I’m back!… And I presented at a conference!

housing-memory-posterI have been on temporary hiatus from this poor, neglected blog throughout the past semester. This is because I have been so busy at school, that all I want to do when I come home at night is: 1) Eat a delicious dinner, and 2) Allow my tired brain to be washed over with the mindlessness of prime-time television. Glorious, glorious television!

One interesting project that kept me busy was a presentation for the Housing Memory Student Conference, at the Faculty of Information. This conference was organized by two incredible students, Ania and Monica, who single-handedly organized the event, complete with 24 panelists, a brilliant keynote from information science superstar, Geoffrey Bowker (you can listen to the podcast of his presentation from the iSchool Podcast website here), and a roundtable with a whole bunch of really smart people, who discussed, “memory and its architectural manifestation in archives, libraries, museums, information systems and material and digital artifacts.” Can you IMAGINE doing all that while going to school full-time and working? Good lord.

Anyway: The overarching theme of “housing memory” was an attempt to facilitate broad discussion about how we store, preserve, and institutionalize memory – be it individual, collective, organizational, national, or cultural in nature. The topics were absolutely freaking fascinating, and I was literally excited to hear the presentations. I’m not normally the type of person who gets hyperactive about archival theory, ya know? But I moderated a panel on Memory and Conflict, which included discussion of the Pinochet regime and archives; Apartheid and museums; and libraries in times of war, and I could barely sit still because I was getting so excited. About ideas. And not House. It was awesome (find the abstracts for these presentations here).

My own topic (which, frankly, does get me pretty excited, but that’s just my dorkdom shining through), was part of a panel called, “Collecting, Sharing and… Forgetting?” in which I explored the role of organizational memory, and the challenge of effectively capturing and sharing “tacit knowledge” within companies. Tacit knowledge is the stuff you know, but can’t write down. It’s like riding a bike, or enjoying art – you might know how to do those things, but you can’t just tell someone how to do it. I argued that this type of knowledge – paramount to organizational success – can be exchanged through Communities of Practice, mentorships and storytelling. I was pretty much terrified throughout the presentation and don’t remember much of what I said/did, but it was an awesome experience, and the Q+A period afterwards was an excellent exchange that forced me to really think about my research in this area. I mean, I didn’t get to talk about the radical potential for emancipation through cultural and information institutions or anything. But still. T’was a lovely learning experience.

Those panellists who submitted their papers will be published in the Faculty of Information Quarterly next month (we’re slogging through the editorial process right now). Oh man, I really starting to feel like a real-life grown-up academic person or something!

Everyone who went to the conference said it was incredible; there was a buzz in the air of the Claude Bissell building, and everything went off without a hitch. It was a fantastic experience, and I really hope it becomes an annual event at the iSchool. Yay Ania and Monica!


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