<<I noticed this blog in my prep folder, but I never posted it. Better late than never.>>
After Chicago: Some Thoughts on APA/AIA 2014
It is fair, I think, just this once, to begin a blog by discussing the weather. I hope you will forgive me the indulgence, but weather was the primary topic of conversation at this year’s combined meeting of the American Philological Association (APA) and the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). Chicago is a gorgeous city, and I write that as a New Yorker with a tremendous fondness for Manhattan. The architecture is often breaktaking, and the views of the river from many of the loftier demesnes was exquisite. Even from our not so lofty sixth floor hotel room, the view was lovely, with a towering magnificence here and a straightaway vision of Millennium Park there.
But it was cold. And I don’t mean chilly. I mean numbing, biting, frosty cold. At one point in what was meant to be a brief sojourn to see the sights, my wife and I were caught in a breeze filled with icy razors, which scoured us for a good five minutes before relenting. On the last days in Chicago, when the frighteningly named Polar Vortex made its way through the region, my tears froze to my cheeks. I don’t even know why I was crying.
Let us put the weather aside, for it was otherwise a lovely conference and a lovely city. My wife and I strolled (read: hustled) down Michigan Avenue, toured both the Art Institute and the Field Museum, ate delicious food, including Chicago’s own answer to pizza, and spent several wonderful hours with friends and colleagues. There was something particularly nice about this conference, as we travelers were all trapped in the ice palace that the Windy City became. We bonded over the weather, and spent more time in one another’s company than might have been our inclination in a warmer local. And this was good. I met more people, shook more hands, and chatted about more invigorating topics than at any prior APA/AIA meeting. It was glorious.
Less glorious was the hotel’s poor Wifi signal, especially in the rooms where the main presentations of the conference were held. For those of us who try to Twitter as much of the proceedings as we can, this proved a significant problem. Not being able to tweet my way through this year’s conference, did give me the chance to ponder the value of such work. I do not think that even the best Tweeter/Twitterer/? with the fastest fingers ever manages to convey very significant information. Twitter is not, I think, the medium for conveying even short, academic papers. It is a wonderful place to share some briefer discussion points, or to alert folks of larger conversations happening elsewhere. What I think our APA/AIA conferences really need is to determine that several panels will be recorded and then posted to the Web. I mentioned this point on Twitter soon after the conference in Chicago, and was reminded that much of the work we present at the conference is preliminary at best, and that not every presenter may want his or her research spread as wide as the Web allows. I’m not terribly supportive of such an idea, as I think that, in general, more and better communication is essential for our academic work, but I’m also unwilling to force the hesitant to participate in the all-consuming world of the Internet. That said, we could and should establish several panels, just to start, that will receive wider broadcast. I know that I find the conference’s packed schedule quite frustrating. There are always simultaneous panels that I want to see, and if at least one of those was broadcast, I would have the chance to revisit the one I missed, perhaps even during the conference itself.
Perhaps next year, while we’re in New Orleans rather than Chicago, and less consumed with conversations about the terrifically cold weather, we’ll be able to make room for vodcast and podcast talks.