I’ve been meaning to post some thoughts about ROFLCon for a few weeks now. At first I was catching up on sleep, then on homework (it’s cool mom and dad, I’m actually gonna graduate on time), and then I just slacked off. But now Diana Kimball, in her infinite wisdom, has handed the ROFLTeam a hard deadline for posting our postmortems. And that deadline is, um, now. So now I’m on it.
As Diana and many others have mentioned, most attendees probably weren’t sure what they were signing up for. Namely, they weren’t sure if it was going to be “a conference/convention about internet memes and web celebrity” or “a totally unmitigated shitshow ‘planned’ by a bunch of twenty year olds who are totally unprepared to deal with a physical manifestation of the internet.”
Before the keynote: Tim, me, abject terror. photo: kdreke
We were pretty sure it was going to be the latter. I spent a lot of time during the event on “security planning,” which mostly meant pouring over MIT floorplans with other ROFLStaff trying to remember everything I’d ever learned from action movies. EPIC (fail? unclear).
The one possibility I never seriously considered was that the first ever ROFLCon would be entirely disaster-free.
And not only was it not a critical fail, it was actually very “edutaining”. I think we succeeded in straddling (and ridin’! sorry nm) that line between academic discourse and omgthatsrandallmunroecanitouchhim. ROFLCon was nerdy in the academic way and nerdy in the fanboy way.
// Warning: I’m going to talk about feelings now, like the mushy psychology major I am. Please bear with me.
Many of the attendees felt a strong sense of community, and felt it almost immediately. I think this was at least partially due to the combo scholarly/funfest vibe. We nerds who love internet culture and also yearn to study it, WE FOUND OUR PEOPLE. All us webtards who spend so much time interfacing with computers actually had a great time interfacing with each other (that’s what she said). And even attendees who are snarky assholes online (and I mean come on, who isn’t?) got OOC and found some kind words. At one point I twittered that I was in nerdvana. I was drunk, but it was true. I’ve been at many gatherings of geeks, and this was the first one where everything just clicked for me. These are my people.
// Ok, feelings are over now. On to Serious Business:
My personal agenda/wishlist for next time (if there is a next time (and I’ll do my best to make sure there is a next time)):
- Gender in relation to internet culture. People were itching to talk about it, but we weren’t ready. Next time, though, you can bring it. My geeky feminist thoughts, let me show you them.
- Race and internet culture: this is another thing people wanted to talk about, and that we weren’t ready for. But like the gender thing, this is a topic where it won’t be hard to find us an academic or two to moderate discussion.
- The word “fag.” Anonymous covered this in their excellent panel about project chanology, but I wasn’t satisfied with how that went down. If I may summarize and paraphrase, they said “it’s part of our culture, we’ve got no problem with queers, and if people can’t adapt to us and our language then they don’t belong on the internet.” Harsh but fair? Fucking dumb? I’d like to hear more.
- The non-English web: they probably have memes too, guys. Several people pointed out that we could have been more explicit that this was a conference on memes that have taken root in the English-speaking web, and not other areas of interwebs. IMO, this was our bad. Personally, I know jack shit about internet culture that’s not in English. But I would like to learn something about it. Also, the English-speaking web can always use more cracked-out videos in other languages.
- Moar con. ARG? Costume contest? Meme-imitation talent show? I dunno, but I do know that their will be more con-type events next time, because you can’t desconstruct why we love Japan so much all the damn day.
I wish I had a great pithy sum-up to close with, but my experience of ROFLCon defies that kind of containment… but this is blog post, so I will try: I learned, I lol’d, I partied (kind of hard), and I survived to tell you that I can’t bear the thought that this will never happen again.