Boston Tech, Meet The Information Superhighway

So if you find yourself in Boston this Friday, The United States Bureau of Fabulous Bitches is throwing Information Superhighway One, the first what will become an ongoing series of Boston general geekery parties. Thanks to the generosity of some amazing organizations, it’s happening the amazing new offices of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and PRX over in Cambridge. The featured guest list includes some kickass local tech notables, including podcast genius Steve Garfield, Jon Pierce from Betahouse, and Jonathan Zittrain from the Berks. It’ll be super casual. Come and leave whenever. We’ll just be around, chillin’.

And best of all, it’s retro Web 1.0 themed too — so come out in your mid-/late-nineties defunct web company finest. And seriously, extra points if you rock the Bill Gates look from the cover of “The Road Ahead,” I’m going to buy you as many drinks as you want.

I’m thinking in the future we’ll need to get some Compuserve Disks, Interactive CD-ROMs or Zip Disks that’ll come with the event. At this point, I’m just printing up big posters of Steve Case — which, truth be told, is way slower and more difficult than you’d think.

And So, A Little About What This Is All For:

Like most awesome nerds that labor in shy obscurity, Boston Tech needs to come out and get some friends.

Oh sure, there’s all the usual cool people that you’d expect from the usual geeky town with a happening tech sector. Hackers, science geeks, hardware gurus, DIY kids, non-profit people, academics, startups, artists, VCs, designers, “new media,” designers, free-software warriors, activists, webcomic people, bloggers, and the usual rapscallion riff-raff.

Problem is these communities are strongly strongly siloed in Boston. They’re clustered tightly in their own sectors and there aren’t many social connections bridging people working on different projects and in different arenas of the tech world. Which is lame. Because people are awesome.

Social events are an awesome tool for this sort of thing. And don’t get me wrong — it’s not like there’s no tech events going on in Boston. To say that would be almost hilariously wrong. There’s plenty going on. They’ve just tended to occur irregularly, be too narrowly focused, or be broadly advertised enough. (huge, huge admiring kudos to those who do exist and avoid these problems though, however, like Boston Media Makers, Web Inno, and Jelly).

However, even among the few successful ones, they’ve also been hindered by the physical constraints on public space in the Boston/Cambridge area: public transportation quickly closes down after midnight, the only large accessible open spaces are loud cramped bars, creepy dudes, you name it.

Also, many attempts at this sort of thing have tended to frame these events in terms of “networking” events, which, in addition to being sort of forced, misses the more important point: communities aren’t bound together by furiously trading business cards in a loud club and then robotically following up with an e-mail, they’re bound together by sharing a common culture, throwing around schemes, and just generally hanging out.

So, in the end, the landscape as it stands: atomized, independent tribes of tech people. A veritable hunter-gatherer social desert — filled mostly with environments where opportunities for cooperation are constantly being missed. Ships passing in the dark.

And, the landscape as it could stand: a more dynamic, collaborative, linked, cross-cutting community of tech people. Doing awesome stuff. And kicking ass.

Needless to say, I’m a big advocate of the latter. With any hope, Information Superhighway is an experiment in creating that kind of platform where these things can happen. Fingers crossed…

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