A moment at last to try and collect thoughts from 13th annual communications ethics conference at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, from which I returned last week. Non stop since then, visiting London and Leeds, but want to record a really wonderful event before it fades.
As always with a new conference, there is the implicit code to unlock: are they jeans or suits people, to be found in sessions or coffee bars, self-important or -deprecating? My conclusions = smart but not formal in dress! very formal in address (everyone called by title not forename) but delightfully engaging and curious about the their research and ideas.
The main theme was rhetoric and ethics, the speciality of the host department. It was a little daunting at first to be caught in so many conversations about Aristotle s 4th book of ethics or Heidegger’s later works, all conducted by my fellow guest speakers, mostly professors of philosophy. I may not quite follow the US system of titles but I think I was the only keynote speaker below prof status. Still, I decide to spend the time learning from them rather than being scared and have come back determined to read Heidegger, on dwelling places, Arendt on the polis, and Foucault on embodied ethics.
While some scholars treated language as technical experiment, most were deeply humane in their explorations. Very taken by Dr Ramsey Eric Ramsey’s presentation which used a sequence of paintings to illustrate points about dwelling places, including thus one.
Baying Hound, JMW Turner
It resonated with me as all that is lost.
My own keynote speech had been scaring me for weeks before discovering how august the company was, but as with all real scholars in my experience, they were warmly welcoming and interested in me as a newcomer to their event. As a result, I felt supported not undermined and to my astonishment managed to combine the advice given at a Sydney writers festival by Lucinda Holdforth, a leading Australian author and speechwriter, and David Roach, playwright and screenwriter, both friends of novelist Charlotte Wood. Lucinda said prepare everything, write it all out, rehearse and rehearse, so if nerves paralyse you, there’s something to hold on to. Improvise, David said, keep it edgy and you’ll keep it alive. Somehow managed to do both, using the script as a guide not a straitjacket. Even cracked jokes! Whole event astonishingly enjoyable. Whodda thunk?
Oh yeah, using new software too. So bored by power point, tried Prezi.com.