The International Conference on Conversation Analysis started in 2002 in Copenhagen, and, following a four-year cycle (shadowing the football World Cup) has been to Helsinki, Mannheim and Los Angeles. This year it came to Loughborough, and was a terrific success, showcasing some 500 presentations and attended by over 600 people from across the globe.
I’m delighted to feature reports of the event, from different perspectives. Below, Jack Joyce, Linda Walz and Jake Piper give the stewards’ view; and then Jessica Young, reports on her conference tweeting.
- The Stewards’ Tale
For a few of the volunteers, ICCA-18 preparation started on the Saturday before the conference with packing around 600 conference bags. This meant, for most, that ICCA was a long, hot and exhausting week; but, if you ask any volunteer (and see the list below*) whether or not they enjoyed it, then the answer would be a resounding ‘yes’.
ICCA proper began with the pre-conference workshops, which were brought off without a hitch, despite some minor technical issues. At the start of the conference, we heard two things from delegates the most: “Loughborough campus is so big! I’ve only been here for CA day”, and the question: “Where can I watch England’s world cup match?”. You never know the problems, questions and situations you’ll find yourself in as a volunteer at a conference; we shuttled people around Loughborough, supported paramedics, became technical support, procured walking canes and often were impromptu tour guides when in Loughborough town.
A volunteer’s day
A planned day for a volunteer meant arriving for the plenary at least 15 minutes before anyone else to set up the microphones and guide people from the Netball centre (where the plenaries were held) to the conference centre afterwards. We would then pick up our ‘room packs’, answer as many questions as we could (and grab a coffee) before we absolutely had to dash to our designated room to set up for the session. Sessions usually ran smoothly, the occasional technical problem or running overtime were often quickly remedied. In-between sessions we quickly ate/drank and fixed any of the problems that had arisen during the previous session; if you were assigned to the registration desk, you became the designated point-of-contact for our Whatsapp group. We coordinated with one another through this group, which meant that help was never too far away in case of technology problems or any queries, and there was usually also time for a quick joke, tease or random emoji amongst volunteers.
On the surface, it appeared flawlessly organised but unbeknownst to most we did have numerous and recurring problems: sound in a lot of the rooms stopped working after Wednesday, so we needed external speakers; security was often late to unlock buildings; and the air conditioning system broke down, which was also a problem for the volunteers. Fortunately for the Accountability for Intersubjectivity panel, all the air conditioning was being blown into their room, so we gathered there during the breaks. The heat and long conference days did lead to some less-than-pleasant interactions about the heat. Other difficulties involved volunteers not having a fitted answer to a question, or being ignored as chair. Yet these issues were the exception to the rule.
We are all very grateful to Paul Drew for giving us the opportunity to volunteer at ICCA, and to Sue White and Claire Feeney for their unfailing support and good spirits. We would also like to thank all fellow volunteers, individuals backstage and all delegates for making ICCA an unforgettable experience. We hope the delegates enjoyed ICCA as much as we did, even though visitors from abroad may have got a skewed impression of British summer – organisers scrambling to get rooms equipped with fans to keep brains functional is certainly not a very common occurrence.
*Ann Doehring, Bogdana Huma, Carol Sitt-Richie, Chloe Shaw, Claire Feeney, Daisy Parker, Emily Hofstetter, Fabio Ferraz de Almeida, Hongmei Zhu, Jake Piper, Jack Joyce, Joe Ford, Julia Moreno, Kat Connabeer, Lin Wu, Linda Walz, Louise White, Lucy Woodcock, Marc Alexander, Nimet Copur, Reihaneh Asfarhi, Sophie Parslow, Tilly Flint, Veronica Gonzalez Temer, Yuening Yang.
2. The tweeter’s tale
Jessica Young: Coming ‘home’ to meet my community
After meeting at a CA short course at the University of York, the ever-enthusiastic Celia Kitzinger wrote to me asking if I would like to tweet from a new Twitter page she had established (@ConversationAn4) to share CA-related content (e.g., conferences, data sessions, publications, jobs, etc.). She was looking to other members of the CA community to tweet from ICCA-18, as she was unable to attend.
Now, I am well aware that I am new to the CA community and very new to Twitter. I wasn’t quite sure what I had to offer as a guest tweeter, but I was keen to find my place in the CA community, and keen to show my willingness to engage with others at the conference, so I said ‘yes’.
I tweeted from the final day of a 5-day conference (7 if you count pre-conference workshops). My instructions were simple. Write as yourself and do what you can to ensure that your posts are informative and engaging.
Here are a few reflections I have, looking back at my first live-tweeting experience:
- Live-tweeting was a great way to meet people. I had delegates approach me throughout the day to introduce themselves. This is how #humansofCA was created. I felt it important to introduce to others some of the interesting people in the CA community and demonstrate the fabulous diversity in the work we do.
- Live-tweeting was truly a service to presenters. Not only does it help to promote their research findings but gives them some feedback about the messages the audience might be receiving from their paper. I have had messages from researchers thanking me for sharing my reflections on their talk.
- Live-tweeting also created a useful log of what I learnt, and what it meant to me, so that I can reflect back at a later date (after 5 days that have inevitably blurred into each other in my memory).
- Planning ahead was VERY helpful. I had sought handles, hashtags and links for those talks I planned to attend, which meant that I could focus on the talk but still credit the speakers as necessary.
- Some people say that live-tweeting can be distracting, but this was not my experience. For me, tweeting was a great way to engage with the talks. I can be a bit of a ‘multitasker’ at conferences, so tweeting was a great way to keep me focused on the talks.
- Live-tweeting gave me a chance to share my own interests and work. I also feel that my guest tweeting helped to do some work to establishing my place in the CA community. It helped me to see that I have insights to offer as a PhD student, and that I am one of many students who are enthusiastic about CA and the insights to be gained through its methods.
As I was leaving Loughborough on the Monday, I got a taxi with a lovely man from Finland who had also attended the conference. As I was about to introduce myself, he interjected, “I know who you are! You are Jess-from-Twitter!” I’m not sure that is what I was going for. I think I’d prefer, Jess-the-conversation-analyst-from-Twitter. Perhaps that is something to aim for in the lead up to #ICCA2022. Looking forward to seeing you in the Twittersphere!