Sybille Peters has written very interestingly about what she calls ‘the research/presentation divide’ in scholarship. In art practice and research for instance this divide is often not as clear-cut, where the performance of the artistic research is often part of the same research. As she states: ‘from the viewpoint of scientific tradition research itself and the public presentation of its outcomes are two different things – research first, presentation second. In the performing arts this is different; here, research is deeply intertwined with presentation: Artistic research is part of the process of preparing a public presentation. And vice versa the presentation itself is a main part of the research process, a test-scenario.’¹ The conference presentation or the lecture is thus not part of the process of knowledge production she states, but merely a form of knowledge presentation.
Nonetheless, one could argue that in scholarly communication, the lecture, presentation, paper or conference/seminar/symposium talk is part of the process of knowledge production, where it serves as a ‘testing out’ of ideas to a wider public/audience. However, increasingly conferences are becoming content platforms themselves, where often: the presentations are video or audio recorded; the slides are made available via for instance Slideshare; the public discussion as part of the conference (both offline and online via social media) can be collected via tools like Storify; and increasingly the written out version of a talk is made available by scholars on their websites or blogs, if not in a condensed version via (live)blogging or conference reports by participants and organisers. In this sense many conferences or conference websites become content platforms or curated databases (curated by both the conference organisers as much as the conference community) of specialised information.
Just as with blogs the question is whether these kinds of platforms or databases cannot become a form of publication themselves too, or perhaps can serve as a re-usable information portal for other publications, future events, or connected databases on a similar topic. In what sense can we then start to rethink the, what is still seen as natural, next step after a conference, i.e. either conference proceedings or formal publication of a conference paper in a scholarly journal? In what sense can we then envision the conference itself as, both part of the research process (instead of merely representing the research), as well as a form of publication2, where the communal, curated holistic aspect of the conference as networked event, can be highlighted, against the single-authored product that is supposedly to emerge out of this conference. And in what sense does this also mean a rethinking of the way we set up and conduct conferences online and offline at the moment? How can we turn conferences or seminars, as Peters states, into: ‘an interactive setting of collective knowledge production’? Do we for instance always need to present new material? Or would it for instance be interesting to revisit and discuss older (conference) material(s), or to juxtapose earlier material with new material? How can we highlight the debate around a presentation, the critique, the comments, and the communal aspects of knowledge production and transmission? How can we turn what is increasingly a digital conference platform into a reusable publishing and communication platform?