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PHD-DESIGN  September 2011

PHD-DESIGN September 2011

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Subject:

Re: Spamferences?

From:

Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 15:03:18 +1000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (37 lines)

Dear Lorenzo,

If Sapienza actually hosted the conference, then I can only say it seems to me an unfortunate choice to work with a profit-focused, privately owned conference company that works across 25 fields. The visible problems and issues represented by the Common Ground business model don't disappear when a university hosts the conference - instead, one must question the decision of a university to work with a journal publisher where one editor works as the editor of 25 journals across 25 broad fields. If I wanted to host a large-scale general discipline conference, as I have done more than once, I would have bid for the conference of a respected, discipline-based organization.

It cannot be said that any conference may be a great chance for meetings, conversations, and networking. Unless serious scholars and editors attend a conference, the will be no chance to develop rich networks for collaborative research, and there will be no editors seeking high quality papers that go on to publication in respected journals. One can certainly meet someone at any conference and even enjoy lovely conversations. I suppose that one might learn wondeful things about the food and museums in the city where the conference takes place, and it's always possible to discuss cricket scores or the current strengths of Manchester United as against the strengths of Barcelona or Chelsea. The question is whether these will be useful in becoming a better researcher or a better designer. 

I won't apologize for being blunt on this. Those of us with responsibilities for the career opportunities and development of younger researchers and those of us who are responsible for the research education of the next generation have to understand these issues. Our advice and the recommendations we make influence the choices and future opportunities of those who look to us for advice. As an associate professor at a North American university, I'm assuming you have tenure or you may be close. Those of us who have the good fortune to hold tenure now ought to understand just how tough it is for younger researchers to get that first real job in a tight market and a tough economy .... We ought to understand that it is tougher still to get tenure and promotion, especially in a world that depends increasingly on casual appointments while shrinking permanent staff. For that matter, even where we a growing, we read applications, theses, and papers carefully in deciding first who to shortlist, and second, who to choose among the many who apply for every job. An article in Design Studies or Design Issues counts heavily in these kinds of decisions. An article in one of the other good journals counts a great deal. An article in one of the silly venues may count against you. A good thesis at a good university counts a great deal. A monograph or book chapter with MIT Press, Berg, Cambridge, Chicago? Absolutely. Verlag Dr. Muller or LAP? Not hardly. 

In a world where people make real decisions based on the kinds of criteria that everyone understands who has ever chaired a selection process, it is a genuine disservice to suggest that any conference or any publication may have value. Some have no value. Some actually detract from a career.

The conferences of the respected associations count. The conferences, symposia, and invitational events of serious universities and research organizations count. So do real journals with serious editorial boards and advisors who know they are on the advisory board. In saying this, I add that some of the flakier conference organizers and publishers are becoming well enough known that even if a design school is interested in an applicant, the presence on a CV of a publication with a notorious vanity press or a presentation at a "vacation conference" may catch the eye of someone else at a university where deans, deputy vice chancellors, and vice chancellors review applications before a contract can be offered. 

Life is short, time scarce, and funding hard to come by. Best to treat them with care. In a world where such organizations as the Design Research Society, the Design Society, and the International Association of Societies of Design Research offer regular conferences, along with design streams at many other conferences, why would one bother with a questionable event organized to meet the business needs of a single family that owns the event?

Yours,

Ken

Sent from my iPad

On Sep 21, 2011, at 1:31 PM, "Lorenzo Imbesi <[log in to unmask]>" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

--snip--

> Again, I cannot speak for any edition, but while organizing the 
> conference in Rome, Common Ground did not rent the space at University, 
> but myself and the Design Department worked independently on the overall 
> program, on the choice of the keynote speakers, the topic, the 
> organization of the strands, chairing and so on. 

--snip--

> I feel that any Conference may be a great chance for meeting, discussing 
> and networking, if you are willing to it.

--snip--

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