Friday, March 25, 2011

Being There - still going to conferences

March is conference time. Last week was a fun time at the Virginia Association of Museums conference in Portsmouth, VA. This week I am exhibiting at the Tennessee Museums Conference (TAM) in Johnson City, TN.
Personally, I love the opportunity to get to places around the States, but are conferences becoming redundant? There’s an increasing trend to offer virtual sessions and more online papers. I imagine conference organizers are trying to balance offering access while still wanting people to come. There’s the cost, and time, of travel and hotels, and long hours sitting and listening to papers that sometimes would be better read, than heard. And at the end there’s often little time for questions or debate.
And yet until we reach the singularity , there’s still a lot to be said for personal contact, networking, discussion and serendipitous conversations that come from standing in line at the bar! I enjoy conferences and I am disappointed to be missing out on two others that I’d have liked to have attended. The CAA conference is in China, and the Museums and the Web conference is in Philadelphia. I’ve attended both of these in the past, and I’m still thinking about some of the papers I heard. This was the first year in many that I didn’t attend the Society for Historical Archaeology conference, which means that there are a lot of people I won’t get to see for nearly two years. We’ll make the next one.
So, like many things, the virtual is great but it’s still not as good as the real thing!

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