New Directions, Networking… and Cookies

Well, folks, my first conference presentation as a PhD student was a success!

This past Tuesday, I had the pleasure of presenting some of my research at Oxford Brookes University’s annual ‘New Directions in Print Culture Studies’ symposium, hosted by The Oxford International Institute for Publishing Studies. This conference featured the wonderful Drs Shafquat Towheed and Samantha Rayner as keynotes, as well as a bunch of other academics investigating a vast range of topics within the fields of book history, print culture, and publishing.

My research is still very much in its early stages, but those who heard me speak were so supportive of what I was doing. I didn’t scare anyone away from natural language generation!

Want to give my presentation a peruse? Here you go:

One of the best parts of any conference is meeting people within your field who can challenge your views, but who can also offer you the support you need to continue improving as a researcher. As with every conference, I did do some pretty typical networking, and ended up meeting some interesting people from across the UK and Europe.

Here’s a hot tip: If you’re not great at starting conversations with strangers, just stand ever so slightly in the way of wherever the cookies (or other sweet treats) are. When someone realizes that he/she has to speak to you in order to get you to physically move, that is when you make your conversational move. Ask that person what he/she has found to be the most interesting part of the conference so far. Grab another cookie for yourself as you do so. Once both parties have a cookie in hand, y’all are practically guaranteed a jolly chat. You’re welcome.

Seriously, though, while networking went well, it was the panel I was assigned to that made my day. I sat on a panel with two other women – Dr Kate Macdonald from the University of Reading, and Laura Dietz from Anglia Ruskin – whose research topics differed drastically from my own. However, as we got to talking and presenting we realized just how much overlap there was between what we were saying. Following our presentations, Kate offered me some ideas about potential research avenues (which I’ve already begun diving into), and Laura provided insight into some ways to collect qualitative and quantitative reading response data (which will be very helpful for next year).

Also, we now have this photo where I look like I am going to eat Laura:

Sorry about that, Laura.

Hopefully I’ll be attending more conferences soon, although for now it’s back to the grind of chapter writing.

Got questions about the presentation embedded above? Hit me with ’em!


Sunday Book-Thought 50

One consequence of this model of intelligence, especially of any computer implementation of this model, is that such a system runs the risk of being described as only appearing to be intelligent without actually being intelligent. In some sense, intelligence is in the eye of the beholder, and most beholders are prejudiced by skin. If the skin of the teller of the story is fleshy and humanlike, we are likely to consider the algorithm that produced the story to be an intelligent one, except perhaps in the case of the grandfather who we would agree was intelligent but is now telling the same story too often. But if the skin is plastic and we suspect that a computer is inside we are likely to claim that the algorithms being used to produce the same story were somehow just unintelligent retrieval methods.
In the end all we have, machine or human, are stories and methods of finding and using those stories.
Roger SchankTell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1995), p. 16