Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Present, present, present!

I am looking through the ICA website with the links to the papers presented, and something is dawning on me, slow, naive Norwegian that I am.

Most people regularly participate in and present more than one paper (three seems to be a common number).
People cooperate in order to have their names up in as many papers as possible, or
people cooperate in order to give their advicees a chance to present as many papers as possible.
It is more important to have a paper presented than to actually engage in debate and discussions.

What do you get from this? A conference that is packed with presentations and has no room for discussions during, after or between presentations, has no common break-times for hooking up with those unknown-to-you special contacts, and has no organised space for socialising. And yes, I know, it would be impossible in conferences at this size. And they are this size because everybody needs to be at and present at this conference, or else.

It makes perfect sense, really.

I am ever more nostalgic for the Nordic media conferences, although I miss it again, this time for the Women in Games in Dundee.


Alexander said...

This seems to be an artifact of conferences like ICA. It's a common complaint. The multiple presentation thing tends to particularly true of those looking for jobs or tenure. A couple of years ago, you were only allowed a maximum of 2 papers at the conference, and I'm not sure why they got rid of this.

But I agree: especially with the big, prestigious conferences like ICA, they are really not much about conversation. I far prefer conferences with something < 50 people, no parallel tracks, etc. Much more useful.

I heard similar comments from a lot of ICA regulars this year. In fact, I think part of a pre-conference workshop for Dresden next year that is built on trying to encourage conversation (about global communication), rather than add to c.v. bloat.

I have a feeling that people go to ICA (and NCA) for two reasons: either to build reputation/resumes, or to meet with people they haven't seen in a while. The latter happens largely outside of the regular sessions.

Torill said...

Thank you Alexander, for expanding on my thoughts about this. Of course, reputation/resumes need to be built, and if it happens with a big audience that's better than doing one tiny conference at the time. There's also Francis Steen's point: this conference is so open due to the many tracks and sessions, it becomes very generous and has room for many different approaches to media studies which might be rejected elsewhere.