I also subscribe to the Popular Culture Association listserv and
while this thread was active here there was a lengthy discussion of a
similar nature on that list. PCA presents monster-sized conferences every
year, held in large cities at what are called 'conference hotels.' In
order to get the number of meeting rooms they need (they often have 8 - 10
concurrent sessions) they must guarantee a certain number of rooms at the
hotel. Even with a healthy roommate matching service, the rates
are still quite high. Presenters must be members of the organization and
must register for the conference. There is no support from the
organization for travel and no honorarium.
It's true that most of the presenters are on college/university faculties
and so participation is considered to be a part of their scholarly life,
but many institutions now give only limited financial support for
conference attendance, and non-tenured faculty may get nothing at all.
In a different vein, I coordinated the Dance Critics Association
conference in 1997. It was a much smaller event in a donated venue,
programmed by invitation rather than from applications. We compensated
our presenters for travel and lodging, with a tiny honorarium for the
keynote speaker. Only a couple of the presenters worked for organizations
that would contribute anything to their travel expenses for a professional
conference -- many of them were/are freelance writers or artists.
Although I was quite pleased with the program we designed, our decision to
compensate the presenters did limit our choices. And our event was far
less technically demanding (and therefore expensive) than this IDAT
promises to be.
I presented at the 1993 IDAT in Vancouver BC. Though I don't recall if I
had to pay the registration fees, I paid my own travel and lodging
expenses. Luckily for me it was close enough to home to drive and there
was dormitory housing available, but I've gone further and spent more to
participate in similar events.
While the discussion was underway on the PCA list, one of the listmasters
posted an essay on 'why go to a conference.' I won't reprint the whole
thing, but much of it boiled down to community -- this is an opportunity
to be with colleagues, people who understand not just what you do, but why
you feel driven to do it. I'm not attempting to sound evangelical, and
I'm not excusing the vagaries of the economy, but for me the chance to
hear and be heard is a powerful inducement. I'm likely not going to be in
Arizona (and money is part of the reason) but I'm anxious to hear from
people who are going, and I wish the participants and the organizers a
I'm stepping off the soapbox now...