Monday, December 28, 2009

APA Eastern Division: Day 2

Today didn't start terribly well. Didn't go well overall, really. I didn't sleep much last night, for some reason, and was operating on about four hours sleep when I got up. But get up I did, and headed off to first session -- left about 8:20, to make a 9:00 session.

Times Square was less crazy than last night, at least in terms of pedestrians. Still a ridiculous number of cars, and all those lights are still on. Lunacy!

Got to the Marriott Marquis on time. And the place was pretty much deserted. I did run into Alice MacLachlan as she was heading out to grab some breakfast before meeting up, I presume, with York folks who have interviews. I don't begrudge that, BTW: it makes perfect sense. I'm just reporting what I figured she was doing. She suggested that I might want to go to the Society for Women in Philosophy session, which is who's awarding Lorraine Code the Distinguished Woman Philosopher of 2009 (looked up the name this time). I'm pretty confident no one missed me.

When I got upstairs, there were a few latecomers at the registration windows, but everyone else seemed to be having a late morning. Or, more likely, everyone was busy mingling with folks they already knew. I'm pretty sure the cafe/atrium area was largely taken over by philosophers, but philosophers sitting in departmental groups. Remember that scene in Mean Girls where Lizzy Caplan is explaining all the various cliques in the cafeteria? I could have done that. "You got your perpetual grad students, desperate postdocs, well-funded postdocs, burned-out postdocs, tenured profs who haven't published in decades, tenured profs who haven't had a good idea in decades, tenure-track profs at 2-year colleges bitching about research institutions..." (See, it's not funny 'cause it's true.)

In any event, not what you'd call a lot of opportunities to get to know people. So, I went to the Placement Service. For those out of the know: the Placement Service is a complete misnomer. It is, in fact, no such thing. A genuine "placement service" would coordinate applications and job ads, provide job search support services, and generally help to get you employed.

This Placement Service has two bulletin boards set up, one for listing where the universities that are interviewing are interviewing, and one for listing any new jobs (grand total: 2; welcome to the end of the humanities in North American universities). It also has a series of boxes -- y'know, banker's boxes -- with numbered manila folders. When you register, you get assigned one of those folders. In the folders: two "interview request" forms and one "information" form. The info form is basically name, affiliation and contact info, in case anyone wants to contact you for a late interview (insert hollow laughter). The interview request forms are if you're either (a) too stupid to have applied to jobs before the convention or (b) applying to any of the jobs that have just appeared at the convention. If you want to do so, you fill in the form, attach a CV (which you have to provide -- no printers or photocopiers available), and drop it in a plastic container reserved for the purpose. If universities bother to reply to you, they'll return the form to your manila folder in the banker's box.

Oh, and, there's a bunch of chairs where you can collapse and wonder why the fates have cursed you with curiosity and intelligence. I'd put up a picture of the room, but it's pretty depressing, frankly. At least the APA staff manning the registration table seemed to be enjoying themselves. Someone should be, eh?

After that, I found the room where there was one session I wanted to go to -- the Society for Empirical Ethics meeting, talking about virtue and moral development, from both philosophical and psychological perspectives -- but it had already begun and, frankly, looked clique-y. Again. I checked the schedule, realized I didn't really care about the rest of the sessions, and left. The whole setup is weird, BTW. Sessions are spread across multiple floors, and meeting rooms are all on the edges of the floors -- there's this open section in the middle running all the way up the building, where the elevators are. It has to be a couple hundred feet from side to side of the floors. (NB: I tend to be very, very bad at estimating size and distance. So, "a couple of hundred feet" works out "takes probably 20 seconds to walk from one side to the other". However big that is.) And, except for the rooms, and the registration windows on the fifth floor, there's nothing in between. Carpet, walls, a few chairs. No signage. Nothing cool to look at. No one standing around. No staff, except occasional hotel staff. Very, very weird. Barren.

There's supposed to be some sort of gathering this evening. Officially, it's a "reception". Unofficially, it's called the "smoker", harkening back to the days when the ballroom would slowly fill with smoke as the evening progressed. Cash bar, as far as I know. No food, again as far as I know. And, yet again, everyone gathers around their little clique-y groups -- either old cronies or departmental colleagues. That's not just me being paranoid; that's actually how it's set up. Departments and groups reserve tables at the reception, and everyone gathers at their own little table. Occasionally, ingratiating suck-ups try to talk up famous philosophers who have deigned to show their faces; given how shitty the job market is, I suspect famous philosophers will skip it for fear that the sucking up will never end.

It's been suggested that I show up and stick my head in the room, just to see what it's like, but to hell with it: I don't see any reason to show up just to hang out with the few other York folks that are here. As a grad student with no publications, no one else is going to be remotely interested in talking to me. (And most of the York folks that are here have interviews, so they have their own problems to deal with.) No, I'm not going to have a drink and try to strike up conversations with people. First, the smoker, from what I know, is an opportunity for job candidates to try to firm up the impression they made in interview, and for everyone else to meet up with people they haven't seen for a while. Neither applies to me, and it's not fun being the only guy in the choir who doesn't know the words. Second, I don't drink, so "social lubricants" aren't able to help me.

It's pretty clear to me that this thing was organized by tenured philosophy professors, for tenured philosophy professors. It caters to their interests, almost exclusively. Lots of opportunities for them to collect together and talk, in a big expensive hotel in a big expensive city. Very few opportunities, if you're not already well-connected, to do pretty much anything. Unless you happen to be highly gregarious and personable; but, really, neither you nor I has much by way of advanced social skills, right? (I'm an academic writing a blog... and you're reading it.)

If it was organized for the interests of everyone, there'd be some sort of actual reception, with food, wherein folks would be strongly encouraged to mingle with people they didn't already know. (A sit-down banquet would guarantee that, but I suspect that might be a bit out of the APA's price range.) It'd be somewhere reasonably priced, so everyone can stay at the same hotel and get into informal meetings and discussions. There'd be services that actually helped with things like planning your trip, getting a job, getting published, and so on. (And, yes, if I ran the world, everyone would get a pony.)

I'm pretty down on the profession right now, in case you haven't entirely figured it out. I find the problems of philosophy interesting, but I don't find the process of publishing interesting at all, and "big conferences" like this one are coming off as quite alienating and intimidating. So, yeah. Not sure where to go with this career path.

Will try it all again tomorrow. This time, I'll be sure to stick around and float through the book publishers' exhibits -- maybe that would trigger some conversations? -- and see if I can find a less clique-y meeting. Something on the Main Program rather than the Group Program might be a better idea. Still, we'll see. For now, I'm trying to hammer out a dissertation chapter.

Oh, pictures from today (the links are repeated below, in the Tweets section):

http://twitpic.com/vlndk - Interview room (sorry for the blur). Note how small it is -- you can see the back and both sides of the room. Usually, I'm told, the room can hold about 150 tables. There's maybe half that number this year, and most were unoccupied when I stopped by.

http://twitpic.com/vkzt2 - A safety pin. ROFL. Shows you how badly planned this really is. Seriously, folks, you can get plastic sleeves for these badges which have metal clips attached -- clips which don't require putting holes in your clothes. They can't be that much more than buying the safety pins, and taking the time to shove them through the sleeves.

Tweets

Maybe I need to start my own association? Might solve the not knowing anyone/not being interested in sessions problem. #APA #APAEastern about 7 hours ago from TweetDeck

http://twitpic.com/vlndk - Interview room (sorry for blur). about 7 hours ago from TwitPic

Yeah, I'm calling it a day. Maybe I can bang out a chapter this afternoon/evening. #APA #APAEastern about 8 hours ago from txt

Two things learned about myself: I really don't miss going to classes; and I really stink at meeting new people. #APA #APAEastern about 9 hours ago from txt

Not sure what to do. Missed first half of really only interesting session today. Second half may not work. #APA #APAEastern about 9 hours ago from txt

Two things, neither of which should surprise me, but: this is a very unfriendly conference. And philosophers dress badly. #APA #APAEastern about 9 hours ago from txt

Placement area is filling up. Depressing to see folks worrying who HAVE interviews. #APA #APAEastern about 9 hours ago from txt

Really can't shake the feeling I don't belong here. #APA #APAEastern about 9 hours ago from txt

That was the nearly deserted interview room, BTW. Think I'm skipping first session and looking for breakfast. about 10 hours ago from txt

I know I promised pictures of desperate job-seekers, but no-one's here. Two new job ads, neither worth the effort. #APA #APAEastern about 10 hours ago from txt

First things first: registering in the placement room. #APA #APAEastern about 10 hours ago from txt

At the Marriott. Times Square less people. Still crazy lights. Ran into first York person I've seen (Alice MacLachlan). #APA #APAEastern about 10 hours ago from txt

http://twitpic.com/vkzt2 - A safety pin. ROFL #APA #APAEastern about 11 hours ago from TwitPic

Off to morning session. #APA #APAEastern about 11 hours ago from txt