Posts: Dan Drezner, Dan Nexon, Erik Voeten
Counter-Posts: Laura Sjoberg, Me, Will Moore
Counter-Counter-Posts: Bear Braumoeller
I would argue that there is clearly a "good" approach to networking. I grew up around artists and entertainers. While this has not assisted me in many aspects of my academic career, I believe that it has assisted me with being comfortable talking with people and additionally being able to figure out what I should wear for the day. Dan (Drezner), who I was colleagues with and consider a friend, clearly has this ability as well (both meeting people and sartorialism). Not everyone feels comfortable talking to strangers or even talking for that matter. Many in our profession also have some problems dressing themselves but that is the subject of another blog - the Academic Sartorialist?
Despair not however. Individuals like Rom Harre have maintained that we each learn and communicate in slightly different ways. Some are best able to communicate/learn through words, some images, some equations, some sound. We now are beginning to live in an age where you can find your thing and use that as you exchange with others. In short, "everybody's got a little light under the sun". You just need to find your spot. I do not envision an APSA or a political science where we just have small conversations going on in a large, poorly lit and frequently poorly designed room. This pushes and privileges a certain type of communication/interaction. Rather, I envision an APSA and political science where we have some conversation going on over there, some DJ over here, some 3D projection over here, some film over there, some performance art over here and some large lecture over there.
Riffing off of Mos Def, people often speak of political science as if it some giant in the hillside or something, where we are just subject to what it does when it decides to come down from it's cave. But, we are political science! We can create what we want for/with this thing. Actually, Dan is a perfect example of this with blogging and Zombified-IR. I'm now working on/pushing for interactive data, film, archiving and animation work. What you wanna do? I think that many of us face a crisis of imagination regarding things like APSA and then get blocked on things like networking. We don't send ourselves to professional meetings. We send our representatives (props to [Erving] Goffman and [Chris] Rock). I think we need to start attending - if you get my meaning. Things need to be done to "feed the beast" as it were but we need to start making it our own and taking it where we want to go.
The idea I was trying to communicate in my initial blog is that our discipline is too internalized. We live largely in our heads and publishing venues but if we are to survive, thrive and indeed have any impact at all on our world (which I think we should), then we will need to change this. We begin by meeting and interacting with one another at places like APSA. Awkward it might be but we are much better off from the sense of community and contact that arises from this. For example, has anyone been to a Peace Science meeting? Anyone who has gone will attest to the fact that this is a much smaller meeting than APSA as well as one where you feel immediately accepted, appreciated and very much part of a family. APSA might be too big for this but we never interact with the whole meeting anyway. We stick to our primary interests, panels and people. Well, imagine the meeting in this way: APSA is simply an opportunity for communication, community and fellowship. We can shape it as we see fit. We need to stop looking for this to emerge from the panels, workshops, business meetings and receptions put forward. There are an awful lot of hours in the day and many places in the cities that we are going to year after year.
So, you might not be able to chat up the leading political scientists on the fly in some elevator for 30 seconds, but perhaps you have a short film in you that you place as your poster, in the hallway to catch people walking by, on your webpage or in a local bar - ever heard of Pechakucha presentations? Perhaps you have a cool graphic that you can sport on your t-shirt or a musical composition that you play during your presentation or somewhere in the city where the conference is taking place - folks would come if you told them. Who wants to hang out in the lobby not knowing anyone when they could have some place to do. Perhaps we should create a multi-media room: something like the old "paper rooms" where everyone deposited their papers for conferences but more allowing for creative diversity as well as more permanence than posters.
Now, I am not just some extrovert who strangely became a political science or even an optimist - anyone who knows, meets and/or talks with me will readily communicate this to you. Rather, I believe that we have something to gain from interacting with one another at moments when "our people" congregate. Some of these things we have to gain are professional. Many, however, are not and this tends to get lost sometimes in our conversations.