International conferences – really at a click’s distance

October is still a very busy month for most people. Even under the effects of the pandemic. Not only because autumn is putting more strain on the COVID scare for everybody, jabbed, vaxxed or otherwise, but also because in climates and environments like ours (temperate, that is with four seasons, and with traditional culinary habits) most of us are busy with preserves and pickles.

I have some traditional conferences that I’m part of and always love to attend: my own department’s conference, my faculty’s conference and the STRATEGICA conference of SNSPA.

Here I’ll write about my department’s conference. Just a few notes. If anyone is interested, the programme is at the end of this post. If you have a look, you’ll see that it was a substantial, attractive, really engaging programme.   I’ll just name the plenary speakers here:

Carmen PÉREZ-LLANTADA, Professor, University of Zaragoza, Spain
Engaging with digital literacies in learning academic and research communication

André HEDLUND, Educational Consultant, Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUC-PR) – School of Education and Humanities, Brazil
Learning Cosmos: A Voyage into the Learner’s Universe

Cristina Alice TOMA, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
Le mythe de l’éternel retour – entre Orient et Occident

Mala PANDURANG, Professor, Principal Dr. BMN College (Autonomous), Mumbai, India
Compassion and the Arts in the Time of the Pandemic: a Digital Journey

When would it have been possible to have as guest speakers in our event researchers and experts from such distant geographies? Of such diverse profiles? Could we ever have had a budget to cover their fees and traveling expenses? The answer is obvious: probably never. We are, therefore, looking at profound changes in conference organization and participation. We have to adapt to a new environment (the virtual world) and to acquire new skills. This is not always easy. And it’s only the beginning.

On the plus side, conversations around the world are richer, with contributions from far away (Brazil, India) and with voices which may have only rarely, if ever, been heard in our academic environment. And suddenly such events just happen.

I participated in all the plenaries – from my desk or on my cell, moving around town doing my daily chores. We are no longer tied to a conference room, to juggling with conflicting timetables, left with the regrets of not being able to “be there”. We can even participate in several conferences – though that requires a lot of practice. And is it really worth it when we can listen to the recording on the various social media at our convenience? Such as here or here.

It’s the beginning of a new world, or of a new normal. As we well know, the speed of novelty degradation is continuously increasing. Therefore, the new normal will not be new for a long time. It is clear, at least to me, that there’s not going back towards the old world. We’ll always keep part of the old world in us, but we are pushed to adapt to the new one. Let’s hope that it will be a better world for a larger number of people. I’m always hopeful.  

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