Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What will future conferences look like?

Personally, I hate conferences where the speakers are in fact readers of (usually boring) papers. Even more so, if the papers have been used and re-used at several conferences. These conferences, I believe, are only useful because of their coffee-breaks, when one can meet interesting people, discuss interesting topics, get really into a stimulating theme.
But if it is so, why do not we organize conferences which resemble more the coffee breaks and less the reading rooms?
Apart from my past proposals (see under the label "methodology"), I am now considering the idea of a conference embedding a workshop. One could discuss the general problems involved by the conference in an open session, where stimulating questions may come from the public (I would not allow than 30' for each speaker and in any case not less than 15' for discussion, right after each presentation). Within the conference (e.g., on the second out of three days, or about midday of a single day), a more restricted circle might meet and discuss the technicalities the general theme implies. The restricted circle would involve only people who are really interested (and have registered, say, two weeks in advance). One would discuss problems which are yet to be solved in a more specific way.
For instance, the general session might be about the use of manuscript sources (are they reliable? unavoidable? dependent on the scribe's mood?) and the workshop on conventions for reproducing lacunae (or the like).

What do readers think? What worked for you? From which conference did you come back happy and enriched?


Jayarava said...

I think you might enjoy the solution to boring speakers devised by the Ignoble Awards (presuming you haven't already seen it)

elisa freschi said...

Quite funny, but I would not like to spend part of my precious human life in organizing a conference only to have the pleasure of a child telling me that the speaker was boring. If ever I should organize again one, I would like this risk to be ruled out from the beginning. For instance: no reading allowed. Perhaps also no presentation (only an open debate).

VS said...

Future conferences may become more virtual. The audience get to see and hear the speaker on their computer or 3G mobile screens and the speaker being able to see and interact with the audience from his conference room. You could leave your virtual identity in that room if the speaker is boring and explore other rooms. Speakers would also get a rating based on predefined parameters which would be helpful in deciding if you want to hear them speak. :o)

elisa freschi said...

Interesting, VS. Which parameters do you think at?
I am a little bit puzzled by the idea of a purely virtual conference. It works fine in case of one-direction conferences (you speak and I listen to you), but this is not the kind of conference I am interested in. Do you think it could work even in more seminarial situations?

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