Another Week, Another Conference

Monday

This week is the School conference at NTU, for which I’ve foolish put in a paper for – and delightfully am presenting it in the first session.  To say that currently said paper is in a very sorry state of preparation is a little understatement.  I’ve got something that I could present after a fair few hours working on it today, but I’m really not that happy with it yet.  Slightly hampered by writing it in PowerPoint when I don’t have PowerPoint to use on my home PC.  I’d use something like Prezi…but frankly I think that might look a bit crap in the hands of someone who’s barely used it like me.  Thus I had to pop onto campus today just to use the PCs there.

Hello...is there anybody else here?
Hello…is there anybody else here?

Clifton campus in the summer is a pretty desolate place.  When I was there for my interview last August, I remember the tumbleweeds blowing through it – and clearly now term has ended everyone’s left for the summer.  The canteen is shut down, the bookshop is shut until September and likewise the union building and bar is closed for probably the same duration.  Yes, nothing says “Hey research students, your university loves you…not!” more than a dead campus.  On the other hand I was able to take over an entire PC classroom for the morning just for myself – now if only I had a use for 24 networked PCs at the same time.  I did debate borrowing the monitor off the neighbouring machine and running a dual screen config, but sadly there weren’t two ports available.  I also thought I might risk the ire of a passing tech.

Did manage to work on the talk though, before my body sent me home for “lunch”.  That’s in inverted commas as I’ve decided I’ve put on a bit too much weight what with all this sitting in front of a screen, and have kicked onto the 5:2 diet for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference.  Today’s my first fasting day…and all around me there’s just talk of food.  Even the episode of the Archers I listened to on the drive home was all about Sunday roasts. Argh!

Possibly as a consequence of the diet, or maybe due to the unllamaly hour of the morning the Wife got up today to head down south to work come mid-afternoon I just wanted to sleep.  I did manage to wake myself up enough to conduct another interview, but I think that’s going to be it for me today.  Tomorrow on a normal diet and more respectable hour of the day to rise, I hope to focus more on the talk.  That and another four interviews anyway.

Tuesday

Well a night’s sleep did help as I tore through editing my talk on paper in an hour or so.  I did try and see if I could edit it in Open Office Impress, but while it opened the editing was pretty much screwed up.  By the time I’d spent ten minutes fiddling to edit a single slide, I decided the time would be better spent polishing on paper than editing in live.  So I’ll be on campus bright and early tomorrow to re-edit again.  The rest of the day was spent doing interviews, and visiting the dentist.  That and being glad that today’s not a 5:2 diet day (it got surprisingly hard as the day went on not to snack), though tomorrow is.

Did have an interesting exchange with a friend on Facebook who asked why I don’t promote my blog more.  Thing is it automatically tweets and pops up on Facebook and LinkedIn, so I’m not quite sure what else I could do to push it on a regular basis.  Think if I was one of those people who’s always pushing my social media output, that I might end up alienating more people than I engage with and that would be rather counterproductive

Wednesday

Earlyish start today to head into campus and do the next edit on the conference paper for tomorrow.  Campus was deserted again, so I had the pleasure of picking my own computer room for most of the time.  Thanks to my edits on paper yesterday it wasn’t too hard, although my methods slide is still best described as “a work in progress”.  Need to tighten up on this post-conference but for now it’ll have to do, as I’d be talking even more gibberish than I fear I am.

After a few hours editing (the biggest chunk of which seemed to be spent drawing a pretty arrow) I decided that a) I needed to practice the talk and b) It was too warm in the PC room to keep working, so I headed home via the garden centre.  It was still too warm so I decided to stop work until after 5pm when it had cooled down a touch, and I could spend another couple of hours rehearsing and making edit notes on the talk.  It does mean I need to nip into campus before the conference to make the final edits, but hopefully this won’t take me too long tomorrow morning.  And it’ll also force me to be on site in plenty of time rather than rolling up at the last minute, so another good thing.

Second day of the 5:2 diet this week today.  Seems to be slightly easier, though I blew 140 of the 600Kcal allowance on a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast.  Didn’t fancy rice for every meal!

Thursday

Woke up around 6am to the news about James Gandolfini, which didn’t start the day on the best of notes.  I’m a long term fan of The Sopranos, from back before most people had heard of it – so quite upset.  Way too young an age for such a great guy to go 😦

Conference banner
Conference banner

My paper, on slides, seemed to go down okay and while (phew) I didn’t generate any questions in the panel discussions I spent a chunk of the day and evening meal dealing with a variety of queries and discussion points which was pleasing.  Some of the papers on the day went right over my head, but they were in the minority.  The majority of papers were very interesting, and gave a real insight into not just what the various academics are researching, but also an idea of the approach to developing an academically valuable paper.  My time was definitely well spent.

As the day was horrifically humid and hot, I nipped home at close of play to show and change (only an hour round trip!) before coming back for the conference dinner at MemSaab in Nottingham.  Conference dinners where you don’t know many people are always a bit awkward, so I spent a bit of the evening just observing and listening to the conversations around me, before slowly, cautiously joining in.  It was a good meal and a good evening, and I made a few more contacts within the School.

Friday

I wasn’t planning to come to the second half day of the Connecting the Humanities conference, but I having had my arm lightly twisted last night over dinner – and since the dept did buy dinner, through the rules of obligation and reciprocity it would be a stronger man than I who could snub them.  Then again it’s been very useful meeting more people in the School, and since one of my complaints about the early months of the PhD was the lack of interaction with any scholars outside of my supervisory team within the institution, this is all to my long term benefit.  And they’re a really nice bunch of people – even if some of the stuff they’re presenting today is going to leave me going “Durrrr” I suspect.  Not so much over my head, but out of my frame of reference and experience.

Still, I came back to university as much learn new things and to open my mind to new perspectives – hence this will be worth it for that.  Llordllama’s conference maxim is always “If you learn one thing, or make one new connection – then it’s worthwhile” and I’ve certainly achieved that.  Anything else I could learn today would be icing on the cake.  There was a strong queer theory and French theme to half the papers, and indeed the programme promised “Some of this sessioon wil;l be delivered in French”.  As it turned out it was just the odd chunk, and I could certainly follow enough of it (thanks to the notes from the speakers).  There was also a fascinating paper on the interrelationships in the University girls football team from a queer theory standpoint; which was both eye opening and a surprise how much it caught my interest.  There was also a paper on The cosmopolitics of aesthetics: Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘Mars’ trilogy which I enjoyed, having read the books myself a few times.

Watch-thermo-hyrgrometer thing!
Watch-thermo-hyrgrometer thing!

I also got presented with a small speaker’s gift – which I think is rather super nifty.  It’ll be sitting on my work desk from here on out!

However, the highlight of the morning was something billed in the programme as “an hour-long conversation between Iain Simons and James Newman.  Nothing else was listed in the programme, but it turned out to be from two researchers who are researching videogames* and a seeking ways to present them, their heritage and cultural value to audiences comprised of varying levels of knowledge on the subject.  It was very interesting to hear the way they approach their presentations as more DJ jams, and less linear talks using AV and music to create something far more performative.  I’d love to try something like that sometime I confess, although not sure if my work especially lends itself to that.  Still, there’s always Dance your thesis.

I had a quick chat with one of the speakers afterwards as when talking about game devs and completed games, there was a certain synchronicity with academics and published research papers that peaked my interest.  But then we were done.  As the conference had run late I went home via the shops and called it a day, as I was pretty tired out by the intense activity of this week – and more than ready to start my weekend.  Think I’ll start next week off by reflecting on my brief conference notes.

*Yes, just one word – this was stressed an important though not quite explained.  I suspect it’s to differentiate videogames entirely from games as an entirely different experience.

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