Sunday, January 15, 2012

In the Middle: The Best MLA is the One I Didn't Attend: Tweeting the Conference


JJ Cohen writes,

Because I'm on fellowship leave, and because I'm committed to an extraordinary amount of travel in the semester ahead, I didn't attend the MLA conference in Seattle.

I followed the event at a distance through friends on FB and the occasional text message or phone chat. I know a few people who are on the job market, and a delegation of GW English faculty were conducting interviews for our Romanticist position. And maybe that says it: the MLA convention is easy shorthand for the US academic hiring process in literature, since in hotel rooms at that conference most of the interviewing is undertaken.

This year, though, I also experienced the unfolding of the meeting via Twitter.

In the Middle: The Best MLA is the One I Didn't Attend: Tweeting the Conference

Same here and we're not alone. Lee Skallerup tweeted and Storified MLA12 and  AHA2012 without attending either. Brian Croxall tweeted both but attending just MLA12. Haystackers in Seattle and Chicago kept the back channels busy. Later, John A Casey Jr, who presented at AHA, posted thoughts on the current conference system, its frustrations, high costs and possible changes:

Yet another way that non-elite faculty are prevented from full participation in the discipline they help sustain.

Among the many changes that I hope will take place as the discipline of English is forced to evolve or disappear is a reexamination of the annual convention model....changes are all desperately needed.  Maybe regional conferences affiliated with national ones could pick up the slack.  Or perhaps a lot of the work needed could be done online.

In any event, if we want all the members of the profession to have a say in its future, we need something better than the traditional annual convention.  The premium for attendance is too steep.

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