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March 10, 2004

We’ve been there. Michael Bérubé demonstrates the Higher Fannishness:
One of these days I want to put together an academic conference that addresses the phenomenon of academic conferences. It will be called “The Longer Version,” and will be distinguished by three features: one, every paper will have a respondent who, instead of waiting for the paper to end, will simply snort, harrumph, and blurt “I think not!” at random moments during the paper. Two, questioners will be required to begin all questions by saying, “this is really more of a comment than a question— I wonder if you could say more about X,” on the condition that X was either unmentioned in or tangential to the paper itself. (Questions must be at least three minutes long.) And three, every speaker will be required to answer these questions by saying, “I actually address this question in the longer version of this paper,” regardless of whether there is a longer version or not. (If the conference proceedings are published, they will consist only of sections of papers that were cut for time during the actual conference.)
[01:31 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on We've been there.:

Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 03:22 PM:

Yes, well, but can you tell us about the importance of Persia in world history?

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 05:28 PM:

Snort! Humph! I hardly think so!

Vanessa ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 12:35 AM:

This is really more of a comment than a question, but I wonder if, in situations where conference papers referenced each other, this might be like a sound art project I heard about years ago, in which the artist recorded a sound in a particular room, then played back the room sound and recorded that, then played back *that* recording and etc., until the artist discovered the resonant frequency of the room. Perhaps one could discover the most resonant sentence for a particular convention center.

Under these conditions the conference might run a little long.

Bill Tozier ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 07:23 AM:

You know, I have some perfect MS sitting around here for that conference. I didn't write them... I'm reviewing them.

Also, if it's to capture the look-and-feel of any technical talk I've attended in the last year or so, a Resident Non-sequitur Psychoceramicist should be assigned to each session, who will ask enthusiastically "Will quantum computing [mind control/Teilhard de Chardin's work/human cloning/black holes/the nanotechnology threat] affect this in the future?" To which the speaker must frame a non-insulting and gentle rejoinder equal to "Shut up and sit down."

Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 11:50 AM:

"Will quantum computing [mind control/Teilhard de Chardin's work/human cloning/black holes/the nanotechnology threat] affect this in the future?"

Answer "yes". When they ask you to elaborate, say "nobody knows yet." Admitting a lack of knowledge in an academic talk is so rare that the audience often appreciates the experience

mary ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 06:56 PM:

Also an acceptable response: I addressed that question in my Ph.D. thesis.

aha ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 10:57 PM:

And you just trashed Christopher Farah for being a snob.

Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 05:59 AM:

I thought we were still laughing at, this time, academic snobs... but I will yield to greater authority on this one, if one can be found. But I sincerely doubt it can.

aha ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 10:59 AM:

Ah, the "greater authority" decides when I laugh. I didn't laugh at either thread. Sorry.

aha ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 11:03 AM:

Electrolite is like church.

NAXT (not that there's anything wrong with that)

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 11:25 AM:

Surely, aha, you realize that a "greater authority" can mean either a more completely researched academic opinion, or (in a more authoritarian model than is presently in force anywhere in nielsenhayden.com, academia, or (supposing the current gang of right-wing extremist thugs fail to establish perfect rights-free hegemony) in America) a force-based entity of some kind.

But there is a third possibility, which is that the "higher authority" cited could be, on a liberal reading of the text, the dictates of your own personal sense of humor, your fundamental emotional and/or genetic makeup, or even, if one is inclined to take the discussion into a rather rarefied spiritual realm, the universally pan-pervasive (not quite to say omnipresent, though one could certainly go there if desired) spiritual or even divine (pseudo-)force which some have been inclined to call "God." (Others use other names; no ethnocentric prejudice is intended or should be inferred.)

Such a reading might be considered extreme, but cannot, I am persuaded, be refuted by a purely textual-analytic approach to the exegesis of Professor Darby's comment.

</goofy academic pseudointellectual bllsht> Have you never sat, trying to be polite, as an academic gives a truly nonsensical paper (the Monty Python "froth at the mouth and fall over backwards" comes to mind)? Or listened to a good paper by a person who then has to answer dorky off-topic questions? I have. I laughed. If you don't...well, to the chaconne the son is gout.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 12:58 PM:

a sound art project I heard about years ago, in which the artist recorded a sound in a particular room, then played back the room sound and recorded that, then played back *that* recording and etc., until the artist discovered the resonant frequency of the room.

Alvin Lucier, I Am Sitting In A Room.

aha ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 03:27 PM:

Now imagine a room as big as the earth, where sound will not be heard, so it is replaced by pain, and resonance comes only when it is magnified to the point where everyone can feel each other's pain.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 03:51 PM:

No thanks, I'd rather not. And I don't see the relevance.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 05:43 PM:

No, Aha. We trashed Christopher Farah for being a fake snob, a pseud, a poseur -- and, what's worse, doing it badly. Do you feel sorry for him? If so, whatever for? He recycled a batch of cheap, wheezy cliches so old, and so thoroughly exploded, that SF critics don't even joke about them any more. It was tireder and tackier and further out of date than he'd have been if he'd reviewed some current high-end TV production by denouncing television as "a vast wasteland" and "the boob tube".

He didn't even bother to update the numbers, which gives us both the latest possible date for his particular version of that formulation, and an index of how much thought he gave his remarks.

He also, in case you failed to notice it, dismissed and belittled the books Patrick and I edit, which books are also variously written, edited, produced, agented, sold, reviewed, taught, and read by many of Electrolite's readers.

Thus for Christopher Farah. Now, what you've failed to notice in this instance is Michael Berube's simple appreciation of these recurrent motifs at conferences, and Patrick's appreciation of both those motifs, and Michael Berube's take on them.

Nobody besides you decides when you laugh. Electrolite is not like church, except insofar as church is like a great many other things, and Electrolite is like a great many other things, and some elements in these sets are bound to coincide.

Now: What dog do you have in this fight, and why do you have it disguised as moral superiority?

Steff ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2004, 04:02 AM:

"I feel it necessary at this stage to remind
all participants that we are about to adjourn
for drinks at University House, and I would like
to extend an invitation particularly to our visitors from overseas who, after much spirited learning today, will be looking forward to these just rewards. "
Alternative take:
"Dear Colleagues and friends, as you are all very well aware we could continue these extremely fruitful debates until very late into the night, but I should like to remind you all in the spirit of conviviality that we are about to adjourn to UNiversity House where blablabla..."

Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2004, 01:59 PM:

And, pace Miss Mentor's Impeccible Advice for Women in Academia, the first questioner must be a man "peacocking"...

Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2004, 07:31 AM:

... I gave my first presentation at a recent conference.

It went.... well. Three questions asked, fielded two easily, and managed to make enough of an attempt at answering the third that someone asked me afterwards what I was considering for grad school.

Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2004, 09:37 AM:

Congrats, Bill! Academic conferences are actually rather fun, once you've gotten over the first one and if you don't get conference crud. I mentioned Ms. Mentor above, and her book has a valuable chapter on conferences (even if some of her advice is aimed just at women). Some of her best advice -- a paper should contain at least two of the following: New Information, Humor, or Gossip. (Ms. Mentor is channelled by Emily Toth.)

Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 07:25 AM:

Ya see, aha's response to me is what I get for assuming I'm not talking to the sarcasm-impaired.

Did anybody else really think I was setting up a higher authority straw man to favourably compare myself next to?

If so, I got a bridge to sell ya...

Eimear Ní Mhéalóid ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 01:50 PM:

We've also been here: scroll down to the second part of the entry.

Jeremy Leader finds more comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 04:15 PM:

Another one of those phony comments, this time so bland that it might be mistaken for on-topic many places.

I just had this vision of Beth popping up to ask a psuedo-relevant question while surruptitiously promoting her fine lingerie at, say, a talk about the history of Persia and its relevance to string theory.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 04:55 PM:

I suspected that, too, Jeremy, but her quoting the "I think not!" threw me.

Larry Brennan finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2004, 12:49 AM:

This thread appears to be hotlisted!