On Tuesday 11th July, I was very excited to travel to York to present my Bachelor's Language and New Media project at my first professional conference - SymPol10.
always a strength because it ensures you are familiar with the material and makes you less nervous (that's my theory, anyway). Although the initial registration gathering was, at the time, a rather daunting prospect, I have to emphatically admit that the whole excursion was worth every ounce of anxiety and apprehension.
The people were, to my surprise, incredibly friendly and supportive, and I learned so much from those three days that reading alone could not. Many congratulated me on my choice of SymPol10 as being the first conference I went to as a bushy-tailed Bachelor's graduate. Being a politeness conference meant that most delegates had a pretty good idea of how to constructively encourage new blood on the linguist scene. The did follow this up with 'not every conference is like this one'. So I considered myself blessed.
The three days of the conference were introduced by organisers Dr Andrew Merrison and Tilly Flint (MA), whom I deeply respect for managing such a successful event. The presentations began with the plenary speakers, Michael Haugh, Professor Dawn Archer, Dániel Kádár, and finally Derek Bousfield.
To me, one of the highlights was Dawn Archer's talk. Archer stressed the importance for applied research in impressions (facial and social), social engineering, and deception when presenting her project involving undercover officials being able to use covert strategies such as small talk for the benefit of public security. This brought to light the kinds of applied results linguistic research can inform, reform, and improve for society and its people.
coffee breaks and the conference dinner. Being able to speak to academics on a more informal level illuminated how much enjoyment as well as intellectual growth can be had; particularly when accompanied with a three course meal and flowing wine. To me, even the 'casual chat' was peppered with useful information on how to approach a PhD, how to get your work published, how to approach conferences in the future, and realising that everyone is just as nervous as you are while presenting and learning to deal with that pressure.
I would be forgetting something, or rather, someone if I did not mention Derek Bousfield's contribution to the conference. Featured as the final presentation, Bousfield's Grab 'em by the pussy! - the pheonix-like return of 'locker-room talk': online was every bit as shocking and controversial as the title states. Taking observations from public figures to individuals over instant messages, Bousfield slammed down the very question that should be central in the minds of all research fields, institutions, and academics: what is the purpose of research and how far should we (as academics) go? It proved to be a very thought-provoking, but nevertheless crucial, start to discussions concerning the purpose and future of linguistic research. It was the following 'round table' discussion that echoed in my mind as I said goodbye to new acquaintances and hello to fresh ideas. It is one thing to research intriguing projects with curious results, and another thing entirely to question the very purpose (and boundaries) of that research for the future.