Are Academics Really So Unimaginative? In Defense of Online Conferences and Networking

Are Academics Really So Unimaginative? In Defense of Online Conferences and Networking August 20, 2021

I am getting tired of hearing that online conferences are terrible. If you attended one and it was terrible, that is the fault of organizers and/or participants, not something inherent in the mode of conferencing or the technology used. In-person conferences can be terrible, too. When students say they don’t like (or are not good at) a particular subject, when in fact they didn’t like and had a negative experience with a particular educator or class, we feel frustrated. Yet we do the same, not only with conferences but with “the administration.” I can’t tell you how often I see my faculty colleagues denigrate those in leadership and approach them with hostility. They will refer to faculty who move into administrative positions as going to the dark side, when what they have done is to take on essential responsibilities, often seriously burdensome ones, that make what we do as faculty possible. There are exceptions, of course. But that’s precisely the point. Online conferences do not have to be terrible, and if they are, we should get involved in efforts to make them not terrible. I’ve had wonderful online conference experiences. If you haven’t, it wasn’t the concept or medium that was the cause.

I am equally tired of those who say that the key benefit of conference attendance is the networking and we just can’t do that except in person. Seriously? You cannot figure out a way in our day and age to connect and have conversations with other academics in your field other than by bumping into them after or in between sessions at in-person conferences? If Facebook, email, Twitter, blogging, and LinkedIn do not provide you with opportunities to connect, then you are not utilizing social media effectively. Once initial contact is made by any of those means, hopping on Zoom, or Google Meet, or Facetime, or WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger to talk face to face via video can often be a good next step.

Seriously, what am I missing? Is this just a case of academics who are used to doing things a certain way showing themselves unwilling to adapt, much as happens when professors carry on simply lecturing insisting that students learn more that way and that it is “better” when what they mean is it is familiar and comfortable? What new technologies, and/or features on existing ones, would help make conferencing and networking online even better?

Previously on this blog on this topic:

Why I’m Not Looking Forward to Resuming In-Person Conferences

Academic Conferences Are…

Conference BINGO



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