Online Conferences: Some History, Methods, and Benefits

In Right Research: Modelling Sustainable Research Practices in the Anthropocene. United Kingdom: Open Book Publishers. pp. 435–462 (2021)
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Abstract

Philosophers have probably been organizing conferences since at least the time of Plato’s academy (Barnes, 1998). More recently, philosophers have brought some of their conferences online (e.g., Brown, 2009; Buckner, Byrd, Rushing, & Schwenkler, 2017; Calzavarini & Viola, 2018; Nadelhoffer, 2006). However, the adoption of online conferences is limited. One might wonder if scholars prefer traditional conferences for their ability to provide goods that online conferences cannot. While this may be true, online conferences outshine traditional conferences in various ways, and at a significantly lower cost. By considering the costs and benefits of both conference models, we may find reasons to prefer online to traditional conferences in some circumstances. This paper shares the methods, quantitative results, and qualitative results of the Minds Online conferences of 2015, 2016, and 2017. The evidence suggests that the online conference model can help scholars better understand their profession, share the workload of conference organizing, increase representation for underrepresented groups, increase accessibility to attendees, decrease monetary costs for everyone involved, sustain conference activity during states of emergency, and reduce their carbon footprint. So, the advantages of traditional conferences might be outweighed by their higher costs after all.

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Nick Byrd
Stevens Institute of Technology