As a graduate student, you regularly go to academic conferences. This is important for a number of reasons: First, and probably most importantly, a usual conference comes with a deadline. Being accepted thus means that you are forced to write and hand in something that you might otherwise contemplate about for another six months. Conferences thus provide structure to the life of the graduate student. Plus, you usually meet nice people who you already know or would like to get to know (see also: “free booze”). So, there’s nothing wrong with the big conferences.
However, they can also be quite disappointing. You may be lucky and end up with a discussant helping to improve your work tremendously. Or you may not. Occasionally, you just don’t find people dealing with similar theoretical and methodological questions. Finally, most conferences last only one to three days so that you don’t have the time for repeated conversations over a few days.
What made this “conference” quite special was the fact that the event did not fit into one of the regular forms of academic interaction on the graduate student level. Neither could it be labeled a method summer/winter school, nor was it a series of lectures or a mere graduate conference. Continue reading →