Composing conferences

Michael Hohl (Editor), Ben Sweeting (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial


The design of academic conferences, in which settings ideas are shared and created, is, we suggest, of more than passing interest in constructivism, where epistemology is considered in terms of knowing rather than knowledge. The passivity and predominantly one-way structure of the typical paper presentation format of academic conferences has a number of serious limitations from a constructivist perspective, which are both practical and epistemological. While alternative formats abound, there is nevertheless increasing pressure reinforcing this format due to delegates’ funding typically being linked to reading a paper. In this special issue, authors reflect on conferences that they have organized and participated in that have used alternative formats, such as conversational structures or other constructivist inspired approaches, in whole or in part. While issues raised are of relevance across disciplinary boundaries, contributions focus on two fields, that of cybernetics / systems, and that of design, in which the organisation of conferences is of particular concern: the environment of a design conference is something that we design; while a conference regarding systems or cybernetics is itself an instance of the sorts of process with which these disciplines are concerned. As well as contributing to conference design, discussions in this issue also reflect back on constructivism itself. Conference organization is an area in which constructivism may itself be understood in terms of practice (and so knowing) rather than theory (and so knowledge). This in turn helps connect ideas in constructivism with pragmatic fields, such as knowledge management, and recent discussions in this journal regarding second-order science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-118
Number of pages118
JournalConstructivist Foundations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2015


  • Conference
  • knowing
  • design
  • cybernetics
  • systems
  • tacit knowledge
  • reflection, double-loop learning
  • knowledge management
  • second-order science


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