Another conference diary

I literally crossed the sea to meet all of you again.

I go to work with good intent to do various things but just mainly end up printing my tickets to reach the ferry terminal in time. The lines in the ferry are long and I have brought a bit too much to read. I end up skimming through the introduction to a book related to my presentation and a thesis of the main organizer that I have promised to read. Alone in the streets of another city and checking into the hotel, I have a few hours in my hotel room. I also cross the university I am headed to on my way and consider for a while whether I would go there to read in the cafeteria.

I finally decide to walk to the university, which is just one block from my hotel, half an hour before time to be punctual. Barking into the room where the first lecture takes place, find two guys who speak English. They are however just operating the camera. Then to the university cafeteria to have a tea. Someone glances at me from the other table. As the drink ends and I am not sure if the place is still open, I eventually go to sit in the (quite magnificent) lobby of the university. Someone that looks susceptibly familiar as well as a Finn walks by and seems to recognize me but does not come to talk yet.

I go to the seminar room again and there are still the camera operators and no-one else. It is now what I believe to be 15 minutes to the start of the lecture albeit the real start is 15 past so I am actually 30 minutes early. Pick a seat pretty far back. Five minutes go and what seems to be the speaker walks in. I do not know him yet so I do not go introduce myself just now. Then one of my acquaintances from a conference over one year ago walks in. As far as I recall, we know each other from sharing a breakfast table and a talk for 10 minutes in the same hostel albeit there have been a few emails more recently because of this seminar and he interviewed me as part of the event with a web camera.

He walks to gently greet me and the result is what this conference is going to be like many times. Namely, I am talking to people I have literally almost just met as I if I already knew them very well. The person I mentioned earlier in this marking also walks in and takes a seat in front of me, asks who I am by my real first name. Turns out she was at my doctoral defence and a colleague of others I know in Helsinki. Then the rest of the seminar presenters arrive after sharing a cab. There are hugs in the front but I’m too far in the aback to join as there are quite a few people now in the audience. One of them, though, to whom I have written long emails over our common ideas leaves the room and enters again and as I wave my hand, crosses rows of chairs over to ask how I am.

The keynote speaker provides an excellent long presentation. Later we all head for a dinner. I can just repeat the experience I noted earlier: End up discussing with everyone like I know them and who knows maybe I do in a way. After all, we obviously share a lot, maybe it is just a sentiment of doing a similar thing and being networked. Based on this, I could strongly claim there are friendships within networks, there are needs of being in contact with someone, and there is clear respect (I notice I agree with one of the persons from the seminar all the time, all of her ideas are so well crafted and based on close actual reading of what academics meant.) As a result I too end up being I feel very different from what I am at home. For example, I am not that sure that I ever or at least that often compliment anyone, make public jokes, start chatting with strangers, and here I am doing all of that abroad and it works. To be clear there are also all the usual limitations and obstacles. To pick some examples I can think of: You cannot or at least should not try to dominate seminar discussions; other people may find you irritating at times; others may make light-hearted jokes about you in a company; if you make points that are not good and clear, no-one will think they are clever. But that’s fine if 90% of the time everything feels like it works. I am obviously not against the limitations of social life but am against that becoming your everyday life all the time.

All in all, the very nice experiences of this conference continue throughout the three days. I repeat just some for the sake of illustrating and maybe making a point: this is how academic socializing can and maybe should go, if everyone is just up to it. One, am feeling a bit guilty that I did not introduce myself to a PhD student during the first night’s dinner so I take the opportunity during the break in the seminar. Several times after this, during the coffee breaks, we find each other chatting, which is great because I am usually not very keen at going into conversations during such breaks (it often feels a bit forced which it should not because everyone is in the same situation as you are). Two, returning after the last day, one participant walks with me to a bus stop and ends up just during this 10 minute talk sharing experiences about job seeking that are most valuable at this point for me. That practically no-one tells me these things may be revealing.

Three, during the days I manage to tell what I think my work is like and about my uncertainties concerning a career. I always seem to get first a get a long pensive look and then valuable support. One could easily find this impressive. Namely, in effect, one could really claim that I am just complaining and not realizing “what the game is like”. However there is no arrogance nor avoidance of difficult issues anywhere here. Could not academic life be like that all the time?

I will now not go to the details of the content, suffice to say, I learn a lot. A field called “ecological anthropology” may relate very closely to what I am doing. Some also say that anthropology is a very open discipline that welcomes outsiders too and at least these three days confirmed that experience in every possible way.

Maybe what matters now for the purpose of this marking is what just happened then. The seminars ends at noon and my ship leaves at around 18:00. We consider some final get-together but the others need to work and I start to feel like I need to take a walk. (This is a choice I often find myself taking; I know what it’s like like not to be part of things so when I am more included, I try to work my best not to impose my company.) So one last time say goodbye to everyone with hugs.

I end up taking a pleasant and pensive walk around Tallinn where the seminar is. In Kalasadam I am so impressed by the buildings that I text the person I live with that we should really find a place and move there. Next to the railway station I visit a market place that is all what I remember such market places to be like. At the railway station I visit a big grocery store (that was not there before) to buy a soda and a bun. In the line there’s a baby that is shyly looking at me, very much like our daughter, then gets almost over-enthusiastic when I smile back at her. Certainly this is something I would not have noticed before having a family. I finally am back in the old part of Tallinn and recall how much I’ve been here with my family as a teenager. Maybe there’s some good in visiting more often.

I end my visit to a big record store and seem to enjoy being in one for the first time in many years. Over the sea I already miss the event and the people and know that as per motivation, my academic career has just gotten a one year extension.

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The unexpected

I know about the long pause in my writings. There are a couple of reasons. One is job seeking. The other is family extension. So the lots of free time I used to have is spent on other things now, including writing applications that are not always answered and in another somewhat more rewarding vein, taking care of a five-month-old toddler.

I guess a lot of my thoughts are still with making a dissertation and how that changes things or not. At the same time a compilation of lists of “what making a thesis taught you” are doubtless very common and I know already went through this thing in this blog a couple of months ago. However, maybe there is a reason for an update, now that the wishes I had of certainly getting an extension have not been fulfilled.

I am going to divide this report to two different postings. The first is the unexpected and I would say some of it disdainful: what I did not expect that thesis making would be? The second part is about the good things and is written as a conference diary. With all the things going on, I think emphasizing how good conferences can be serves some very important purposes.

First things first. What surprises a thesis maker when the thesis is finished and thinking about it in the aftermath?

I should have known but did not expect the amount and extent of the competition. Namely I sort of knew the funding is competitive as are academic positions, but not that it is only the starting point. To joke but not too much, almost anything that can be turned into a competition is also going to be turned into competition. These are just a few examples based on experiences: you compete about funding but after getting the funding you also compete about getting into projects and collaborations. A project meeting could not be so much a meeting at all but a competition about whose ideas are listened to. When desks and chairs are distributed there are official rules but these too are only the starting point. In the end what seems to matter is who can make themselves to be a member of the community. Those who are not willing to compete will get a desk that no-one else wants to have, even when they are entitled to one. It is very petty as someone remarked well (in a conference of course, it is not likely anyone would admit this much in a work place). If then you are the kind of person that feels very confident and self-aware – and can express yourself like that too – then you are going to have an advantage. And why should this be the case? I believe it is because the resources are always scarcer than the actors. People have to compete whether they like it or not and some are better and less worried about those things. I am also strongly starting to believe that many a research project could be practiced in fairly loose international networks, but good luck with that idea and getting a job.

I did not expect how many people I lost touch with over the years. Back as a student with “good ideas” I used to go to long lunches and coffee with some 3-4 people almost all the time for years. We talked and improved the world as one says, knowing especially well what sociology should be like in the best possible world. I was somehow  very much expecting to continue in these same “networks” and maybe even collaborate in them. That just did not happen. The contacts were almost just lost immediately after I started to make a PhD, the phone calls ceased, people went on with their own things. What happened instead was that one builds new networks. It works well too and I continue to be amazed by it (see next post), but it is strange to know so little about people near you.

Related to that I did not expect how lonely the work would be. Again this is something you sort of know about and joke about: about the researcher in the chambers. But working non-stop for 14 hours a day without talking to anyone for months is the reality that maybe has to be experienced to be really be appreciated. There is some good in this kind of working practice: you get to concentrate a lot to a single thing. But there is more bad than good I think. Vonnegut whose “Last Interview” book I read over the holidays said nicely that literature should be about something else than just literature: it is experiences with other things like science and technology (as his own example shows) that fuels literary works. Ditto for sociology: it should be about something else than just about sociology, a sociologist should know about something else substantial than just the sociological canon. I would indeed strongly suggest it is the real lived experiences with other people and professionals that give you new ideas academically. With no input like that, who knows where your ideas will end up to.

I did not really expect to start to feel old eventually. As an outsider, it seems like people inside the academia hardly age at all, staying in touch with the kinds of ideas that animated them at 23. But within the place, one’s age still does matter and that is made rather apparent in many ways. Indeed this could also be accentuated by today’s competitive environments. In some fields, a 35-year-old like me should have enough publications to almost be a professor. If you make a PhD before 30 then that is going to help a lot. To be clear there are ways around these limitations but it gets more difficult as you age. I feel one has to rely on luck and opportunity more than resources. All in all, however, the aging part still worries me quite a little and seems to do less the more years pass. Maybe one reason is that I seem to notice that at around 35, many people I know have started considering a new career. I do not fortunately really have that worry at least in my thoughts (employment is another matter). If possibilities existed, I would be very glad to continue my research when I am 55 or something. And true you notice that new PhD students are continuously younger than you are: compared to a PhD at 35, a candidate at 25 is rather close to being almost a student. But on the other hand, conferences are a nice way of experiencing your age differently maybe because conferences are centered around a theme and not a work place or a community that needs to define who can be included.

I did not expect what complete academic freedom coupled with a lot of time would do to you or for you. For the last year I have had the benefit of not working for anyone but myself. For the last six years I have at times had my supervisors and bosses but they have generally given quite a little oversight to my work, comparatively speaking. My working hours have never been fixed nor have there been many proper deadlines. This is kind of nice but also creates unforeseen behavior maybe simply because you cannot always force yourself to work. I notice for many years I started doing a lot of things I had not been doing as a student because back then I was so focused to have a degree fast enough. But as a PhD candidate, I started sports and exercising even for hours at a time, going to a shopping mall, biking around, buying and playing games, going to movies, visiting flea markets, and libraries plus book shops. Perhaps I was not quite as efficient and fast as before. Anyway a PhD is a long project and maybe all of this was necessary to relieve stress or something. In the aftermath, maybe that time could have been spent better to improve my career, but the fact remains: when no-one practically tells you exactly what to do, you are also not told what not to do.

Finally, I did not expect that your relations with other people do not necessarily deepen over time. Contrary to the advice that it takes time and effort to get to know people, I feel that you meet people once and then in the first or the second meeting you know what it’s going to be like for the rest of your knowing each other. If you get along great together, then a coincidence of sharing a breakfast table in a conference might make you a contact that you think about all the time, more than about your close friends in many ways. If you have a bad start with someone in a seminar – if they look down upon you, for example – then expect this will endure for the rest of your career. That might be a trait of academic networking. But are the academic networks “real” relations with other people? Considering that I have received Christmas wishes and a birthday card, or considering that I have spoken with people I met at conferences non-stop for hours and kept having something to say, I think they are as real as relations as one has with relatives and friends. The only thing is that they are so focused – or not – that they seem to be almost fixed to their place from the start.

Two conferences

(EDIT: The former version of this post was missing a concrete recommendation that I have added to the end.)

I just finished visiting a major conference yesterday mostly in the capacity of a session organizer. Doubtless this the most I have ever worked for any conference event: to let you into the numbers a bit there has been about one year of preparations, months of promoting, selection and reading of abstracts and papers, and in the event, many chairings and commentings. As is usual in a conference (I always try to talk a lot) I met a number of people and discussed in the sessions plus shared emails. At the same time, I do not think I got to know that many new persons outside of the sessions and shared a few dinners and a bar trip with my good colleagues but ended up on my own after the event. It is somehow a peculiar combination and an unpredictable one but one that people who organize such events seem to know about: you both end up knowing about almost everyone but then “networking” or even discussing with fewer. Yesterday when I was walking alone I tried to summarize my experience of two kinds of ways of experiencing a conference.

The first way is what I did before I became engaged as a research network organizer and is what I still do at most other conferences. This is you arrive to a city in another country, usually know only a few people before hand, stand around in the first coffee breaks and hope to talk to someone by accident or by intent, make comments and start talking to presenters and other in the sessions, usually then start to get to know some other people better, attend to the conference dinner, continue to some bars, and invite or be invited to a dinner with some of the people you have met. It is very enjoyable in almost all the cases. The duty part, that you can give a lot of attention and efforts, is your presentation and its slides. In any case that will be over in 20 minutes. Afterwards you chat with other people about how good (or maybe more often whether it was not) your session and the whole event was and hopefully manage to turn your stay in some magnificent location into a party. After partying until 4 am you stumble to your plane the next morning hung over and regretful of some of the things you might have said or done. If you are lucky you receive a few emails after (from all the tens that were doubtless discussed), if you are very fortunate, you could have made a new friend or two.

However, this “networking” kind of a conference is not the only way to experience one. Here is what I did this time. In addition to the preparations I mentioned above, we sat in every session of my own network and tried to be most attentive we could to the presentations. This means about 35 presentations each of 20 minutes over four days, making notes in every one, making comments in many, and chairing more than once. I do not think if people who just attend a conference think about it that often (I would say I do not), but I would say that almost nothing of a good active conference session happens by accident. Conference sessions are prepared and the papers are screened meticulously before hand. Research networks take trouble to find social, polite, and energetic people as chairs to stimulate discussions. And if you receive a lot of comments as a presenter, it is not a secret that this is almost certainly because those active in a network are in the audience and being attentive for the purpose of keeping up a conversation. These things then do not happen automatically (the lack of attention to these details is why many conference sessions end up failing or even canceled without notice, in my humble opinion). They happen because rather than just visiting a conference and giving a paper like most do someone dedicates weeks or months of their free time to be an organizer.

Of course as an organizer you also typically get to do other things than sessions, like go eat out and maybe have a few beers with the other organizers. But that is usually during one night since why would you go out with the same persons every time? You certainly end up talking a lot with people in the audience and in your sessions, but my experience is that the interactions are short as people often take you as kind of a conference employee (even though you are not paid anything, in fact, you pay to do this work just like people pay to attend the conference to present and to party). For other dinners and bar rounds, at least in this conference’s case, you rarely end up being invited maybe because getting engaged to a large event requires that you attend to the conference more than its organizing.

Having said that, to be clear I do think organizing a conference is very valuable for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that there would not be conferences without people who make them, both the participant and the organizers. The second is equity. I believe being an academic involves many random things that you cannot altogether influence in your own university, like the people you work with and who supervise you; maybe, in the bad case, you could have just ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I know this happens to many people based on discussions. That is why receiving comments, or more simply being encouraged, can be crucial to people and getting their theses and articles finished. I have heard this enough times from other people and even somewhat experienced it myself to think it is true. I think the aim here is to increase the diversity of research by encouraging topics that might not be supported enough other wise. Thirdly organizing can offer you merit in some way, although I also think this is quite limited. It is not like chairing a session will become a major part of your cv. What I do enjoy very much, though, is co-organizing with international people and meeting them personally. It is fair to say that these people become your friends and your work mates in a very nice way. Think about having a job where you are allowed to travel all over the world and work intensively with people from around Europe and elsewhere. I do not think many such works exist at least before meticulous seeking and applying, but being a conference organizer can be a way to achieve this in just a few years.

For me personally, I have now finished my thesis and I do not know what the future holds. I think with all my duties and having a finished thesis for the first time, I expected that this conference would be all different than others. In the end I have just ended up working a lot, as was expected. The conference dinner was similar as they have always been; I still find the best strategy is to visit one briefly and go someplace else in a nice company. I did manage to go to a bar with good friend of mine, so it was a nice evening; but other wise, in many ways I think this has been one of the most busy but the least social conference I have experienced so far. So when I finally catch sleep alone in my room at about 4 am Saturday night some conference goers I do not know are having a loud after-party under my window in the university accommodation that I took (I thought I would meet more people here and right it was). This difference between the conference goers fun (that I like to think I had maybe in part helped to establish) and my attempt just to have a rest after hard work helped me think about my attitude to academic networking in a new light.

I was reminded that I think Manuel Castells wrote about how in a network society, there are those who get benefit from the networks and then there are those who are just supposed to maintain the networks. I think there is something true to this, even though I must emphasize how rewarding it often is to maintain a research network and how many interesting things that has brought me. But still, at the same time, it could be that this conference has managed to turn my head a bit regarding academic work, and it is very good that it did. Of course one should not expect everything is fun all the time (an attitude that fails your expectations all the time), but I do expect that things in your life have some good trajectory. I always thought this trajectory was the more you publish etc. the more you can do at a conference. Ending up alone on a Saturday night next to a noisy party outside shows this is not always automatically the case.

I am raising this post mainly because in the academic life conferences like this are part of your work just as much as writing and publishing. How you experience a conference then is not something insignificant, nor are conferences just random acts of traveling nor tourism. Even if we are just making theses or recent PhD’s, what we do has to have value just as the work of others and it is certainly not just something of a resource to other people so they can do their “networking”. My network friends whose company I enjoy so much have always been clear about the role of my support and I appreciate it a lot. If it is so difficult to feel appreciated otherwise for all the hard work, I am alas not yet certain what is the motivation and the rationale  to continue these academic routes.

EDIT: To be more constructive, I end this post with a few suggestions. This is because I do not want to complain rather than think about how organizers could be perhaps rewarded for all their hard work. The first is on the general level. Major conferences have a budget and they could give some small reward to the chairs of sessions and to board members of research networks and committees. I know this is possible because many conferences precisely do this for PhD workshops: if you attend a PhD workshop, you are often given something back from your flight ticket as well as a free registration. In these times of austerity even minor reductions in the extremely high conference fees of organizers would be an excellent thing — and an incentive to participate more for example from debt-ridden countries. If reductions are not practical for the number of persons which may be the case, then another idea also stems from PhD workshops: why not have all board members and chairs of research networks or councils meet in a common networking event with some drinks? Personally I would have loved to see who else is chairing in other networks, I suppose I know many of them already, so that would have made the event less fragmented.

I do understand that changes like these are not easy to “lobby” to an entire conference that has its own decision making rules that change slowly. I then turn to another suggestion, which is on the level of research committees or networks. In my case, at least, these bodies have a small budget of a few hundred euros, but still it is something to start with. Could that provide some kind of help and reward to the chairs of sessions and to the board members that we are practically asking to participate in each session that a network/other organizes? For these budget sums we are probably not talking about about reductions in fees or reimbursements from traveling, but maybe a common dinner or rather a buffet and wine would be feasible.  Or just give something to these people, a book or maybe even some coffee to be had in the long sessions.

From my doing a lot of volunteering, I find that people are generally very eager to help others as long as they get something out of it, like interesting new experiences with others or feeling of being a part of a larger community. These do not come automatically just as a good session does not. If you are just asking people to commit all of their time and then leave them tired to do their own business or return home, it does not really feel just. Change that to some fun activity together and appreciation of their help and the situation could be very different.

Back in the UK

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It really, properly dawns to me that I am in the UK again when I turn on the TV in the morning in my hotel room and the programme is BBC news. This makes me feel comfortable and at home in a manner that I cannot really explain at all.

I have been living in the UK before with a Socrates exchange programme and then going there for a few days within some temporary research projects. This time I am invited to talk to a workshop so a person welcomes me at an airport. I will write about the academic side in this blog and elsewhere later. All in all, I had an excellent time attending and presenting and followups are planned already.

There is something that I understand and appreciate but always find difficult to believe about being international. This is that somewhere there are people who have got so similar interests that you can start discussing right away in the vein of already knowing each other. This has happened to me many times — indeed, almost enough times to hamper any negative social experiences of being an academic. During this UK visit, for example, you just talk and almost know what the other person is going to say, in a style of completing each others’ sentences. I am thinking maybe this is ultimately because we have read so many similar books (some of whose authors are present).

Similarly, the one person I met in Geneva a couple of years ago, from the first time we talked and had lunch when it was raining bucketfuls and I was worried whether I could order as I do not know much French, I somehow sensed that we would still be in touch two years afterwards which has been the case so far. This is not even directly related to our research topics — they are very different — but just similar expectations I suppose.

Almost nothing about my upbringing in a small town would have predicted these social incidents (although something about traveling a lot with my parents when I was young would have). Indeed, at a slightly larger town I live in now in Finland, you can stay at a distance to some people who are close to you — and who you could see almost every day — for years or even for decades. It inevitably makes me wish I lived somewhere there rather than here even though I love it in Helsinki. It is just that my day-to-day life would be easier somewhere else.

I do not know why this is but I really enjoy talking to people I do not know yet when my research is concerned. In many other contexts, talking makes me more uncomfortable. For example, we attend to this semi-voluntary parenting session in Helsinki with many other people and I do not know how I could start networking with the other coming parents (which is however what these sessions really are for, most of all, as they say at the beginning).  Perhaps it is the stakes that is of import: in conferences, if someone does not want to talk to me, it is legitimate to end the discussion and go do something else. On the other hand, you cannot walk away from people you see every day without repercussions.

Back in the UK, I have a short walk by myself in the city center prior to the workshop’s start, after taking a very comfortable breakfast in my hotel. I cross a river, the first building I encounter is a public pool, and I see someone swimming a lap. It is a nice city with the typical mix of buildings from different ages as I also recall from the south west UK. The weather is almost freezing and very moist. Here are some photographs from the city and another, Newcastle, that I see before my plane leaves:

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Blogging and travel as a choice

For a long while I have wanted to write a post in defence of blogging and traveling; here it goes.

When I was finishing my Master’s studies and thesis about five  years ago, I was neither offered a position in a research group nor asked to continue my thesis to a dissertation (albeit people thought it was good). I was not also asked to continue my then job. So, instead,  I started taking student money again and embarked on an Socrates/Erasmus exchange in the UK.

During that time, I really started to maintain my blog regularly. And as I was new to Devon where I lived, I traveled there and also in Europe. And wrote my experiences and sent photos to the blog.

I would host the blog myself as after all, I’d worked over five years as a computer programmer for a university, so I figured I could do it.

This blogging and its maintenance, traveling, talking to new people, meeting them again, writing long emails, attending every seminar I could, volunteering work, and the generic feeling that I am supposed to be international may not seem much when contrasted with someone who gets a permanent position, or any position at all at the level of their degree, after finishing at university. But I would claim it still has had a major impact on what I do nowadays.

Soon I noticed that while I may be generally shy, there was something very natural to talking to other people abroad.

Hence, when I volunteered in France with people seven years younger than me, I had become friends with almost everyone in a few nights.

And when I went to my third international conference in 2009, the convener of the session whom I never met before shook my hand really politely and then commented on my presentation. After staying in touch, we’ve now been managing an international research network together for many years.

It may be revealing that what I do for this network is, one,co-organization of international conferences and two, the maintaining of a blog and a newsletter.

I don’t claim this is a living (it is volunteer work), but it as meaningful and as motivating as anything I have done. Setting up websites is great when you see the community benefits; and it is always a privilege to exchange emails with a talented person you never met, maybe from a country you’ve never been to, perhaps to edit their text or such.

I have to say I could be  worried by my become of a Master (EDIT: in social sciences, not engineering), as clearly, it narrowed my options (to some, I was no longer “one of them” as an engineer).

I miss the days of working as an engineer and all the friends with whom I lost touch, but I also think this more recent international activity is engaging on many levels.

I don’t know what people think that traveling around and keeping a blog can do for you or to you. To me, it has given new collaborations and even friends, some of the most interesting and funniest conversations I have had, a sense of being useful to and helping other people and your community, countless dinners in glorious sceneries, drinking in a company that you genuinely feel welcome to, meetings that lasted for hours and kept interesting , christmas wishes, a birthday wish, and a chance to think about many people I met almost every day.

I associate lot of my traveling in 2006 with music I was listening to.  Hence often when I play Ultravox I recall my lonely wandering in Vienna in 2006 with my headphones on and homesick to Helsinki (which I had not seen in months) and how that period really made an impact no matter how little I planned it to have one.

Post-Ankara

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Where will I begin to write about Ankara and Turkey? The friendliness and all the helpful people, the heat, the skyscrapers, the university, the new ideas, the lively streets, the small buses where one travels and passes the fare forward, the food? Somehow there is even too much to tell. But I will stay to the conference for now.

Since Geneva one year ago one thing seems to be true: conferences are getting better both academically and socially. What seemed to work in particular was:

  • Making comments to presentations, and talking to people during the breaks.
  • The final night out, when the tensions to present oneself are gone and everyone is just relaxed. I really like the dinners or tours one catches right after the conference.
  • Being in contact with someone before a conference and then continuing this discussion during it.

When they do work, conferences can be an excellent venue for discussing with other researchers and students, getting to know academic networks, and enjoying great cities in a good company. I have now made a number of friends in conferences. All in all, if the conferences go on like this — and why should they not — I would have no objections at all to staying in the academic circles.

So after the self-seeking, it looks like things are more planned for the next years.

Certainly I have not enjoyed every conference I went to. But maybe — in afterthought — I was really not even always doing the right things. For one, conference dinners surely can be official and it can be challenging to discuss with new people. And sometimes one “engages” in another official activity, like a tour, and finds that no-one really has a chance to talk to you because of the way in which that activity is structured.

Now I will try to have some rest and go to the gym in the morning (which I hit today after they closed and it is Friday; I feel embarrassed and just left soon although they would have let me work out alone!)

Ankara conference

I will have to postpone to write about the trip to Russia… As I am about to stop my vacation for a week and leave to a a conference in Turkey. My first time in Turkey, and the first at a planners meeting as well.

The content looks promising. Two tracks about risk and disaster, totaling four days. It is more than I have seen in sum so far and I think it will be well worth following to grasp this field that is not very popular where I come from (as far as I know). And, in addition, Ulrich Beck, a social theorist who I refer to in my thesis and whom I plan to mention in my presentation, has a speech albeit delivered for him. I guess I will still not have seen Beck in person. 🙂

I have my own paper presentation and am moderating one other session. I guess I will not know a lot of people before excluding one colleague from my networks. I will try to report here about this event at least the best I can. I am certainly not bringing my laptop or my iPod: surely these are the most taxing and demanding artifacts to travel with. 😉

Look forward to the traveling there. I am staying at a hostel that some sites claim is women’s only — not mentioned on the site where I reserved. In fact, my reservation says I live in a male dorm…