Human, all too human: I fell into the simple trap of attending things that Looked Interesting because they were on campus, I was on campus, they were free, I was free.
And so I have sat through hours of stuff where academics dressed up pretty straight-forward/simple ideas and observations in all the rhetoric and citations (Bourdieu this, Foucault that, Butler here, Derrida there).
I sat in rows of fellow people being turned into ego-fodder while a format that was designed when books were super expensive and rare was used in a time when youtube could/should have Changed Everything; when if you want to deliver a chunk of “idea” you don’t have to gather a bunch of humans in the same physical space and then yack at them, and then let some of them yack back.
But habits and cultures have inertia. The organisers win by delivering what is expected. The visiting lecturer/presenter gets their 20 mins/hour in the sun. And the rows of folks in the audience (not “participants” – that’s something else) get to schmooze briefly in the breaks, but check their email/think about articles to write etc during the long longueurs.
Habits and cultures have inertia, and innovation comes with costs. Risks of failure, guest lecturers not getting the attention they “deserve”, previously passive people pushing back against having to think and interact for their free lunches.
Everybody knows that the system is “sub-optimal”. Some know that another word is possible. But they don’t have the juice, the brains, the spine to make that world happen.
So we continue to crack quietly while papers that could have been circulated/youtubed/whatevered are delivered.
Meanwhile, my wife has a very simple and powerful algorithm
- Is this DIRECTLY related to your PhD.?
- Can you be very confident – based on who is there and who is organising it – that this will be useful and interesting?
If you can’t answer a firm “yes” to one of those questions, DON’T GO.
Yes, this means that you will miss some good stuff. But it also means you don’t have to sit through hours of drivel.