SBU Grad-Con

Yesterday was Stony Brook’s annual English Department Graduate Conference at the Stony Brook Manhattan campus. Last year I presented there and worked it (helped with setup, sign-in, name tags, etc.), but this year, partially because I wanted to focus all my energy on my reading lists, I decided just to work the event. I was honored when the  organizing committee asked me to be the photographer for the event. Photography is one of my main hobbies, so it felt good 1) to be recognized for it, and 2) to be able to utilize it for a good purpose. I ended up working the front desk and bouncing around so much to take pictures of each panel and presenter that I didn’t get chance to listen to any single presentation in its entirety. That was a let down because I’m particularly interested in the topic of the conference (environmental humanities), but I did get to stop in long enough to hear some fascinating ideas.

Our keynote speaker was Ken Hiltner, the Director of the Environmental Humanities Center at UC Santa Barbara, gave an eye-opening presentation on why the humanities matter when it comes to environmentalism. My biggest efferent from his presentation was that, while science can accurately tell us, say, that the level of chemical X in our air has risen from 40 ppm in 1940 to 300 ppm in 2015, it is the role of the humanities to examine the ideologies, cultures, and habits that have led to that increase. And while sciences can create new technologies to limit the output of chemical X in the future, it’s the humanities that work to analyze and to try to disrupt those ideological factors that lead us to use chemical X. What stuck out most, however, was Hiltner’s insistence that the both the sciences and the humanities are interdependent forces working toward the same goal. While each has its separate role to play, success depends upon collaboration. As a big environmentalist (I’m an avid kayaker, hiker, and nature photographer, and I spent the better part of the year between my M.A. and Ph.D. living a surreal existence in the Alaskan bush), I appreciated Hiltner’s enthusiasm, expertise, and encouraging outlook. Below are some photos from the conference.

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Ken Hiltner of UC Santa Barbara, the keynote speaker

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Dr. Celia Marshik presenting my office mate, David Rodriguez, with the “Best Paper Award.”

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Dr. Douglas Pfeiffer responding to the Undergraduate Panel

That’s all I have for now, other than the lessons I learned in the digital humanities at the conference:

1) High-resolution video takes up a lot of memory

2) Always bring an extra memory card when filming in high-resolution

Good thing I had a backup camera ready to roll! As always, thank you for reading!

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