Having been on the programming committee in the past -- and not speaking
for them, just myself -- I wanted to respond to some of Tom's comments from
the first post.
Yes, we do get some submissions that are straight up academic papers,
repurposed for the ARSC Conference, or not so. On the committee I
personally tended to take
a more jaundiced eye towards such presentations, but sometimes others might
find merit in them and they'd go on. And some I was right about, though I
one that I tried particularly vigorously to shoot down that still flew. And
I'm glad it did; it was a good paper. So these things are a crap shoot.
However, you do not want to discourage the academics from submitting. Some
may well become members who return year after year and may become part of
bulwark of a future ARSC; others you may never see at the conference again.
I honestly don't know how much attention institutions of learning --
outside of those
who heavily support the cause in some way, or employ people who are
conspicous ARSC members -- pay to the ARSC Conference. But I for one would
any of them to get the idea that we might tend to reject something as too
academic, no matter how much some of these papers can tend to be a
buzzkill. And I did
see one in Rochester that was definitely that.
Technical committee meetings can get long winded and lose focus. That said,
they do get better attendence than the historical papers that you and l
love. There is
a reason for that; some institutions, such as NPR for example, send out
personnel to attend those meetings specifically. Some of these attendees --
and I've talked
to them, so I know -- haven't the slightest interest in attending to a
historic paper on any topic; it doesn't relate to their jobs, or if it did,
they wouldn't know. We need
these warm bodies to help support the organization so that there continues
to be a forum for the historic papers that hardcore attendees feel are the
lifeblood of ARSC.
That's an argument both for keeping the technical committee as it is and
for plenary sessions, so that there is an alternative to the technical
meets if you're not in the mood.
I once suggested "slam sessions" -- 10 or 15 minute papers that can be
delivered in odd spots on the program, thinking that first time attendees
could try one of'
those. Actually, after discussing it with others in program committee it
became apparent that an experienced presenter would be more likely to
deliver a slam session
well, and the general feeling was that the concept was not a good fit for
us. But if things were to change, I could see where that might be an
if you want to address a small topic, or to gain new reasearch angles from
your audience into some area which needs more input.
"Debt to longtime members" was never a factor in programming committee
discussions I participated in; not once. What did come up was "does the
speaker have a good
track record? Does this look like a good paper?" Sometimes it's hard
to tell from just a short abstract. And invariably someone has to drop out
of the program, so you have
to select from "Column B" to fill the void, or not, depending on how much
time you have to notify someone that, hey, you're presenting after all.
I hope I haven't said too much, but also I just seek to clarify some of the
thinking behing this process, as I experienced it.
Uncle Dave Lewis
A somewhat simplistic rule of thumb for historical/discographical
presentations might be, if it's very specific (i.e. one artist's time on
one label, one piece of music or one album, one little record label, etc),
keep it to 35 minutes. If it's something sweeping, like for instance the
history of jazz in Kansas City, that deserves an hour but make sure the
presenter is willing to do the work to fill the hour with interesting
Another possibility to consider -- if someone is basically re-iterating
something published in ARSC Journal or some other printed outlet (like a
doctoral thesis), perhaps they should be restricted to 35 minutes. If they
are presenting new, interesting (as deemed by the presentations committee)
material, give them more time because that will encourage them to develop
enough material for a good ARSC Journal article, hence a virtuous cycle.
Bottom line -- number of presentations is meaningless if short time slots
lead to shallow, useless presentations. Very few things can be
well-explained in 20 minutes. A few things need more than 35 minutes, but I
think taste and discretion need to trump egos and "debt to longtime
members." It should only go long if it's worth the extra time, possibly at
the expense of someone else's opportunity to present. Not to be given
lightly, but should be given when deserved.