Poznan Cognitivist Society Conference

Posted on April 21, 2008

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I’m on my way back from Poznan where the Polish Cognitivist Society Conference took place. The paper I presented – Racjonalność ograniczona, błędy systematyczne i przesądy – was a Polish language version of one of the talks I gave in Trondheim in January. Most of the talks at the conference were scheduled to be only 20 minutes long. Complete insanity, given that there wasn’t enough time for any questions nor time outside of talks to meet up with the people who gave the talks and to discuss their work with them. To make the problem worse, the schedule had not been made available until a few days before the meeting which meant that the abstracts and the slides were invariably put together on the assumption of longer talks. Having had a fair bit of experience giving talks under various condition I seem to have managed to get through my talk in the allotted time and without completely losing most of the audience but many people seemed to be just rushing to get through their slides at a pace that was impossible to keep up with. As such, the format worked very much against anyone getting anything out of the meeting. It would have been understandable in terms of the organisers wanting to keep everyone together if there had been no simultaneous sessions but this was not the case – there were two different sessions for the length of the meeting, excluding the plenaries. In that situation the obvious solution would have been to go to 4 simultaneous sessions and 40 minutes for each talk and questions. This would have meant some exchange of ideas between the participants instead of this very frustrating rush against the clock. It would have meant fewer listeners at each talk but, given what actually took place, this would have been a relatively minor cost. Conference scheduling is always an art of making compromises and always something doesn’t turn out quite right but this way of setting things up was guaranteed not to work well from the start.

The significant shortcomings of how the meeting was organised meant that, even though I met two people whose work seems to have interesting connections with my own, I did not have the opportunity to discuss our shared interests with them. The most useful result of the meeting for me was seeing an old friend of mine give a talk on philosophy of language after which we decided that we can put some of our ideas together into what should be an interesting paper. Apart from that I got to see several talks which suggested some of the interesting work that is being done around the world, many of the talks really having had the form of something resembling reviews of current literature in a field, and one or two talks about interesting work actually being done in Poland. As it was, the conference dinner also ended up not lasting very long with most people leaving before nine o’clock. Perhaps they had been tired out by the day-long ‘sprint’ through numerous talks.

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