Aegean archaeology: Kosmos conference

Posted April 21st, 2010 by Andrea Vianello

Due to the disruptions to flights in Europe, the 13th International conference on Aegean archaeology, Kosmos, has been streamed live and it has been possible to chat (i.e. ask questions) while the papers were being presented. The Centre for Textile Research has set up the appropriate technologies, and the meeting has been successful, opening up the possibility that future archaeological meetings may be organised online from the start. This was not the first time that archaeologists have used live streams for conferences (in France this has been done a few times now and later on the presentations have been made available online as well), but it is the first time that it happens at an international conference (intended here as one both involving authors from different countries and reaching out an international audience). The key benefit has been the possibility to widen the intended audience; not everyone could have travelled to Copenhagen, volcano ash permitting or not. Chatting with scholars as papers were being read has also been successful. Congratulations to the organisers, who in the attempt of saving the scheduled meeting may have actually improved it.

For the future it is hoped that more conferences will be streamed online. Some organisers might ask for a small fee to follow the event online to cover for some practical costs, but such a fee would still be a fraction of the cost to participate in person. Some short breaks would still be useful for people. Copyright reasons may prevent many papers to be published online, and some archaeologists may not want that to happen for their papers, but the possibility should be explored. Perhaps a registered members only area would be a good idea. For crowded conferences, like those by the EAA, AIA, UISPP and WAC, with several sessions in parallel, the option to stream at will any papers during the week, even if only through selected computers within the conference’s space. I have lost several valuable (to my research/interests) papers at conferences simply because I could not be in two different rooms at the same time. Chatting is also a great idea, but one should note that for live events you do not want people to be able to chat (talking or typing) as presentations are made as such actions may be distracting for those following the paper being presented. The possibility to use the Internet as papers were being read (i.e. looking up bibliographic references as slides were being shown; checking information; visiting project websites immediately after or during a relevant presentation) should also be considered. Most people at conferences checks their emails during breaks; during the Kosmos conference however the streaming of presentations; the chatting online; and the browsing the Internet became integrated actions for many, real multitasking of a degree impossible at live events.

Should therefore all future conferences be online? Certainly not, sometimes you need to have a face-to-face with authors or talk privately. However, the experience with the Kosmos conference should be remembered and at least some techniques and suggestions be implemented at larger conferences.