Re: The square may not seem as immediately dangerous to society as the delinquent or the hipster, but his retreat from public life into pure instrumental reasoning betokens a much more significant and deep-running threat to the possibility of liberal society

1

The term "hipster" and "delinquent" are associated with withdrawal "from the world entire"? I thought that's what "hermit" or "recluse" meant.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:35 PM
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90% of my comments recently have contained grammatical errors. I blame the fact that we use instant messaging at work and I've gotten used to it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:36 PM
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No, the square is.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:36 PM
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The square doesn't physically withdraw the way a hermit or recluse does, of course.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:37 PM
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Yeah, I just re-read. Former and latter must refer to their positions outside of the passage given here. I have the same objection to the "square" in this context, so it works out anyway.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:38 PM
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The world must then, practically speaking, not be a circle.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:41 PM
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Hm, you're right about former/latter. Watch as I edit the post!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:42 PM
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Maps are cool. Oops, time for bed.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:49 PM
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I am happy to have had Dial "M" for Musicology brought to my attention.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:49 PM
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Yeah, that's a great blog.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:50 PM
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Very Wes Anderson-esque.

The take-away it seems is, assuming a spectrum that runs thusly:

the delinquent<->the hipster<->the square

w-lfs-n exists precisely on the bright line between the hipster and the square.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:52 PM
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What are those arrows supposed to represent?

Mutual implication?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:55 PM
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Ben's working his way toward a post title that causes there to be nothing but replies to his post in the list of recent comments.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:55 PM
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Yes - Stanley! Arrows not informative! Please help!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:57 PM
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The square looks kind of like mrh.

I want, very much, to protest. And yet...

Curse you, w-lfs-n! I now withdraw from the world entire.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 9:58 PM
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Wes Andersonism must be destroyed. I cannot say why, particularly; perhaps that will be my task in life.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:00 PM
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Those arrows are meant to indicate that "delinquent", "hipster" and "square", rather than existing as discrete elements on a graduated scale, are properly undestood as regions on a gradient. This then calls into focus the incongruous oddness of w-lfs-n, existing as he does on a well defined bright line.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:00 PM
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Yes - Stanley! Arrows not informative! Please help!

I was suggesting, quite arbitrarily I admit, a spectrum involving the three constituent categories. And on this proposed line, I posit that Mr. w-lfs-n falls precisely between the hiptser and the square.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:03 PM
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||

I think one of the songs on this Atmosphere album is intentionally designed to sound like House of Pain.

|>


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:03 PM
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The square resembles mrh? But he bears only the faintest resemblance to Josh. I'm having trouble reconciling this.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:04 PM
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This then calls into focus the incongruous oddness of w-lfs-n, existing as he does on a well defined bright line.

If I tell someone "Stand roughly here"—may not this explanation work perfectly? And may not my other one fail too?

But isn't it an inexact explanation?—Yes; why shouldn't we call it "inexact"? Only let us understand what "inexact" means. For it does not mean "unusable". And let us consider what we call an "exact" explanation in contrast with this one. Perhaps something like drawing a chalk line round an area? Here it strikes us at once that the line has breadth. So a colour-edge would be more exact. But has this exactness still got a funtion here: isn't the engine idling [läuft sie nicht leer]? And remember too that we have not yet defined what is to count as overstepping this exact boundary; how, with what instruments, it is to be established. And so on.

...NO single ideal of exactness has been laid down; we do not know what we are supposed to imagine under this head—unless you yourself lay down what is to be so called. But you will find it difficult to hit upon such a convention; at least any that satisfies you.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:08 PM
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Judge for yourself, Magpie.

"NO" s/b "No" supra.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:09 PM
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Stanley gets it exactly right.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:11 PM
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What happens to those of us who are square delinquent hipsters?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:16 PM
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I went to the Dial M blog. They read their papers? They actually have conference where people stand up and read their papers? Is this so people who sit through Powerpoint presentations have the slight relief of thinking "at least it could have been worse"?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:17 PM
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21: Sigh. You know that no one spoke for you on the Sadie Blogkins thread for fear of embarrassing you, Ben.

(Oh dear god, perhaps someone did, and I didn't see it.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:20 PM
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25: Welcome to the humanities, bro. I refuse to do it, as much as I can, but it's not standard to work off-script. Some people are better readers-aloud than others, of course.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:20 PM
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21: Ben and Troy Aikman, two peas in a pod.

AIKMAN: Well, for the folks at home, let's put up the Wittgenstein graphic. If we could get number 88 on the screen? Thanks very much, guys.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:26 PM
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Last year a guy delivered his job talk from memory, with only a single sheet for reference—the same sheet he had given to all of us as a handout. It was pretty impressive.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:26 PM
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26: Why would that embarrass me?

Belle Lettre declared herself after reading my story about John Wayne and Amelia Earhart, and I was not embarrassed.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:28 PM
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Do all the humanities do it? That's insane, right? Everyone recogizes that it's insane, but it's like an abusive relationship you don't have the strength to break out of, right? Right?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:28 PM
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Do all the humanities do it?

Pretty much, yeah.

That's insane, right?

Pretty much, yeah.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:29 PM
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Also, some people read aloud a text that's been written to be read aloud.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:30 PM
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25: They actually have conference where people stand up and read their papers?

Sometimes in 8 am sessions. Chocolate-covered coffee beans are your friend.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:34 PM
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33: Yeah, it's just that some people are really good at writing a script, and other people just shave pages' worth of data off of a 30-page article, making for an incomprehensible blabby theoretical thing with no basis in the material. GAH.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:36 PM
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Kenneth Goldsmith as an aspirational model for the humanities.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:37 PM
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There's something wrong in a world in which presenters at _math_ conferences speak relatively extemporaneously, while English professors read strictly from a prepared text.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:37 PM
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That was actually very interesting, JP.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:40 PM
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37: Agreed. But really, I thought everyone did it that way until a physicist friend of mine expressed shock.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:43 PM
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Trying to theorize ennui is like trying to eat starvation.

37, you have to remember that EngLit is a kind of confluence of philosophy, history, political economy, literary exposition and (sometimes) bullshit. You don't keep your shit straight extemporaneously in an environment like that, unless you're a truly extraordinary specimen.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:45 PM
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Doesn't that make humanities conferences incredibly boring?

I think maybe that BURN SHIT DOWN advice was directed at the target.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:45 PM
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at the wrong target, that is.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:45 PM
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That sounds awful. Can you at least interrupt them for questions?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:46 PM
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Also, I actually quite like Kenneth Goldsmith. But he's right, he really is the most boring writer that ever lived.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:46 PM
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43: Questions at the end, you fucking heathen. And preferably they should be fifteen minute long statements that aren't really questions, and that reference a theorist the presenter isn't familiar with.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:47 PM
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Does anyone actually sit through the talks, or do they just read the horrible articles ahead of time and show up at the end to ask the questions?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:48 PM
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Think, Ned! Of course the answer is no. That's like asking if in between waterboarding sessions you get cake and ice cream.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:48 PM
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Oh, of course they sit through the talks. You have to have credibility to ask questions.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:49 PM
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Can you at least interrupt them for questions?

No, questions come at the end.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:49 PM
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47 is perfect.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:49 PM
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Does anyone actually sit through the talks, or do they just read the horrible articles ahead of time and show up at the end to ask the questions?

Maybe 3 or 4 people will sit through a given talk and ask a long, rambly, only vaguely relevant question at the end.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:50 PM
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If one is a member of the audience, does sitting through a talk increase one's knowledge about the subject, or at least one's knowledge about the presenter's theories, in any way? Or is reading the paper ahead of time the only way to figure anything out?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:52 PM
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45: Oh man, I moderated a panel on Friday at which an audience member just fucking spewed out the most random words imaginable for TEN MINUTES without ever finishing a sentence or a question. I finally interrupted, stole four or five of the words I heard most often, and phrased it as a question to one of the panelists. After he answered, the other panelists TOTALLY BETRAYED ME by saying, "Actually, I'd love a chance to answer that gentleman's excellent question! It was so visionary and suggestive!" And at that moment, I said to myself, Fuck everyone in my career. They make no sense to me at all.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:52 PM
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which presenters at _math_ conferences speak relatively extemporaneously

Hell, we still like chalkboards/whiteboards where we can get them, so you can change the talk as you if something interesting comes up.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:53 PM
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38: This is the article I was thinking of when I cited him in the "boring" thread. But I had forgotten that he had also used the Cage quote (perhaps because I had only listened to him read it at that point).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:53 PM
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If one is a member of the audience, does sitting through a talk increase one's knowledge about the subject, or at least one's knowledge about the presenter's theories, in any way? Or is reading the paper ahead of time the only way to figure anything out?

I only have experience of single-presenter colloquia, not conferences, but in that context, in philosophy anyway, the answers are yes and no, respectively.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:54 PM
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Doesn't that make humanities conferences incredibly boring?

Often. But sometimes people really do read interesting papers. And yes, it is possible to learn interesting things this way.

And you don't read the papers beforehand, because often they're not made available beforehand.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:54 PM
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52: I have enjoyed a lot of talks I've seen, but usually only ones on methodology or those that are strictly in my field, which has a very different sense of what is worthwhile than other fields.

Yes, when talks are bad, it's a living hell. But one learns, over time, to choose panels wisely and how to look interested while one writes out words and phrases from the talk in entertaining fonts all over one's program.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:55 PM
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53: "Actually, I'd love a chance to answer that gentleman's excellent question! It was so visionary and suggestive!"

Translation: "That bastard isn't going to one-up my at my show."

I decided against a PhD in the field when I came to understand how much of it resembled rock snobbery on steroids. That said, the whole dynamic has bequeathed some fantastic neologisms to the language. Like "economimetic." I love that one.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:55 PM
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You don't keep your shit straight extemporaneously in an environment like that, unless you're a truly extraordinary specimen.

Oh, thank god. Now I don't have to finish writing this that I'd begun and lost interest in:

I'll sort of vaguely admit that for certain kinds of papers in philosophy, short of memorizing the damn paper (what?), extemporizing would be nearly impossible. You're quoting, you're responding to particular passages, you're putting together a careful narrative designed to


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:55 PM
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If one is a member of the audience, does sitting through a talk increase one's knowledge about the subject, or at least one's knowledge about the presenter's theories, in any way?

Depends on the presenter.

Or is reading the paper ahead of time the only way to figure anything out?

There is no "reading the paper ahead of time." The most you get ahead of time is an abstract. Sometimes just a title.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:56 PM
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They don't give you the papers beforehand? Do they give you the paper on the day of the conference? What do you do when you space out in the middle of the talk?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:56 PM
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And you don't read the papers beforehand, because often they're not made available beforehand. finished being written until five minutes before they're read.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:56 PM
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What Parsimon almost said.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:56 PM
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What do you do when you space out in the middle of the talk?.

Work on your paper for later in the session?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:57 PM
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What do you do when you space out in the middle of the talk?

Celebrate it or regret it, depending on the paper.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:58 PM
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What do you do when you space out in the middle of the talk?

Think about other stuff. Dig your fingernails into your palms to force yourself to stay awake, if you didn't get enough sleep the night before. Write little notes and pass them to the person sitting next to you, if they are a friend.

Honestly, it's much like a lecture: taking notes is the way to stay focused.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:58 PM
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I see what Ben is trying to do here, but it looks like even if all the recent comments are in this thread, the left sidebar will still not be longer than the body of the main site.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 10:58 PM
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Channelling dsquared: Thanks to incredible advances in technology, there is an exciting alternative to either speaking extemporaneously or reading a prepared text. It's called Powerpoint, and it's brought to you by Microsoft. You can pirate it from a computer near you.

(Not that I use Powerpoint, of course. I use a LaTeX package. If there was a LaTeX package for doing my laundry, I'd use that too.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:00 PM
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Honestly, it's much like a lecture: taking notes is the way to stay focused.

One might even say that it is a lecture.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:01 PM
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The worst is when you wander into a panel in which half the papers are not only boring, but also in a language you do not know well enough to consistently follow. Comp Lit people do this all the time, and I always forget to check if it's a CL panel before getting settled in.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:01 PM
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60: You're quoting, you're responding to particular passages, you're putting together a careful narrative designed to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women partners.

Of course, all my papers were improvised as scats to the changes of "Straight, No Chaser."

62: What do you do when you space out in the middle of the talk?

Fake it. If the paper is about applying Frantz Fanon to Faulkner, for instance, you can almost guess at the content even if you only heard thirty percent of it.

Unless, of course, you're a square. Then you just listen to the whole paper.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:02 PM
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Thanks to incredible advances in technology, there is an exciting alternative to either speaking extemporaneously or reading a prepared text.

You mean like using an outline?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:02 PM
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70: It's not a lecture if the people listening can't interrupt and ask questions if they aren't following it.

That would be the horrible part for me.

"Well, I didn't understand that, and consequently, I am guaranteed to not understand anything that builds on that. Good night."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:03 PM
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69: I use latex for projector talks, and occasionally powerpoint.

But you know what? Powerpoint talks kind of suck inherently. Granted, others can suck too. All of the best talks I've been to have been extemporaneous to the degree that you simply cannot be with a projector.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:03 PM
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74: That is...it is a lecture, but not like in a normal class.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:04 PM
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And I said: Uh oh. This is gonna be some day.
Standby.
This is the paper. And this is the reading of the paper.
This is the paper. And this is the reading of the paper.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:05 PM
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I despise Powerpoint talks in the humanities. They're fucking awful and childish. Unless your talk is about visual art, or textual features, or statistical analysis or something, please, do not use Powerpoint. I've even seen job talks for advanced-career academic jobs that used Powerpoint to, like, show pictures of the faces of the theorists the speakers were using. And that makes me want to cry.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:07 PM
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74: It's not a lecture if the people listening can't interrupt and ask questions if they aren't following it.

Sure it is. Ever seen an invited speaker come to a school? You're generally not encouraged to interrupt; there's a specific etiquette. Conferences are designed to prepare you to be that guy/gal.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:07 PM
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71: The worst is when you wander into a panel in which half the papers are not only boring, but also in a language you do not know well enough to consistently follow

I'm telling you guys, skip that shit and go straight to Kenny G:

Kenneth Goldsmith Reads Ludwig Wittgenstein's Culture and Value in German, a Language He Neither Speaks Nor Understands


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:10 PM
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Yeah, powerpoint is really bad.

I didn't understand that, and consequently, I am guaranteed to not understand anything that builds on that.

No one would ever admit this.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:10 PM
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78: come to think of it, the only things that are good about projector talks, I don't know how they'd come up in humanities. Maybe graphs of how bits of work relate to each other?

Everything else done in PP tends towards dross. Let's try and chop bits of the ideas until I can fit them into short bullet lists, that sort of thing.

For tech stuff, they (projector talks) often come under hte necc. evil heading. Good talks very rarely have a tight mapping between the words being said and what's projected though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:11 PM
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The only way I know to pay attention through a talk is to periodically interrupt the speaker.

75 - Right. For math talks, I always preferred whiteboard/blackboard. Slide-based talks tend to go too fast.

78 - How would they use the slides? Animations of puppies catching Frisbees? The function of the slides is to state a couple of points, so that everyone who's spaced out can catch up.

79 - I always skipped those kinds of talks for that very reason.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:11 PM
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80: OMFG!!! That was deeply affecting. I could only handle half a minute or so before my jaw clenched and my eyes watered. Kenny G, fucking genius.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:12 PM
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83 working on a board does fix a reasonable pacing.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:13 PM
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83:
• Good
• Summarization.
• Concise
• Powerful
•To the Point.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:14 PM
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68: it's meant to have an end, if a distant one. Phenomenologically, it is a humanities conference.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:15 PM
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How would they use the slides? Animations of puppies catching Frisbees?

No, they used them with bullets or whatever. But as you might imagine, in an environment in which everyone is used to developing an extraordinary attention span and the burden is largely on the audience to stay awake and caught up enough to understand and participate in discussion, the presence of bullet-points is like a slap in the face. They assume we're too stupid to follow along? etc. Really, it's a whole different environment.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:15 PM
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One of my favorite lecturers would talk extemporaneously (well, prepared, but you know) with a blank overhead transparency in front of him, jotting down names/dates/figures/what-have-you as he mentioned them. Very helpful without seeming rote.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:17 PM
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Sure it is. Ever seen an invited speaker come to a school? You're generally not encouraged to interrupt; there's a specific etiquette.

You are in the sciences. If it's about actually transmitting information, the speaker wants to know people are following him.

Unless by "an invited speaker" you mean someone brought in mainly for his celebrity.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:18 PM
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I despise Powerpoint talks in the humanities. They're fucking awful and childish.

In what way does this distinguish them from Powerpoint talks outside the humanities?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:18 PM
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In what way does this distinguish them from Powerpoint talks outside the humanities?

Come on, think for a second.

Outside the humanities means in the sciences. In the sciences the presenter is presenting actual data instead of just his opinions and theories. This data should be presented visually, so people can see it for themselves instead of taking his word for it. It's a different environment.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:20 PM
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The only way I know to pay attention through a talk is to periodically interrupt the speaker.

See, some might say this is A Problem.

89 is good. And most of the very best talks are either not from a written text, or else the person knows what they're saying well enough to use the written text primarily as a prompt, and will occasionally digress or make sure everyone's following at key points, etc. But it truly is possible to follow a well-organized paper being read out loud, if you just, y'know, learn to actually listen to other people.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:21 PM
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Please edit the third sentence of 92 to remove unintentional condescension.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:21 PM
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88 - I suspected something like that was the reason why such a bizarre system would persist. All academic pathologies can be justified by reference to how smart we are that we can handle it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:22 PM
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In what way does this distinguish them from Powerpoint talks outside the humanities?

Occasionally you can show really useful data or results. Otherwise no different.


with a blank overhead transparency in front of him,

I once saw a brilliant keynote address given this way. Speaker was truly exceptional, so could probably give an amazing talk in a bar on cocktail napkins. The venue couldn't provide him with a blackboard, so that was the closest we had.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:23 PM
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91: Well, usually, data in the sciences are presented as complex sets of organized numbers and variables that need to be made transparent in order to be convincing. In the humanities, arguments are largely judged on the speaker's rhetorical framework. There are exceptions, of course, like the panels I saw this year about using statistics to analyze word frequencies in large bodies of texts, etc., which required Powerpoint to illustrate the data.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:23 PM
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In the sciences the presenter is presenting actual data instead of just his opinions and theories.

In the humanities this sort of thing is occasionally done as well, believe it or not.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:24 PM
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Multipwned.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:25 PM
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95: The real problem with powerpoint style isn't that people will get snotty about it, it's that it is fundamentally a poor way to present complex information.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:25 PM
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Unless by "an invited speaker" you mean someone brought in mainly for his celebrity.

Well... usually speakers are invited because they're some kind of celebrity, or at least some manner of authority, right? That's why you're inviting them to give a speech.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:25 PM
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One of my favorite "We're not going to make it as a species" quotes (from a trade show back in the day when a mail clients with embeds and rich text were just coming out): "My users were so excited that now they could send information instead of just text."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:26 PM
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In the humanities this sort of thing is occasionally done as well, believe it or not.

Yeah, that's not how I would have put it either. The information is in different forms though. Some stuff in sciences etc. just really lends itself to being projected on a wall.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:27 PM
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100: Yes.

Now, I can (and have) seen powerpoint-type stuff used to present rediscovered texts, or to show something interesting about the way a page looks, or that sort of thing. I can't be bothered to learn powerpoint, but I do give handouts and/or use overheads to do this kind of stuff quite frequently.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:27 PM
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93 - Yes, B, I'm sure that you preferred teaching classes where no one ever interrupted you.

100 - As opposed to reading a paper that I could wait one day and actually read on paper?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:28 PM
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I can't be bothered to learn powerpoint

Maybe you'll have a spare 45 seconds one of these days and think "what the heck".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:28 PM
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Outside the humanities means in the sciences.

That would come as quite a surprise to those of us in industry.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:28 PM
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103: Agreed, and I'm sure this is why powerpoint and/or other "high tech" methods of presenting stuff is a lot more popular over on your side of the campus.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:29 PM
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107: shh. Our place is here, in the shadows.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:29 PM
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101. In my experience celebrity undermines authority in a lot of cases (in this context). If you've ever seen a Nobel prize winner speak before and after, you may have seen this. In math we're lucky that Fields medals may be harder (in whatever sense) to get, but fewer people know/care what they are. So if you invite someone to speak you don't suddenly find they've been moved to the main auditorium with 300 seats, from your 30seat colloquim room.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:30 PM
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I agree that in a world where you are actually following the reasoning of the speaker as he goes along, being periodically confronted with bullet points would not help.

But in the sciences, the various graphs and figures are the arguments. It's "Here's what we did, as you can see here. I hope you all buy my claim that this is significant. And after accomplishing this, we made another figure, which is like the last one except more specific. And then we did six things that were all pretty similar, so I'll show you one of them and hope that it's okay to just describe the others because it would be really repetitive if I showed you all those pictures too."

But it would be repetitive to show more and more pictures...it would not be pointless. There's always someone who will be unsatisfied with the level of detail the presenter was able to fit into his talk.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:30 PM
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Powerpoint: A minute to learn, a lifetime to master.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:31 PM
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I'm sure that you preferred teaching classes where no one ever interrupted you.

Actually, no; I prefer (and am very good at, actually) teaching discussion-based courses. And when I lecture I do so very informally.

As opposed to reading a paper that I could wait one day and actually read on paper?

But you can't, because the idea, at least, is that people are presenting work "in progress," and that *maybe* if you remember the presenter's name and the thing gets published quickly, you'll be able to read the thing in a year.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:31 PM
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105: But that's just it. The better speakers in the humanities are not always the best writers for print, and vice versa. It's certainly not the same skill. Someone who gives great talk is usually not writing anything that would hold serious water as a journal article. It would need all kinds of examples, citations, explications, transitions, and longer, more sophisticated sentences. Great academic writing is not speechifying.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:31 PM
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But in the sciences, the various graphs and figures are the arguments.

Surely the various graphs and figures are the data supporting the arguments, right? Otherwise they're just graphs and figures without context.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:32 PM
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108: Well, on the sciences side anyway. We're strange in that we really do still give a lot of talks on blackboards. It's shifting though.

107: I think the context of academic conferences made this clear enough, didn't you?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:32 PM
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Our place is here, in the shadows falling asleep as yet another presenter reads us their Powerpoint slides.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:33 PM
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Agreed, and I'm sure this is why powerpoint and/or other "high tech" methods of presenting stuff is a lot more popular over on your side of the campus.

Graphical presentation methods in general.

It was overhead slides, and now it's PowerPoint. PowerPoint presentations are easier to make, easier to transport, and not likely to fall on the floor and get disorganized, so they've replaced overhead slides. I don't think PowerPoint has replaced overhead slides because people think it's "high tech".

Exception: People whose talks involve videos. This is very unusual in my experience.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:34 PM
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I do DJ sets on a blackboard.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:34 PM
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Someone who gives great talk is usually not writing anything that would hold serious water as a journal article.

Disagreed. Most of the best talks I've heard are snippets of things that'll turn up in journal articles: presentations of new or obscure texts, the summary of an argument that'll be fleshed out with examples in print, the introduction to a longer work, etc.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:34 PM
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Powerpoint: A minute to learn, a lifetime to master.and even then it still kind of sucks


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:34 PM
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110: So if you invite someone to speak you don't suddenly find they've been moved to the main auditorium with 300 seats, from your 30seat colloquim room.

Same in the humanities -- some invited speakers will come into a class, and those sessions will be less formal. But that's not a conference session, either.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:34 PM
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I think the context of academic conferences made this clear enough, didn't you?

Not when it came to Powerpoint.

(My initial question was, shall we say, not entirely serious.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:34 PM
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PowerPoint is about as high tech as your average digital watch.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:35 PM
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I've been to conferences done both ways; linguistics, being a social science, has science-style conferences with actual presentations, generally aided by either handouts or powerpoint, while my comments upthread about humanities conferences are based on conferences in other fields that I've attended for various reasons. Based on that limited experience, I'd definitely say the linguistics conferences were easier to understand and follow.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:35 PM
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120: Snippets, yes, but it's mostly the same evidence and texts being reworked into a very different format. The sentence structures should change.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:36 PM
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Maybe it's the experience of going to conferences and not following the papers, rather than the job market, that's at the root of so much humanities grad student neurosis.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:36 PM
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122: Right, I wasn't claiming that was science specific, just an example. But the more people you have in a room, unless it's a very specialized room, the less likely many of them have any idea what you're talking about. So you either give up on them, or make the talk more general.
Nothing wrong with that, unless what you're trying to do is a fairly technical talk.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:37 PM
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Surely the various graphs and figures are the data supporting the arguments, right? Otherwise they're just graphs and figures without context.

Arguments, surrounded by context.

Nowadays you'd have to be a Nobel laureate for someone to take your word that you did all these experiments without presenting the results in some sort of visual form.

And some Nobel laureates seem to go insane shortly after they receive the prize anyway.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:37 PM
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124: Look, from the pov of most humanities profs, PP is high tech. Shit, some of 'em can't even master email.

126: Agreed.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:38 PM
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I do DJ sets on a blackboard.

Funny, from your mixes I wouldn't have pegged you as a scratch DJ.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:38 PM
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I was sure the link in 129 was going to be to Kary Mullis's site.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:39 PM
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128: So you either give up on them, or make the talk more general.

That's not science specific either.

Although mileage varies as to "more general."


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:40 PM
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I was guessing Brian Josephson.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:41 PM
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113: Whoa, so your area of literary or feminist theory doesn't have working papers published in semi-official venues? In economics and finance it seems like every paper that's being presented is actually written and available for download, even if it's only as an early draft.

Incredibly helpful, too, as it really shortens the turnaround time to begin building on the work of other scholars, since you don't have to wait the extra year or whatever for publication to get the details of their methodology and early results. I'm in fact using some finance research that hasn't been published in a proper journal yet for my current project at work.

I've always figured that journals like Physics Letters and some of the others that publish shorter, more informal articles on early-stage research fulfill similar functions in the various sciences. Soup, how does math tend to do this?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:41 PM
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121: Aw c'mon. Clip art ... animated clip art ... fades ...design templates...
Never have so many megabytes been devoted to so little.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:42 PM
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130: Heh. I went to a nerdy undergrad, where I was the least tech-savvy of any of my friends, to a PhD program where, when people find out I blog or understand the listserv software, I get assigned all these duties like "explaining the intarwebs to faculty" and whatnot. And ever since I started a professional blog in my tech-fearful field, I've been invited to conferences where audience members respond to my abstract rhetorical-theory talk with, "But I thought you were going to teach us how to blog!"

Yes, because I'm working on a PhD so that I can spend the rest of my life traveling all over the country explaining free internet software to people who make ten times what I do.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:43 PM
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133: Yes, *nothing* was claimed as science specific. It was just an obvious example of the problem of `celebrity'.


I saw Andrew Wiles talk at Stanford a little while after the (first, broken) proof of FLT got lots of media attention. He didn't even try for a math talk, per se, but they still had overflow of about 100 people standing outside the hall (a big one) listening on the PA. Most of them were random students & local citizens who had just read about him in the paper. I asked him about it after the talk, and he said his life was basically like that, now. He couldn't really get any work done. Presumeably it quieted down after a bit.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:44 PM
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Yes, because I'm working on a PhD so that I can spend the rest of my life traveling all over the country explaining free internet software to people who make ten times what I do.

This isn't how it usually works?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:45 PM
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135: One of the main differences is that conference talks, in the humanities, are far less prestigious than publications. Publication is getting harder and harder to get access to, but conferences are a dime a dozen. You get chosen to talk at a conference after someone reads your paragraph-long abstract. You get published after a dozen readers pass your precious manuscript around and send you hateful responses and you spend a year editing the damn thing to their satisfaction. As I understand it, the sciences have much more prestigious conferences, with their own publications attached.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:46 PM
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OK, back on topic.
Staying up late on a Sunday night to talk about the mechanics of academic presentations is most characteristic of:
A) The Delinquent
B) The Hipster
C) The Square


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:47 PM
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Powerpoint, while sucky in many ways, is being unfairly maligned. I recently read the first essay in Moretti's Signs Taken For Wonders, and I bet that the information in it could be more efficiently conveyed by a Powerpoint presentation than by an essay.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:48 PM
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135: It's not as organized as the physicists (damn, have they ever got the preprint thing sorted out). Unlike humanities (as I understand it), some conferences involve a peer reviewed paper that will be published after the conference in a bound proceedings. These are something like phys let pubs, I guess. There are other meetings where you submit only a short abstract and nothing is published, that. As befits a discipline that nobody can figure out where to fit in, some areas have meetings more like sciences, others more like humanities.

There are some oddball areas in sciences ... the premier publication venue for computer graphics is a conference proceedings. As a result, their peer review process is tough, and acceptance somewhere around 10%


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:50 PM
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141: Do you really have to ask?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:51 PM
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141

D) The Insomniac who happens to be doing work (don't ask)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:51 PM
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143 - I think complexity theory is like that too.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:51 PM
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144: Yes, asking was on my schedule.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:52 PM
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Walt, there are a few forms of information that powerpoint is very well suited to present. These represent a miniscule fraction of actual power point presentations.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:52 PM
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143: there are more than a few newish fields where Proceedings of Whatever is the journal of record, no?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:53 PM
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148 - The first essay in Moretti's Signs Taken For Wonders is one of them.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:53 PM
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138: If Wiles had been a bit more wily, he would've mentioned that he'd actually proven the Taniyama-Shimura theorem over semistable elliptic curves, then slapped down the fuckin huge printed out version of the proof while explaining how many cases he broke it down into.

Then he'd just excuse himself for a brief bathroom break, come back into a 300-seat auditorium with only 30 number theorists and algebraic geometrists left, and get to talk about whatever the hell he wanted.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:55 PM
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David Byrne and Al Gore have both argued persuasively if indirectly for the value of powerpoint. Edward Tufte doesn't have to be right all the time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:55 PM
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140 As I understand it, the sciences have much more prestigious conferences, with their own publications attached.

This is not my experience at all, in my corner of science. I think it's actually more true of some engineering and technical fields than of the sciences. (Computer graphics, as soup biscuit says in 143.)

Actually in my field publication is less and less relevant, as everyone reads the preprints and the really exciting ones can be cited many times before they ever get published.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:55 PM
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One of the main differences is that conference talks, in the humanities, are far less prestigious than publications

With weird exceptions like I mentioned, this is typical of sciences too. Some engineering areas seem to be conference oriented.


One real difference is that essentially nobody every pays their own way to a science conference. I understand that's not true for humanities. I say this not to rub it in, but to point out that it changes the barrier to entry.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:55 PM
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In biological sciences, the publications that accompany conferences are extremely half-assed and never cited by anyone. Any important presentation, even if it contains data that nobody but the presenter has sen before, is probably a summy of a paper (or a couple papers) that has already been accepted for publication in a journal unrelated to the conference.

Often the speaker says "So, in conclusion, we hope you're convinced, and a condensed version of this has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, with myself as first author."

Conferences and articles are both very important on one's c.v., but only the articles actually get remembered by anyone later on, since anything important presented at a conference will also be in an article.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:56 PM
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151: People have done this sort of thing before, but I understand when your name is in lights, the Deans tend to get interested in what you're up to.



Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:57 PM
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"summy" s/b "summary"


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:58 PM
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155: Yeah, typically I think of conference talks as advertisements for a paper, either finished or getting close.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 2-08 11:58 PM
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152: I think Tufte is mostly right about what's wrong with it, and not so much about what it can do right.

It doesn't change the fact that it's a tool that is typically used very badly, even if that doesn't have to be the case.

Which is also a separate issue from the rather niche issue of academic conference talks (of whatever stripe).


What's really lovely is when you see some lazy bastard submitted a paper to a technical conference and didn't get a talk, but rather a poster. So they print out the PP slides they would have given in the talk.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 12:01 AM
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but I understand when your name is in lights, the Deans tend to get interested in what you're up to.

Now that's just no good for anyone.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 12:04 AM
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158: Coming Soon to a refereed journal near you!!

Proteasome activator PA28 regulates p53 by enhancing its MDM2-mediated degradation!!

Be the first in your sub-specialty to know the salient findings. Guaranteed to make you feel that your area of research is of greater relevancy and general interest or your money back!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 12:04 AM
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That's what I've been missing my whole life! Proteasome activator PA28!


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 12:08 AM
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160: Well, it's good for the people whose names are in lights, and for the Deans. But then, all those people probably get blinded by all those lights. Things even out.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 12:25 AM
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163: That was a pretty good Shouts & Murmurs. The best part:

Eventually, I believe, everything evens out. Long ago, an asteroid hit our planet and killed our dinosaurs. But, in the future, maybe we'll go to another planet and kill their dinosaurs.

Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 12:32 AM
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Aw c'mon. Clip art ... animated clip art ... fades ...design templates... Never have so many megabytes been devoted to so little.

Case in point: "Pentagon cracks down on PowerPoint"

Like any other tool, PPT is neither good nor bad, but can be used well or poorly for purposes for which it is either well or poorly suited.

PowerPoint is indispensible in my metier, which is focused on conveying enough information to make a reasonably well-informed decision, rather than exploring a topic in all its detail and nuance. Pragmatic concerns dictate that the only a subset of the relevant information can be conveyed to the decision-maker. PowerPoint is a useful and flexible tool for constructing that kind of summary.

One major shortcoming of using PPT for these purposes is that a briefing document that emerges from painstaking, exhaustive analysis of the detailed issues is not always distinguishable at first glance from one that was extracted from someone's metaphorical rectum. The decision-maker needs to be aware of the potential for flim-flammery inherent in the medium and learn to ask the right questions to ascertain whether the briefer has done his or her homework.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 5:59 AM
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w-lfs-n exists precisely on the bright line between the hipster and the square

Isn't it true that

{hipsters} ∩ {squares} = {dorks}
?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 6:27 AM
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165: One major shortcoming of using PPT for these purposes is that a briefing document that emerges from painstaking, exhaustive analysis of the detailed issues is not always distinguishable at first glance from one that was extracted from someone's metaphorical rectum

As I recall this was one of the issues/opportunities that Feith and the odious Office of Special Plans exploited in the fall of 2002 re: Iraq intelligence. They would manage to get a few key bullet points modified with their spin. In that format (and it really is just the "bulletization", PP is just the tool) the presentation becomes an amalgamation of well-supported and unsupported conclusions with no clue as which is which.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 6:55 AM
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167: Precisely. And when the decision-maker is being told what he wants to hear and lacks any capacity for critical thought, you can stop kidding yourself that the PPT document is an aid to good decision-making.

There was also an article in the Atlantic a while back (can't find it online) in which the space shuttle Columbia disaster was blamed on negligent use of PowerPoint.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 7:09 AM
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The Columbia article is Edward Tufte, too. Good old Edward.

Or at least I assume it is. Maybe there's another one.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 7:46 AM
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oh my link didn't work.

again


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 7:48 AM
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22: mrh in repose looks kinda, sorta like the square. The rest of the time he looks like Josh, or at least a version of Josh before his youth and innocence were snuffed out.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 7:56 AM
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I decided against a PhD in the field when I came to understand how much of it resembled rock snobbery on steroids.

I decided against a PhD in the field when I realized that I 'd really rather just be a rock snob after all.

Those bars of "Can't Explain" on the movie's soundtrack? Kicky!


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 8:00 AM
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{hipsters} ∩ {squares} = {dorks}

Knecht, be serious. {hipsters} ∩ {squares} = {hipsters, squares}. Now, maybe hipsters ∩ squares = dorks, I don't know.

I saw one of Byrne's powerpoint presentations "back in the day" and it was awesome.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 9:43 AM
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The decision-maker needs to be aware of the potential for flim-flammery inherent in the medium and learn to ask the right questions to ascertain whether the briefer has done his or her homework.

So, rather than present the d-m with a document containing the necessary detail and argument in itself, which can be perused at leisure, you present him or her with something that is, in itself, basically unreliable, and hope that s/he's on the ball enough to ask the questions that would have been answered by the former sort of document anyway?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 9:47 AM
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173: Mr. w-lfs-n, surely you are not confusing the union and intersection operations? For shame, for shame.

Also, although I am unaware of whether {dorks} is truly equivalent to {hipsters} ∩ {squares}, due to all three sets being somewhat poorly defined, I can be positive about the following:
{hipsters} ∩ {squares} ⊃ {us}


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 10:56 AM
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Oh, surely. In fact, {hipsters} ∩ {squares} = {}, though perhaps hipsters ∩ squares = dorks.

REMEMBER! If you are already talking about a set, enclosing its name in brackets means you are talking about the set whose sole element is the first set! A helpfully analogous case: {1,2} ∩ {2,3} = {2}, but {{1,2}} ∩ {{2,3}} = {}.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 11:02 AM
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Don't make me come over there and take away your list of HTML entity codes...


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 12:48 PM
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So, rather than present the d-m with a document containing the necessary detail and argument in itself

The problem here is that the d-m is presumed to only want an executive summary. Depending on the topic that can be just 1 page. In the end, it has all the flaws of PowerPoint and can often be worse. The 9/11 Commission report takes 585 pages. The executive summary runs 35 pages. Which one did George skim?


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 03- 3-08 5:28 PM
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