While research presentations constitute the lion’s share of sessions in Prague, the conference program also includes more than two dozen Blue Sky Workshops. A relatively recent tradition at ICA, these smaller sessions have fostered ideas and provided opportunities for disciplinary, intellectual, and professional growth. This year’s offerings promise the same.
The list of division-specific Blue Sky Workshops is robust. Our Prague program includes workshops that discuss, for instance: whether public relations and advertising should remain two distinct fields with distinguished areas of research and practice (Sunday, 9:30-10:45); new research strategies for studying children’s interactions with digital technologies (Sunday, 11:00-12:15); political discourse and rhetoric in the digital age (Friday, 9:30-10:45); and attempts to map the future of public-diplomacy research (Monday, 17:00-18:15). Other workshops have a decidedly more methodological focus, such as those examining: language and social-interaction approaches to analyzing identity in interaction (Sunday, 15:30-16:45); methodological issues in conducting communication-history scholarship (Monday, 14:00-15:15); and applications of critical discourse analysis (Monday, 8:00-9:15).
While division-specific workshops speak to certain groups of scholars with particular intellectual interests, the menu of Blue Sky Workshops includes a few on professional development, with implications for scholars at multiple stages of their career. One workshop focuses on various aspects and implications of using social media for career development and/or self-promotion (Sunday, 9:30-10:45). Another identifies the challenges of entering an academic job market and involves the exchange of advice for early-career scholars (Sunday, 8:00-9:15). A third workshop discusses graduate-student mentorship and is geared toward converging on a set of best practices (Monday, 11:00-12:15).
Teaching is a significant component of many scholars’ professional persona, and some of our Blue Sky Workshops address pedagogical issues. Conference attendees can explore evidence-based teaching strategies (Saturday, 14:00-15:15) or approaches to more deeply integrate high-impact activities and issues of diversity into skills courses (Friday, 9:30-10:45). Attendees also can learn about strategies to reduce noise from their visual presentations and move toward increased audience comprehension and retention (Monday, 17:00-18:15).
Our discipline vis-à-vis the world today
Last but not least, the Prague program includes a few Blue Sky Workshops that speak directly to some larger sociopolitical developments that have implications for our discipline. One focuses on sexual and racial harassment and hostile climates in higher education (Sunday, 14:00-15:15) and another is designed to share best practices for mitigating researcher risk as scholars increasingly come under attack for their work (Sunday, 17:00-18:15). Finally, against a backdrop of global migration and growing populism, another workshop focuses on best practices in quantitative and qualitative studies of race (Saturday, 12:30-13:45).
This year’s Blue Sky Workshops originated from all corners of ICA and touch upon markedly different facets of what it means to be a communication scholar. The small-group and highly interactive format of these workshops offer great potential for the exchange of ideas and voices, and I hope you’ll be able to attend some of them.