A RhetNet SnapShot


Fatigued Fannies:
Do conventional conferences really help us confer?

Michael J. Salvo
25 Jan 1996

Techno-Rhetoricians have at their disposal thousands of email messages, hundreds of articles, and dozens of books which implore us to develop pedagogies that reflect egalitarian values and engaged participation. We are, by and large, convinced that we learn by doing and that learning acts are most effective when accompanied by playful acts. We transform game places (cyberspaces) not only into working places, but instead into playful spaces where work gets done, and where our play has theme and direction.

Why then when we meet together do we insist on separating our work time from our play time? Why do we travel thousands of miles (many of us -- me included -- at our own expense) only to put each other to sleep by reading at each other? Have we no better way to communicate?

Efforts have been made to make better use of our time. Inkshedding has been used successfully, but as a moment taken after delivery of a paper to spark dialogue. It is a valiant effort, but does not appear to have taken hold. Another form of technological-dialogical interaction has taken the shape of pre-posting and post-posting conference proposals and papers. A web site is designed and implemented and filled with the words of attendees. Yet, at the conference, the papers are expanded upon and read, verbatim, from printed sheets. This is wonderful for those interested but unable to attend and is a valid extension of the conference. But does it help int he exchange of ideas?

I have attended conferences in which the stated objective is to present challenging, foundation-rending research, yet the conference format is the same. How seriously can our reluctant colleagues take us when we fail to apply these wonderful modes of communication and teaching we've "invented," "discovered," or "re-discovered." How seriously should we take ourselves? How quickly we become used to a situation and accept its mores as natural.

Members of a discipline that claims Professional Communication as a subheading, Rhetoricians should and can come together to create professional dialogue, preferably multi-logue, that spreads beyond a few civil email lists. Together we should be able to post our papers on-line well before the start of conferences and come together to discuss the issues presented in those (hopefully hypertextual) documents. On-line discussion is valuable and important, but it does not replace the power of face to face exchange. Let's have a real exchange rather than the fanny-fatiguing listen-sessions we've grown used to.

I challenge this community to develop pedagogically valid and verifiably dialogic presentations in time for our trips to Milwaukee and Logan.



The subject was brought to the PRETEXT Conversations list, PTISSUES, by Cynthia Haynes:



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