The format of our upcoming conference is unusual for anthropology: instead of the usual, 15- to 20-minute paper in a panel, with multiple parallel panels, we’re opting for very short presentations to the whole assembled conference. I’ll try to explain the logic, and my previous experience with speed presentations.
So often at conferences, the focus is on research that has already been conducted. It’s done and dusted, and the author reads a pre-publication version of a future article. In fact, sometimes the audience comes to feel that the presentation is even further along, that the published version is either in press somewhere or mostly finished. This can give many conference presentations a kind of maturity, but at the cost of discussion; when people do get to talk or ask questions, they may have the impression that they are talking to hear themselves speak. The author’s work is mostly done, and any question about research methods is too late.
In speed presentations, however, we’re encouraging people to present research ideas, works in the early stages of development, and first passes of ideas. Because the format is shorter, the research can still be in progress or even in proposal stages. This allows discussions to be much more productive; like the roundtable on research methods, we’re hoping that this will spark discussion of how to get at difficult questions, techniques for eliciting data, and hybrid methodologies that combine strengths from different fields.
Because neuroanthropology is a nascent field, this sort of collective brainstorming session, with presentation as much introductions, provocations, and ice-breakers for future exchange, seemed to us to make the most sense. So if you’re considering it, don’t hesitate to bring your half-baked ideas, your unrealized research ambitions, and your works in progress. This is exactly the sort of material that will benefit most from a forward-looking, future-oriented conference like The Encultured Brain.
In addition, at some conferences, you feel like you’re competing against other sessions. Someone you’d like to see present is talking at the same time your panel is scheduled; hell, you’d even skip your own talk if you could, so how can you expect to have a big audience? That won’t be an issue here. We’ve been very careful to invite some of the most generous, congenial, and free-thinking colleagues we could find, so we’re going to try hard to put everyone on equal footing. For at least five minutes, you’ll have everyone’s complete attention.
After your presentation, everyone will have pre-printed slips to respond to your work, so that they can’t drop you a note, pass on their cards if they want to get in touch, suggest a technique or a reading you might not know of, or otherwise give you some feedback. In the breaks, with food and drink to put us all in a better mood, you’ll have a chance to chase down that future collaborator who just inspired you with their presentation. And if someone’s presenting something you’re not interested in, you can relax — it’s going to be over quick.
The format is sort of like speed-dating for research exchange. It will help us to see what is out there, who’s doing what sort of work, to swap ideas, ask each other for assistance, and try to set up some future collaboration. So if you’re thinking about joining us, but you don’t think you’re quite ready to present at the American Anthropological Association or the Society for Psychological Anthropology or the Cognitive Science Society, then this conference is definitely the place to help bring your work closer to realization.