[iDC] Conferencing Formats and Welome to Marc Tuters

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Thu Jan 26 12:24:08 EST 2006

The first program that I facilitated took place in Portland, Oregon in
In 2000 the pogram *Kosov@: Carnival in the Eye of the Storm* took the 
NATO war in Serbia and Kosovo/a that had merely ended. I flew in artists
from Kosovo and Serbia, scholars like Boris Buden and Tom Keenan, Renata
Salecl and Brian Holmes. In addition to the conference there was an
exhibition with works by Martha Rosler, Laura Kurgan, Nancy Spero, Olav
Westphalen, Peter Fend, Sislej Xhafa, Absolutno, Leon Golub and many
other artists.  There was a film series at the NW Film Center and a
gallery with Net Art.   

The scenario that I  envisioned for the conference was rather
mainstream. Let us do a conference. Well, that means that there is a
stage. We start with the academic stars. We assume that those sitting
down in the dark cannot possibly be experts at the topics at hand. The
keynote speakers do their thing- they start to read a 40 page paper.
Yes, I could have read that online beforehand.  

I was aware that spaces out in the city would be better suited than the
college itself. Or so I thought. I found a huge space with seats for
about 500 people.  

The speakers arrived and, one by one, stepped up to the stage. They were 
lucid but the colossal concert hall felt deserted. Despite huge efforts
and these insightful presenters there was only a very small audience. I
later realized that for many academic events the speakers (sadly) are
the (only) spectators. The setting that I had framed was hardly sparking
much discourse. The speakers were not to blame. If you cannot get it
going with a crew like that then it must be the setting.  On the up-side
I asked each speaker to the back stage where we recorded short video
summaries of their presenatations. That worked very well. We later made
them accessible on the WWW.

The next day I decided to cancel the large assembly hall and meet in a
small college seminar room instead. Here, students joined, the visitors
were compacted in to a small space and the discussion was vivid,
genuine, and consequential.

This event meant a lot to me. I saw the wave of discourse that one can
instigate around topics that may otherwise be undervalued. Cultural
producers were largely silent in response to the war in the Balkans.

But this event and the dozens that followed taught me how much
conferencing formats matter! Nothing is achieved with the same old, 
same old! Many of you may have read the text that I wrote with Geert
Lovink after the Free Cooperation conference. 

Here, we played through these issues. The upcoming Free Cooperation book
will include a re-worked version of this essay. 

Marc Tuters recently referenced this text in his entry to the Networked
Publics Blog (Annenberg Center for Communication / University of
Southern California).

Marc Tuters is a researcher and curator of new media. He focused on
locative media practices for a long time. I invited Marc to join this
list to start a discussion about conferencing formats. Welcome Marc!

Could you introduce yourself  and elaborate on your reflections about
event formats?




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