I know I’ve been eluding to a conference for which I am running registration. (I hope you notice that I did not end with the preposition – I’m classy that way.)
Anyhow, the conference is called “Contact / Cultures of the Imagination,” and my husband and I have been attending since (I think) 1997 or so.
My understanding of Contact is that it was formed with the idea of bringing together the science community and the science fiction art (all types of art, including writing) community.
Speakers include people from SETI, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic, Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, NASA, as well as cognitive science and AI experts, social and cultural historian, university professors, science fiction authors, microbiologists, astrobiologists, marine biologist, paleoanthropologist, etc.
The brain and creative power is mind boggling.
People present cutting edge papers; often stuff that is a little too edgy for presentation at “professional” conferences. Writers and artists present on theories, on computer art, etc. The stuff you hear at Contact, you will hear nowhere else. And the conference is small so you really have a chance to talk with the speakers.
The other half of Contact is COTI (Cultures of the Imagination). COTI changes from year-to-year depending on whether we have a group of high school kids coming in who are doing COTI at their school (either as part of curriculum or extra-curricular).
In COTI, when the kids do it, they spend part of the school year creating a physically viable world, populating the world, and creating a society for the world. It gives all of the kids involved a chance to shine. The physics / math kids can do the world building/designing; the biology kids can design the living things of the world; the art kids can make models and/or drawings of the planet and it’s life forms. The story tellers can help create the society, the mythos of the creaters.
If you have 2 groups of kids, they create their worlds separately from each other, keeping everything secret from each other.
The kids (1 or 2 groups) come to Contact, get help from the scientists and artists who are attending.
If there is only 1 group an adult group is formed at Contact. They can either create an alien world/culture; or they can be a group of humans.
Some years we have 2 adult groups. One year it was one adult group contacted by an artificial intelligence.
Then on Sunday, we have CONTACT. The 2 groups are brought together and have to improv a first contact between the 2 groups. They are not allowed to explain why they take the actions they take (which are based on the culture they have created for their group). Once first contact has been achieved, the 2 groups explain their world and creatures and explain the actions taken during the first contact, and it is opened up to the attendees for questions.
As you can see, it is a great opportunity for the kids to meet and talk with people who are excited about and have successful careers in science and the arts. Kids, hell, it is a great opportunity for people who are excited about new ideas to meet and talk with other people who are excited about new ideas.
And that is where I am this weekend.