March 15, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra
I like conferences. Maybe not all conferences, but I frankly, I can see the charm in even those I wouldn’t want to attend. To use a backwards analogy, they’re like online discussion forums brought to life with real, accountable, in-the-flesh people, meeting and sharing and discussing and maybe learning together; maybe coming to new understandings and actually generating new ideas that wouldn’t have happened without the input of others in attendance. The TED Conferences are, to myself and many others, an incredible tool for thinking in new ways about new things, but there are countless other happening all the time around the world where extraordinary ideas or stories or talents are shared. I was pleased to find that today’s project is keeping the world’s thinkers engaged and connected with a unique new gathering of scholars, artists, musicians, writers, poets, chefs, thinkers, dreamers and doers. And it’s all happening in the illustrious land of…Indiana.
Summer Forum for Inquiry and Exchange is taking minds from across the world on a little backwater retreat, to a place that was built (and built again) on ideas. New Harmony, Indiana is the site of two “failed” utopias, but with the subject matter of the forum and the people taking part, perhaps the utopian vision isn’t yet gone.
Thirty residents will spend the week discussing a selection of texts and the theme Community, Utopia, and the Individual. We have also invited five guests to share with us each evening: music collaboration Lucky Dragons, Harvard professor Timothy McCarthy, New Media artist Marisa Olson, poet and novelist Linh Dinh, and professional cook Randall Szott. These guests will address the residency theme from their unique areas of expertise. We will also be publishing a print and digital journal, Dilettante, in the fall to document the residency and to facilitate contemporary cultural production.
Whether or not the blueprint for a utopia will arise from this summer’s forum, I’m certain that new ideas will hatch. What’s perhaps most interesting is the openness of participation. With a nod to the potential in all of us, you and I can apply to attend. I have some thoughts, do you? Do you think yours are worth sharing? Do you think you could teach, learn and play nice with other thoughts too? Then perhaps there’s room for you in New Harmony. To give yourself and others that chance, join me in backing this project before April 2.