Organising a Conference: first hand experience from a doctoral researcher

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Guest post: Aristea Fotopoulou (doctoral researcher in the school of Media, Film and Music) reflects on her experiences of setting up and running the Digital Methods and Feminist Approaches one-day graduate conference.

In this post I am going to say a few words about the process of setting up the Digital Methods and Feminist Approaches one-day graduate conference, from inception to organisation, to implementation, from my perspective as doctoral researcher on the conference committee.

This was a good experience overall. I personally initiated the conference and sent the Call For Papers (CFP) to my supervisors for feedback. They were the ones who suggested Robert Funds so I went on to apply for funding before circulating the CFP. From then on, Nick Till, the MFM Director of Doctoral Studies assisted with the application process. I found the application process demanding but helpful as it made me clarify what the aims of the conference exactly were. It also helped with developing a basic idea about budget planning. The scopes of the day were to give voice to interdisciplinarity, to talk about methods, and bring together researchers who are positioned as feminists in their work. With these in mind, the CFP was re-drafted in order to accommodate the Funds requirements in a way. At the same time, we were offered funding from the Research Centre for Material and Digital Culture (RCMDC) of the Media, Film and Music (MFM) School.

Once funding was secured, the CFP was circulated to internal and external email lists, but also to relevant schools and departments in other universities [namely the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR), Brighton and Sussex Sexuality Network (BSSN), Womens Studies, the Media, Cultural Studies and Communication Association (MeCCSA) ]. We located these by visiting various University websites and looking for their media, gender and digital humanities departments or research centres. We also called papers and registration via non-academic community lists like the Feminist Activist Forum, Feminist Fightback and the Queer Mutiny Brighton list, as we tried to engage with a broad definition of ‘feminist’ – both academic and non-academic. Eventually, different positions within feminism were not explicitly heard during the day, which highlights how asking what ‘feminist’ or ‘queer’ is in approaches and methodologies is important, especially when these words operate as umbrella terms for sets of assumptions. As Adi Kuntsman, one of the invited keynote speakers, noted, the event mainly concerned white, middle-class, educated and gender-normative feminism. This kind of criticism we take on board when thinking about future events.

Apart from this, feedback was overall quite positive. We encouraged participant feedback through questionnaire which also had open space for comments. Some of the participants felt that the programme of the day was intense and that time for breaks and discussion was not enough. Everybody seemed pleased with the catering provisions. As delegates in other conferences, we had noticed how difficult having a satisfying conference lunch may be when one is vegan, and/or gluten-, nut-intolerant. For this, we  wanted a menu which was vegan, gluten and nut free, and appropriate provisions were made by Sarah Maddox, the Research & Enterprise Coordinator of the MFM School. Sarah also kindly took care of the travel cost reimbursement for speakers and generally all other aspects of management of our budget.

Connections with other researchers were drawn, both during and after the conference, which was one of our objectives. For example, Anne Welsh, one of the speakers, wrote a review about the day in the UCL Digital Humanities blog. She also eagerly tweeted during the day, along with Karen Burrows, one of our Sussex-based MFM researchers, and Catherine Redfern (the f-word), one of the invited keynote speakers during the day (the archive of the tweets here). We have also now linked interested delegates with the RCMDC email list, where information about upcoming events is posted.

Finally, we would like to thank all who helped with the conference, and especially the MFM School Office people, the Doctoral School and the RCMDC for all their support.

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One thought on “Organising a Conference: first hand experience from a doctoral researcher

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Martin Eve, Doctoral School. Doctoral School said: Guest blog post – Organising a Conference: first hand experience from a doctoral researcher at Sussex: http://t.co/FFR6Ew0 […]

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