Image by Brandon Wong on unsplash.com
We’re now more than half-way through to conference, and I’m reflecting on the guidance by Michaela Benson yesterday morning on the ‘cliques’ that make some conferences isolating and formidable social spaces. I’m big on the importance of conscious relationships in public life – I’m researching community organisers and they have had a huge influence on me (as they should). So a conference that explicitly encourages us to move beyond our familiar pre-existing collegial relationships is an exciting place to be. Particularly since, as one of only two people working at an Australian University here, I don’t have a ‘clique’ to belong to!
So how can a conference create the conditions for better public relationship building? Programming participatory workshops that encourage cross-talk and conversation, or sociological walks that get us out of chairs and moving through space with others are great initiatives in theory. But what is the end-goal of these conversations? What is the purpose of the new relationships we’re forming?
I’ve made friends at this conference and that’s a glorious thing in-and-of-itself and it’s made my time here fun. I’d hope, though, that given the themes bubbling up through this conference about resistance, that there are also political and properly public relationships being formed here. We’re discussing provocative and exciting ideas. There is a little bit of (hopefully productive) tension at some of the talks and workshops I’ve been to. So will the chats over tea and biscuits (and wine and beer) lead to action and collaboration?
At the last workshop I attended, an participant asked about strategies to harness the energy and possibilities that emerged from the strikes here for future work. And I’d love to think more about harnessing the energy and possibilities we’re creating in this space for future work beyond the conference.