A follow-up to my last post on virtual conferences:
Over the last two to three years, the term “digital humanities” has displaced “interdisciplinarity” as a kind of new bureaucratic buzzword, a rallying cry for administrators under pressure to attract students, make an impact, and embrace the future, whatever that might be.
Anxieties are high among many of those who actually research and teach in the humanities. What will the digital do to us? And what can the digital actually do for the humanities? Does the “digital” have any substance? For film scholars, the digital poses a number of questions about the boundaries of our discipline, the future of our archives, and the ontology of our beloved objects.
In his most recent piece in the NYTimes, Stanley Fish takes up the term and offers his own skeptical position. He begins:
Michael Clayton, Vascular bundle of a fern rhizome (2010)
I have decided not to attend the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in March. My reasons are largely financial. My institution has a limited budget for research expenses and I did not receive any funding for the trip. This particular year, I can’t afford to pay entirely out of pocket. The conference has become a major expense since I moved to Scotland in 2009: $200 for the conference, $800 for the plane ticket, $500 for several nights in a hotel in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Boston, Chicago, etc.
I will miss the SCMS conference. It offers a valuable snapshot of the discipline. I learn what people are working on and what subfields are developing. I meet new colleagues and potential collaborators. And: I catch up with old friends, colleagues, and mentors. It has become a kind of lifeline to an academic and social world outside of Northeast Scotland.
There are other conferences, of course. And some outstanding ones in Film and Media Studies across the UK and continental Europe.
But my decision not to attend the SCMS conference this year has me thinking about academic conferences (esp. the large, multi-day, many-paneled, state-of-the-discipline events) and the more inclusive, accessible, and environmentally sustainable alternatives that (I hope) are on the way.