Conference looks at crossover potential of journalism, entertainment and digital tech

by Jordan Green

Web log contributors and other internet innovators in the Gate City are driving a volunteer effort to produce a two-day conference at NC A&T University in October that will explore possibilities for revolutionizing digital technology, journalism, entertainment and social networking.

Ben Hwang, a conference volunteer who works as a senior systems engineer for Motorola and who blogs under the handle ‘Lux Et Umbra,’ describes ConvergeSouth as ‘“almost a hippie thing’” designed to bring together diverse constituencies and unleash new creative possibilities.

The volunteer-led conference is scheduled for Oct. 7 and 8.

A provisional schedule includes workshops on the potential uses of web logging, or blogging, for enterprises such as journalism and community organizing. Other workshops will tackle such topics as making money from blogs, ethical considerations of blogging, blogging from Iraq, blogging in faith communities, and African-American bloggers.

On the subject of journalism, Hwang suggested that the digital revolution is making newspapers and other print forms redundant.

‘“I don’t really read anything but the internet,’” he said. ‘“I watch TV. My girlfriend will say, ‘Hey, you told me about this news a couple days ago, and now it’s showing up on CNN.’ I got it from a blog.’”

Hwang said the conference will stream some of the sessions over the internet, as well as present music, film and visual art online.

The Motorola systems engineer sees Greensboro as a contender for regional creative-class status, along the lines of Austin, Texas, a city of more than a half million people renowned for its technology economy, independent music scene and independent film industry.

Hwang said part of the inspiration for ConvergeSouth comes from Austin’s South By Southwest festivals and conferences, which have been spun off into three separate realms of music, digital technology and film and will hit its 20th year next March. Hwang said South By Southwest generated $31.9 million in economic activity in Austin over three days.

‘“We would like to make Greensboro shine with this,’” he said. ‘“South By Southwest started out as a small festival for the city of Austin.

‘“If we do this right, Greensboro could be put on the map,’” he added. ‘“[People would say,] ‘There’s something going on with the art world and the music world in Greensboro. The Southeast has something like San Francisco.’”

The conference is being sponsored by the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, a charitable organization; SynerG, a cultural development organization affiliated with Action Greensboro; and the News & Record. Hwang credits News & Record Editor John Robinson and Ed Cone, a nationally renowned blogger who writes a regular column for the daily newspaper as individuals who, along with others, initially envisioned the conference. Robinson has promoted the conference in his weekly newspaper column.

– Jordan Green