Christy Wampole, The Conference Manifesto in The New York Times

Christy Wampole, ‘The Conference Manifesto’ in The New York TimesIt first diagnoses a problem, then outlines some potential solutions. Here’s the beginning…

We are weary of academic conferences.

We are humanists who recognize very little humanity in the conference format and content.

We have sat patiently and politely through talks read line by line in a monotone voice by a speaker who doesn’t look up once, wondering why we couldn’t have read the paper ourselves in advance with a much greater level of absorption.

We have tried to ignore the lack of a thesis or even one interesting sentence in a 20-minute talk.

Our jaws have hung in disbelief as a speaker tries to squeeze a 30-minute talk into a 20-minute slot by reading too fast to be understood.

And here’s the first line of a proposed contract:

Acceptance to the conference could be contingent upon the speaker reading and signing an agreement to meet the following criteria in their talks

1) I understand that the conference paper should do something that an article cannot. Since it involves direct, real-time contact with other humans, the speaker should make use of this relatively rare and thus precious opportunity to interact meaningfully with other scholars.

Well worth a read, and some serious reflection. I’d be surprised if, being honest, most people didn’t recognise at least something of their own behaviour in the description of the problem. Recognising it in others is easy.

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