In Media Res
In Media Res
Conferencing is a crucial part of academic life. Attending conferences is how one forges connexions with other scholars, meets new people when they show up in the audience for one's presentations, puts off doing "tangible" work like writing and grading in a legitimate manner (you are, after all, "working" -- even if the labor involves the maintenance of social ties that are often mediated by food and alcohol), and establishes a professional reputation as a willing interlocutor and/or nice person to hang out with. [These last two can be critical at the moment of a job search, since getting an academic job is also a matter of joining a community of discourse -- and one usually does not want to hire assholes with whom one will then have to out up on a daily basis for years to come.]
This weekend I went to the Midwest Political Science Association conference, which was an incursion into a foreign country for me. MPSA is quantoid heaven, with the overwhelming majority of the panels consisting of papers in which someone presents the results of their having run complex statistical tests on a variety of data-sets. In other words, not the kind of work that I do at all, and not the kind of work that I find particularly interesting or insightful. I was on a panel called "questioning the validity of the natural science model" in which a number of us showed up to critique the whole enterprise that many of the rest of the conference participants were engaged in; they responded by largely not showing up, and we had a small roomful of choir-members to which to preach (together with one gentleman who seemed overly concerned with the employability of students trained in political philosophy and the philosophy of social science -- someone with the wrong view of what a college education is all about, I fear). But it was probably important to show the flag, as it were, regardless of its immediate practical effects.
What this conference cost me:
airfare, Southwest Airlines, BWI-Chicago and back again: $191.70
hotel, one evening at Hotel Allegro (featuring free in-room wireless 'Net access!), courtesy priceline.com (thanks, Ido): $80
train fare to/from Chicago Midway Airport: $3.50
breakfast @ hotel: $15.42
beers after panel: $16
dinner with Elven Archer #37, which I paid for because he's still a grad student and I at least draw a salary: $53.62
hot dog and fries in airport: $7.56
parking at BWI, because I was late getting to the airport on Saturday morning and had to park in the Hourly lot: $60 (!)
total financial cost: $427.80
(I should be able to get most of this covered, although it will use up the rest of my university resources for the year)
Other costs include taking time to write a paper during much of the month of April, and thus putting myself in a large grading hole that I now desperately need to claw my way out of. Plus the mental anguish of trying to get some inchoate thoughts about methodology down on paper, a process which has only increased my awareness of how poorly trained people in our field are for dealing with basic philosophical issues. And the lack of sleep associated with the writing process.
Benefits of the conference:
dinner with Elven Archer #37
good discussion with panelists and two members of audience after panel over beer
forcing myself to get some inchoate thoughts about methodology down on paper, and maybe making them less inchoate
enhanced realization that I am really not an "interpretivist" or entirely on board with "science studies" as a research practice (more on that in a future entry, I think)
Was it worth it? Beats me.
Typing this with my computer at an angle while crammed into a Southwest Airlines seat is not fun, so I'll stop there for now.
[Posted with ecto]