Work / Life Ecologies

Conferences

In conjunction with our work on air travel, the Work Life Ecologies project is researching one of the most common reasons why academics fly: to attend and present at conferences. We want to understand what draws academics to these events. Is it the presentations? The atmosphere? Or perhaps it’s the break and meal times, when they interact with other academics on a more informal basis? Researching the practices of conferences will help us to understand why academics go to so much effort – and carbon emissions! – to attend these events.

  • In our research on academic air travel, we learned that one of the main reasons academics go to conferences is for the opportunity to interact with other academics in an informal setting. Academics commonly cited the conversations they have during conference breaks and meals as being particularly beneficial for professional and personal networking. But given that eating meals is such an embodied and material experience, what would it look like to experience that remotely? Can we really eat a meal with someone on the opposite side of the world in the same way as though they were sitting next to us?

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  • Have you ever wanted to attend a conference that was right up your alley, but just couldn’t find a way to get there? Perhaps the flights were too expensive, and you or your employer didn’t feel it was worth the time and money to make the trip. You may have caring obligations where spending multiple days away from home just isn’t feasible. In either case, you would miss the event.

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  • airplane wing

    Why do academics fly so much? What is it about academia, or the university sector in general, that makes flying such a normal part of the work life? And what can be done to reduce the amount of air travel that academics undertake?

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