A modest proposal

Here are a few ideas that — if ever implemented – may make conferences more interesting.

  1. Professors should never forget that they are not pure brains, they need to get their ideas and discoveries through. They are also performers, their aim is to arise the interest of the crowd and sustain it until the end of their demonstration. It seldom comes naturally to one, thus they should take drama classes, include images, jokes and videos to their presentation. As conferences are not self-enforcing institutions, I propose to round up anti-boredom posses destined to lynch the least interesting professor of the day!
  2. Debates are all too often avoided and people  with radically different points of view rarely meet. Usually, each one has his own comfort zone and never tries to bring the contradiction in the others’ field. For instance, Pr Alessandro Stanziani (ENS, Paris) say that “there is no such thing as a market before 1800” in front of a bunch of rogue financial historians armed to the teeth with sharp arguments instead of his usual crowd of Polanyi-enthusiasts.
  3. All those historians tend to take themselves waaaaaaay too seriously. Every participant should be forced to propose a humorous lecture, and there would be a lottery to select those who would have to present a paper at this spoof session. I’d like for instance to hear Pr Mockyr explain how the beaconian ideal drove the Jews out of the Industrial Revolution or Pr O’Grada talk about the great vodka famine in 19th-century Russia…

7 Responses to A modest proposal

  1. I agree. Where do we sign?

  2. fabio pesavento says:

    another suggestion, use slides! my English is basic, who do not understand read the slides …

  3. Ben says:

    Most presenters did use slides but it is far far from enough!

  4. Sarah Couto says:

    For performances you have TED already. The cons of performances is that it inhibits conversation and criticism. Why not town hall meeting style? So don’t just use slides, but props and movement. It might encourage participation.

  5. Sarah Couto says:

    By the way, LOVE the new header. The eyes are really grabbing.

  6. Ben says:

    @ Sarah You’re right, over-professionalism does have its cons. But then again when you’re sound asleep at the end of the presentation you tend not to participate either.

    Besides, ideally, the bulk of the papers presented should be works in progress so there’s always gonna things to say. This time over it was mostly finished works ready for publication, highly frustrating.

  7. Ben says:

    PS: for a declared libertarian, there’s a problem with LOVING A. Hamilton (the creator of the central bank in the US and a strong partisan of federalism, i.e. big(ger) government).

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