the Lambs." His riff
was in response to the the speakers call for gay normalcy
in American film, singularly citing Philadelphia
as an extreme characterization of a typical gay male.
Discounting the speakers one-sided view for leaving
out 'the rest of the story', his riff was a reminder
for the need to set normalcy between two extremes,
citing the Gay Community's outcry in regards to the
'portrayal' in Silence of the Lambs. When he
asked for a response, the speaker replied, "Well,
the difference in normalcy, in terms of the relevancy
between my presentation and your ranting paracriticism,
is that I have a degree, and you do not!"
While he did think of himself as an Academian, he
was assured, during the trip to St. Petersburg by
his companions who were at the plenary, that a good
number of the professors in the auditorium considered
him to be more of a 'Macadamian'--albeit an
In retrospect, he confessed to his wife that chairing
a workshop was an ego trip. She, being good-natured,
indulged his fancy, and let him live in his bubble
(head) for the time being.
That evening, weeks later, the phone rang. He answered,