This is what a philosophy conference looks like to a non-philosopher.
Yellow patch: Wealth-o-knowledge; all philosophers are hoping to get as close to this as possible, and they think that the big-shots have it
Light purple circle: The place to be; an aurora that seems to hover around the bog shots and established tenured professors; sometimes grad students try to skip straight into this circle, but they usually don't quite make it
Medium purple circle: the "safe zone;" here everyone knows everyone else; they are established in the university; sometimes a grad student gets into this circle by establishing themselves early in the field
Dark purple circle: relative obscurity; especially for non-tenured faculty and little knots of scared grad students trying to pretend they are faculty members; the crazies also live here
Big Shots: mildly aloof; talking with each other; telling lots of inside jokes
Tenured faculty: chatting with each other like old friends; sometimes trying to impress the big-shots; usually ignoring the grad students
Grad students: clinging together; sometimes one of the haughtier ones tries to impress the big shots; lots of suspicion about other grad students they don't know
Non-Tenured: really want to get into the inner circle; desperate sometimes; more often, just looking for people to share ideas and network with
Crazies: The people outside philosophy who read a book about Nietzsche last year; they don't really know much about academic philosophy and just kind of lurk around.
These are my impressions so far. Perhaps most academic conferences are like this.
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