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08/04/2022

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Manny

"Is it the case that a meeting experience is degraded through a hybrid format? I see no evidence for the claim."

Here is some evidence: I hate Zoom interactions—hybrid or otherwise. Adding a hybrid element to a conference or talk is the surest way to ruin it for me: to degrade it into nothing but misery and internal wails of "Dear God in Heaven please let this torture end." I avoid all such events like the plague.

Kian Mintz-Woo

Thanks Helen! I completely agree with

>>I still feel that the APA should not, in their leadership position, say without any evidence that the "in-person meeting experience will be degraded" due to hybrid participation.

At the risk of armchair psychologizing, I suspect that this was more of an instinctive afterthought, and that their real (material) concerns were about the cost and complexity of introducing audiovisual equipment and undermining their hotel commitments, given the rest of the sentence and the sentence beforehand. Both of these are real practical concerns.

That doesn't license adding this unjustified claim, but I think that it probably explains it in a way that makes it less intentional and supports the idea that they are not deeply committed to it.

anonymous associate professor

since I don't think we have any studies here and we are just reporting our anecdotal experience, I'll just say that every hybrid event I have attended has been significantly worse than either all-online-events or all-in-person ones. My less cynical guess is that whoever wrote this just consulted their own experience, realized that in their experience these events were worse (I'm not trying to universalize my experience, but I know other people besides me feel this way because they complain about it when we discuss it!), and just added it to the text (or perhaps the board was consulted, or something, and they all happened to agree with it, so then they added it to the text). I do think it's a little weird to say there is no evidence here in favor of the claim but there is evidence to the contrary--all we each have is our personal experience, since (to my knowledge) no one has done an empirical study of whether philosophy conferences are worse when they are hybrid, and of course we are going to disagree about that. But I think most of us have at least talked to someone, or seen someone post online, about disliking hybrid events. That's not to say they are in the majority, or anything like that. I have (truly) no idea where the balance of people's individual experiences lies. But if we're just dealing with anecdotal evidence I think we all know that at least some people anecdotally hate hybrid conferences!

But, I agree the APA probably shouldn't just claim this without better evidence. That being said the APA is very different from a small conference. One issue is that so few people attend some of the talks, especially grad student talks. Imagine you are a grad student who shells out a bunch of $ to go to the APA because you decide that, while the online option would be good for you, you need to network and meet people in person, and then the only people who show up to your session are two-three zoomers. I think that would be even worse than how things stand now. Another is that lots of people mainly go to reconnect with people they know in the field/for the socializing outside of the conference. I don't think either of these things are typically true of smaller, more focused conferences and workshops. We can talk about what is wrong with either of them, but I just wanted to flag them because they are so different from small focused conferences.

Anyway, I agree, in fact, that their main reason is the hotel contract and the AV equipment. But those are pretty serious reasons. I think if philosophers want the APA to change its conference practices (beyond the 2+1 thing), they should be going to the root of the problem there, and presenting solutions to the logistics of hosting a very large conference that don't rely on expensive hotel conferences and asking the APA to adopt them.

Emma

Some more anecdotes for the collection:

I've had good experiences as an in-person participant at both all-in-person events and hybrid events. It doesn't degrade my experience to watch a few talks on Zoom or hear a few questions from online participants. Plus, you still get all the benefits of in-person conferences--lunch and coffee with other participants, informal discussion, etc.--just perhaps slightly fewer people.

Being online at a hybrid event is awful, though--very alienating. I'd rather attend an all-online event where I don't miss out on any social experiences and the conversational playing-field is level with everyone being online. I don't like these as much as in-person conferences, but it's far preferable to me than attending/presenting online at a hybrid event.

Prof L

I will add my voice here to the list of people who think hybrid conferences are the worst. I much prefer all online. Or all in-person. The concerns about cost are not limited to the APA. High quality hybrid events cost lots of money, and who is going to bear that cost? No one wants to pay for a zoom talk. And so this puts an extra burden on the in-person folks to foot the bill ... and fewer people will attend a conference when all the talks will be available for free online.

What was bad about about my experience was trying to manage the two audiences at once, two contexts, two different settings. I felt pressure to have a power point, which (thankfully) the AV people were able to stream, but I've seen power point presentations at hybrid events where the screen is simply shot with a camera, but barely visible, or not in the camera angle, and so on. I think very few people zoomed into the hybrid event (it cost $$ to come), and the hosting organization spent a lot of money on people being there to record/stream talks—this resulted in substantial fees for a conference that used to be free. I don't think it was worth it. Just keep them separate.

assistant professor

For me, at least 90% of the point of going to an APA meeting is getting to spend time with all of the other people who are attending the APA meeting. If a bunch of people on the schedule are not actually going to be physically present at the APA meeting, that degrades my in-person experience. I plan never to attend a virtual APA, and I probably would not attend a hybrid APA unless it was in a location I independently wanted to visit. I suspect that least half of people who attend APAs — and probably significantly more — feel exactly as I do.

anon

re: the hotel issue that anonymous associate raises, which I agree is an issue for the APA. The Canadian Philosophical Association meets on university campuses and uses classrooms for talks. And it's great. Every room has good AV, it's just like normal teaching, and I suspect it's cheaper than the hotels the APA likes to meet at. But the CPA does meet during summer, when there is more space on campus.

Helen De Cruz

I am very grateful for all the reports here! To specify, I had 2 awful hybrid conference experiences (both awful because I was simply shut out of much of the conference, due to lack of logistics on the part of the organizers). The logistics is not something to be light about, and for a large-scale conference like the APA no hybrid is probably best. I do still think it's sad that we have no online option (for those who want it) until the implementation of the 2+1 model in the meantime.
The Canadian model seems to me more sustainable than the one with the awful hotel deals. Because the hotel deals also mean people who have no resources (grad students, contingent faculty) have to stay at an expensive hotel. Or they are being shamed into doing so, while it would be cheaper if they could take an inexpensive hotel. It's useful to think whether this might work for some APA conferences.

Anon

Another anecdote about how alienating the hybrid experience is: I participated in a fellowship that held hybrid session every week for a year. In the last month, we met all in person. We tried many different things to improve the hybrid experience - different formats, different norms for Q&A, and so on. At the end of the day, I think all ~25 of us thought the few all in-person sessions were vastly better and we're all unhappy with the hybrid experience. And this was despite the organizers actively seeking out ways to improve it and soliciting feedback.

I also participated in other hybrid social events during the pandemic - some table top role-playing games. The problems felt very much the same and we also tried many things to improve the situation.

I've had much better experiences at all online conferences (and with all online ttrpgs for that matter). After participating in many experiments with the same people across several sessions, I'm really not sure why the hybrid format seems so much worse. I would love to see a study, etc. But if we can't fix it with the same group of committed people over many attempts within a single year, I'm not optimistic about fixing it for an annual conference.

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