Conference Inference 3rd anniversary post: The year that was

In this post, Conference Inference editors Jamie and Emily reflect on the year that was, and their plans for 2020.

Emily and Jamie

It’s the start of another year! As Conference Inference editors, we (Jamie and Emily) like to use this opportunity to pause, reflect, and recover. Each year we take a look back on the year that was, and we try to draw together a sense of where the conversation has flowed on the blog.

While we live in different parts of the world (Jamie is panting in the heat of Melbourne’s summer, and Emily is rugged up warm in Birmingham), each of us uses this time of year to sleep a little longer, to hatch new plans, and to gaze ahead to the goals we have for the blog for the coming year.  In this post we invite you to gaze along with us!

Checking in on our aspirations for 2019 

Our original goal in establishing Conference Inference was to find an excuse to work together! After meeting at a conference, we were both united in our enjoyment in thinking together, and our curiosity in thinking about conferences. Our second goal in founding Conference Inference was to contribute more analytical and creative thinking around conferences that would enable greater recognition of events (like conferences and symposia) as an important part of academic work and life.  We also hoped that our blog would connect together highly dispersed conversations that occur internationally and across disciplines. While conferences take place in particular locations, with particular disciplinary communities, there is much that links them together as particular kinds of fora for academic knowledge production.

In our anniversary post last year, we set ourselves a series of aims. Mostly, these were about our own internal processes (the tempo at which we run the blog, and the backroom stuff of post pipelines and whatnot). We also set some goals about how we engage on social channels (e.g. Facebook and Twitter). Happily, both of us have found our rhythm on Twitter and have found it to be a lively place to build community around conferences/critical academic events research. If you haven’t already, please follow Jamie and Emily.

We also set some goals regarding the ways we go about building community around the blog. We both have a strong commitment to democratising knowledge about conferences, and yet last year we recognised that our guest contributors from the blog are mostly writing from contexts in the Global North, much like us. Our goal was to encourage more contributions from writers in South and Central America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific. To some extent, we have made progress on these aims – with contributions from Cody Freeman (based in Thailand), Mike Guest (based in Japan) and Xuemeng Cao writing about conference experiences in China. What isn’t showing here however is the number of invitations we sent to both Global South authors and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) authors based in the Global North, but which never led to posts. We recognise that there is still much more for us to do to engage with writers from parts of the world and from groups and identities that have been underrepresented in conference commentary to date. For 2020 we would like to extend our invitation to those working in the Global South and from minority groups: we are really interested in learning more about how conferences operate all around the world and from all perspectives.

2019, by the numbers 

During 2019, we published 25 new posts, keeping to our goal to publish once per fortnight. This means that since the beginning of Conference Inference in January 2017, we have published 83 posts, of which 55 have been written by fantastic guest contributors (the remainder by us as editors). For 2019, the blog had a fairly stable number of visitors, up just a notch on the year before, and around 10% more views. Our most popular post (for the third year running!) was Sex and the Academic Conference. We get some clues as to the ongoing popularity of this post by looking at the search terms used. Let’s just say, it seems that the conference is a site of much erotic interest!

Our other top posts for the year were:

10. Organising, funding and participating in care-friendly conferences

9. Conferences: Is it time you had a fashion makeover?

8. Academics on the dance floor: The curious practice of the conference disco

7. Saying ‘no’ to conference opportunities

6. Discussing the Discussant – a Queer-ish Role?

5. Our babies aren’t always welcome at academic conferences; why it matters and why it doesn’t have to

4. Don’t fall prey to a predatory conference

3. Thanks for your question!

2. THE WORST foods to try and eat at a conference

Like the year before, most people found the blog through search engines, followed by Twitter and Facebook. For 2019, the top 5 countries where our audience is based were: UK, USA, Australia, Canada and India.

Thank you!

This post marks a milestone: Conference Inference has turned three! Conference Inference operates on a community content model. Quite simply, we couldn’t do it without the generous support of the guest bloggers who write for us.

A BIG thank you to: Tony Rogers, Ross Fisher, Rebecca Osbourne, Karen Strojek, Emma Beckett, Mike Guest, Alexandra Supper, Rosa Lores, Francisco Fernandez, Fergus The Cat, Xuemeng Cao, Judith Mair, Nicole Seymour, Cody Freeman, Marilena Karamatsouki, Fabian Wenner, Freke Caset & Bart de Wit, Jessica Peters & Deena Ebaid, Angela L. Bos, Jennie Sweet-Cushman & Monica Schneider, Asunción Fernández-Villarán Ara, Rebecca Finkel,  Ainara Rodríguez-Zulaica, Briony Sharp, Trudie Walters and Shauna Pomerantz. We really appreciate all your thoughtful contributions.

Thank you too to  the audience that engages with, shares and writes to us about our posts. We thank you all, and look forward to sharing more inferences in 2020.

We are excited about some upcoming pieces we have in store! We have posts coming up on conference regret, conferences and promotion, conferences and social media, and conference inclusivity.  As always, we welcome anyone who is interested in blogging for us to get in touch.

James Burford (@jiaburford) and Emily Henderson (@EmilyFrascatore) are the editors of Conference Inference.

Author: CI_Jamie

Academic at the University of Warwick. Interests: higher education, sexuality, gender, equity. PhD in Doctoral Education from Auckland University.

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