Ethical conference economies? Reimagining the costs of convening academic communities when moving online

Michelle Bastian, Emil Flatø, Lisa Baraitser, Helge Jordheim, Laura Salisbury, Thom van Dooren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Online conferences are widely thought to reduce many of the ‘costs’ of convening academic communities. From lower carbon emissions, lower fees, less difficult in attending (particularly for marginalised researchers), and greater accessibility, virtual events promise to address many of the issues that in-person events take for granted. In this article, we draw on a community economies framing from geographers J.K. Gibson-Graham to argue for centring the work of convening within efforts to explore ‘reparative possibilities’ within the academy. Reflecting on the changing costs arising from moving, an originally in-person conference series, online, we argue for embracing the opportunities offered. We explore how organising teams might enact alternative values through allocating the material, financial and labour resources traditionally spent for these events differently. We look particularly at how our carbon and financial costs changed, and how, by retaining a fee, we were able to allocate our budgets in ways which redistributed the surplus to participants in need (rather than bolster conference centre profits). We then explore what these changing costs meant in terms of our attendance levels across career stages and geographical locations. Looking at whether our experiment resulted in increased support for online events, we examine the continued ambivalence felt for the virtual. Finally, while we largely explore the benefits of online options, our last section urges caution over assumptions that this move will result in a more sustainable academia, particularly given the intensifications surrounding high quality streaming video, and suggest that we treat current trends as ongoing experiments, rather than solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalThe Geographical Journal
Early online date20 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Nov 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • academic inclusion
  • carbon accounting
  • community economies
  • online events
  • sustainability


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