Reviewing CW2K: Subtext: Corporate Sponsorship

Emanating from nearly every computer screen not being used at the CW2K conference were images of various corporate sponsors-Pearson, Allyn & Bacon, Prentice Hall-each name trading places with each other in a nearly hypnotic sequence. And soon the conference Web site itself was bedecked with logos of publishers and advertisements for those who had leant support.

On one hand, I couldn't help but admire the use of digital space; corporate ads as screen savers meant that you were sure to see the names of textbook companies, whose representatives are often kind, considerate, and invested in our community; indeed, I had a good time talking to several textbook reps about their companies' products, and I know they are willing to listen to our concerns and engage our interests.

At the same time, though, that other hand comes up to shield my eyes from ubiquitous advertisement, or to scratch my head while thinking about the nature of these companies' "investment" in the C&W community. I don't want to be paranoid, particularly of people who have been so friendly; and indeed, some of us have contributed our time and talent-and have economically profited-from our association with textbook companies. But I couldn't help but feel that the conference space, like so much of cyberspace, was yielding ground to commercial interests. And, having seen in the past how an interest in profit can short-change pedagogy, I was just the teeniest bit uneasy. So while I would not throw the money changers out of the temple, I would want to talk about what their increasingly visible presence means.

For instance, this might be an opportunity to consider what good collaboration between academics and corporations might mean. For example, I liked the fact that Chapbooks.com did the program and we could see what they do, but I also thought the lack of page headers with conference days and session indicators made the program a bit confusing to read. Further, I don't know how much corporate sponsorship brought in, but I would suspect the superb tech in all sessions was part of what conference goers got from the corporate hustle. Regardless, I am hopeful that there is a defensible nexus of "biz" and "ed" at conferences, so we might start thinking about what that means, as well as if this conference's nexus was a bit much.

Sounds like a panel discussion for next year ....

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