Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Poster boy

I've been invited to do a poster presentation. I've been aware that these things happen for a while, but I've never done one, and I've also never seen one done. So I'm a little worried. People who've seen them done, and done well, I have a question for you. What makes for a good poster? What should I avoid? I'm sort of tempted to make a big handout; would that be wrong?

--Mr. Zero

40 comments:

Asstro said...

A big handout is a bad idea. You can make a handout and give it to people when they come to your poster presentation if you'd like, but you should really try to use your poster differently than you would a handout. You want readers to be able to take a step back from your poster and nail your argument down. You want to entice readers into asking you questions as you stand there... and you don't want them to spend forever reading.

Divide the poster into three or four columns. Use bold headings. Use images if possible. Boil down your argument to its essence. Don't spend too long doing lit review or setting up the problem. Here are the questions you want to answer: What is the problem? What are you saying? How is what you're saying different than what's already been said? What are some objections?

Anonymous said...

Good advice I recently heard on posters: you should not attempt to present your paper via the poster. You, the philosopher, are there to present your paper--the poster is a lead-in, a hook to get people talking to you and asking you questions.

Z said...

I suggest checking out the works of Edward Tufte, particularly his book Envisioning Information. Even though Tufte tends to focus on presenting numerical data in manageable formats, the principle of clean and concise presentation still applies to a philosophical poster.

I echo the comments of 'Anonymous' above. So many people mistake a presentation with the artifact of a presentation, such that people often refer to a deck of slides or a handout as a "presentation." In fact, you, the presenter, are performing the presentation.

One thing I have taken from Tufte's lectures (I've seen him speak and he's brilliant), is that if you have something that requires more than a few seconds of attention to fully absorb, make sure your audience sees it before the presentation happens. Otherwise they'll be looking at your artifacts while you're standing there talking.

I hope this helps!

Xenophon said...

I disagree with Anon 11:20. Let the poster speak for itself. Do you want to go to presentations yourself, get lunch, go to the bathroom? You need the poster to speak in your absence.

Go talk to people in the biology or physics department. Ask them to show you some examples, which they'll probably have sitting in the corner of their office.

Ask them where they go to get posters printed. Ask them what software they use to lay it out before they send it to the printer. Be the one person who has a professional-looking poster (not a piece of cardboard with 8x11 pieces of paper taped to it).

Dr. Killjoy said...

If your field isn't something like cog sci, then you should avoid poster presentations like the plague.

Clayton said...

I did a poster last summer at RoME. I think I basically did what Asstro advised. It's not a bad idea to have a handout if you want to talk through the poster with people, maybe it will contain a little more info than the poster itself. I had copies of the paper to give out as well. I don't know whether people read them or not, but I gave out all the copies I had. If you have a draft of the paper, bring copies and you can get people to read your work.

Asstro said...

Dr. Killjoy:

If your field is anything but philosophy, you may avoid giving arguments for your proclamations.

Dr. Killjoy said...

Wow, Asstro. Are you really struggling to understand why a poster presentation is likely nothing more than a colossal waste of time for philosophers not already knee deep in the sciences?

Then again, perhaps I'm mistaken, and its only a matter of time before my mind is blown by some kick-ass diorama of a particularly complex metaethical position.

Asstro said...

Why yes, my sweet little Killjoy, I am indeed. Kindly enlighten me: Why are posters such a colossal waste of time? Philosophers are supposedly pretty good at giving arguments. Seems like a poster might be a handy way to do that, much like an abstract, or an interview response, or an executive summary. Since the poster presenter stands beside the poster during the presentation and discusses the paper with other conference participants, in what sense is this a waste of time? Isn't that all we philosophers ever do anyway?

And further, if the poster presentation is at an interesting conference with many other good papers, attended by many other interesting people, and the poster presenter is listed on the conference program such that, perhaps, she can apply for funding to attend that conference, instead of lamely sitting in the audience, how is that a waste of time?

One might reasonably extrapolate from your suggestion that conference papers themselves are a waste of time (they're never well attended anyway), or that book reviews, or commentaries, or review articles, or even full peer-reviewed journal articles, are a waste time (nobody really reads 95% of them anyway). Heck, one might even go so far as to think that perhaps classes are, or graduate school is, a waste of time. You spend most of the time in classes that have nothing to do with your AOS.

Or perhaps you mean this in a totally different way. Perhaps you mean to suggest that philosophy is all a waste of time. Shouldn't we be planning the next major derivatives product?

Not to get too cranky on you, Killjoy, but a diorama is three dimensional. Posters aren't.

Finally, almost every other discipline, from political science, on down to neuroscience, back on up through mathematics, has poster presentations. So lay it on me, smartypants. Let's inject a little heat in this here smoker. Why is philosophy so different than all of these other disciplines? What, pray tell, is a waste of time about a poster?

sylvie said...

damn, asstro, you threw down. nice rebuttal.

I have now done two poster presentations. The first one kinda sucked. The second was better because I saw other people's in the meantime. You can do a philosophy poster, not just a science-masquerading-as-philosophy poster. Here's my two cents.

You can put them together using a single slide in powerpoint, then save it as a pdf and take it to a printers. You don't have to spring for the superexpensive paper because, unlike scientists, chances are you will only use this poster once. I was glad to be able to leave mine there and not take it back on the plane.

But, use color. Don't just use black and white. That alone makes it stand out and look more professional. Use three columns, and have a big title across the top with the title of the paper and your name and institutional affiliation. People will notice and remember that.

Putting your argument on a poster is kinda like teaching undergrads complex material. You know you really do understand it if you can get the key idea or three across in this format. Think of it as good practice for describing things succinctly, like your dissertation to search committees.

And use at least one diagram. Even if its just to set up the basic problem, or has little to do with your big idea, it breaks up the visual format and helps people at least feel like they understand what is going on.

Expect to stand in front of it for at least a while, and when people stop to look at it, *say something* to them about your topic. Most people probably aren't that interested, but it is actually a great way to get into more in-depth conversations with those who are interested than you find with formats like conference talks.

Dr. Killjoy said...

Sigh. Okay, I'll bite. For your reading pleasure, below are a few at least prima facie compelling reasons to think that poster presentations for those who do work in traditional areas of philosophy are not worth the effort.

The vast majority of philosophy conferences do not feature poster presentations, so if you find yourself preparing a poster presentation for your work on strong functional equivalence, friendship and claim rights, or the conceptual impossibility of zombies, then you likely won't be doing so for a philosophy conference (at least one of any note) and so likely won't be engaging with other professionals in your field (at least those of any note)...all counter to the primary motivation to do the presentation in the first place.

Poster presentations lie in the province of the sciences because poster presentations are ideally suited for displaying images (graphs, tables, charts). That is, the entire point of posters is to effectively communicate the experimental methods, results, and conclusions of one's research using as little text as reasonably possible and as such are ill-suited if not counter-productive for work in traditional areas of philosophy.

Poster presentations (not tied to paper presentations later in the conference) have no captive audience. Your role is to stand by your poster patiently waiting for a passerby to take interest. Of course, you might choose instead to be a barker of sorts to entice folks over to your poster. Either way, given the nature of argument construction employed in research in traditional areas of philosophy, should someone take an interest, you will likely spend the same amount of time explaining your work to that one person as you would spend in a standard paper presentation format featuring a much, much larger audience.

Really good posters take a shitload of time to construct. The combination being a poster newbie and doing research likely of the sort ill-suited for poster presentations pretty much guarantees that your poster will be a fucking nightmare mess. So unless your title is "The Moral Imperative to Consume the Flesh of Babies" no one will give your poster a second glance.

Of course, I suppose a poster presentation is better than nothing. So, if your department will fully fund your travel, and its being so funded won't affect funding for travel to other no-posterific conferences, then sure, go fucking poster crazy. But if you have to pony up the travel money yourself, unless you are awash with riches, don't do it. There are enough philosophy conferences going on every year that your time would be better spent presenting papers at those. Lastly, poster presentations should be an option only for grad students. Most gainfully employed professional philosophers (in traditional areas) will likely go their entire lives without ever seeing a poster presentation, let alone one in philosophy. So, Mr. Zero (assuming you work in a traditional area of philosophy), your first poster presentation will most likely (and hopefully) be your last poster presentation.

Finally, in order to inject the heat requested by Asstro:

1. The "diorama" comment I made was a fucking joke. That was the point, doof.

2. You seem to have some pretty nasty scope issues. For example, you said

"almost every other discipline, from political science, on down to neuroscience, back on up through mathematics, has poster presentations."

Let's assume that you are neither intellectually dishonest nor stupid. Obviously then, what you really meant was the following:

Almost every other discipline--outside of the natural and social sciences--has poster presentations, all the way from English and History to Classics and Women's Studies.

Oh, wait. That's plainly false. Hmmm. I'll just charitably assume you were being a disingenuous asshole.

Now can we shake hands, buy each other a beer, and move on from this? I gots me a kick-ass diorama to make.

Asstro said...

Ho, ho, ho! Not so fast, Mr. Pussycat. You won’t get a beer out of me that easily. I call your bluff, weakling, and raise you another fifty shekels. Your claims are empirically false, my sad little friend, and the feeble argument you’ve advanced couldn’t support the weight of a lone chickadee. Let’s do this in order, shall we?

Here’s claim one:

The Appeal to Tradition: “The vast majority of philosophy conferences do not feature poster presentations, so if you find yourself preparing a poster presentation for your work on strong functional equivalence, friendship and claim rights, or the conceptual impossibility of zombies, then you likely won't be doing so for a philosophy conference (at least one of any note) and so likely won't be engaging with other professionals in your field (at least those of any note)...all counter to the primary motivation to do the presentation in the first place.”

But what if you _are_ presenting your poster at a philosophy conference, maybe even one of note? What then? What of this supposed likelihood that you’re not presenting at a philosophy conference?

Not feeling it? Here’s an announcement for a respectable philosophy conference with poster presentations, mentioned earlier in this thread:
http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/center/rome.shtml

...Awk-ward...

Here’s claim two:

The Appeal to Purposes: “Poster presentations lie in the province of the sciences because poster presentations are ideally suited for displaying images (graphs, tables, charts). That is, the entire point of posters is to effectively communicate the experimental methods, results, and conclusions of one's research using as little text as reasonably possible and as such are ill-suited if not counter-productive for work in traditional areas of philosophy.”

That seems presumptuous. “The entire point of a poster is to display images, to communicate one’s research using as little text as possible”? Tell that to my colleagues in pure math or in qualitative anthropology. Seems to me that someone could make a strong case that the point of a poster is to bring two or more mutually interested parties together to talk intelligently about an idea or argument. I see no reason why, even if you’re right about “the entire point of a poster” (as codified in 1163 by the Grand Tribunal of Poster Presentation Overlords), why that definition couldn’t be wrong, why the point and purpose couldn’t be something other than displaying graphs, tables, and charts. What is the entire point of a handout, for instance? Or what is the entire point of a powerpoint presentation?

{MORE AFTER THE JUMP}

Asstro said...

Here’s claim three:

The Appeal to a Captive Audience: “Poster presentations (not tied to paper presentations later in the conference) have no captive audience. Your role is to stand by your poster patiently waiting for a passerby to take interest. Of course, you might choose instead to be a barker of sorts to entice folks over to your poster. Either way, given the nature of argument construction employed in research in traditional areas of philosophy, should someone take an interest, you will likely spend the same amount of time explaining your work to that one person as you would spend in a standard paper presentation format featuring a much, much larger audience.”

I’m beginning to get the sense that you’ve never been to a philosophy conference. At many of the larger conferences, you may be interested to learn, there are tables lined with books from publishers. Sometimes the authors of those books hang out at these tables and talk about their books. Sometimes the editors fill that role. There’s no captive audience for these discussions, and yet I and many others will peruse these book tables for sometimes hours, asking questions about books, poking inside the front cover, chatting with people we admire, getting ideas for our own work, and sometimes reading excerpts from the books….conferring, as it were. I might quickly lose interest in such a discussion if an author or editor spent a full 30 minutes (the roughly-average time for a conference paper) explaining her insights to me.

Or maybe you’ve never actually read a philosophy journal. In most philosophy journals, you may be further interested to learn, there are tables of contents, often followed by abstracts. If, say, an abstract catches your eye, you’re free to flip to the article. If it doesn’t interest you, then you can move on your merry way. No captive audience there… and yet, I would be loath to say that a captive audience makes or breaks the success or worth of a philosophical argument.

One might even suggest that a captive audience precisely undermines the success or worth of a philosophical argument. I don’t want people to read my work because they’re stuck in one spot for an hour. I want them to read it because it interests them. Maybe on this logic a traditional philosophy conference paper is a colossal waste of time. Better that we all do poster presentations.

The Appeal to Efficiency (peppered with speculation about the determinants of value): “Really good posters take a shitload of time to construct. The combination being a poster newbie and doing research likely of the sort ill-suited for poster presentations pretty much guarantees that your poster will be a fucking nightmare mess. So unless your title is "The Moral Imperative to Consume the Flesh of Babies" no one will give your poster a second glance.”

Now that’s just wild speculation. Yes, posters take a while to construct, but I can imagine a lot of posters that would get my attention, particularly if I happen to be interested in philosophy. If I’m more interested in reading People magazine, then perhaps I’d only be interested in a paper on nutrition and baby meat. But I have faith in my philosophy colleagues that they’ll take the time to query me if they’re interested in my topic.

The Concession: “Of course, I suppose a poster presentation is better than nothing…”

Agreed. ‘Nothing’ is a colossal waste of time. Poster presentations are better than that. So I win.

{Even more after the next jump}

Asstro said...

Let’s get into the hotter territory for a few laughs, eh?:

The Pulling of Punchlines and the Playground Jab: “The "diorama" comment I made was a fucking joke. That was the point, doof.”

Word of advice: never explain your punchlines, but if you do, try to do so in a way that demonstrates your superiority over your interlocutor. “Doof” is a hybrid term, a combination of ‘dork’ and ‘goof’, commonly shared between fourth graders in the early 1980s. It’s more-or-less out of date now, unless you’re speaking German, in which case it’s an adjective.

The ‘Scope’ Indictment: “Almost every other discipline--outside of the natural and social sciences--has poster presentations, all the way from English and History to Classics and Women's Studies. Oh, wait. That's plainly false. Hmmm. I'll just charitably assume you were being a disingenuous asshole.”

Here are some announcements for conferences with non-science poster presentations:

http://www.units.muohio.edu/oars/forms/MiamiUR_Forum_PosterSchd.pdf
http://www.apaclassics.org/Classics/calls.html
http://www.error06.econ.vt.edu/posters.html
http://www.grad.uc.edu/graduate-poster-forum-abstracts.aspx
http://www.aseh.net/conferences/conference-archives/tallahassee09/tall-posters
http://www.southernct.edu/departments/womensstudies/conference/

Classics? Check. History? Check. English Literature? Check. Women’s studies? Check. Three or four minutes on google would’ve revealed your indictment to be empirically false. But again, perhaps we should write to the Grand Tribunal of blahblah Overlords for permission to allow other disciplines to employ this fine technique.

I feel drunk from your reasoning. I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass on the beer and head out instead for a creamy glass of moloko, O my brother. No need to join me.

Care to take another stab? From the looks of it, you couldn’t kill a fly, much less joy. In the spirit of heated competition, I’m happy to eviscerate you further. Entrails are delicious with booze.

Dr. Killjoy said...

Wow. That was both awesome and kinda sad.

The Awesome: You Googling "poster presentation" as a means to refute a patently true claim--that poster presentations are largely absent from professional conferences outside the natural and social sciences.

The Kinda Sad: The one link I selected (the result of your Googling "poster presentation" and "classics") is actually a call for poster presentations for a graduate conference sponsored by the Rutgers Department of Childhood Studies.

Saddest of all, however, is that I actually fucking looked up one of your powerful google counter-examples. I suppose I was simply caught up in the whirlwind of that playfully subversive performance art piece you call a reply. To prevent further shame, I must concede.

Poster Presentations for All!

Anonymous said...

I gotta say this flame war is being conducted at a remarkably high level of skill. Kudos to both parties.

Asstro said...

What is sad, my friend, is that you live in the dark ages of scholarship, so entrenched in the standard way of doing things that you can't see an opportunity to diversify and expand. Surely it's true that posters are less common at philosophy conferences than at biology conferences, but that's a trivial contingency, as much an indictment of philosophy as an endorsement of how things are commonly done in our field.

Fear not. I won't put it past you. You're in good company. There are many uncreative saps tooling around in the philosophical shadows, each self-righteously persuaded of her own wisdom and yet naively parroting back the methodological errors of her forebears. Tell me, please, that you are a fan of the 30-minute, verbatim, script-read paper. That is _surely_ a superior way of presenting a philosophical argument.

Dr. Killjoy said...

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Someone step on your toes by saying something reasonable but loosely at odds with something you said, and now you’re stuck with no adequate reply at the ready? Fear not! The Straw-Man Generator can soften up the competition for you, turning your less than intimidating flailing-slap-attack into a deadly barrage of knockout blows. With the simple push of a button, The Straw-Man Generator magically transforms the most plausible and obvious claim into a ridiculous and cartoonish distortion able to be crushed by even the feeblest of minds. Here’s how it works:

Step One: Uh Oh. Some jerk has vaguely challenged some throwaway claim of yours. Honor is on the line!

Step Two: Plug your crafty opponent’s eminently plausible if not patently true claim into the Straw-Man Generator. To practice, try plugging in the following:

--Poster presentations are largely absent from most philosophy conferences and professional conferences in disciplines outside the natural and social sciences. This absence is likely due in part to posters being well-suited for the presentation of scientific research but ill-suited for the presentation of the sort of research typically undertaken in traditional areas of philosophy and in disciplines outside the sciences. Good poster presentations require a lot of work but for fields like philosophy look to offer little in return for that effort, especially when compared with standard paper presentation.--

Step Three: The Straw-Man Generator will supply you with an entirely new argument to which you can more effectively reply. For example, if you plugged in the practice argument from Step Two, you should get the following new argument now ripe for the devastating beating it deserves:

--Necessarily, there can be no poster presentations at professional conferences in disciplines outside the natural and social sciences. Also, I do hereby inexplicably declare mathematics, economics, childhood studies, and political science all to be firmly entrenched in the humanities. Furthermore, by the sheer power of stipulation, it is now conceptually impossible for a poster presentation to have any textual or non-pictorial features. I clearly hate philosophy and everything it stands for at least insofar as this hatred doesn’t conflict with my duties as a shill for the powerful and shadowy paper presentation lobby.--

Step Four: Show everyone what a dummy that jerk is by brutally slaying and eviscerating his lame argument.

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Congrats, you did it, champ!

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Asstro said...

I'm awesome.

Anonymous said...

Boys, boys...here's how we settle the argument: If Asstro can create a poster presentation about why poster presentations in philosophy are respectable, then he wins. If not, Dr. Killjoy wins. Time limit: 2 weeks.

Do you accept this challenge?

Asstro said...

Not I, said the fly. This is clearly a tweetle beetle battle. Plus, the proposition somehow seems unfair: if he can't offer but weak prima facie reasons as to why a poster presentation is a colossal waste of time, why should I bear the burden of demonstrating that it's not? It's his claim, it's his burden of proof. Zero asked a polite question about how to create a good poster presentation. Several of us offered suggestions. Crankypants McKilljoy came along and ruined our party. Burden of proof is on him. I'm just holding the playground grump against the wall... cuz fuck it, nobody likes a killjoy.

(Incidentally: I do, also, think that the standard mode of presentation in philosophy is pretty terrible. Seems to me that innovative ways of introducing and discussing what we do should be welcomed by all of us. I see no clear reason why a poster presentation is not a fine way to introduce an argument. So yeah, I'd like some clarity on that.)

Dr. Killjoy said...

I agree with Asstro that something is rotten in the state of the philosophy conference. The source most responsible for the stink I take to be the widely held view that merely reading a paper word-for-word is the default acceptable form of paper presentation.

The problem isn’t with presentations⎯well-executed presentations, be they paper or poster based, require a fair amount of effort⎯but rather with those sufficient number of folks in our profession⎯through diffidence, laziness, indifference, or ignorance⎯assuming that as presenters they have little to no obligation (or expectation) to in fact put in that amount effort. The solution then shouldn’t be to look for new modes of presentation for those same folks to half-ass their way through; instead, we should actively control for these lowered expectations. For example,

⎯Conference organizers should make it clear that accepted or invited presenters are required/expected to give talks not readings. Exceptions of course shall be made for those with crippling, bowel-emptying fear of public speaking or those with hypnotic and commanding George Takei style voices.
⎯Make all conference papers available well in advance to all conference participants. This would allow for majority of the conference time to be spent in far more productive Q&A type sessions.

Until this changes, philosophy conferences, the primary purpose of which is to promote valuable philosophical exchange, will routinely wind up having 50-75% of the organized conference time spent having papers word-for-word read to an already sufficiently literate audience of conference participants.

So maybe Asstro has a point, that is, if no one gives a fuck about the quality of their presentations, then posters may be the way to go.

Anonymous said...

Philosophy conferences are generally useless--it's why many very good philosophers never go. The vast majority of people are there to get an additional line on their CV, not because they wish to engage in philosophical discourse. Until that changes, then it doesn't matter what you're doing at a conference--paper, poster, diorama, or mobile--it will still be a colossal waster of time from an intellectual standpoint.

BTW, Astro's wall of text aside, Dr. K is correct: poster presentations are ill-suited for philosophy. It is just one more way that people are trying to turn philosophy into one of the hard sciences. The function of posters is to present empirical data in the form of tables, charts, and graphs. You cannot present a complex argument in poster form.

Even if you take something that is fairly simple from a conceptual point of view--say, Peter Singer's animal rights position--how the hell can this be explained in a poster? Maybe a picture of Michael Vick beating one of his dogs with a thought bubble..."Arf Arf! This hurts! Help me! Arf Arf!" Come on. The best that can be done is to have a poster that is somehow really over the top and compels people to come over and talk with you. At least if you get that to happen, you can engage them in philosophical discourse to an extent that can't be done with a bare bones outline of an argument on a piece of cardboard.

Bottom line, my advice: Wear a blue shirt and khaki pants. Then, when you get a few people over, begin with, "Hi [your name] here for [your topic here]." Continue with some catchy lines and then say, "But wait, there's more!" This will be a sure hit.

Asstro said...

"The vast majority of people are there to get an additional line on their CV, not because they wish to engage in philosophical discourse."

Are you serious? If that's the reason people go to conferences, that's a mighty stupid reason. When I'm evaluating a job candidate, my eye stops at the bottom of her publication list. I don't even bother to glance at her involvement in conferences.

I say this as someone who goes to a significant number of conferences. I most certainly do not go to get a line on my CV.

Anonymous said...

I like Anon @ 9:30's idea to resolve the dispute. Even though Asstro gives good reasons to not engage in poster-making (who would? -- it takes time away from work), words are cheap and proof-of-concept is needed.

At the risk of sidetracking ths point, compare Anon 9:30's challenge to the debate on God's existence: You might have the best, most reasonable argument that God exists, but in the final analysis, argument is not enough, and it is not inappropriate to demand hard evidence of God's existence.

Further, putting the burden on proof on Dr. Killjoy's shoulders is like asking the athesist to produce evidence that God does not exist. What should we have Dr. Killjoy do: Try his best to create a poster-presentation and fail?

Asstro said...

All I ask is that Killjoy, or maybe his proxy, offer clear reasons why poster presentations are either (a) a waste of time or (b) completely inappropriate for philosophy presentations. I fail to see how this is so. Having been to several poster presentations at philosophy conferences, I've been surprised by how well they've gone. They're actually quite fun, and you can really get into a discussion with the presenter in a way that you can't easily do at a paper presentation.

I see no reason why a poster presentation has to present graphs or charts. Many of them don't. I see no reason why an argument can't be broken down into its constituent parts and put on a poster.

As a parallel, many philosophers snub their noses at powerpoint presentations too. Arguably, overhead projections are also not a great way to present anything but graphs and charts. And yet, the field has seen growing employment in the practice.

So why, again, is a poster presentation such a waste of time?

Clayton said...

Fwiw,

When I did my poster presentation, it wasn't a waste of time. It gave me an excuse to go to a good conference and it gave me a chance to talk with individuals about my work. In terms of the quality of the discussions I had, they were better than the quality of the discussions I have had when presenting papers at the APA. (This is partially due to the fact that the conference was exceptionally good, but I think it's also in part due to the fact that a normal conversation is much more useful than exchanges during Q&A time after presenting a paper.)

Unfortunately, if enough people think that poster sessions are a waste of time, they will be.

Mr. Zero said...

First let me say how much I've enjoyed following the dispute between Dr. Killjoy and Asstro.

Second, it seems to me that it's perfectly fair to place a substantial burden of proof on Killjoy. He's the one who says that philosophy doesn't belong on posters. It doesn't seem unfair to ask him why. (Also, how is it unfair to ask atheists for evidence of atheism?)

Third, I know I'm biased and everything, but I just can't see why we should accept Killjoy's claim. If I can effectively present an argument on a handout, a powerpoint, or a chalkboard, I don't see why it should be impossible to do it on a poster. Isn't it just supposed to function as nerd bait? Some nerd walks by, sees it, and wants to talk about my paper? Why would this only work on science nerds?

Dr. Killjoy said...

Okay. Pop quiz, hot shots. A standard two-day philosophy conference gives you the choice between doing a paper presentation or a poster presentation. What do you do? What do you do? Well, let's see...

Would you prefer:

a) to have your title or abstract if not your entire paper advertised and made available well in advance in the conference program?

b) to trust that "Poster Session" as it appears in the program is enough to communicate your attendance and ideas.
---
a) to compete for an audience with only a handful of other papers scheduled at the same time?

b) to compete for an audience with every other single poster (at least 20 or so at a small conference) all of which are scheduled at the same time?
---
a) to have your own conference room in which to present your ideas?

b) present your ideas in the same room and at the same time as a few dozen other lucky folks?
---
a) to have 1-2hrs in your session to describe and discuss your ideas?

b) to be one of many in a session scheduled to last in its entirety 1-2hrs?
---
a) to be able to describe your ideas in depth and great detail to a large captive audience?

b) to be able to describe your ideas on a 3'x4' poster board to no more than 2-3 people at time (as long as they stand at least 3' away)?
---
a) to field questions from an audience who just listened to you explain your ideas in great detail?

b) to field questions from an audience who just looked at your 3'x4' board for no more than 2-3 minutes?
---
a) to have a captive audience likely to ask you a certain question no more than once?

b) to have a transient audience likely to ask you the same fucking questions a dozen times?
---

If you picked mostly a), then you are a PAPER PRESENTER.

If you picked mostly b), then you are INSANE.

Look, as I said before, if you got the research funds to burn and nothing better to do, then of course you should full on rock the poster presentation, and I wish you nothing but success (but for those of you thinking that a poster presentation is anything like a powerpoint presentation, I can already smell the sickly sweet stench of your nightmare failure).

Given a choice, however, Paper crushes Poster every time.

Mr. Zero said...

I don't get it, Dr. Killjoy. Asstro says, "Having been to several poster presentations at philosophy conferences, I've been surprised by how well they've gone. They're actually quite fun, and you can really get into a discussion with the presenter in a way that you can't easily do at a paper presentation."

Clayton says, "When I did my poster presentation, it wasn't a waste of time. ... In terms of the quality of the discussions I had, they were better than the quality of the discussions I have had when presenting papers at the APA."

You say, "If you picked mostly [poster presentations], then you are INSANE."

Nobody's saying that posters are the best things ever; just that they are sometimes valuable. I mean, you keep saying, not possible, and they keep saying, I've been there and I've seen it. At a certain point, who are you going to believe?

Dr. Killjoy said...

My apologies, everyone. Clearly my computer had some philosophically nasty virus that fiendishly replaces "most" with "all", "likely" with "necessarily", "difficult" with "impossible" and "ill-suited" with "mutually exclusive".

I have no doubt that Clayton had a great experience with his poster, I hope Zero has a productive one as well, and I fully trust Asstro's report of his poster experiences.

Do I think that poster presentations can be productive? Sure thing.

Do I think that poster presentations are in the main well-suited for presentation of research in traditional areas of philosophy? Nope.

Do I think that Asstro, Clayton, and Zero given a choice will likely choose poster presentations over paper presentations? Nope. They're too smart to do that.

And when the poster revolution comes, I'll happily be the first up against the wall (how embarrassing would it be if your manifesto can't be suitably presented on a 3'x4' poster).

Asstro said...

"Do I think that Asstro, Clayton, and Zero given a choice will likely choose poster presentations over paper presentations?"

That, of course, was never the issue. I'd happily take a published article in a fancy journal over a conference paper presentation too. And yet, I don't find conference paper presentations a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

As someone who would initially agree with Dr. Killjoy that philosophy posters are generally a bad idea, I would conclude that Asstro & Co. wins this argument.

Good match, boys, though you both lost your cool in the middle there.

Anonymous said...

As the final blind referee of this contest, I expect to render a terse, confusing, and generally deficient response in 10-14 months.

While waiting, you must not resubmit your diatribes to another board.

Thank you again for your patience.

Anonymous said...

5:54: Diatribe or diorama? The latter would have been funnier.

Elizabeth said...

Here are some award-winning demography posters:
http://www.popassoc.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3625

Since they involve demographic data, they're probably different from what you need to do, but can give you some ideas.

My experience is that if you radically simplify, more than you think you need to, you'll get a fa more coherent poster.

If you have a Mac, I've found Pages is a good prgram for making posters like this. You can then set the document size to the dimensions you'll want before exporting it to PDF format, which will make it high enough resolution for large printing.

Anonymous said...

Hmmph. I think one of the major reasons conferences have become so lame is truly that so many do it just for cv expansion. I'm a grad student and many of my peers get so super excited when they get accepted to give a paper. Why are they so excited? Because as grad students we have to do it to have any chance of getting a job. I like the suggestion about giving talks instead of reading papers. No one teaches by reading papers. Why should the professionals talk to each other this way? From my perspective as a grad student, the other problem is too many (grads) treat conference papers as an end and not a means. I used to think the point of a conference was to get critical feedback on a paper so that that paper could be made better and actually worth publishing. Also, my experience is that at conferences, the "professionals" tend to be more snarky with each other than actually helpful. We do want to help each other think better and not just win arguments, right? Right?! Sigh. Still, teaching friggin' rules and I'll put up with it to get there. I'll even make a poster.

Anonymous said...

I'd much rather talk than read a paper, and listen to the same. But how does one handle this when assigned a respondent (as is that case at the APA)? If I talk I'm likely to highlight different things, even change minor points, but that doesn't seem quite fair to them

Anonymous said...

7:01,

You can just ask your commenter which things you should be sure to include. I've done that many times.

Elizabeth said...

By the way, the hardest thing about poster presentations (which I agree can be great ways of disseminating some findings and producing discussion with the few people truly interested) is the awkwardness of standing there while people walk by, averting their eyes lest you try to engage them in discussion when they don't want to.