[iDC] Conferencing Formats and Welome to Marc Tuters

John Hopkins jhopkins at neoscenes.net
Tue Jan 31 12:50:20 EST 2006

A quick note -- that Marc's post brought up -- I've been to a 
substantial number of the last decade of media-art get-togethers in 
Europe, and during the previous 10 years to that, to many 
hard-science conferences (AAAS, SEG, AGU and others).  And the one 
GLARING difference between the two sets is this:

In most (all!?) science meetings there is a CLOCK or someone keeping 
time.  And when ones time is up, one stops talking and a question 
period begins.  If one goes over, or continues to talk, sometimes a 
bell is rung, or the moderator simply interrupts and stops one and 
that is that.  At virtually all the art/media gigs, there has been an 
almost total lack of discipline on the part of panel chairs, 
moderators, and such, allowing presenters to go literally HOURS over 
their allotted 15-30 minute slot!  The primary result of this is that 
there is little or no time for public discussion.  Of course, there 
are the usual follow-up possibilities when folks head for the bars, 
clubs, and dinner parties, but the important immediate follow-up is 
lost to over-time podium hogs.  Now, I understand that being relaxed 
and informal about a meeting is fine, and presentations that might be 
less structured or planned can be refreshing, but the timing issue 
IMHO is a critical one if one is indeed having a conference or panel. 
If it's just a discussion group, well, those can be structured ad 
hoc, esspecially if the hosts are buying dinner for all participants 
at a certain time ;-))

At the other extreme, along the lines of what Sara did, something 
that I teach as praxis in the classroom, is the concept of intensive 
dialogue between pairs of (workshop/conference) participants -- that 
is, to take a dedicated two hours each day and pair people off to go 
where ever they like to engage f-2-f for an attentive dialogue 
without interruption for the two hours.  No particular agenda or 
topical restrictions, except for the insistence on attentive and 
concentrated engagement.

I tried a variation of this at a CIRCUS consortium meeting in Glasgow 
a few years back when I was asked to do a workshop during the 
conference.  I simply had a sign-up sheet for time slots where 3 
people and myself would meet for 2-hour sessions during the 
conference.  At first it seemed that this would be problematic as the 
workshop participants would miss 2 hours of presentations, but the 
end result was such that the discussions that occured parallel to the 
presentations acted as a ccounterpoint source that energized the 
discussion and overall 'vibe' of the conference.

This type of intervention opens up lateral channels in a 
predominantly talking-head staged panel situation and has the direct 
effect of spreading the energy of all participants out more equally. 
Literally facilitating a more distributed network of connection...


tech-no-mad::hypnostatic:: with a shattered spine on a slow mend
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