Re: to read or not to read...

Marcy Bauman (
Wed, 26 Mar 1997 08:30:23 -0600

Oh, don't even get me going about the word "situate" . . . briefly, my
take on it is that knowing your subject position is a bit like, um,
seeing your backside: The view you get is always partial and delivered
by a mirror. You don't see it the way others do. So when I hear someone
situate themselves -- or call for others to situate themselves -- I
wonder what aspects of the situation they _don't_ see.

In any event, Cynthia, let me add my thanks to others'. Your responses
have provoked me to think and I'd have liked to have written back at a
number of points, but time wouldn't permit. Let me just take up another
of your questions, which was, How are new technologies changing what we
do at conferences? (or something like that: Without the text in front
of me, I only have what I _remember_ you saying.)

Seems to me that the web, in particular, is making possible the wide
distribution of the sorts of texts that might once have been conference
presentations. Before, if I had a text I wanted lots of people to see, I
either had to read it at a conference or get it published in a journal.
Nowadays, though, I can post that text on my web page and invite people
to respond there. (<shameless plug>I have one, in fact: it's at</shameless plug>) I see
this happening more and more, particularly among people on the Distance
Ed lists to which I belong. And I think it's a Good Thing; if two of the
points of doing conference presentations is to get ideas out and
circulating and to test them in a wider arena, then personal web
publication is a better way to accomplish those goals than conference

Increasingly, then, I think we're going to have to ask ourselves, what
are conferences for? My answer? They're for having lunch and dinner
-- and breakfast -- with old friends. I'm being partly flip here, but only
partly: Half the energy of the C's, for me, comes from knowing that
nearly _everyone_ I know will be there and that I'll probably get to see
and talk to people from whom I always get new ideas and perspectives.
After a good conversation with the people I respect, my mind is cranking
far harder than it is after _any_ of the presentations, no matter how
good they are. And increasingly, I go to sessions to get an overview or
perspective on topics about which I know next to nothing, rather than
going to sessions to hear the most current thinking in an area with which
I'm already familiar.

In short, I think the function of conferences is changing. Myself, I'd
like to see us actively engage in finding new models for conferences;
given that the internet is changing the way we do our work, we need to
find ways for conferences to supplement what we can better do online.
They're not the same beasties they used to be. Well, they ought not to
be, anyway.


Marcy Bauman
Writing Program, University of Michigan-Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Rd, Dearborn, MI 48128
fax: 313-593-5552



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