Reviewing the 2015 IAG conference

Post by Chris Brennan-Horley

Now that a few days have passed and everyone at AUSCCER has regrouped and defrosted from IAG 2015, it’s time to reflect on our week in the National Capital. Canberra provided the full winter experience, with most nights dropping below zero and daytime temps occasionally making it into double digits. Kudos goes to Tom Measham and the conference organising committee for pre-empting the weather as we were greeted at registration with our very own IAG 2015 puffer vest! A truly functional piece of conference merch, sported by many grateful participants over the coming days.

The conference theme ‘exploring connections’ was evident in the breadth of work on display across the program. Over the three days I attended many thought provoking sessions, plenaries and keynotes, with highlights evident across a range of topics including health geographies, mobilities, urban and cultural geography and land use change. If there was a particular session or paper that stood out for you, let me know in the comments.

AUSCCER was well represented by a large postgrad contingent presenting across a range of sessions. For some it was their first IAG, but those I saw presented confidently, handling their presenter role with aplomb. Lance Barrie (@lanceb147), one of AUSCCER’S newest PhD candidates, generated many laughs from his enjoyable presentation on leisure cycling, alongside thoughtful questions and comments for his developing topic. One particular postgrad presentation that stuck in my mind was from Clare Southerton (@ClareSoutherton), PhD candidate at ANU. Her research on smartphone intimacy left many glancing suspiciously at their devices that have ingratiated themselves into our everyday lives.

Speaking of smartphones, keeping an eye on the twitter backchannel during sessions is part and parcel of the conference experience for many. The #IAG2015canberra hashtag was getting a workout, and made up slightly for those papers you couldn’t physically get to. It was good also to see twitter breaking through into real world discussions, with its incorporation into plenary question time. Hopefully something we’ll see more of at future conferences.

My personal conference favourite was a hands-on workshop with the AURIN data portal. For anyone with even a passing interest in mapping social, health and infrastructure data I can’t recommend it enough. They’ve corralled a truly diverse array of data sources into a streamlined mapping interface which will be a boon for both undergraduate teaching and research.

The Thursday afternoon plenary was given by outgoing AUSCCER Director Lesley Head. Her presentation worked through the inclusion of culturally diverse approaches to abundance and scarcity in the face of a changing climate. What resonated through her talk was evidence of a wider team effort from AUSCCER staff and postgrads into this important research trajectory. This reflects on the remarkable research mentor role Lesley has played over the years at UOW, and although we’ll miss her as she embarks on her new role at the University of Melbourne, those research connections will no doubt continue.

No review of an IAG can be written without passing comment on the social activities outside the conference: The parquetry-filled wonder that is ANU’s University House was the setting for the opening conference drinks. As a first time visitor to the campus it was the perfect opportunity to spend a little time in this 1950s time capsule while chatting with colleagues old and new. The conference dinner, located in the architecturally-stunning National Museum, was a perfect venue for an enjoyable meal and for congratulating Professor Arthur Conacher, 2015 recipient of the Griffith Taylor Medal for his distinguished contribution to Australian Geography. Both nights provided a springboard for further fun times out and about in Canberra – a city I find more enjoyable and diverse with every visit.

After three jam-packed days of sessions and catch ups with colleagues, we returned to Wollongong and took stock of a very productive week during our AUSCCER postgrad retreat (where our puffy vests came in very handy). Our collective thanks go to Tom Measham and Bruce Doran for organising a very enjoyable and successful conference.

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