I’ve been involved in so many online activities since the UK went into lockdown in March 2020 that I’ve lost count. There have been supervisions and meetings and hangouts, trainings and gaming sessions and seminars. Screenings, symposia, and workshops. And of course teaching.
There have also been conferences, continuing unabated across a huge variety of formats and platforms. Tomorrow I’ll be logging into Blackboard Collaborate to attend the 2nd International e-Conference on Translation, which has a focus on linguistic minorities and will have both live and prerecorded presentations. Last week I took part in the CHEP Learning and Teaching Festival (of a similar format) and the Intermedial Eighteenth Century conference, which was mostly asynchronous on forums and Vimeo. Before that came the Pratchett Project and the London Science Fiction Research Community, all synchronous on Blackboard Collaborate (but with some sessions recorded for posterity). And way back in June I presented at the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies, where all talks were prerecorded, and delegates got together on the day for discussion and questions via Zoom.
I’m also a (guilty?) contributor to this surfeit of stuff online, organising a Mobilities symposium on MS Teams over the summer. This November I’m hoping to coordinate a series of online events for the UK’s annual Being Human festival.
Online conferences were already a hot topic of conversation in academia. We’ve begun to seriously consider the environmental impact of international conferences, not to mention the fact that such events are increasingly a privilege reserved for those with a stable income and institutional travel budgets. But COVID-19 has shifted these conversations into high gear. I guess the question on most people’s minds is whether the virtual realm is the future of conferencing. And if so, what works best?