Take the leap.

The #AETHER I did in #DC

Akira had gone to New York and Boston, but didn’t take any pictures of AETHER. Or write about it. And we haven’t fully had a conversation yet about what we learned, exactly, from his trip to those spots and my visit to Washington, DC, last week. But I thought I’d tell you what we did realize, independently.

Malleability is key. If you go in with too many things pinned down, you’re not going to walk in with an open attitude. Most of the people we invited to come join us were aware of this fact, if not a little confused. But they took it on good faith that we were excited enough to talk about it enough that they ought to at least drop in. Most people told us that they were very glad they did. Which reminds me, of course, of our past dialogue roundtables. People love eye contact.

Eye contact is key. One of the things that happened for me as I came down from DC on the train was deciding to be less online. I know! I am all about blogging! I have three blogs: this one, Kismuth for my memoir, and Design Kompany for our branding business. Not to mention a bunch of Twitters and posterous and tumblr, too. A lot.

But you know what?

It’s really not that important.

Because you don’t get rapport online in the same way as you do IRL.

Real life is huge.

So I started popping into people’s offices again, when I got to Durham. I started walking around on Main Street at lunch hour, just to see what was going on. Akira went to the farmer’s market on Saturday and came back with at least five updates on what people are doing, and what their kids are up to, and so on. It is fascinating, because this moving around and looking at people in the eye and talking is actually much more efficient because you get much richer information when you’re standing there, looking at someone, than when you get some generic Tweet across the aether that could be read as positive, uplifting, sarcastic, ironic, or just plain weird, depending on your offline relationship that exists already.

Online can help bolster offline interaction, but it’s a poor place to start. It’s really HARD to make friends with the Internet people. I remember my friend JK having a party, when he turned 24. It was in Seattle, and he was younger, but I went along for the craic. I was a “work friend,” but there would also be, he said, his “Internet friends.” This was 2005, and that concept blew me away. But now I’m writing here, all about dialogue and offline engagement, and hoping some people out there reading will materialize in real life at one of our future events.

To test my theories about dialogue and offline interactions, I popped into three nerdy Meetups. One was about Prezi, the software for presentations; one was about WordPress; and one was about search marketing, where I met a gentleman who now lives in Raleigh and knows some of the same people that I do. This circle of influence, spheres of common interest, and geolocal commonality is huge. I love Twitter, but I have to say, being out and about and offline for just five minutes, wandering into the world without an agenda or any kind of pre-ordained philosophy is way, WAY more intriguing.

The highlight for me was my final night, when I got to see if anyone would join me at my table for AETHER DC. It was a beautiful evening, and I had an eye on a round table just behind me. Since the place didn’t take reservations, and since I had NO IDEA how many people (if any people) would want to hear a North Carolina-based Indian-American girl with a branding studio and a “dialogue design” blog called “Orangutan Swing” come and talk about media and the message and Marshall McLuhan, well, you know, I just kind of eyed it.

Then three really great people showed up, and we began. –DK


  1. I’m a big fan of dragging the online into the real world, Dipika. I’m active in a Twitter chat and have made a point of connecting with as many people as possible IRL and via Skype video chat, too. It’s wonderful to have the connection grow and evolve over time and, yes, I have found some friendships I truly treasure from my online experiences. That said, nothing beats seeing someone in person and sharing a meal or a beverage with some great conversation.

    Very glad that you made some new connections in DC.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Drew! Looking forward to meeting in real life one day.