Monday, April 8, 2013

My ISA Trip Report

Erica Chenoweth does an excellent job of summarizing her ISA experience this year.   I am so drained from the trip and from the twitter-fighting that preceded it and overlapped with it, that I did not blog daily reports as I have done in the past.  But I do have some observations I noted during the time in San Francisco:
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  • Twitterfightclub and ISA are not a good match in that I had a hard time competing while ISA-ing (was not willing to roam on my Canadian cell phone).  But I was approached by people who were watching the competition, including a couple of the book reps.  
  •  Live tweeting is very hard--as typing while keeping up with formal models is not easy.   More on twitter down below.
  • The new work in bureaucratic politics and foreign policy is most promising.  I served as a discussant on a panel dedicated to the topic.  I have a dusty paper on a shelf somewhere on the topic, so I put myself on this panel to get inspired, and it worked.  I now have some renewed energy.  Why?  Because focusing on "Where you stand depends on where you sit" produces lots of problematic predictions, my approach (to be unveiled when I get more written) may gain traction by avoiding that part of the BP debate.
  • With great power comes great responsibility, but it only works in one direction.  With great responsibility, power may not come.  
  • Turns out the most contagious thing at the ISA was diffusion exhaustion. The theme of Diffusion was run slightly into the ground.  Having said that, I participated in a roundtable on the diffusion of nationalism, and it was pretty delightful.  I was a skeptic, arguing that confirmation bias and the complexity of nationalisms make it hard for any one nationalism to spread very far.  
  • Bloggers are stars!  The reception was well attended, amusing and educational. I definitely think this will be annual tradition.  But as I also discussed, far fewer folks are blogging or tweeting than often seems to be the case.  I ended up in a twitter conversation with a bunch of folks while I was waiting for my plane to go home.  The topic was whether to organize a panel/roundtable next year on twitter.  Should we just run a session to teach people how to tweet? To compare strategies of our tweeting?  To consider the effects of twitter? 
  • The best part of twitter is when virtual friends become real ones.  I had many conversations with folks who had only been twitter handles before.  Meeting these folks in real life, including a fairly raucous dinner at a great Chinese restaurant with some former twitter-fighters, was a big highlight of the week.   
  • The other really fun part was when people would say: did they really say "old boys network" and I would say indeed they did.  The lamenting in that piece is so misplaced for so many reasons, but one demonstrated this past week is that the new folks, as Erica noticed, are doing such interesting and important work.  They are articulating their questions so very well, and taking quite seriously the demands of doing social science.  If the IR world is more of a meritocracy today than 20 years ago, we have much to celebrate given the kids today (even if one of them kicked my ass in twitter fight club's final match). 

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