If you are as reluctant or slow in making choices like me, from the very start, Singapore’s ISEA conference programme was a daunting experience: six parallel conference sessions, next to performances, partner events, exhibitions, meetings…
And a conference programme overview that (both online and in print) forced you to choose your programme by either block theme, the speaker or the catchy (or not-so-catchy) title of the lecture, you had to either be an informed cross-disciplinary genius or carry around the 600 pages abstracts catalogue to find out more about the presentations.
I found it an impossible task to highlight ISEA’s programme, per questo report che Marco Mancuso mi ha chiesto, dato che partecipavo a Isea 2008 per presentare l’attività della Virtueel Platform di Amsterdam in cui lavoro come project manager, since I have not-attended (missed) more of it than attended given the multiplicity of its programme.
However, the format of the ISEA conference is what influenced everyone’s experience so I’ll rather focus on that. The conference venue (Singapore’s University) turned into a beehive for five days with everyone busily swarming around and trying to find the right honeycomb. I felt I mostly ended up in rather random ones. Luckily, strict time management made it possible to move between the different thematic blocks and sessions, but unfortunately moderation seldom amounted to more than time management, which made it easily possible to swap between different lectures but rather difficult to explore the common thread or overarching relations between lectures within one block in more depth: Discussions therefore mostly did not exceed beyond a critique of the paper at hand.
As Brogan Bunt in his critique Making Sense of ISEA08 (link see beyond) already cited Andreas Broeckman, every visitor of ISEA08 will have had a very subjective experience of the event. I agree with Brogan that that does not necessarily imply having a bad experience. The sphere of ISEA felt very hospitable and there was an air of participation and collaboration practically everyone you met at ISEA was somehow part of it (although this left me wondering if any of the submitted papers or artists presentations had actually been rejected?). It just means that you had to let go of longing for a collective experience (apart from the keynote lectures, which I missed) and the feeling that you continuously miss something happening elsewhere. The most collective experiences of ISEA constituted the evening performances, sometimes amounting to marathons of simultaneous or staged events.
What a pity that it was not possible to find out beforehand who was going to attend ISEA for example. In heydays of social networking ubiquity, ISEA08 only managed to set up a social interface halfway through the conference. Despite that and somewhat paralleled by ISEA’s isolation within Singapore (I hardly met any Singaporean speakers or attendees), it ended up being a very social event. Even though with some Web2.0 tools applied it might have just been just that bit more user friendly – be it for networking purposes, in depth information on the conference programme information or its documentation. Or just by live streaming for those who could not (afford to) attend.
If all of this sounds slightly negative, rest assured my general experience was not. Overall I enjoyed this ISEA much more than the last one. Due to its parasitic and nomadic nature, the continuity of the conference must be a huge challenge given that the event partly re-invents itself every time it takes place in a new city within a different socio-cultural ecology. To build on and include ISEA’s returning community, I would heavily plead to invite some feedback from attendees to take suggestions on board for the next ones. I would look forward even more to Dublin09 and Ruhr10 then.
For more substantial critiques of ISEA, please visit: