The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

academic conferences

I spent the week in beautiful, sunny (at least until Saturday night) Chicago attending an academic conference. I've now been to twenty, twenty-five of these, and I'm trying to be more professional about things--stop treating these trips as partially expense-paid junkets to cool places, start attending more panels, meeting people in the field, taking advantage of conference discounts to buy books, etc. It's easier, definitely, to be more comfortable at these things now that I've got a job and am no longer scheming to land a slot with every waking moment.

Professional conferences are pretty common, but in talking to my wife and others I've discovered something interesting: in most, the primary activity is NOT sitting in small hotel assembly rooms for ninety minutes at a time while three professors sit and read from a piece of paper. This may be limited to the humanities, but I'm more and more amazed that this is standard practice. I just can't do it anymore. I won't give these kinds of papers anymore (I add on a rudimentary slide show or powerpoint, neither of which I do particularly well, and at this week's conference I couldn't even get the powerpoint to work because the hotel didn't have the right cable!). Some people do it well--my fellow-panelists, for instance, made their 20 minutes interesting. I just can't.

And now, I won't attend a panel that consists of people just reading. At this conference, I only attended panels that included slides, movies, music, etc. This had its drawbacks; I did have to see a film from 1898 of a man having his right leg amputated. But because the lights were off, nobody could see my expression. In those other kinds of panels, I embarrass myself by falling asleep.


  • At 7:54 PM, Anonymous L said…

    "This had its drawbacks; I did have to see a film from 1898 of a man having his right leg amputated."

    Did they use the paring knife or chainsaw method? Opposites on the amputation spectrum but, I'd imagine, equally painful.

    (Too much time on my hands.)

  • At 10:37 PM, Blogger mantooth said…

    Dual long carving knives (they tag-teamed the guy, who was under ether) followed by a hacksaw. Like the one in my garage. Ow.


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