A Framework for the Future of Conferences
The sudden virtualization of conferences has sparked a flurry of experimentation
Over the past year, since the pandemic’s earliest days, a cascade of in-person conferences were canceled or turned into virtual events. The sudden virtualization of conferences has sparked a flurry of experimentation.
Earlier this month, Alice Meadows wrote about PIDapalooza, a “24-hour virtual PID party, starting at 9.30am EST on January 27 and ending at 10.30am on January 28 (yes, it was actually 25 hours in the end, but who’s counting!?). We had… 92 back-to-back half-hour sessions and over 130 speakers…, with one track, two tracks, even three tracks at times — to enable sessions in Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German, and French, as well as English.” We are impressed — and exhausted — to hear about the possibilities when maximizing toward openness and inclusivity, but we also note other approaches, such as the one described by Mark Carden as he has virtualized the Researcher to Reader conference while trying to retain its intimacy and interactivity.
Conferences serve several roles. They offer faculty and researchers a way to showcase their work through presentations. They connect people through formal and informal interactions, including serendipitous hallway conversations. Some offer professional development. Most bring together exhibitors (people who have things to sell) and attendees (people who have things to buy). And of course conferences serve their organizers as a way to bring the field together as well as, for some, a source of revenue-generation. In some cases, they are a unique opportunity to bring together “everyone” in a field. In other cases, they offer a small and intimate chance for deeper engagement.
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