Sunday, October 21, 2007

Like a science fiction convention, but with less cosplay

(Well, with slightly less cosplay....)

I spent the weekend at an academic conference - a local history seminar funded by several agencies of NYS government, so it had both the resources to bring in some really big names in the field, AND the mandate to open attendence up to the general public. Which meant that the entire audience was self-selected to be people fascinated by the topic. There actually was a bit of cosplay, which highlighted the fact that the crowd was largely made up of types familar from SF fandom.

The audience all wanted to be there and all had some personal expertise and interest in the subject - so the difference from, say, "lectures aimed at sullen undergraduates" was remarkable. The questions were generally informed and intelligent (and only occasionally did they veer off toward the questioner's own particular "King Charles' Head" hobby horse).

On the other hand, 'lectures' really are a remarkably time-inefficient method of transmitting information: please give me the equivalent stack of articles, and please give me 90% of my time back. But sometimes interesting things really do happen in the personal exchange of ideas that can happen only at a conference. It killed the entire weekend, but I can't say that it was a waste of time.

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