I made the interesting (at times boneheaded) choice to participate in two conferences in back to back weeks, and to present different posters at each. This was a steep learning curve for me, as I’d never made a conference poster and I presented on two very different topics. The upside of doing these poster presentations in such quick succession is that I got to experiment and compare the processes of making and presenting posters in two very different settings.
- Posters don’t allow for procrastination: There’s the issue of printing, to start, since these conferences didn’t allow for digital posters. Printing, especially if you do large format, has a longer turnaround time so your copy and design has to be done in enough time to go to print. And after that, it’s in hard copy and unless you want to shell out lots of money for reprints (which I didn’t) it’s set. This was a relief in terms of the conference going experience–freedom from last minute tweaking!–but putting together the posters took longer than I imagined.
- Attendance is hit or miss, but the conversations are more engaged and meaningful in the end. Selfishly, I enjoy the more detailed nature of the conversations with people who take the time to stop by and engage with me and my poster.
- Posters are still primarily the domain of junior scholars. The value assigned to poster presentations in the humanities and social sciences is less than giving a paper, and tinging it as something graduate students do implies that they’re lesser intellectual work. I’d argue though that the work of preparing a poster is at least equal to that of preparing a paper, and should be recognized as such. GAPSA at Mason provides less travel money for graduate students presenting posters, and professors/senior scholars are rarely found presenting posters. I’d suggest that having poster sessions isn’t enough in itself, but that they should be recognized, promoted, and scheduled as equal intellectual work.
I decided to go old school for this one, large format poster carried awkwardly across the country in a document tube. I was that mildly inconvenient person to be around in the boarding area who kept bumping into fellow passengers and apologizing profusely. Here’s the final poster:
I had my laptop ready to supplement the poster content, and there were a couple people who were interested in the ins-and-outs of our choice to create these online courses in Drupal. I had a fascinating conversation with a high school teacher from the Bay Area on the different historical moments and topics that teachers find challenging in different regions. Despite the best efforts of the conference organizers, there was a bit too much competition for the poster sessions–they were scheduled during the lunch hour both days and on the second day there was a keynote at the same time. Plus, it was a lovely spring weekend in Berkeley, so I don’t blame anyone’s reluctance to spend any extra time indoors!
This poster focused on a point of my dissertation that I’m still mucking through in unpacking the representations of the poster children and what that says about ideas of childhood. Inspired by Fred Gibbs’ modular approach–along with being completely disillusioned with carrying a poster tube–I put this one together quite differently. Whereas I’d assembled the previous poster in Open Office Draw after writing the text in a collaborative Google Doc with Kelly and Nate, this poster was composed in Google Slides.
Case study images
The poster session for this conference came at the end of the last day, and the organizers wisely, I think, also scheduled it in the same space as the ending reception prior to the concluding dinner. Again, the conversations were great: I got strong feedback, lots of practice talking concisely about my project, and book suggestions. There were about 10 posters in this session, and they were displayed in 2 groups along 2 of the walls in the large reception room, giving each poster and presenter a fair amount of space.
All in all, I really enjoyed composing posters and I see immense value in this format for academic conferences. The conversations (both formal and informal) that seem to be the best part of conferences bubbled up easily during both of the poster sessions I participated in, and I found it more beneficial and engaging than listening to panelists read papers. I encourage more humanities scholars at all levels to do posters and for these to increase in prevalence and recognition.