My manservant, Winfred, recently brought some positively dreadful news to my attention. I had just returned from taking the hounds on their morning constitutional and was preparing to chase the hobos off their encampment in the woods adjacent to my estate (in retrospect, these two activities might have been best combined) when Winfred delivered the latest circular from the Society for Scholarly Publishing.
It appears that the Society will be holding another SSP IN meeting next month, over my strenuous objections as a long-standing member of the Society. My objections are not concerning SSP holding a Fall meeting – indeed, the autumn is my favorite time of the year to repair to a fine club, properly provisioned with brandy and cigars, to discuss the affairs of the Society with other learned gentlemen (as a side note, I have noticed an increasing number of women at Society meetings of late, and am concerned for the image of the Society that so many gentlemen think it proper to travel openly with their secretaries – we are a Society of scholars, not poets!).
Rather, my concerns are regarding the topic of the meeting. I am told that “IN” stands for INnovation, INspiration, and INteraction. I am wont to think of a more unholy trinity of concepts. Indeed, I think “INfernal” is more apropos!
If this were not bad enough, I am told that this year’s theme is “Imagining the ‘Dream E-Tool’ for Education and Training.” The dream tool for education and training, as everyone knows, is a rod or ruler and a firm hand (Clarke Industries has long made such rods, which we sell alongside our line of buggy whips). I see no reason to “imagine” any other tool for this purpose.
Indeed, I was aghast when my grand-nephew Chesterton rung me on Alexander Graham Bell’s phone (an example of an “innovation” that has done nothing but disturb the peace since it has infected nearly every household in our great republic) to inform me that Harvard now requires its students to use Babbage machines to write their essays! And now I discover that a Society of which I am a member, is not only not opposing this “electronic education,” but instead is actively encouraging it!
The Society has, I am told, recruited a number of agitators to speak at the conference, including: Kathy Hurley, Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at Pearson and Chair of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills; Ariella Lehrer, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer, Legacy Interactive; and Kara Malenfant, Scholarly Communications and Government Relations Specialist, Association of College and Research Libraries/American Library Association, and co-author of the Futures Thinking for Academic Librarians: Higher Education in 2025 report.
I am troubled to report that, in addition to featuring such agitators, SSP IN will be conducted in an interactive format. As all right-thinking persons know, conferences should be delivered in a lecture format with questions strongly discouraged. (Indeed, I have standing instructions with Winfred that he is to physically remove any hecklers, socialists, union sympathizers, or progressives from lecture rooms in which I deliver an address.) Unfortunately, attendees of SSP IN will be organized in small groups where they will work together through exercises designed to explore new ideas, facilitate networking, and challenge thinking.
Though I am reluctant to disseminate this information further for fear that some unsuspecting gentleman might accidentally register for SSP IN, it has occurred to me that you, dear reader, might find this entire missive incredulous. And indeed, I found the entire idea so far-fetched that I dispatched Winfred by rail to Philadelphia, where the meeting is purportedly to be held September 21-23 at the Sofitel Philadelphia. My trusted servant has confirmed that meeting preparations are, in fact, underway. They even have, predictably, set up a registration page on Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s infernal Interweb for those of you who countenance the use of Babbage machines.
As despondent as I am over these events, I am confident that not many learned gentlemen (nor, for that matter, their now ubiquitous secretaries) will accidentally attend this meeting, and so the exposure of such unorthodox and novel ideas will hopefully be limited. For those esteemed members of the Society who wish to attend a more traditional meeting, limited to discussion of tried-and-true publication formats and pedagogical practices — and not will-o’-the-wisp fads and progressive ideas — I will shortly be organizing a competing event, which will be called the SNOB (Say No to Online Books) Conference. Details will be delivered via post as soon as Winfred types up a pamphlet for the mimeograph.
Yours in letters,
M. Tiberius Clarke