A Night of Philosophy and Ideas: Update, May 2019

Just to let you all know that things are moving forward for A Night of Philosophy and Ideas. We (Lenny, Eliana and Anya) had a meeting on the 15th May with the Education and Public Programs Managers of the Museum to check on the viability of holding the event at the Museum. Below are some notes about the state of play.

Currently on the organising committee we have 8 people: Rob Wilson (La Trobe), Lenny Robinson (Preshil High), Eliana Horne (Princes Park High), Maurizio Toscano (Unimelb), Karen Bland (La Trobe), Tony Cody (Unimelb), Greg Restall (Unimelb) and Anya Daly (Unimelb). It would be great to also have people based at Monash and Deakin represented on the committee ……

The kind of thing we are aiming for – the Brooklyn, NY Night of Philosophy and Ideas. https://www.bkreader.com/2019/01/31/a-fest-for-the-inquiring-minds-the-night-of-philosophy-and-ideas-returns-to-brooklyn/

1. Theme(s): Most workable general themes thus far ‘Revisioning the Future’; ‘the Anthropocene’; ‘Robot Futures’; ‘Being Human- Human Being’; ‘Brave New World’; ‘Humanizing the Future’; ‘Artificial Futures’; ‘The Declaration of Interdependence’ (following event which Anya will attend in France end of May) https://lumadays.org/en/

The Australian Academy for the Humanities – has put out an 8 point plan to challenge the underfunding of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) and have titled this ‘Humanizing the Future’. Just a thought – if we align with this timely and urgent initiative, the AAH might be inclined to offer some funds. Mutual benefit.  https://www.humanities.org.au/

Outcome: Yet to be determined. But prior to and after meeting, various further suggestions have been offered to take account of current issues such as climate change, war, terrorism, religion (Tony) and also possible sub-themes on disability, robots, automation, the built environment, mind and body enhancement technology, sexual futures, kinship and technology (Rob). The choice in theme will of course inform the keynote speakers.

The aim would be to have an engaging general theme under which sub-themes could be organised.

2. Timing of event?
Option 1: November at the end of Semester.
–SWOT Vac Monday 28th October – Friday 1st November
–Examinations Monday 4th November – Friday 22nd November
–November 21st is World Philosophy Day, and VAPS already has an event organized that day at the Melbourne Museum. Possibility – could we form part of a 24 hour event on that day??

Outcome: the general view is that running the event in November could be very pressured in terms of organizing speakers, funding and advertising. The Education Manager at MM indicated that they already had a very busy calendar – but there may be some openings. She will let us know if this might be doable soon. Friday 22nd November was suggested as a possibility. The ASCP will run 4-6 December 2019 and so there would be some international speakers around at this time.

Option 2: Another possibility was to delay until the following year when the Nocturnal evenings begin again in April 2020 and take over one of the Nocturnal evenings for philosophy. This could be more financially viable and it would mean the Night of Philosophy and Ideas would be able to draw on the expertise of the Museum staff who have successfully organized these already. PEiPL would organize the programme and speakers.

Option 3: July 2020, after the next AAP conference would mean there would already be some international speakers in the country that we could enlist.

Option 4: November 2020, end of teaching year, coincide with the ASCP conference.

3. Venue – Melbourne Museum – yet to be negotiated/ finalized
–Main building – lecture theatre downstairs could possibly be used or the gallery area on ground level for keynotes; with various areas for smaller presentations; focus groups etc,.
–Catering – in house. Restaurants Associates. Food vans a possibility with commission for the museum.
–Facilities – toilets; accessibility; lighting, sound
–Front of House – staffing

4. Format? Philosophy interspersed with various entertainments – circus, music acts, ambient music, performance….
Re. philosophy components – headline presentations/ keynotes; debates; table sessions/ communities of inquiry/ participatory forums; stand-up philosophy stand-up.

Outcome: All possible within the available spaces. MM has rigging points for circus acts.

5. Speakers? Important from the Museum’s side to include international speakers and also one or two or three French speakers to satisfy the French Embassy. Recognising that once the event is firmed up, people will be enthusiastic about participating as speakers – already early indications of this. But we will have to establish a process/ criteria for determining who to include. Important also to include speakers covering a range of interests and backgrounds.

Outcome: Still in planning stage – will depend on theme and sub-themes. Many ideas.

6. Budget – costings. Yet to be finalized.
–Nocturnal = $40,000
–White Nights (@ the MM) = $50,000 from government.

Outcome: Need to start identifying possible sources of funding now – all to investigate possibilities. Although, it is possible some speakers will not require funding at all, or only partial – this depends on if they are already in the country. Possible to set a cap on $$ support when inviting speakers. And speakers may wish to waive all or part of the $$ support in a gesture of good will. Costings per speaker needs to be determined at the next PEiPL organizing committee meeting. Will we offer an honorarium for keynotes?

7. Funding Sources – Already some likely from the French Embassy and possibility from the Arts Faculty, Unimelb. Will depend on venue and if it is possible to charge an entry fee. Rob is investigating funding sources at La Trobe. Australian Academy of the Humanities?

8. Advertising – website, social media etc,.
–Expertise of MM – the Nocturnal database/ e-mailing list
–The Philosopher’s Zone; Big Ideas; ABC??

9. Question – whether it would be good to have a preliminary ‘taster’ to promote the event and prime the public for the more extensive event. Melbourne Writers Festival (30 August – 8 September, 2019, Rob); White nights – Stand-up?; Dark Mofo – stand-up? Yet to be determined.

Those interested in helping out or getting involved please contact Anya Daly amdaly@unimelb.edu.au

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