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Some parting thoughts

Posted By Jason Mittell, Sunday, March 13, 2011

My third and final day at the conference focused on workshops, sandwiched by a pair of traditional panels. It was a jam packed day, which unfortunately meant that I failed to take advantage of the copious quality local food options, but I got a lot of out of the time spent in the refrigerated conference rooms.

While I appreciated the conversations in workshops, which as I said yesterday seem like a more effective use of the pooled mental energy at a conference than a straight presentation, the papers I saw were quite good, ranging in topic from the rise of widescreen televisions to the enduring appeal of reruns in the digital era. But with one eye on the Twitter stream, I also felt like I was missing dozens of great talks, and yearned for a way to consume those presentations as well. So since this will be my final day & post of the conference, here are two basic ideas for how to further reinvent our conference website to better serve the goals of sharing knowledge and building community.

* Post full abstracts on the conference website. When we proposal panels, papers & workshops, we write abstracts describing the projects - these are only seen by the program committee to judge whether it will be accepted. The program itself contains only paper & panel titles, leaving it up to attendees to make guesses about what will really be discussed, what approaches will be used, and what the larger contexts and arguments might be. I think this privileges the established reputation of the presenter, as you'll fill in the gaps for somebody whose work you know, and overlook somebody new to you if their title does not directly jump out at you. By making this material available online to be read, searched, and tagged, we can have a much better sense of projects, facilitate more effective panel attendance, and encourage people to contact presenters to get copies of work they cannot attend.

* Provide an online space for presenters to optionally post their full presentations, either papers, slides, or both. While I post all of my presentations to my blog (here's my paper on TV finales from Thursday), most presenters do not have an established site to share their work that will get read. I find it hard to remember & digest papers that I've heard, but if I could download work to read more carefully or see the work that I couldn't attend, it would make the conference into a much more effective site of knowledge exchange. MIT's Media in Transition conferences have been doing this, and I have dozens of pdfs from those conferences that I've read over the years. This could be restricted to members-only access, or published to the world, but the notion that people's research should only be accessible to the few people in the room at a conference seems quite archaic and against the principles of what we're all looking to accomplish as scholars and educators.

This last point is especially relevant for me, as I must leave early Sunday to return home, and the program on Sunday is full of appealing titles and people whose work I respect. I hope that I can find ways to access their work beyond waiting years for potential print publication. Let's aim to make next year's conference continue the exciting transformation of our website to become a real site of scholarly community and information exchange. 

Enjoy the last day and please weigh in on these ideas!

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F. Hollis Griffin says...
Posted Sunday, March 13, 2011
Lovely blogging with you.
In this last post, you make several suggestions, all of which are very apt and useful. So apt and useful that I think many people think the same things -- having been privy to these kinds of conversations among Board members before I rolled out of my position 2 years ago. It's not a question of a desire to provide these things. It's that this is an organization without the funds or infrastracture of MiT, ICA, NCA, etc.

What might be more useful? Starting to think about fundraising for such things.....
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Jason Mittell says...
Posted Monday, March 14, 2011
Hollis - I definitely know that these items are on the agenda of some on the board, and that the question of labor & time is the crucial piece to make things happen. I hope the impact of us conference bloggers & the promotion of the new website can generate enough interest to make the labor more shared & less onerous - as is, too much falls upon our impressively dedicated ITO Andrew Miller!
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