Friday, February 3, 2012

RootsTech Day 1

So here we are again for another year of genea-tech-nirvana! The anticipation for this conference has been even more intense than last year - and attended by a lot more people! Rumors have reported over 4200 attendees this year, which is over a thousand more than the first RootsTech! I recognized many faces from last year, but have already met some new ones and am very glad to have two more days to increase those numbers! So far, the most amazing thing about this conference is its focus on the future. You wouldn't naturally think of a heightened atmosphere that was this future centric at a genealogy conference, but it is inspirational. Here's how I'm interpreting this:

During the keynote speech, we were introduced to a research concept that is about 50 years in the making. This concept revolved around the research patterns of a teenager in the year 2060. While some of the technology used was familiar, the methodology was new, yet, not surprising. In a nutshell, this teenager was able to ask Siri who her great grandparents were, and it would then begin reciting, or display a picture of, her family tree. Then she would be shown photos of them and other ancestors, plus given a snapshot of what the historic timeline in which they lived looked like- complete with residence profiles. While we were all amazed and completely jealous of a generation we haven't even met yet, I think it gave the whole conference a focus. We aren't at RootsTech to merely find our ancestors in databases, nor make more records available digitally.....we are there to do all of those things PLUS make things available for the next generation. Time is a very palpable attendee, and as we move rapidly from tweet to blog to cloud, we are constantly reminded of the temporal nature of our current formats. The tweet we posted in response to a session statement is out of date within 30 seconds. This of course fits right at home with the fragility of life, and potential loss of family history if we do not preserve it.

Which means our genealogical responsibilities have changed. We no longer have the duty and honor of gathering the facts/stories and writing them down, but we now have to monitor how we maintain our new digital records as well as try to anticipate how the next generation will access them. Will my tree and all of the data associated with it exist after all of my hard work has produced an accessible version? And even more importantly, how do I leave a legacy that speaks to that future generation that is learning in a fundamentally different way than I was taught? To take it one step further: If we consistently look to the future and plan for its coming, can we open a new door of opportunity that speaks to that generation in a way that our generation has only recently begun to learn? I like to think that if we continue in this multi-generational direction we may succeed in drawing the long-term attention of a much younger set to the world we have been dedicated to for decades.

The RootsTech 2012 atmosphere is charged with this excitement for the new and wonderful technologies we are receiving today, mixed with the heady knowledge that we are making a difference in the lives of future researchers. Hopefully the tools we learn to use and implement this February will yield a wealth of results in the form of inspired interest in our growing youth. I am very proud to be a part of a profession/industry that is embracing this future seeking/planning behavior! As I continue to blog a bit while here in SLC, this is only a small portion of the things I am learning, plus the issues that are coming to mind as I learn. I am taking copious notes and will blog about more specific sessions/issues in the coming months. I will also be responding to comments I hear throughout the sessions, as well as reviewing some of the changes I witnessed or did not witness with the passing of one year. One important change we have heard already - conversation on the elevator - the conference will be moving to March for 2013. The reason? Better weather hopefully AND the need for more space! If this conference grows to 5000+ next year, they will need to reserve more of the Salt Palace to accommodate. At present, they are only using the back or side portion. Ok, that's enough for now.....I'm exhausted.....but eager for another day!
Goodnight all,


Nancy said...

I didn't attend the conference (except virtually) but one of the things I think is so very interesting is that we are in a place where the past and the future meet. I know it's always so for any person at any time but just now in the life of the world, I think the future looks so very different than it ever did to any of our ancestors. Exciting times, yet possibly very challenging and sometimes frustrating for those of us without a tech background.

Amy Coffin, MLIS said...

Still getting caught up on my blog reading, but I wanted to say that it was nice meeting you!

Cheri Daniels said...

Nancy, you hit the nail on the head with that one! It is such an exciting time, but also presents a challenge for many genealogists. Despite my tech heavy background over the years, the explosion in the genealogist field is even overwhelming for me sometimes....let's hope we can stabilize enough to build a good tech foundation that helps the learning process slow down a bit for people to catch up!

Amy - It was great meeting you too! I keep meaning to get back to your site or feed to see what your final blogger count was! Mine was pitiful, only managed to meet about 20.
But the fun count was off the charts!


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