Why is ICLDC8 an online conference?
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, we made the decision to move the 7th ICLDC, scheduled for the following year, to an all-online format. After six in-person iterations of the conference since 2009, we were nervous and excited to see what it would be like to hold our conference over Zoom.
It was wonderful.
Over a thousand people registered – more than double our usual attendance – and the post-conference surveys told us that the conference ran exceptionally smoothly, thanks to the efforts of our fantastic Student Steering Committee. Attendees were grateful for and inspired by the chance to connect with old and new friends on the topic of supporting language work, even if it couldn’t be in person under the shade of the Koʻolau.
That was 2021. At the moment – April 2022 – the world seems to be re-opening, restrictions are ending, and, if we’re lucky, we won’t see another covid variant sweep across the planet. Most of us are tired of living our lives online, and are eager to be physically present with our friends and colleagues again as soon as we can. Believe us, we get it – we feel the same way too! So why did we make the decision to be virtual again for 2023, instead of returning to our previous in-person format?
There are several reasons why, and after we thought hard about the kind of conference series we want the ICLDC to be, we realized that an online-only format is very well aligned with our values.
First, the online format provides increased equity in accessibility. The cost of traveling to Hawaiʻi is expensive no matter where in the world you are traveling from, and many people in our target audience simply cannot afford the cost of a ticket. Travel takes time, requiring at least one overnight flight for almost everyone, resulting in days away from family and work. Residents of many countries, especially those where many minority languages are found, have difficulty in obtaining visas to come to the US. Even for those attendees for whom cost, travel, and visas are not problems, the size of the Imin Conference Center itself was a restriction, and we regularly had to cap admission months in advance, resulting in a very long wait-list of people who would not be able to attend.
An online conference solves most of these problems, and our low registration fees and staggered conference schedule allow participation by attendees in a wide swath of time zones across the planet. While most people probably won’t attend all of the conference, every attendee can participate in at least some of the conference. And all the presentations are available for viewing on YouTube before, during and after the conference.
The second reason is that the carbon footprint of attending an academic conference is enormous, especially when it is a larger conference held in Honolulu. The website 8billiontrees.com estimates the carbon output of a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu at a whopping 1,645 lbs. of CO2 per passenger, and that’s just one-way. Conferences harm the planet in terms of general waste as well: paper programs, folders, handouts, nametags, plates, cups, cans, and cutlery all end up in the landfill. Furthermore, it is well-documented that climate change disproportionately impacts Indigenous people. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs:
Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, due to their dependence upon, and close relationship, with the environment and its resources. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties already faced by indigenous communities including political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination and unemployment.
This imbalance of impact runs directly counter to the values of the ICLDC, which aims to bring language workers from many backgrounds together to share ideas and knowledge on an equitable playing field. Given the theme of ICLDC8, Centering Justice in Language Work, we feel we cannot ignore climate injustice as among the primary causes of linguistic inequality.
Because of these reasons, we have made the choice to hold ICLDC8 in a fully online format. And we are looking forward to it! We have a great template for our online conference based on what we learned in 2021, and we will be working hard on programmatic enhancements in the coming months to make the experience even better. We hope you will join us – you will be warmly welcomed into our virtual space with as much aloha as ever.
Na mākou me ka ʻoiaʻiʻo,
Victoria Anderson, Andrea Berez-Kroeker, Shelece Easterday, Gary Holton, Brad McDonnell, N. Haʻalilio Solomon, & Jim Yoshioka
ICLDC Executive Committee members, past and present
One more thought: If you do find yourself in Hawaiʻi some day soon, we recommend building your visit around the advice in Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawaiʻi, edited by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez (2019: Duke University Press).