Sunday, April 09, 2006

F2C : Freedom to Connect

David Isenberg is the powerhouse behind the recent gathering of great minds discussing "net neutrality" under the banner "Freedom to Connect." David is an amazing man, quietly aware, deliberate, and (pro)ductive in his ability to incorporate the strengths of invested individuals to create a current for social change. I am honored to have been his guest at F2C '06 and to have shared conversation with so many world-class innovators working to expand the field of possibility for digital connectivity.

Many turns in the F2C conversation came and went as speeds still beyond my grasp, but from those I was able to discern, I understood an abiding concern for the capacity of the United States to get its citizens online: as a nation we rank 20th in the world for the percentage of our population now able to log on to broadband access. The battle seems to be between "telcos" who currently benefit from protective support in government policy and an avant-garde of thinkers/application-developers sounding an alarm - a wake-up now call - for the rest of us to understand that connectivity must be regarded an individual right for every American citizen, an absolute necessity for securing a prosperous America in a global 21st century.

The concept was new to me - a jump in logic and an emotional breakthrough, but of course they were right. "They" included: Martin Geddes who spoke gently from depths of knowing that readily invited pause; Doc Searls - a studied, approachable, and purposeful man whose contributions rarely lost sight of shared central values; Jerry Michalski, an unfailingly gracious participant who nonetheless maintained a fast-paced, almost surgical capacity to meaningfully address, question, and/or connect complex threads of conversation; Dean Landsman, a man of kindness in welcome yet a compellingly intense man in business - a "word smith" for the fun of it; Bruce Kushnick who is working even now to reclaim networks bought, paid for, and rightfully owned by the citizenry; and more ... many more in James Salter, David Weinberger, Bob Frankston, Clegg Ivey, and Brad Templeton. Jon Lebowski, also prominent among the "they" attending F2C, helps those of us still chasing understanding to get a better grasp of the concepts with his writing here at World Changing.

I had never before experienced a conversation taking place on this level or at this pace. Picture a theater-sized screen at the front of an auditorium, a speaker's podium situated on stage to the left and a few feet forward of the screen, and an audience of more than 250 individuals each with laptops open, each engaged in the real-time IRChat that rolled freely in the background to question, supportively link, redirect, and/or supplement the information brought by the speaker. It often took all my attention just to read the conversation while most participants were actively contributing. It was exciting; it was overwhelming; it was nearly pure energy. I loved it!

The sea of new vocabulary, ideas, and interests would have been impossible to navigate without the IM support Ken Camp gave "on the side" as the conference progressed. Thanks, Ken, for your help and for the door you opened into the network. Frank Paynter was a friend "on the ground" in D.C. who made it easy to find my place among so many brilliant men and women. Thanks, Frank (and Beth), for the friendship you so generously gave.

F2C was three wonderful three days of firsts and beginnings for me, but there is so much more still beyond my reach. I got a hold of some of the pieces in D.C., and I've already taken the bits I can understand back to my students at Purdue University. I'll be able to carry more as time goes by. Expect to see me again at F2C '07. I'm in the conversation now!

Frank Paynter

Martin Geddes

Dean Landsman

David Weinberger

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Winston said...

Glad you got to go to this. What a generous gesture for Isenberg to invite you as guest! I have yet to be in the kind of environment you described, with presentation, live IRChat, etc. Sounds overwhelming. The presence of "friends" in Ken Camp and Frank Paynter had to soften the landing you made in such high company...

metablogger said...

This is how things were at BloggerCon and I loved it! I wish I had more time these days for such conferences but the pesky "finishing coursework" goal has me staying put for a little while...