A President's view on the Panel

How was our SXSW Panel?
By Donna K. Kidwell
Austin, TX |ICQ: 18007076 http://www.kalitechna.com

It was fantastic!

Admitedly, I've mostly heard from folks I know, but a few I didn't, and everyone seems to have liked it.

Was it recorded?
As far as I know, no. I thought we might have some spies in the audience, but I didn't catch any. If you were a spy, you got past me, and I'd love to hear from you. SXSW wasn't responsive to my taping it, I presumed because they were and then would sell you the whole kit and kaboodle. Not so, they didn't tape it either.

I used the oil painting to introduce our topic:
Kali, a woman, wearing the Kali 5000 apparatus, is capable of defeating her demons. The technology has been her instrument of great destruction, and we might question whether the violence was necessary, but she is able to maintain a purity of self within it. Apparently we had the only panel with an external prop, and I got compliments on the technique.

What did our speakers say?
I'd encourage anyone who attended to hop in and let us know what you took away from it. I spent a goodly amount of time watching clocks and reactions, and less time really listening. But I can tell you:

Pat Cadigan was brilliant, and read juicy snippets from "Patters" and "Synners." She surrounded her readings with commentary on how she saw our relationship with technology. Hard to sum that up, really.

Robbie Davis-Floyd gave a slide presentation, in which she showed us art, architecture, and technology. Her background is in reproductive technologies, and her slides demonstrated a few of the more stark examples of western attitudes towards birth. One slide showed a nurse and doctor looking at a desk of monitors, while in a glass room behind them a laboring woman read a magazine. The caption was something akin to "be at all you patient's bedsides at once." Calmly reading zines wasn't what ~my~ birth experiences were like! She showed images of birth depicted in other countries and in art, next to our hospital images. She shows you how our attitude towards technology affects our lives in a very vivid fashion. She then showed American homebirths, which studies have show to be just as safe or safer for low-risk births. You can ask me privately if your curious about technological decisions and homebirth, I'm rather opinionated on that one myself. ;)

Erik Davis followed them up with a very philosophical take on how we define ourselves in the face of technology. His take is that we are so emersed within it, that we can't do anything but define the self in technological terms. We develop feedback systems, looping systems between our own heads and the technology outside us, mutually affecting one another. Erik is particularly talented - he was able to take direct statements from our other speakers and weave them into what he had to say. It worked very nicely.

All this was followed up by 35 minutes of very packed and very good questions, which was probably my best indication that the panel went well. We didn't have nearly enough time. We had a moment of tension - Pat arguing that technology was a salvation for homeless young women giving birth in London...the only clean bed and decent food (well, decent British food) they'd had in the whole pregnancy. She seemed a bit offended by the implication that technology was to be held at arms length. Robbie countered with the fact that the vast majority of birth attendents in England are Certified Nurse Midwives, offering a very different kind of care than our modern OB/GYNs, and how they actually fused the nuturing aspects with technology to serve poorer members of the community better than we had. The tension resolved nicely.

So there it was. We ran over and didn't get to a number of raised hands, the speakers were well prepared and provided amazingly thoughtful presentations in their short 15/20 minutes. All in all, I think it went very well.