Last week I attended the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. From an enchanting talk by Margaret Atwood to debate over journalism practice, thought provoking doesn’t quite cover it. As a means of aggregating highlights from the event, I used Storify to post my RTd tweets. Why? I wanted a mechanism to choose between what I thought was relevant and what others who were reading my tweets found interesting. First up, Atwood.
I’ve read many of Margaret Atwood’s books, but never heard her speak in person. Having the opportunity to do so at Congress 2012 was a real treat. Atwood, speaking on the importance of scholarship in a time of uncertainty, captivated the audience with her wry wit and intelligence. The quote RT’d below is one of my favourites from all the lectures/presentations I attended. To give context, Atwood was comparing the world now to what it was like 45 years ago, and outlining some of the issues we should all be concerned about in an age of giant omnibus bills, unstable governments, and heightened fears of terrorism.
RT @NicoleBlanchett: @MargaretAtwood: Yes the world is uncertain; yes it’s dark…we listen better in the dark #congress2012
After that lecture, I spent most of my time at Congress at the Canadian Communication Association Conference.
Delia Dumitrica from the University of Calgary presented a paper on political participation via Social Media during the Calgary mayoral election of 2010–specifically whether youth involvement on Social Media actually qualified as political participation.
Three concerns were raised: students feeling like they “knew” candidates when all they really knew was the image the candidate was projecting; the possibility students were only getting information from a network of close friends and therefore not getting the full picture of issues; and whether any of this actually qualified as engaging in the political process. Which leads to the broader question, what constitutes engagement?
RT @NicoleBlanchett: #cca2012 Dumitrica finds term engagement problematic – body of literature that tries to define it, but no clear meaning #congress2012
However, most of my time at the conference was spent with the Journalism Interest Group. One of the best things about working in journalism is that there are always interesting topics to discuss, and no shortage of people with a passion for the profession who want to talk about them.
Isabelle Bedard-Brule of Universite Laval presented a paper titled “Is one source enough? Verification in Canadian Newspapers.” Bedard-Brule found that most journalists identify two or three sources as the minimum for a news story–but that’s theory, not practice.
RT @NicoleBlanchett: #cca2012 Bédard-Brûlé: journalists say 2 or 3 sources seen as ideal, but in reality “sources” grounded on speculation & interpretation
And it really was great info, not just for journalism students but practicing professionals. What strikes me most about Congress though, or any academic conference where all of this incredible insight and information is being shared, is the fact that only a small fraction of the population will ever hear about it. A fundamental change is required in the way academics share their research. As Atwood pointed out,
RT @NicoleBlanchett: @MargaretAtwood: If literature doesn’t mean anything why should anyone collect a salary for teaching it? #congress2012
Any form of academic scholarship could be substituted for “literature” in that quote. Scholarship is essential, but it would be easier to make that case if scholarly work was more accessible to more people.
It is incumbent on anyone doing research with public funds, in the public interest, to find more ways of sharing their findings with society as a whole. Whether it be on websites, through Social Media, youtube–wherever the rest of the world is connecting.
Congress is a carnival for your brain–and a bigger audience would only make it more spectacular.