Composing Conferences: Exploring alternatives to the traditional format of academic conferences

How can conferences be better organized? And how does their design relate to the content discussed in them? A newly published special issue of the journal Constructivist Foundations, edited by┬áMichael Hohl (Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Germany) and Ben Sweeting (University of Brighton, UK), exploring alternatives to the traditional conference format in four target articles and 31 open peer commentaries and the authors’ responses.

While these issues are relavent across disciplinary boundaries, the main areas of focus in the issue are design and cybernetcs/systems, both of which are fields which are in self-reflexive relation to their conferences: the organisation of a design conference is something we design (design theorist John Christopher Jones understood it as part of what he called “context design”), while the activities of a conference are one example of the sorts of process that are studied in cybernetics and systems science.

There are articles by Abigail Durrant, John Vines, Jayne Wallace & Joyce Yee based on the “Research Through Design” conferences held recently in the UK; and by Johan Verbeke based on the Sensuous Knowledge conferences amongst others.

In the introduction, the editors reflect on the approach to conference design of Ranulph Glanville, who supervised Ben’s PhD research and who passed away in December 2014. The issues raised also reflect back on the epistemological issues with which the journal is concerned, and suggest connections between a constructivist approach to epistemology in terms of knowing rather than knowledge, and applied fields such as knowledge management

The result can be read in the latest issue available for free at

The journal is open access and free for both authors and readers.