Monday, 10 September 2007

A Meeting of Minds

I'm off to a conference today, sitting here on the train as we wait to depart. As per usual, it's not the direct train that I was going to take (that was cancelled) so instead I have to go to Manchester and get a connection there. A bit of an inconvenience, but stoic that I am I will bear it.

Conferences are strange animals: I'm not sure what the public perception of them might be, but when I first went to one I expected it to be a lot of very clever, highly cultured and socially sophisticated people sitting and listening to (and understanding!) other extremely clever people. Of course, this illusion was well and truly shattered within minutes of arriving at my first conference. Sure, people there might be clever, and some of them might be cultured and sophisticated (and some of those are very keen that you should be aware of that), but by and large they're just regular people.

The biggest misconception (I think) is that people sit there at conferences and take in everything that is being said. I think that that is rare, unless you have been an academic in your field for many years. It's still good to go, because as baffling as conference talks can be they are easier to digest than reading a paper, but still I generally find that I just get a general impression of the topic rather than any detailed knowledge. I signed up for this conference before I saw the schedule. As a result I think I can safely say that there will not be many talks that I will take understand a great deal about - but still I hope that I'll get something from them. And besides, conferences are great for "networking" and "getting your face known," and of course for catching up with people.

I'll write in the next few days from the conference I hope; the train is well on its way, and I'm going to sign off and do some Brain Training on my DS, lest I arrive in Sheffield with dulled wits.

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