Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Don’t Panic

I just received what identifies itself as a “Vital Update” from a conference I’m due to attend. Among other things, the update tells me: “We will also have a “Delegates Survival Kit” ready for you very soon.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever received a “Delegates Survival Kit” for a conference. Wondering a bit what I’ve signed on for here…

9 responses to “Don’t Panic

  1. Alexei October 22, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Hmm, I was under the impression that one received a survival kit after deplaning in Australia (consisting, I’m told, of a beer helmet, contraceptives, rolling papers, sunscreen, and a Australian slang to English dictionary). So I’m a little suspicious of this Academic kit: what else could one need?

  2. Mikhail Emelianov October 23, 2007 at 12:53 am

    i think it might be a lame attempt to sex up the conference – all of them administrative people sit in their offices trying to come up with cool ways to market things – my university’s genius resulted recently in a banner over a large space that clearly stated: “Welcome back students” – when i, poor non-native speaker, pointed out to a friend that there must be a comma after “back” otherwise it is a rather insistent command, i was given a shoulder shrug and something like: “let them have there fun, it’s there job to write banners, even if with mistakes.”

  3. Joseph Kugelmass October 23, 2007 at 3:22 am

    Personally, I always wish for:

    Two (2) brand-name coffee filters

    1/2 lb. coffee, ground

    Eight (8) hot-drink cups

    Emergency backpacker’s coffee maker, suitable for use while in a folding chair

    And in your case I would add:

    Six (6) photo replicas of the provocative paintings that make your coffeehouse instantly recognizable, to provide context

  4. Nate October 23, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Based on Alexei’s speculation and my own conference experiences, I’d say it should be:

    wine glass, coffee thermos, bottle of water, small notepad for jotting down contacts during networking and for pretending to take notes during presentations, map of all the things in the area to do as an alternative to the conference with overpriced bars and restaurants highlighted, and a small collection of quotes and names to drop with great solemnity after presentations while asking questions which are not questions, with cigarettes and chocolates optional for a nominal fee.

    All in some sort of semi-stylish bag.

  5. N Pepperell October 23, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    I have to admit, I’m with Joe on this one – I could have used that exact survival kit up in Sydney last week (someone really must tell me, before I go to Sydney next time, where to get a decent cup of coffee – terribly spoiled here in Melbourne, and I wasn’t prepared for the deprivation… For that matter, anyone have a heads up on the coffee situation in Hobart?).

    Nate – your suggestion raises interesting possibilities: should they randomise the quotes and names, do you think, just so we aren’t all name checking the same people? Or should they provide us all with the same material, so that everyone can be prepared to appreciate the shared reference cloud?

    Mikhail – I also tend to be over-attentive to the literal meaning of signs – always a reliable source of absurdist humour. Perhaps being a non-native speaker makes one more attuned to such things (in my case, my native language being Texan, you can perhaps appreciate the extremity of the linguistic transition I had to make on entering university…)

    Alexei – Perhaps their fear is that too many of us will be travelling domestically for this conference, and therefore might not be as prepared for the conference experience as our international colleagues… This may indeed be precisely what they have in mind to dispense…

  6. Pingback: » Mostly Harmless

  7. Nate November 4, 2007 at 8:09 am

    If the reform I propose is implemented then I think it will provide a useful and relatively easily quantifiable standard for measuring the quality and disciplinarity of conferences: producing that list of quotes would take time. The quality, obscurity, comprehensivity, and length of the quote list would be indicative of how much time was spent and of the expertise of the person who assembled the list. The level of randomization/individualization could also be an index of the character of the conference – both the tone it’s trying to set and how much money they spent on generating the quote lists.

  8. N Pepperell November 4, 2007 at 9:47 am

    Now, see, here you raise another interesting possibility: does the conference stratify its quotations – providing relatively higher-prestige name-checking opportunities, say, to keynote speakers, and mundane and tired quotations to postgrads? Or does it take the position that the true mark of status would be allowing the keynotes independence and originality in their personal choice of references, while everyone else receives quotational assistance? Following the recent trend to assess quality of academic work by tracking numbers of citations, would conferences begin to rort the system by distributing quotations derived from previous years’ presentations?

  9. Nate November 4, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    I expect that these decisions would vary by discipline, as well as character of the conference. They’d actually provide a means for disciplines and conferences to differentiate themselves (as would the other things like length and range of quotes and whether or not the quotes are individually randomized per attendee or everyone gets the same quotes etc), and would provide a ready made opportunity for conferences and disciplines to carry out the always important activity of making snide remarks about others, like “we’re not like ______, they (don’t) distribute quotations derived from previous years’ presentations!”

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