Previously I posted about The Two Cultures of C.P. Snow who noted how the academic cultures of science and the humanities diverged in the twentieth century. I agree that both are the poorer for it.
Yesterday I went to a history seminar. The purpose of this post is not to discuss the content, which was fascinating. But rather, to note the striking difference between the mode of presentation and discussion from a typical science seminar.
First, the paper was read. Literally! The speaker had a manuscript which they read without interuption. There were no PowerPoint slides. Yet, the talk/paper was very engaging, interesting, and easy to follow, even for me a non-historian.
Second, the seminar went for 90 minutes, with about 40 minutes devoted to questions and discussions! Probably ten different people asked questions. This was also engaging and interesting. Furthermore, I felt everyone [speaker, questioner, and audience] benefited from this.
One might easily dismiss these differences as being solely due to the different content of disciplines or just how this particular seminar was run. However, I think science seminars and conference presentations could be more interesting and productive if
-they were more accessible
-they had fewer PowerPoint slides (or none!)
-there was more extended time for questions and discussion
-more people asked questions