Gladly’s ears pricked up when he heard I was writing about Skepticamp. A camp? All those lovely pick-er-nick baskets and those yummy chewy campers! But alas, while Skepticamp is skeptical, it doesn’t involve pitching a tent in the woods or being eaten by bears. But, trust me (would I lie?), it’s going to be just as exciting!
Skepticamp is a whole new concept in presenting conferences. No famous headliners here. At Skepticamp, the audience are the stars. That’s right! The participants are also the presenters (although if you’re very shy, there’s no pressure for you to take to the spotlight),
Skepticamp provides a fantastic opportunity for you to meet with like-minded people, to learn from those who are practicing skeptical activism in your city, and to make a ‘name’ for yourself and share your views. You don’t get to do that at the Global Atheist Convention. “Step aside now, Professor Dawkins, I’d like to give the audience my take on evolutionary biology!”
At Skepticamp, every participant is encouraged (but not required) to offer an interactive talk on a science or skeptic-themed subject.
There’s so much talent in the skeptical community, but how do you get discovered as the next brilliant new speaker for TAM (James Randi’s ‘The Amazing Meeting’) or the next DJ Grothe-style podcaster? Even Dr Karl (Kruszelnicki) had to start somewhere! (I’m not sure it was at a Skepticamp, but it should have been).
Skepticamp Australia was born at TAM Sydney in 2010 when Jason Brown (A Drunken Madman/In Vino Veritas) vowed to ‘make it happen’ here in Australia. I’m excited to say I was in the room at the time. During a panel talk on Skeptical Activism, a question came from moderator Brian Dunning (Skeptoid): “What would you do for activism if you were handed a budget?”
Jason leapt up and said he would organise a skepticamp, to inspire, inform and motivate skeptics in Australia. Never backward in coming forward, he said if people would give him some money there and then, that’s exactly what he’d do. Suddenly, everyone, including the panelists, started pulling out their wallets and giving Jason money, and soon Skepticamp Sydney was underway. Now, that’s grass-roots activism!
Skepticamp Sydney was a huge success. Held in May this year, it attracted around 100 participants. Sessions were short – 10 minutes presentation and 5 minutes for questions. A good plan! It means if someone’s as boring as dirt, you don’t have to endure them droning on for an hour. And, if they were fascinating, you can always collar them for a good chat during the breaks. There was also a ‘flash talk’ session, in which participants were invited to give a quick 5 minute talk on a skeptical or science subject close to their heart.
To give you some idea of the ‘flavour’ of a skepticamp, Sydney talks included: Peter Bowditch on how not to get sued for your skeptical activism; Tim Harding on GMO foods; Kylie Sturgess on homeopathy; Bob Lloyd on the persistence of ‘woo’ beliefs in the nursing profession; Tim Mendham on dealing with the media (without blowing it for everyone); Dave Singer on online activism; Joel Pittman on his intimate acquaintance with evangelical religious education, and; Alan Conradi on the dangerous practice of using unproven treatments on children with intellectual disabilities.
There’s no speakers’ program for Skepticamp Melbourne, yet – that’s up to participants. But, I’m sure it will be every bit as interesting and diverse as the Sydney event. (Melbourne’s sure to do it better than Sydney, right?)
Lucas Randall from the Melbourne Eastern Hills Skeptics (Meh!) together with Chris Higgins, Linley Kissick, Kieran Dennis and Ed Brown are the ‘un’organizers for Skepticamp Melbourne. If you can give them a hand (or some sponsorship), I’m sure they’d like to hear from you. They’re at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Organizers are also needed for events planned for Brisbane and Perth (contact @drunkenmadman on Twitter if you can help).
If you want to present, there will soon be an online application available, but, if you’re so excited about putting your name forward you just can’t wait, email your idea to email@example.com and tell them I sent you. –
These events take a tonne of organizing and if we want an active and vibrant skeptical community, we really have to get behind them. If you’re in Melbourne, make the effort and support Skepticamp – you won’t be sorry!
Skepticamp Melbourne – Saturday, 22 October 2011
Free tickets available now from Eventbrite
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org