This semester, I’ve been traveling quite a bit — and in fact just returned from the annual National Women’s Studies Association conference, held in Oakland this past weekend. We have written before about traveling with tech (see here, here, and here for examples), but one thing we haven’t yet addressed is how frustrating traveling with technology can be.
For me, this frustration is primarily due to the lack of consistently good and cheap wifi or cell signals. Having long ago replaced things like paper guides, books, and even conference programs (NWSA had a great app available) with my phone, access to wifi or a cell signal is key. BUT, at least here in the U.S., that is not something one can rely on. Conference hotels are notorious for price gouging and crappy wifi — and cell service in conference ballrooms can be weak or non-existent, which means that while I can use my phone as a personal hotspot, the connection is not always good enough to do so.
All of this means that trying to keep up with work while on the road can be difficult (if you don’t believe me, take a look at my inbox) and that providing conference backchannels can be equally frustrating. “Tweet!” the conference organizers say. “How should I do that with no connection?” I reply. Some large conferences (MLA, for example) are able to provide wifi to the entire conference, which makes things MUCH easier (and it tends to be better — I’m convinced that hotels save their good connections for the high-paying conferences as opposed to individual guests) >Many (most?) other conferences, however, cannot afford to do so, leaving us with the problems described above. Until they can or until hotels catch up with the times and provide better wifi, I’ll be leaving the auto reply on and getting back to when I can.