Geoffrey Long
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Jonathan Gray and the paperless conference.

My friend and fellow media scholar Jonathan Gray has an interesting post up on his blog, The Extratextuals, about the idea of paperless conferences:

ICA is at a good time of the year to make sure that lots of people can attend, but at an awful time for facilitating the process of actually paying attention to papers. By the end of May, I'm simply burnt out. So this year I went in with a new strategy. I had signed up for the pre-conference on Production Studies, which tied me down to a day of panels. And I was on another four - one paper, one workshop, one chair, one respondent. So I decided that that was it. The rest of the conference would be social.

Such is the oddity of conference paper presentations that I'm convinced I learnt more, discussed more, and was asked to think about more as a result of adopting this strategy. The pre-conference was excellent, if a little paper heavy and discussion light. And my panels had good material - Melissa Click, Nina Huntemann, and Cornel Sandvoss provided a strong, really interesting panel on flow and overflow; Megan Boler, Andrea Schmidt, Catherine Burwell, and Alessandra Renzi had a good panel on digital dissent; reliably, Avi Santo and Jeffrey Jones presented good papers on animated satire, and the Unboxing Television workshop with Amanda Lotz, Joshua Green, Laurie Ouellette, Aswin Punathambekar, John McMurria, Vicki Mayer, and myself worked very well, I thought, providing plenty of smart commentary on the state of television and television studies.

But many of the better interactions with ideas happened over meals, drinks, coffee, or simply sitting outside conference rooms.

I haven't made it to ICA yet, but it sounds like it should be on my calendar. As I noted in the comments:

I think this is also a practice adopted by people once they've attended a given conference a certain number of times. I know my friends at South by Southwest and the Game Developers' Conference all attend a small handful of panels and then disappear the rest of the time to reconnect with old friends, bounce ideas back and forth and take the temperature of the rest of the industry. Folks who are attending the conference for the first time hit panel after panel, meeting people afterwards and making some connections, but I think that first year or two are panel-centric as a form of orientation.

I suspect my ITRA experience in Greece will be a panel-heavy one, unless Laura and I decide to sneak out for part of it to go sightseeing. What can I say? There's a downside of having your conference in such interesting places.

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