APA Announces Winners of Multiple Prizes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/05/2020 - 5:05am in

The American Philosophical Association (APA) has announced the winners of several of its prizes.

Below are the prize winners, along with information about their awards and further details from the APA’s press releases (in italics).

Deborah Boyle

Deborah Boyle, professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston, has been awarded the 2020-21 Edinburgh Fellowship. The fellowship involves a two- to six-month appointment at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, typically on work in either the environmental humanities, medical humanities, gender and sexualities studies, or digital humanities. You can learn more about the fellowship and see a list of previous fellows here.

Her primary research interest is in the work of early modern and modern women philosophers. She is the author of two books, The Well-Ordered Universe: The Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish (2018) and Descartes on Innate Ideas (2009), as well as papers on Astell, Cavendish, Conway, Descartes, Hume, and Mary Shepherd. In 2018 she edited Lady Mary Shepherd: Selected Writings . She is currently writing a book on Shepherd and preparing a modern, abridged edition of Cavendish’s Philosophical Letters . In July, Professor Boyle will become the editor of the Journal of the History of Philosophy.

*  *  *

Tyler Burge

Tyler Burge, Flint Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been selected to deliver the 2021 Sanders Lecture. The Sanders Lecture, sponsored by the Marc Sanders Foundation, is bestowed to honor “a distinguished scholar in philosophy of mind, metaphysics, or epistemology who engages the analytic tradition.” The award includes $3,500 plus travel expenses to the meeting. You can learn more about the lecture and see a list of previous honorees here.

Burge has made contributions to many areas of philosophy, including the philosophy of mind, philosophy of logic, epistemology, philosophy of language, and the history of philosophy. He is probably best known for his work on Gottlob Frege, his views on de re belief, anti-individualism with respect to mental content, and his empirically informed account of objective reference. 

*  *  *

David Christensen

David Christensen, professor of philosophy at Brown University, has been selected to deliver the 2021 Ernest Sosa Prize Lecture. The lecture is awarded biennially to honor “substantial achievement in epistemology.” It includes a $1,500 prize, publication of the lecture in the Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, and  a selection of Ernest Sosa’s major book-length contributions in epistemology. This is the first time the lecture has been awarded. You can learn more about it here.

David Christensen has made important contributions to several areas in epistemology and philosophy of science: epistemic disagreement, conrmation theory, epistemic justication and evidence, theories of rationality, and the role of logic for a theory of rationality.

*  *  *

Michael Friedman

Michael Friedman, Suppes Professor of Philosophy of Science at Stanford University, has been selected to deliver the 2021 de Gruyter Kant Lecture. The lecture is delivered every year on a rotating basis at one of the APA’s three divisional meetings, and the lecture is published in the Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association. Additionally, the award includes a $1,500 stipend and travel expenses to the meeting. You can learn more about the lecture series and previous honorees here.

Michael Friedman’s distinguished work in the intersection of Kant, Philosophy of Science, and the History of Twentieth Century Philosophy, which includes eight monographs, two edited volumes, an edited volume devoted entirely to his own work, and articles too numerous to count has been well recognized throughout the philosophical community for the past 35 years.

*  *  *

Helen Longino

Helen Longino, Clarence Irving Lewis Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, has been selected to deliver the 2021 Patrick Romanell Lecture. The Romanell Lecture is a prize that honors philosophers who have worked on the topic of philosophical naturalism. The lecture will be presented at a divisional meeting of the APA. The prize includes $1,200 plus travel expenses to the meeting. You learn more about the lecture and see a list of previous honorees here.

She specializes in philosophy of science and theory of knowledge, and her research interests are feminist philosophy, philosophy of science, and philosophy of social sciences. Longino has authored Studying Human Behavior: How Scientists Investigate Aggression and Sexuality (University of Chicago Press, 2013), The Fate of Knowledge (Princeton University Press, 2002), and Science as Social Knowledge: Values and Objectivity in Scientific Inquiry (Princeton University Press, 1990)… We nominated Helen Longino for her ground-breaking work in exploring the social dimensions of epistemology and philosophy of science and the way differing evaluative perspectives figure in scientific theorizing. We also were impressed with Longino’s important work in feminist epistemology. 

*  *  *

Aaron Sloman

Aaron Sloman, Honorary professor of artificial intelligence and cognitive science at the University of Birmingham, is the winner of the 2020 K. Jon Barwise Prize.  The Barwise prize is “for significant and sustained contributions to areas relevant to philosophy and computing by an APA member. The prize will serve to credit those within our profession for their life long efforts in this field. It will also serve to acknowledge and to encourage work in all areas relevant to the ‘computational turn’ which is occurring in our profession.” The Barwise Prize includes a plaque and the honor of delivering a keynote talk at a computing and philosophy conference as well as a talk at one of the divisional APA meetings. You can learn more about the prize and see a list of previous winners of it here.

Sloman identies himself primarily as a philosopher, though most of his followers and professional inuence has been so far in Computer Science and AI. His main inuence is on two points: 1. That naturalistic account of consciousness, and of the human mind, is not just computational but depends on various bio-chemical and physical specicities of the human brain. This is an important critical point towards the program of informationalism (the idea that conscious thinking is just computing). 2. Criticism of the idea that human brains are the best computers and that machine consciousness needs to follow humanoid cognitive architecture…  Like the previous Barwise award winner, Margaret Boden, [Sloman] helped develop the world’s first academic program in Cognitive Science, at Sussex University.

*  *  *

Jason Yonover

Jason Yonover, a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy and modern languages and literatures at Johns Hopkins University, is the winner of the 2020 David Baumgardt Memorial Fellowship. The fellowship is awarded every three years “for the support and dissemination of research in the field of ethics… [particularly]  in the examination and comparison of types of morality associated with strong cultural and religious traditions, such as Judaism and Christianity, or based on certain contrasting principles (for example, love and justice on the one hand, power or forgiveness on the other).” The fellowship includes $10,000. You can learn more about the fellowship and see a list of previous winners here.

Jason Maurice Yonover is a historian of philosophy… who specializes in the German and Jewish traditions, with a particular interest in moral and political philosophy. He is working on two projects: the first concerns freedom and right in Hegel and Spinoza, and the second traces the legacy of early modern naturalism in modern German thought. His work has been published in the British Journal for the History of Philosophy and the Goethe Yearbook , and is forthcoming in Fichte-Studien, the Blackwell Companion to Spinoza , and the Oxford Handbook of Nineteenth-Century Women Philosophers in the German Tradition

(via Mike Morris)

The post APA Announces Winners of Multiple Prizes appeared first on Daily Nous.

Dance+Talk: Paramodernities Live!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 12:36am in

If dance is a kind of knowledge, what kind of knowledge is it? What are the power relations between a...

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Symposium Call for Papers: Political symbols: forms, functions, usages

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/04/2020 - 12:03pm in


Events, Space

Department of Anthropology Symposium, University of Sydney

Theme and goals
In the present period of political instability and uncertainty, symbols of community and faction have regained public presence as tools for political manoeuvring and mobilisation. This is very noticeable in the abrupt resurgence of national symbols in the public sphere of many countries (for instance, national flags have suddenly become indispensible in the activities of some political actors, and the celebration national days is regaining [often polarising] public attention). But this phenomenon is also easily identifiable in many other expressions of political activity, ranging from struggles around the maintenance/removal of previously established symbols of community and/or faction (such as mausoleums or statues of political figures in public spaces) to the creation of new material symbols that facilitate collective identification and mobilisation.
We believe that these symbolic battlegrounds beg for a re-examination of important questions about political behaviour and communication, but also about the shaping of contemporary democracies and the power struggles of the future.
Against this general background, this Symposium pursues two interrelated goals: a) generate grounds for transdisciplinary insights into a research field that attracts scholars from all the social sciences; b) facilitate new insights into a topic to which anthropologists have made foundational contributions.

Call for papers

We welcome paper proposals that address the Symposium theme and seek to establish a dialogue with its main goals. Proposals that draw from anthropological perspectives and ethnographic work are particularly welcome, but more broadly we are interested in proposals from scholars from any disciplinary background who  can make contributions (empirical and/or theoretical) to this discussion.

How to submit proposals

Proposals must include the following details: Title (30 words max.) – Abstract (250 words max.) – Name of author/s (co-authored proposals are welcome) – Email address of author/s – Institutional affiliation (if any).
Proposals MUST be emailed to symposium convener Luis Angosto-Ferrandez by 30 April at

1-2 October, 2020 9:00am – 6:00pm University of Sydney

Cost General – $40Student/unemployed – $20 Registration includes certification of attendance (when requested); access to all regular and plenary sessions, and to the roundtable; and morning and evening teas/refreshments, if the event is presential.

Dr Luis Angosto Ferrandez:
Dr Robbie Peters:

Important dates
Call for papers closes: 30 April 2020
Letters of acceptance: 8 May 2020
Registration opens: 11 May 2020
Registration closes: 29 May 2020

The post Symposium Call for Papers: Political symbols: forms, functions, usages appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Pandemic Effects on Conference & Event Planning for 2021 & Beyond

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 04/04/2020 - 12:12am in


Events, Events

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused many upcoming academic events to be cancelled and many to be moved online. How is it affecting the planning of events scheduled a bit farther out, say, for next year?

[calendar design by Otavio Santiago]

One reader asks:

I’d be interested to know how people are planning conferences for 2021… I’m presuming any conference will have to develop contingency plans of some sort in case another “wave” hits.  

Have any 2021 academic events yet been cancelled because of the pandemic? Have people decided to not plan in-person events for 2021 owing to the uncertainty of how long travel restrictions and other forms of “social distancing” remain in place? Are people trying to plan events in such a way that they can more easily be moved online should the need arise? How? Are people who are planning in-person conferences taking advantage of the pandemic to negotiate more favorable rates and more liberal cancellation terms with hotels and event spaces?

Relatedly, do you think the pandemic will have a lasting impact on your inclination to travel for conferences or talks?


The post Pandemic Effects on Conference & Event Planning for 2021 & Beyond appeared first on Daily Nous.

Accounting for activists

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/04/2020 - 8:18pm in

I was hoping to have been able to announce a couple of new initiatives, but world events have postponed them.

I can write about one of them. I had agreed to deliver some training events for UCU, designed to explain accounting to officers and branch activists and explain methods of getting information out of university management. The first three events should have started this month.

If you have general questions about university accounts and financial information, then you can post them here or email me and I will try to answer some questions through the blog. If I have time, I will try to make some of my training materials available on this site.

I am still taking commissions for in-depth and “scoping” reports on individual universities. If you think you might want some help working out how coronavirus is going to affect your institutional finances, do drop me a line. In general, I think the sector has been far too casual about the vulnerabilities in the standard business model and many universities were already struggling before the virus arrived. I was already expecting our first “market failures” / interventions of the new funding regime this calendar year.


Spreadsheet for Open, Live, & Online Philosophy Conferences & Other Events

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/04/2020 - 12:45am in

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted philosophers to move conferences and related events online, or create new online events, and to make at least the viewing of them open to all.

To make it easier for people in the philosophical community to learn about such events, I created a Google spreadsheet to which organizers can add theirs.

The events added to this spreadsheet should meet the following criteria:

  • Open. Accessible to viewers and/or participants without them having to pay fees or join a dues-paying group.
  • Live. Not merely the posting of a previously recorded event.
  • Online. Accessible in some online format (videoconferencing, audiofeeds, blogs).
  • Organized by an academic philosopher or a group that includes academic philosophers.

I added two events previously mentioned on Daily Nous to get things started. Feel free to add events you are putting on.

You can also access the spreadsheet here.

The post Spreadsheet for Open, Live, & Online Philosophy Conferences & Other Events appeared first on Daily Nous.

Virtual Philosophy Colloquia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/03/2020 - 6:00pm in

“I’m trying to create, in my own little word, a network of virtual colloquia and workshops for people stuck at home.”

[with apologies to Giotto]

That’s Robert Pasnau, professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado, whose “own little world” is the world of medieval philosophy. He wrote in to share the news that he is now putting on a series of virtual colloquia in medieval philosophy. The first “Virtual Medieval Colloquium”, which took place last Thursday, featured Eleonore Stump (St. Louis University). The next one is this Thursday and will feature Peter Adamson (LMU Munich).

The colloquia take place over the videoconferencing platform Zoom, and are recorded. They’re hosted by the Institut d’Etudes Avancées de Paris.

It’s a great idea. If you’re aware of other similar initiatives, please let us know in the comments.

Professor Pasnau is also putting together a network of students who are writing PhD dissertations in medieval philosophy so they can set up virtual dissertation workshops. For more details, see his blog, In medias PHIL.


The post Virtual Philosophy Colloquia appeared first on Daily Nous.

Socially Distanced, yet Virtually Convened: a Model of Online Conferencing (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/03/2020 - 3:19pm in

The following is a guest post* by Fabrizio Calzavarini (Bergamo, Turin) and Marco Viola (Turin), who together run Neural Mechanism Online, an organization dedicated to the philosophy of neuroscience and to bringing together philosophers and neuroscientists via webinars, webconferences, and the like.

In the post, they share how they have been able to develop an ongoing series of online events and build a sustained intellectual community around them.

[Chiharu Shiota, “Beyond Memory”]

Socially distanced, Yet Virtually Convened:
Neural Mechanism Online’s Model of Online Conferencing
by Fabrizio Calzavarini & Marco Viola† 

As we write these lines, the WHO has recently declared the spread of SARS-CoV-2 a pandemic. Newspapers around the world are swiftly shifting from minimizing the import of this crisis to realizing how serious a response is in order (as we’ve already seen in Italy). Meanwhile, professional philosophers’ mailing lists are crowded by announcements of cancellations for any event until next summer, following or anticipating the lockdown of universities. Moreover, already before the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, concerns about climate change and carbon emissions have pushed many academic professionals to avoid as much as possible travel for talks, conferences, and meetings.

In light of these considerations, a question arises: shall we suspend every academic meeting and continue our research as lonely monads enclosed in our ivory towers? Not necessarily. Web events (webinars, web-conferences, etc.) offer an effective alternative that is economical, eco-friendly, and inclusive. In recent years, both the technological and organizational models of online conferencing have changed dramatically. Synchronous (=in real-time) technologies offer scholars who are geographically dispersed (and possibly temporarily isolated, as at present in Italy and in other European and Asian countries) an opportunity to interact and collaborate in unprecedented ways. Nevertheless, many academic institutions have only started to explore the potentially revolutionary impact of such professional technologies.

In this post, we wish to demonstrate that people can still meet and discuss productively—online—by presenting our project of web-based events: Neural Mechanisms Online [NMO]. Our aim is not so much to promote the project but to present it as a case study of what we (and others) deem a successful enterprise. We want to bring you all a bit of hope, as well as share a bit of our know-how.

What is Neural Mechanisms Online?

NMO is the first world-wide series of synchronous web events dedicated entirely to the philosophy of neuroscience, as well as the interaction between philosophers and neuroscientists. The project is now in its third year of continuous activity. Participants so far have included several of the most established philosophers of neuroscience and neuroscientists, along with some promising younger researchers.

Webinars are our most popular format, dealing with hot topics in the philosophy of neuroscience. They are open to anyone with an internet connection (no fee is required). In addition to webinars, our project is devoted to the organization of “hybrid events” (i.e. events in which some people speak and/or attend physically whereas others do so online) and web-conferences (entirely online). However, in this post we want to focus on webinars (for great tips on how to design user-friendly online conferences, see this post by Catharine St. Croix). While webconferences provide an alternative to offline conferences (i.e., long but episodic meetings), webinars can be conceived as the analogue of reading groups (i.e., short but recurrent meetings). As such, they made a wonderful tool for long-term community-building: they allow organizers to trespass spatial constraints to pick experts on a given topic so as to create focused and productive discussions based on shared interest (compare them to the local reading groups where the topic is often an unsatisfactorily compromise between the taste of several scholars with very different interest).

In NMO, each webinar session lasts two hours: after a brief presentation, the speaker presents their paper (which we send to the mailing list a week before) for about one hour. The second hour is totally devoted to the discussion: first, with some discussants (usually three or four per session) that we have previously selected on the basis of their expertise, and then with the audience. Right before each session, speakers and participants receive by email an invitation to join the seminar. The whole session is recorded and later made freely available online on the YouTube channel and the Facebook Page of the project.

The Online Community

One of the most rewarding outcomes of NMO is that the participants have had the occasion to meet an astonishing number of colleagues of various ages and from various parts of the world. We dare say that something like an international community is beginning to take shape. If we sum up the keynote speakers of our webinar series [2018, 2019, 2020], the discussants of each webinar, and the speakers of the other web-events, we have had no less than 150 different academic researchers interacting with our audience for a total of over 3000 people connected. Right now, both our mailing list and our Facebook page have more than 700 subscribers.

So far, the speakers selected for our web-events have been balanced in as many dimensions as possible: gender (since the second year we have achieved a perfect 50/50 gender balance), nationality (we have had speakers from every populated continent except Africa), expertise (mostly philosophers, but also some scientists), and seniority (as mentioned before). Speaking of general audience (i.e. attendees), each of our web-event attracts on average between 20 and 40 persons from all over the world, although we reached peeks of more than 60 attendees simultaneously online for some big name (e.g. Edouard Machery or Joe LeDoux) and more than 100 for the NM Online web-conference. Not a huge crowd, admittedly. But while in webconferences you should probably aim for a big audience, a long-term webinar project like ours is more a gathering of a few dozen specialists spread around the world who can enjoy and discuss some technical (often very technical) papers.

Interaction and collaboration between participants in the NM online activities has often extended long after the formal web-events end. For instance, a distinguished editor is currently reviewing an extensive volume collecting many of the papers discussed in the first two editions of the project. More generally, meeting online has allowed us to establish and to reinforce several fruitful and pleasant informal relations with a number of colleagues. Many of them are now affiliate members of the NMO team, and Nick Byrd and Joe Dewhurst volunteered for managing the diffusion of news about NMO on the Brains Blog and our Twitter account, respectively. 

What Future for Online Conferencing?

 By narrating our experience with NMO, we mean to suggest that the potential impact of online conferencing for academic research is still largely unexplored. In the times ahead, with the virus possibly paralyzing many universities around the world, online conferencing might become the only alternative to hibernation. But web-based events have several virtues which make them worthy of consideration even in merrier times (for a discussion, see Byrd’s recent post on his blog). After all, when we began doing this, in 2018, it was not a forced choice.

A first and most obvious advantage is economic in nature. Being freed of any concern of space (although not of time), in a webinar we can bring together scholars purely on the basis of their expertise on a specific topic. More often than not, this involves people from at least four different towns spread across several continents. Imagine how much it would cost to bring them together in the same room!

And here comes the second advantage: assuming that a physical conference involves flights, how much in terms of CO2 emissions are we sparing by discussing via the web? Not to mention the time delay and the jetlag you spare by connecting. There are concerns with online conferencing, such as the uncertainty of using new and unfamiliar technologies. Nevertheless, we think that the explosive growth of the organizational and technological potentialities of professional conferencing applications (which have been used so far in NMO activities with no technical failure) makes the risks manageable.

There has always been the view that online conferences will not replace physical conferences. However, maybe the past will not dictate the future. According to many scholars, the time has come for academic institutions to realize their responsibility to be role models in an age of obvious climate breakdown. In this respect, the necessity of many universities to go online because of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak might represent the only positive aspect of the tragic events that are today shocking the world. This might have a ground-breaking impact for the academy in general, prompting a systematic change towards a more eco-friendly global paradigm of scientific enterprise.

In the meantime, some tips…

In the next weeks, we expect (and hope) that many will try to put up projects similar to NMO, either for the short-term purpose of overcoming this crisis without giving up on all activities, or for the long-term purpose of community building. The good results we have had come from more than two years of trial-and-error. By sharing some of the most basic and important things we have learned, we hope to help those attempting to host similar events:

  1. Hardware: unlike hybrid events, which involve interaction between an online and an offline audience (and which we will not discuss in this post), fully online events do not require sophisticated hardware: any laptop with inbuilt camera and microphone can yield passable results. Ethernet connections are to be preferred to wireless connections, for the sake of stability.
  2. Software: professional software that allows synchronous conferencing and hierarchical management of roles is preferable. Software that works as a plug-in for some browser rather than that which requires a dedicated installation is a virtue, as it does not discourage people from joining. And compatibility with mobile phones is also quite useful. We use Cisco WebEx, because it was offered by the University of Turin, and it has worked well, but there are many others available (e.g., GoToWebinar, Zoom, Livestorm). Unbeknownst to many, most universities already provide their researchers with access to some professional tools of this kind: get in touch with the technical personnel working in your institution.
  3. Briefing: no matter how user-friendly your software is, a brief introduction is always in order, so to explain both technical aspects and the schedule of your discussion.
  4. Time-zones: while online events allow us to cheat space and remove spatial constrains, they are still partially constrained by time, and especially by timezones. Two (maybe obvious) issues are worth mentioning: first, you probably could not have people from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia connected at the same time unless someone is willing to stay up at night. Second, time is a relative concept, and local times can be very confusing, especially due to different conventions (e.g. one-hour clock-shift due to summertime) that are hard to keep track of. To prevent confusion, state very clearly which time zone you are referring to when you setup a meeting, and do so redundantly in every message, possibly providing a link to some website for calculating local times (we use
  5. Check: no matter how reliable and user-friendly your software is: it is highly advisable to make several technical checks with all people involved in an online talk long before the event (and certainly not on the very same day!). Whenever possible, these technical checks should be made with the same software and hardware that will be used during the event. All sorts of technical problems, ranging from a dull microphone to privacy setting preventing cameras from working, can arise. Most of them are easy and quickly solved, but it is much better to deal with them without a crowd of people already connected and waiting to enjoy the event.

Clearly, rather than a recipe, these are the tips of icebergs (pun intended). If a recipe for a perfect online conference exists, we do not possess it. And possibly, the know-how involved cannot be perfectly translated into know-that. But if there is anything you want to ask, or even if you simply want to follow our activities, do not hesitate to write us at We will be glad to answer any question, and perhaps learn a few things from your experience.

Good luck for your web-events!

† The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Joe Dewhurst (Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy) and Nick Byrd (Florida State) with the writing of this post.

The post Socially Distanced, yet Virtually Convened: a Model of Online Conferencing (guest post) appeared first on Daily Nous.

The Online-First Model: On Hosting an Awesome Online Academic Conference (guest post by Catharine St. Croix)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/03/2020 - 12:30am in

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing disruptions to the professional life of academics in many ways—for instance, by making in-person conferences and workshops highly inadvisable, if not practically impossible. What to do? In this guest post*, Catharaine (Cat) St.Croix, a philosopher at the University of Minnesota, provides some helpful guidance.

The Online-First Model:
On Hosting an Awesome
Online Academic Conference
by Catharine St. Croix

Your university cancelled all travel, you’ve been teaching classes in your underwear for a few days now, and, on top of everything, you’ve been told to cancel the upcoming conference you spent hours upon hours organizing.

Obviously, that’s no good. Cancelling the conference throws out all the work you’ve already done in terms of wrangling speakers, scheduling flights and hotels, ordering catering, and so forth. A lot of those monetary costs are recoverable, but the time you’ve put into sure isn’t. However, there’s an alternative: Move it online!

Stay with me.

Why online conferences usually suck

If you’ve participated in a conference with that one Skype talk, gone through interviews on the academic job market recently, or tried to run a reading group online, you know exactly what this usually looks like:

Scenario 1: Two head-sized nostrils, projected onto a large screen overwhelm the room in a display that would be Orwellian, were it not dripping with awkwardness. With each slightly tinny word, you cringe, wondering if cupping a hand over your ear to dampen the volume would come off as rude. The speaker, at least, probably won’t notice: They’re squinting to see the tiny, tiny audience on their 13” monitor, desperately seeking any sign of comprehension from the fuzzy pixels. They show none. During the Q&A, you shout your question three times. But, alas, you’re not a baritone. You waive on to the next person in the queue, none the wiser for your troubles.

Scenario 2: Your laptop has been commandeered to serve as the speaker’s surrogate head. As the talk begins, the room is filled with the hushed sounds of your colleagues’ breathing, carefully restrained so as to be as quiet as possible because, somewhere beneath the whisps in and out, there’s a tiny audio stream explaining the finer points of realist social constructivism about… something? It’s twenty minutes in and you have no idea where you are on the handout. But, you’re first in the laptop camera’s frame, so you do your best to nod and look like you’re following along. As the Q&A begins, someone outside of the frame leans into the camera to ask their question. It is a disturbing experience full of teeth.

Most of this boils down to one problem: the centralized local group. Happily, in the time of COVID-19, we’re meant to avoid such groups. And I think this is a perfect opportunity to figure out, as a community, how to move from the online-insert model to the online-first model for online conferences.

The online-first model assumes there is NO central, physical gathering of people. The scenarios above use the online-insert model, in which an online participant is inserted in an otherwise in-person gathering. This creates an information bottleneck between the physically centralized group and the one person online. All of the data from that group is compressed into a single stream that goes to the inserted participant. By contrast, the online-first model gives each participant their own, equally weighted line of communication (though, depending on software, those lines can be managed by a session chair) and assumes that no two participants are co-located.

Benefits of the Online-First Model

By switching to the online first model, we can avoid many of the problems that cropped up in Scenarios 1 and 2. No oversized heads, no sotto voce sessions. And, there are some huge benefits:

  • Attendees don’t need to be local. As it stands, most of our conferences, especially the small ones, are really just for the speakers and folks at the host university. The cost of bringing non-speakers in is prohibitive (~$1000 for flight and hotel) and, even if someone can support their own travel, it’s time-consuming for them.
  • It’s disability-friendly. Online conferences allow participants with disabilities to use the systems they have already developed for themselves to manage whatever accommodations they need. (Of course, organizers should still offer accommodations and make every effort to provide additional accommodations as necessary.)
  • It’s just plain human-friendly. As usually happens, disability accommodations turn out to be great for folks who didn’t know they wanted them, too. We all have slightly different preferences for volume, temperature, the amount of light in the room, etc. The online model gives control back.
  • Chair power. Online meeting tools allow session chairs to manage a queue of questions more easily and, importantly, more fairly. While the true nature of fair chairing is a blog post all on its own, many of us have Views on the matter. But, these are hard to put into place when you’re nervous about having to call Person You Just Met or Famous Person You’re Supposed to Know by the color of their shirt.
  • It’s cost-effective. Of course, software isn’t free. But neither is flying folks in, renting hotel rooms, renting conference space, catering lunch, etc. And, now that we’re in the midst of the Corona Calamity, your institution probably already has a subscription to one of the relevant services. (I’ll talk about these below.)
  • If done correctly, online-first conferences can still feel like a unified, socially satisfying experience. (More on that below, too!)

If you’ve gotten this far, I hope I’ve convinced you that online conferences don’t have to be terrible. But, these benefits don’t come from just telling everyone to Skype in at 4pm on Tuesday.

Making Online-First Work

Throwing a successful online-first conference will require conceptual (what are we doing?), structural (how can we design the conference to facilitate that concept?), and infrastructural (what material goods or services do we need in order to facilitate that concept?) changes. Let’s take each in turn.


In the online-insert model, the goal was to retain as much of the traditional conference experience as possible. We keep the conference dinners, the tea breaks, the hotel chats, etc. Accommodating the online participant begins and ends with the speaker’s session and the conference otherwise runs as normal.

The online-first model turns this on its head. All we’re keeping is the bare bones: session chairs, speakers delivering their papers, maybe a commenter, and the q&a. With those essentials in place, we’ll be thinking about how to recover the benefits of the traditional model without the physical trappings. We have to accommodate the online participants from the the conference begins to the moment it ends.

That raises an important question: What are the benefits of the traditional model? If accommodating online participants means ensuring that they get the benefits that a traditional participant would get, we need to figure out what those benefits are. There are some obvious ones, of course. Presenting your work and getting feedback, keeping up with cutting-edge research in your field, getting clarification on research that’s important to your own projects, and so forth. A lot of that goes on during the paper sessions. But, there’s a lot more to conferencing: the dreaded and much-reviled “networking”, the opportunity to chat about your work in a low-stakes environment with lots of feedback, the exposure to inspiring ideas (and people!), and, very importantly, a sense of community. Conferences also focus our attention on the work being presented — they are rich, dense scholarly days. There are, I’m sure, many other benefits that I’m not thinking about, but that’s a good list to get us started.


With that conceptual shift in mind, what do we do with the structure of the conference to facilitate this?

Let’s begin before the beginning.

You need a conference website. It doesn’t need to be fancy or particularly pretty, but it needs to provide all of the information your attendees will be using. Here’s a quick checklist:

  • It must have the schedule: dates and times (with timezones!) for each session, along with tites, authors, and abstracts. The session titles should be linked to sessions within whatever online conferencing system you choose as the conference infrastructure.
  • An explanation of how the conference will work (including q&a sessions, session breaks, etc) with a statement of expectations that encourages attendees to participate in all of the sessions.
  • Links for downloading and supporting the technologies you’ll be using.
  • The link for your test session. Which brings me to…

Provide a test session. Organizers should run a test session before the conference officially begins so that attendees who want to make sure their setup is working can check that they’re doing things correctly. Plan on helping people figure things out. At least one of the organizers should be comfortable providing support throughout the conference.

Provide daily intros and outros. For traditional conferences, you have the benefit of getting on a plane, getting to your AirBNB, and settling into a different context. From the time you start your journey to the conference, you’re in conference mode. Maybe you’re reading over the other papers, maybe you’re finishing your slides or polishing your comments, or maybe you’re reviewing the attendee list to see who you’ll know… regardless, you’re Doing Conference Stuff. You’ve shifted contexts. How can we manage this in the online-first model?

Intros and outros are a great way to provide that context-setting. On the first day, explain how the conference will work and talk about the theme of the conference, if there is one. Later on, you can talk about connections you see between the papers to be presented that day (tip: organize presentations so that there is such a connection) or anything else you think might help to frame the day. For outros, you can either do your own synthesis, give participants a chance to talk about all of the sessions together, or both. These sessions don’t have to be long (15-30 minutes) and can include discussion time.

This will be a significant amount of extra work for organizers, so make sure to plan for it. But, hey, you don’t have to wrangle flights, food, or hotels.

Foster social interaction. Don’t just provide a tool for social interaction (But do provide one! I’ll talk about the infrastructure to support this below); provide context, space, modeling, and encouragement. Just like the traditional model, you’ll want to provide breaks between talks. Referring to these breaks as discussion breaks or tea time can help clarify for people that they’re meant to be participating during that time. Make sure to have your conferencing software active during these periods and be prepared to strike up conversations with folks, either over text or audio. And, remind people of this time after every talk.

Remember that your participants are humans. Make sure to build in times for lunch and to break at a reasonable time before dinner.

Invite your participants to a TV Dinner. This may seem a bit silly and awkward, but conference dinners are always a bit silly and awkward. During the TV Dinner, attendees grab an at-home meal and bring it with them to join the other conference participants for an hour or so at the end of the day to have some casual time together after the program. After the last talk of the day, set a time that gives folks a chance to microwave their meals (or make/order them, if they’re fancy) and grab a drink. Again, be prepared to model behavior and encourage others. Make clear that people should feel free to come and go as they wish, and leave the client open as long as people want to chat.

Provide Reminders. Traditional conferences generate their own momentum. As long as you get there at the start of the day and follow what everyone else is doing, you’ll probably make it to all of the sessions. For the online-first model, we’ll need to build that into the administrative structure. An easy way to do that is just to provide email reminders about the conference schedule at the beginning of each day and after lunch. You might also send out Google Calendar invites for each of the sessions, allowing people to use their existing reminder settings for the conference.

Encourage Collaboration. Provide some kind of written document that people can collaborate with and encourage them to use it. Whether that’s Google Docs or a digital whiteboard of some kind, you’ll want to be able to replicate the real-time interaction that’s so important to conferencing.

Many of these ideas require some kind of software or hardware to implement. So, let’s close by turning to those details.


These suggestions are a mixture of tools I’ve used and ones suggested by folks I’ve canvassed about their experiences with online conferences. More suggestions are very welcome.

Tech Support. You will need to provide tech support to your conference attendees. Make sure that one of your organizers is responsible for this. Make sure that your attendees know how to get in touch with that person. Either setting up an email address (e.g., or just providing that person’s email address will do.

Conference Service. You’ll need a conference service. Zoom and Sococo are great options.

Sococo provides a little map with different “breakout rooms” people can join, which turns out to be wonderfully intuitive. For our purposes, this is great because it lets people who want to have a conversation together wander off into a breakout room and chat away. They can leave the door open and let others join or close the door, leaving others to knock if they’re interested in joining. Sococo supports video conferencing natively, but also integrates with Zoom (and Slack!).

Zoom is the current go-to for many institutions. It’s robust against overload because the server handling most of your traffic can be installed locally by your institution. Zoom also has a feature that allows participants to raise their hands, making the chair’s job much, much easier, because they can simply unmute a participant when it’s their turn (…or mute someone when their turn is over).

Chat Tools. Zoom and Sococo have native chat clients (and mobile apps), so you could just stick with those. If you want something with a bit more flexibility and functionality, Slack is a great option.

Website Back-ends. There are a million ways to host a website out there, so I won’t spend much time on this, except to highlight three options:

  • Google Sites — Not very pretty, but free to everyone and easy to use.
  • Squarespace — Relatively inexpensive for a short-term conference website. Attractive and easy to use.
  • Your university’s tools — Your university may have a content management system like Drupal, Joomla, or WordPress that you can use for free. Work with your IT folks to get something rolling.

Digital whiteboard. Zoom has a native whiteboard function that participants can collaborate on, but if you want to use something else, InVision comes highly recommended.

Of course, online conferences will still have their drawbacks. There will be technical difficulties. Some folks will have a slow connection. If you’re cross-time-zones, people will make mistakes about the schedules. But, I think the online-first model can go a long way toward fostering and maintaining our academic communities, without forcing us to stare up anyone’s gigantic nostrils.

[art: René Magritte, ” La race blanche”]

The post The Online-First Model: On Hosting an Awesome Online Academic Conference (guest post by Catharine St. Croix) appeared first on Daily Nous.

APA Cancels Pacific Division Meeting

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/03/2020 - 6:00am in



The Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association (APA) have decided, in light of health concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), to cancel the association’s upcoming Pacific Division Meeting, scheduled to take place in San Francisco from April 8th through April 11th. 

There may, however, be some attempts postpone or otherwise salvage some of the meeting’s sessions, and the APA has created an online forum by which those who were to attend the meeting can discuss work that was to be presented. Registration fees will be (mostly) refunded.

In a statement released this afternoon, Amy Ferrer, Executive Director of the APA writes:

As indicated in a notice circulated on March 9, the APA leadership has been closely monitoring developments related to the global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and engaged in ongoing, detailed discussions with our conference venue, attorneys, and others about whether and how to move forward with the upcoming APA Pacific Division meeting, planned to take place April 8–11 at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, CA.

Our participants’ health and safety are paramount, and directives from public health authorities in the City of San Francisco and State of California are increasingly recommending that, to curtail the spread of the virus, large public events be cancelled or postponed. We are heeding that advice. The 2020 APA Pacific Division meeting has been cancelled.

The cancelation of a meeting is a last resort. The APA deeply values the time and effort that the program committee and meeting participants put in to make the meetings professionally, intellectually, and socially stimulating, and it is a great loss to have to cancel a meeting that so many have worked so hard on. We are especially grateful to the members of the Pacific Division program committee and its chair, Elizabeth Brake, for their tireless work putting together a truly excellent and exciting program.

Though the meeting is cancelled, Ms. Ferrer said that the APA will be looking into possibly holding some of the sessions another time, and possibly via “other means,” (possibly online). Some group sessions may end up proceeding:

The APA leadership and staff will work over the coming days and weeks to determine to what extent sessions planned for the 2020 Pacific Division meeting can be postponed, rescheduled, or held via other means. The program chair, program committee, and executive committee of the Pacific Division will make every effort to create opportunities for participants in the 2020 divisional program to present at future APA meetings. There is a possibility of postponing the 2020 Pacific Division meeting to later this year, and the organizers of all three 2021 APA divisional meetings have indicated an openness to including some sessions planned for the 2020 Pacific Division meeting on their programs. We will provide more details when they are available.

We invite affiliated groups to work directly with their participants to consider whether their sessions should be postponed, cancelled, or converted to another medium. The Pacific Division will continue to provide affiliated groups with available meeting space but will not be able to provide more space than originally planned for the 2021 meeting.

The APA was not able to move the whole conference online, Ms. Ferrer said, but they have created an online forum for those who would have been attending to discuss their work:

The APA does not have the software or hardware infrastructure for virtual conference hosting nor, especially in the context of canceling a meeting, the ability to invest in virtual conference infrastructure. However, we encourage participants and affiliated groups to make use of their own online resources to engage with colleagues on the work and topics they planned to present at the 2020 Pacific Division meeting. To facilitate this, we have created a community on APA Connect, the APA’s online member community, where participants can share and discuss their papers and presentations that were to be presented in San Francisco.

Those who registered for the conference will be getting most of their money back, she says:

We will be offering meeting registration refunds, less a 15% processing fee. To request a registration refund, complete this form. Please be aware that each refund is processed individually by APA staff, who are also handling other issues related to the cancelation of the meeting, so it may take some time to receive your refund. We appreciate your patience. Sponsors and exhibitors will have a few options; APA staff will be in touch with further details.

The cancellation for the conference is costly to the APA, she notes:

The financial fallout from this meeting will be significant—in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the APA itself, as well as losses to individual participants for non-refundable travel. The APA deeply regrets these financial impacts and encourages those who were planning to attend to reach out to their travel vendors about any policies or procedures they have put in place to assist those with reservations impacted by COVID-19. We also strongly recommend that colleges and universities reimburse non-refundable travel expenses their employees and students have incurred related to their planned attendance at the APA Pacific Division meeting.

To help offset the APA’s financial losses related to the meeting’s cancelation, we ask those who are in a position to do so to consider donating their prepaid registration fees to the APA. We are happy to provide a donation receipt for tax purposes to those who wish to do so. You may indicate that you wish to receive a donation receipt rather than a refund when completing this form.

Though the whole meeting is cancelled, Ms. Ferrer says that “all participants are responsible for canceling their own hotel reservations. Your reservation confirmation email contains information about how to cancel, and you can call the Westin St. Francis at (415) 397-7000 for assistance.”

You can read the whole statement here.

Prospective attendees had expressed concerns about the meeting and the uncertainty regarding whether it would be cancelled (see, for example, the comments on this post).

The next divisional meeting of the APA is the Eastern, scheduled to take place in New York City in January, 2021.

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