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The (possible) butterfly rejoins her flock
In which I announce my upcoming IA Conference talk
I’m living in this liminal space. I’m in transition, but to what, I don’t know.
And yet, I'm excited for what I do know comes next: a trip to this year’s IA Conference to speak on this very topic, the topic of unknowing.
There are three spaces where I've felt an immediate sense of belonging. The first was Grinnell College. I could smell it in the cold Iowan air, despite the quiet campus during winter break. The following fall and the four challenging and thrilling years that followed, I would often think back on that electric feeling, and know that my gut had been right.
Leaving Grinnell was unfathomably difficult. Grinnellians have this strange likeness to each other in their difference. We're sort of, well, different from much of the world and from each other, but in the same way. We question, we consider, we hypothesize. Don't get us started on the difference between a cupcake and a muffin.
My fellow senior art majors and I held a show called Solastalgia, a word (a neologism, Wikipedia will tell you) that one of us had read meant feeling nostalgic for something that wasn't yet gone.
We knew that although the college would continue, our version of it would not. We were all leaving, and soon all of the underclassmen that we knew would leave, too. The place was transforming with our leaving, and that meant we could never return.
That's why, when I found the IA Conference in 2009 (then and forever in my heart called the IA Summit), I felt so heart-wrenchingly reassured. I felt grief for Grinnell, and hope for this new-to-me yearly gathering of people with whom I felt a similar kinship. On the second day of the conference, as I wandered through the crowd of people who cared about making sense of things, I could feel that same buzz, that same knowing that I was with my people.
I had rediscovered the feeling of connection that I thought I had lost forever.
It was 2019 when I last attended the Summit, four years ago. We gathered in Orlando; I faced my fear and sang karaoke for the very first time, anywhere, ever; and Pandemic was just a collaborative option at Game Night. And although I did feel joy being among them, I was starting to have some existential questions about our field.
This year, I am excited to return to my information architecture people. The world is different, and so am I. I better understand those feelings that were growing among the palm trees, and yet I still have questions. These are some of the things I’ll share in my talk, Liminal Butterfly Goo. Returning to this once-a-year community, I'm curious to see how we've all changed, and how we've stayed the same.
Mentioned in this issue: My talk!! Liminal Butterfly Goo, whose title you will recognize from a past issue of Finding Out; Grinnell College; the IA Conference, which this year is at the end of March in New Orleans.
PS: You're right! There was a third place where I felt belonging. It was a conference of people with dyslexia, and it was absolutely wonderful.
PPS: The Internet tells me that a group of butterflies is called not a flock, but a kaleidoscope.
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