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January 04, 2006

Lost in Cyberspace - David Conway searches for himself

Posted by David Conway

Will the real David Conway please step forward? A forced period of idleness, courtesy of a London delivery driver, finds David Conway discovering a new pastime. Finding himself confused with other persons of the same name, David Conway goes searching for them - and himself - in cyberspace.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, as I was strolling through the grounds of University College London, a delivery driver - who later explained his behaviour somewhat redundantly with the line "Sorry, Guv, I was looking in the other direction" - knocked me over from behind and in the process kiboshed the fourth and fifth metatarsals of my left foot. As a consequence I have since had my leg in a cumbrous plaster, where it will remain until at least the end of January. This has given me the leisure to contemplate many little mysteries which might otherwise have gone by the board. Amongst them was why, exactly, a commentator on one of my recent articles for the Social Affairs Unit believed that I was "a well known Conservative writer on political theory", a solecism so bizarre that it merited an editorial intervention to differentiate me from a namesake of whom I had been formerly unaware.

In search of the agency by which this error may have arisen, I googled my name, as I guess the commentator had done. First on the list is David Conway, estate agent. With a staff of 8 and based in South Harrow, Middlesex, this Conway seems prosperous enough to be able to indulge in music criticism, but men of his profession, perhaps unfairly, are usually ranked amongst the Philistines, which presumably disqualified him in the mind of my fan. Full marks to him in marketing, anyway, for getting to the head of the Google pages.

The next David Conway is a senior lecturer in epidemiology, who "runs a research group focusing on the genetics of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum". On his site he says that he thinks that "the Human genome, and genetics of well-studied organisms in general has a lot to offer". And who could disagree with such impeccable sentiments?

At no. 3 we come to the David Conway in question, a senior Research Fellow at Civitas who writes on the topics of health-care and multiculturalism. As it happens, (although my fan cannot have known this), this might conceivably have been me. I am (for my sins) a non-executive director of an NHS Primary Care Trust, and spent more years than I should have done as a local government councillor dealing with social services and ethnic minorities. Did this man at some point split off from me, and become the academic persona towards which I have always had a secret yearning to evolve? It is perhaps just as well we have never met; were we ever to be present in the same room, the resulting powerful atomic fusion might make the end of Götterdämmerung look like no more than our kitchen table after my two-year old granddaughter has finished her tea.

No. 4 on Google brings the real me, but in an ancient incarnation as a contributor to Find-A-Grave. This site was originally founded by Jim Tipton with the noble intention of creating a virtual cemetery to include famous people from around the world. I have already referred to the site's rise and fall in an earlier article; since it got taken over by a management which considers "famous" to apply to anyone who died in the American Civil War or had a bit part in a 1930s Hollywood film, but not (for example) to Lords Lieutenant of Ireland, I have not contributed, although my 2,024 photographs remain on line, as does my self-description of two or three years ago.

The fifth entry (at the time when I first looked it up) took me off in a new direction. It was an entry for David Conway in Wikipedia. The politics and implications of Wikipedia deserve an SAU article to themselves, but this is not it. For those who have not come across this, it is an attempt to create an on-line encyclopaedia, to which anyone may contribute, and where the contributions are subject to the peer-review (and alteration) of anyone who consults it. The topics range from the sublime (e.g. the Social Affairs Unit) to the ridiculous. When I looked up their David Conway article I discovered that it was about the Civitas David Conway.

I now became somewhat envious of this character. How come he had an article in Wikipedia and I didn't? I enquired from the Wikipedia administrators if I could put up an article on myself, and adapt the existing one to make it clear that we were different people. They replied politely that nothing prevented me, as long as what I wrote was verifiable, not in anyone else's copyright, and was not advertising. The result can be seen by anyone who cares to look. Do try contributing and editing in Wikipedia yourself – it has provided a new displacement activity for me during my enforced convalescence.

This does not end the David Conways in cyberspace, of course. There is a vampire writer ("Are you, David Conway, completely obsessed with celebrities? Have you ever been arrested for sneaking around in a celebrity's bushes?"), a horticulturalist, a professional harmonica player, and a missionary priest, amongst many others. It makes me realise how much I am missing in life, and indeed how thankful I am to be missing most of it. I look forward to normal service being resumed when I can just amble around the world as a part-time music critic.

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I have worked with the harmonica player. His act is hilarious - though not in the way he would like to think. It combines out of date songs with out of date jokes to create an out of date, and truly bizarre act. He wears a beautiful wig, has a tan the colour of an oak table, and has a wife who looks like a horse.

Hope this information is of use to you, it is great to get it off my chest!

Posted by: Sam at January 15, 2006 03:55 PM

You've found another one!
Hope the foot gets better
David Conway

Posted by: David Conway at February 10, 2006 11:43 PM

David Conway wants to find out his true name David O Neill

Posted by: David Conway at March 22, 2011 02:04 AM

Meanwhile.. here I am searching for David Conway. The author of Secret Wisdom and Occult Primer. Are you he? If so, please email me.

Posted by: bloopnation at July 5, 2011 01:14 AM

Are you the David Conway who was looking for info about Heinrich Elgenes (you spell it Elgeanes) from Molde? He married Winifred Greenish in Narbeth in 1884. I want to find out about him too, as my grandmother, his daughter, was Aimee Johanna Elgenes. I had an email address which got returned. Please contact me if you are the right David Conway...

Posted by: Susie Wingfield at February 4, 2012 06:15 PM
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