Nordic Summer University in Iceland
An Unusual Conference
In Summer 2014 I had what can only be described as an intense mental and physical week at the Nordic Summer University (NSU) in Sauðárkrókur Iceland. I attended NSU to deliver a presentation on my research into perceptive media, as well as listen to and experience the artistic research of the others there.
It was a conference unlike any others I had been to. First of all, you left your shoes at the door, sat on cushions on the floor, and babies sat alongside their parents. The majority of the other members of my study circle worked in, or were performing artists. There were quite a few theorists like myself, as well a graphic designer.
This audience, in contrast to my usual academic circle provided me with feedback on my research in a very different way one usually receives. It was on the one hand very negative, and the other very positive. Whilst we did not get into the nitty gritty of perceptive media, I did receive a great deal of feedback on my presentation as a performance. Given the make up of the audience in hindsight this is hardly surprising! The advantage of being there a week gave me the opportunity to dissect my feedback with individuals in depth.
Extreme Positive and Negative Reactions
Overwhelmingly the feedback on my presentation as a performance was positive. The audience enjoyed my lively manner, and the way I moved around the whole space and animated the way I talked. This was in stark contrast to what they thought about the actual content. The majority of the audience felt that perceptive media was a negative thing. With many of them airing concerns about it being incapable of being used for ‘good,’ being manipulated, or a simple dislike of technology.
This negative reaction to the media leads me to think that in future presentations to non technologists, that I need to take another approach. I’ve seen this negative response to others presenting new technology. Therefore I’d like to try to find a way to engage others in conversation that focuses on how it could be used for them, rather than simply expressing their distaste at the idea.
An alternative approach could be a workshop setting. I’m hopeful that presenting the research in the form of a workshop as opposed to a presentation could help the audience engage with it in less reactionary way.
Overall NSU was an incredible and rewarding experience. I was put into a mind state of intense academic focus, and I took part in some really exciting performances. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with members of NSU and hopefully attending in 2015.