Me and my bad attitude

I just got out of my panel at a conference in Philadelphia. I presented part of my chapter-in-progress, "Why Zines Matter: The Workings of Visual and Material Culture in Grrrl Zines." I approached this conference the way you're supposed to: I brought something that I'm still working through, that I have questions on. I wanted feedback--is this approach valid? What are the theoretical weak spots?

Two people attended our session. Two. One of them didn't show up until after I presented. I got one question.

The good attitude part of my brain says, "Now, now--the work you did getting ready for the conference is still useful for your book. And think of all the interesting things you've learned from other panels this weekend! And isn't Philadelphia a beautiful city? And hasn't it been nice to be in a hotel room, and to have so much quiet time to think and feel like an academic."

That good attitude voice is annoying as hell. Of course all that is true, but it feels a bit pointless to have come all the way here and have gotten no useful feedback about my book, which was the main reason for coming.

It's funny--as a graduate student, I would have been relieved at the poor attendance. I would have felt like, "Hey, I got all the credit for presenting at a conference, but it wasn't scary! No questions that I don't know the answers to! Let's go have dinner!" So I guess it's good that I can see that I've progressed in my career. I want hard questions. I want academic discourse! I want theoretical rigor!


Anonymous said...

As you get better at your "thing," it's harder to find people who are capable of asking you the questions that your really want...right?

Robin said...

I felt that way at my last conference. There were 6 or 7 people there, and I got maybe one suggestion, but I didn't get as much feedback as I really needed. I've shelved the project since then. I lost my enthusiasm.

I went to a talk last week and met someone who runs a feminist zine here in Knoxville. It's called "GendeRevolution." I mentioned I knew someone researching zines and she was very interested because they're always looking for ideas. Their email collective is knoxville_feminist_zine@yahoogroups.com.

Conseula said...

I never get why academics complain so much about conferences. We get to talk so little about our work when we're actually at work (what with all the teaching and grading and meetings), that it's always exciting to go away and hear other professionals talk about their work. I love conferences.

The Mom said...

Yea Alison

You are right about the conference. It is a growing experience and the preparation for the conference makes your really know your subject. It also once again states that you have earned the right to be where you are.

BUT, it is really a bummer when the attendance is low (caused by the people who put together the conference not the speakers) and/or there are no questions.

I gave a presentation one time at a really big conference. Large meeting room, 200+ people in attendance, 20' x 40' projection screen behind me, laser pointers... I was one of 3 people who were giving presentations that morning about the newest leading edge stuff. You are supposed to talk for 1 hour (40-45 minute presentation and 15 minutes for questions).

I gave my talk and when I finished and asked for questions, there were none. (crickets... echos...). So the leader gave everyone a long coffee break. When I asked some people why no questions, they said I had "covered everything". hmmmm...

So, yea for you. Come to Cookeville and you can have large audience at our house and we can ask you alot of really annoying questions... Fun

The Dad (not the Mom)

Coffey said...


If it would help at all, Misty and I would be happy to come over and add to the annoying questions from the peanut gallery at your parent's house. All kidding aside, I have a good friend (an artist/professor in South Africa) that is very interested in your book and would like to read it, her theme is along the same lines. B gave me your blog's address. Drop me a line sometime from my yahoo page.

Slittle said...

You could always throw a chunk of your book at some undergrads at one of those theory-intensive slumber parties you were talking about once, and see what kinds of feedback they could give you. I promise John Green will use the word "problematic" at least 5 times. :o)