22nd Biennial New Chaucer Society Congress
Durham, 11th–14th July 2022
This is where all of the conference's online content, including both its livestreams and its recorded content, will be hosted.
The hub is a live system. Not only will you see various changes and adjustments to the program (in response to changes requested by delegates), but there will also be new functions gradually appearing.
This is where you can pay for registration, accommodation, dinners, excursions etc.
Speaker Resource Centre
This is where attendees can go to upload material to the conference, and to manage their attendee profiles.
To access the Attendee Hub and the Speaker Resource Centre, you need to be a registered delegate.
When the 2020 Congress was postponed two years ago, we were disappointed here in Durham at the loss of what we thought would be an inspiring and memorable event. But we are now looking forward to trying again in 2022, and we are very grateful to the NCS – its officers and all its members – for keeping faith with us in the intervening time.
Much has changed since March 2020. From the point of view of organising a conference, we now face various new challenges, but also various new opportunities. Reconciling competing expectations is not necessarily easy, and we have had to think hard about what we can effectively provide this summer. We are keen to make the NCS congress much more accessible than ever, without at the same time either threatening the quality or financial viability of the live event, or overstretching our resources (whether technical or human). This message is designed to explain how we are planning to negotiate these issues, and to describe what exactly delegates can expect from the NCS Congress this summer.
First, it needs to be emphasised that anyone who comes to Durham this July will be able to experience the conference in just the same way that delegates to the NCS Congress have always done. The 2022 iteration will be enriched in some respects by the provision of some services that no NCS congress has ever provided before – including a dedicated app and “hub”. However, the virtual dimensions of the conference will only supplement the experience of coming to Durham: they will not undermine it.
At the same time, the virtual dimensions of the 2022 Congress will be very substantial, and we hope that these will contribute greatly to creating a sense of community well beyond Durham. Delegates unable to attend in person will still be able to follow the live sessions as a series of simultaneous broadcasts. If they are giving a paper, they will be able to upload a recorded version of it, and these recorded papers will be showcased on the congress website alongside the broadcasts of the live sessions. The website will offer various opportunities for “chat”, including live-chats enabling “virtual” delegates to contribute questions to the discussions taking place in Durham.
All of the broadcast sessions will be recorded. They, together with all of the uploaded papers, will be hosted on the conference website – not just throughout the conference, but for 90 days afterwards. This means that the Durham Congress will be able offer a genuine solution to a very old problem: no longer will it be the case that, when sessions are timetabled in parallel, delegates have to choose between them – and miss out forever on the sessions they could not attend live. This summer, whether they are attending in person, or via the internet, all delegates will be able to “catch up” on any material that they have missed – and they will have the opportunity to do this for several months.
This also means that everyone speaking at the conference – whether in Durham or in the form of an uploaded recording – potentially has access to a much wider audience than was true in the past: in effect, they will be able to address every single one of the conference’s delegates – not just those who happen not to have any competing interests or commitments.
Attending the conference virtually will not be the same as attending it in person. The two kinds of participation will be different, each effective and “good value” in their way: but it is the view of the local organisers and the NCS officers that the quality (and price-worthiness) of each experience can only be guaranteed by being careful not to confuse them. As Tom Goodmann has previously announced, we are not even going to attempt “a synchronous, fully hybridized meeting”. This is not due to lack of enterprise: the University of Durham has recently invested heavily in AV equipment – but our experience of using this equipment in teaching this year has made clear to us where the limits of such technologies lie. During the NCS Congress, we need to be able to make sure that nobody’s experience is spoiled or impaired by technical problems like feedback or extraneous noise via uncontrolled microphones, or slow connections due to bandwith-issues beyond Durham. Nor do we want the running of the conference to be disrupted by the delays that technical difficulties of this kind inevitably cause. Software like Zoom or Teams is (on its own) only designed for relatively small meetings – not for a meetings on the scale of the NCS Congress. Finally, we want to avoid the “protocol issues” that Zoom/Teams can create – e.g. the curious effects created by different kinds of participants having different levels of audibility and/or visibility. Ultimately, we think it only fair that speakers should receive feedback/discussion of their papers in kind – i.e. “live” papers get a live response: virtual papers get a virtual one.
One advantage of planning in this way is that it means that the conference is open to a much wider audience. There is only room for 500 delegates in Durham, and we are still hoping/expecting that we might approach that number this year (since we were heading for a sell-out in 2020) – but there is no limit to the number of people who can register to participate virtually.
One condition of these arrangements is that we will all need to be quite flexible about the actual timetabling of sessions. The higher the proportion of delegates requesting to the option to submit their papers virtually (i.e. as recordings), the more we might be obliged to merge/combine live sessions in order to keep them viable. For this reason, we recommend that anyone attending the conference in Durham should be available for all four of the days on which academic sessions are being held.
For further information, please see the Q&A below.
Q. How are you going to achieve all this – a dedicated app, a “hub”, simultaneous livestreams, an archive of recordings etc.?
A. By deploying some rather sophisticated software. The university is helping us by splitting the costs of this software equally with us.
Q. What is the "hub"?
A. In effect, it replaces the old paper conference timetable/schedule. This has various advantages. It allow delegates to create personal schedules within the app; and it allows local organisers to adapt information in quite a flexible way and communicate it dynamically both before and during the event. Basically it is a web-based “shop window” for everything happening at the conference. This is where delegates will be able to find all the live-streams, and all the recorded papers, together with all the associated chats. It will allow us to manage and present all of this material – a lot of data, much of it delivered live – in a relatively organised way.
Q. What does the app do?
A. It allows you to access the "hub" via your mobile phone.
Q. What is the app called?
A. It is called "Cvent Events". You can download it from Apple's App Store and Google Play
Q. How will I find this “hub”?
A. It will be linked directly to the conference website, www.ncs2020.net. See the buttons above. If you want to find it on Cvent Events just search for "Chaucer"?
Q. What is the Speaker Resource Centre?
A. It is where material can be uploaded to the conference, and where attendees can edit their profiles.
Q. How do I find the Speaker Resource Centre?
Q. Can I access the hub (or the Speaker Resource Centre) even if I am not a registered delegate?
A. No. The app and hub will only be available to those who have paid to register for the conference (whether to attend in Durham or virtually via the internet).
Q. What technical support will there be in the room?
A. Every session will have a trained “producer” whose job it will be to manage the corresponding livestream and chat.
Q. Given all this effort to give the conference a virtual dimension, will it still be worth travelling to Durham – even though I will still be able to see/hear every paper as a “virtual” delegate?
A.Yes, absolutely. Coming to Durham will be an inspiring and memorable experience, we hope; and we are encouraging everyone to join us here if they can. The conference’s virtual presence via its hub will give a good option to anyone who is unable to come, and it will also, we hope, enrich the experience of coming to Durham. But this virtual dimension is not – and could never be – a replacement for that experience.
Q. If I travel to Durham, will I end up sitting in a classroom simply listening/watching to a paper being delivered over Teams/Zoom – which I might just as well have stayed at home to hear/see?
A. No. This will not happen. Virtual delegates may upload recordings of their papers (if their papers have been accepted by the Program Committee) and these papers will be available to all delegates, alongside the live-streams of the sessions (and the recordings of these streams), but they will not have the option to broadcast to delegates live via Teams/Zoom.
Q. If I can’t be in Durham, and my paper has been accepted by the Program Committee, I can register for the conference as a virtual delegate – but how do I actually deliver my paper?
A. We will be asking everyone in this category to upload a recording of themselves delivering their paper in the form of a movie. There are various ways of doing this. Powerpoint/Keynote and Teams/Zoom offer the option to record presentations, and there is also dedicated software like Prezi (https://prezi.com/) or Powtoon (https://www.powtoon.com/blog/create-cool-presentation-online/). It is also possible simply to create Quicktime files and combine them into movies (e.g. via movie-makers like iMovie or Movavi Video Editor). We will be asking everyone submitting a movie in this way to do so before Monday, the 27th of June, at the very latest, so that all of them can be built into the hub.
Q. How do I submit my prerecorded presentation?
A. Via the Speaker Resource Centre.
Q. Will you photocopy my hand-out for me?
A. No, this is not possible, for a number of reasons. However, you can upload and distribute your materials digitally via the Speaker Resource Centre.
Q. If I come to Durham, will I need to bring a laptop to each session in order to follow what is happening online?
A. No. In fact, we would discourage people in the room from trying to follow any of the livestreams at the same time, because of the risk of feedback. That being said, delegates will need at least a phone/tablet in order to be able to use the conference app.
Q. So if, as a virtual delegate, I want to follow sessions live, I can watch/listen to them via the hub, but how do I contribute a question to any discussion that follows the paper?
A. The hub will allow you to submit a question via a chat-function. This question will then be made available to the session-chair to announce (if they choose to do so).
Q. If I provide my paper as an uploaded recording, will delegates get the opportunity to discuss it and ask me questions about it?
A. Yes, there will be chats attached to the recorded papers too.
Q. However I choose to attend, can I choose not to allow my participation to be recorded?
A. No. It is implicit in your registration that you consent to be recorded.
Q. How long will Durham/the NCS keep and maintain these recordings?
A. For 90 days after the end of the conference. After that they will be deleted.
Q. Both live conference and a virtual experience via the hub? It all sounds too good to be true – what are the drawbacks from the organisers' point of view?
A. On balance, running both a live conference and the virtual additions to it creates more work for the local organisers and the program committee (although there are gains too – e.g. the phasing out of the printed version of the program). One particular issue is that timetabling is potentially much more complicated. The higher the proportion of speakers who able/willing to give their papers live in Durham, then the easier timetabling will be – but we are expecting to have to do quite a lot of work managing the timetable in late June/early July. However, the hub does give us the option to do so relatively dynamically.
Q. Is the conference subsidised by any organisations outside the NCS?
A Yes. A significant sum has been committed by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in Durham. The university is also supporting the conference by helping us defray the costs of the software underpinning the hub and app. It is perhaps also worth pointing out that since 2018 many hours have been put into planning for this conference by Durham staff in a range of different departments, but especially by the small team in the Event Durham office.
Q. Is there still going to be an event in the Cathedral?
A. Yes, a reception in the cloisters, followed by a concert in the nave.
Q. Will this concert be recorded, and made available via the hub?
A. No. When we looked into this, we were defeated by the technical challenges of recording music adequately during a performance in a large venue like the Cathedral.
Q. Will there be a conference dinner?
A. Yes, delegates attending in person will be able to have dinner in the Great Hall of the Castle.
Q. Will there be a conference-pack?
A. No. We planned one in 2020 (which would have contained conference bags and water-bottles). We were just about to order to the requisite materials when coronavirus struck – and it was lucky that we didn't. This time around, we feel that a conference-pack creates unnecessary financial risks. In any case, demand for such things seems to be lower than it was.
Q. Will there be any excursions?
A. Yes: a choice of three: Hadrian’s Wall; Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley; and Alnwick Castle/Gardens. Please see Excursions.
Q. Will there be an exhibition of manuscripts to accompany the conference?
A. No. There were a number of practical difficulties we could not surmount, mainly to do with finding exhibition space at a time when some parts of Palace Green Library are being renovated, and others are still being used for new functions acquired during lockdown. However, the catalogue of manuscripts (by Richard Gameson) that was due to accompany the exhibition we planned in 2020 has now been published, and is available to NCS members at a large discount. Please see Manuscripts.
Q. I have heard that, as a medieval city, Durham can be awkward to get around. Is this true?
A. There are some slopes, steps and awkward paving, it is true, but Durham is also a tiny city (with a population of only about 50,000 people, including students) and none of our venues are at all far from each other, or from any of the major hotels. For more information about this see Distances and Heights here. If you do have any mobility concerns, please get in touch with us, via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. I have heard that there is a flight of 300 steps up to the Cathedral. Is this true?
A. We heard that rumour too! No, it is not true. On one of the most direct routes between the TLC and the Cathedral, there is a flight of 18 steps, but there are other routes which do not have any steps.
Q. Are you worried about the emergence of new, more dangerous coronavirus variant?
A. Yes. But such a variant could emerge at any time; and there is no reason to think that this is any more likely to occur in 2022 than at any date in the future.
Q. What happens if there is a major coronavirus outbreak in the run-up to the conference?
A. We would have to think carefully about what to do. We would be very reluctant to postpone again, though – if absolutely necessary – it could be done.
Q. What happens if there is a major coronavirus outbreak in Durham during the conference?
A. The university has thought about this extensively, and there are detailed contingency-plans in place.
Registration for the 2022 Congress is now open.
It will close on Monday, 27th June.