Sunday, 21 September 2008

It's Con-ference, It's Con-ference Time


I presented a paper at a conference in London last week. BTW, I have Business Time (Flight of the Conchords) in my head, hence the title.

Highs:
  1. Escaping my bubble (write-up) within a bubble (Oxford) to meet other, more experienced academics in my field. Even just seeing that there are breathing people behind all the articles and books is comforting.
  2. Cruising (avec iPod) to the conference each morning via Blackfriar's Bridge and Temple Gardens. Felt that elusive sense of being on my own and liking it.
  3. Learning something from the extra-curricular activities: 'how to get published' and 'how to get funding' - both vital in this crazy publish (preferably empirical or policy based research) or perish world. The Cambridge University Press representative frightened the baby scholars like me with grim statistics and a warning that theses with an 'international' dimension fare better. Fate united us in the lift later on and I told her that I had decided, after what she had said, to pack it all in, that there was no way I could tack on an international element. I am not sure if she knew I was not serious.
  4. I was going to end my presentation by saying 'Now, I welcome positive, constructive feedback' but I figured that I might sound like a hyper-sensitive, stupidly proud academic (who me? I eat unhelpful, personal attacks for breakfast!) so I didn't. And, quite surprisingly, the comments were all positive and helpful. Got to be happy about that.
  5. Receiving four emails the day after my presentation asking for further copies of my paper, suggesting potential research collaborations and future presentations. Noice.
  6. Giving out my pretty special MOO cards which have photographs symbolising my research interests on the back. Smooth.
  7. Having a 'blind' reviewer inform me that my article I submitted three months ago has been accepted into a solid journal. Yipee! Am ticking the boxes!
Lows:
  1. Craving sweets throughout the day, red wine in the evening. Not being able to resist either.
  2. The lights from the opposite building creeping through the curtain, aggravating my already jittery sleep.
  3. Giving this nervous female academic (15 years my senior) this pep talk about how women often undervalue their work and that she was entitled to be there, that she would be able to handle the feedback etc, only for her talk to then be rather weak and poorly received (gulp). I felt like a mother taking off the training wheels and sending her child into a tree. I still remember her face - eyes blinking - turning to me for help. I could not think of a question that would bail her out. It was awful, she felt bad, and the more I tried to reassure her, the more she would repeat that I would be OK because I was from Oxford. Geez.
  4. Spotting a couple of English guys huddled together after the 'how to get published' talk and asking them in a fat jolly chef kind of way if they were 'negotiating a book deal?' I hadn't picked up that they were the smug and impenetrable English type - not to be confused with the cool but polite Constant Gardener type and one of them said, 'We are actually, now sod off'. I said lightly, 'OK. I can't wait to read it'.
  5. Hearing academics whose work I admire slag off each other behind each other's backs. I just felt like saying 'Oh, please don't.' Actually, I did tell one person that I did not feel comfortable and that I was not in any place to comment. A gratuitous bitchfest felt so last century for me in my personal journey down the road of life, that winding road of life. My Head of Dept has since told me that I should not expect academics to behave any better than any one else.
  6. Post-conference fatigue. I feel like I have been to an early 90s rave or at least that's what I think I would have felt like had I been to one.
  7. Befriending someone there - a really gentle, nice guy - who is now convinced we are bosom buddies. He has emailed me three times since I returned home. Conferences are like reality TV shows: people think they have bonded more than they really have. We just walked back from the conference to the accommodation a couple of times. I think that merits an email if he is ever in Oxford, that's it.

3 comments:

Kate said...

"You know when I'm down to just my socks it's conference time, that's why they're called conference socks"...

Sounds like you hit this one out of the ballpark, J!

Conferences are super odd places, and I understand your weirdness with them. I think you've got to focus on that pro-list (you have conference Moo cards? You are so hot right now!) and remember that they're an entirely high-pressure, competitive and insecure environment.

Your thesis will be super, despite its focus on the British system. People need experts, right?

Two minutes in heaven is better than one minute in heaven...

Monkey Mind said...

Thanks sweetie. Made me laugh. Been wondering how you're going. Will check you blog now for any clues. x

And yeah, handing out Moo cards at a conference was pretty bold. Academics aren't quite ready for it...It smells of touting for business!

Kate said...

I also wanted to let you know I've passed on a small blog award to you today - thanks for always providing such lovely lovelies :)