ReReRe:CCCC-ing, part 2 (Rethinking the CCCCs as an electronic/virtual conference)

Here’s the second (of three or four?) idea for a CCCCs proposal for “The Remix: Revisit, Rethink, Revise, Renew.” I’m just throwing stuff against the wall here to see if anything sticks, but about a title along the lines of this: “Online Presentations: Rethinking the CCCCs Program.” I brought this up a couple weeks ago in talking about Dan Anderson’s CCCCs presentation/video. Given that it’s possible– even easy– to record a presentation as a podcast or videocast that a) can be discussed online, and b) can exist pretty much forever as a document to reference/cite/link to, what’s the point of in-person/face-to-face conference presentations?

I thought about this again tonight as I came across the CHE article, “Economic Downturn Limits Conference Travel.” A couple of paragraphs:

Attendance is down at many academic and professional conferences in higher education this year, and next year’s numbers are expected to be far worse, as campus budgets take further beatings. With many colleges limiting travel to professors or administrators who are speaking at events they’re attending, will anyone be left in the audience?

and…

It is difficult to say how much of a hit travel is taking, especially because some professors are still able to secure outside grants to cover trips to meetings. But travel budgets have been one of the first things cut on many campuses.

The University of California says it has reduced its travel costs by about 30 percent compared with last year, according to a report to the Board of Regents this month. The university has not banned travel, but it is forcing staff and faculty members to make a case for every trip.

The “outside travel grants” I’ve been able to secure over the years come from the Visa or Master Card foundations. Actually, I think I am still paying off some of the conferences I went to as a PhD student.

I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be any “real time” CCCCs. A lot of the meetings that happen there would be tough to hold online, there are some presentations that would be tough to pull off online, and it’s fun to get away to the conference experience. But I think a pretty compelling argument could be made that a lot of the conference experience could be replicated online. Take the classic conference presentation CV entry, for example. I’ve never attended a conference where I didn’t give a presentation (why I wasn’t in SF this past year), and often enough, my presentations have been so poorly attended to be a bit of a waste of time.

Sure, it’s great to attend a “big time” panel with an invigorated and large audience. But given that most presentation audiences are small (out of about 30 or so presentations, I think I’ve had more than 20 people show up to less than 10 of the panels I’ve been on, though I have had 3 or 4 presentations with well over 100), is it really worth it? Couldn’t we all save a lot of money, travel resources, time away from family/friends/work/students/etc., greenhouse gases, and lord knows what else if we just made some simple videos and had online discussions?

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