Nick Byrd’s Blog

Upon Reflection Podcast, Ep. 4: Online Conferences’ History, Methods, and Benefits

In this episode of Upon Reflection, I explain how academics should conference better. More accurately, I read my chapter, “Online Conferences: Some History, Methods, and Benefits” from Right Research: Modelling Sustainable Research Practices in the Anthropocene. This chapter reviews some history of online academic conferencing going back to the 1970s, explain the potential advantages of online conferences, report quantitative and qualitative results from three online conferences, and urge scholars to consider how they can contribute to a more sustainable, inclusive, and emergency resilient academy by replicating these online conferences.

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On Whether Reflection Is A Skill

In my last post, I considered whether reflective reasoning is a virtue. One possibility was that reflection cannot be a virtue. However, if reflection is not a virtue, then we need another account of why many people value reflection. One such account might be that reflection is a skill. In this post, I’ll briefly consider some reasons for and against thinking that reflection is a skill.

(For the uninitiated: What Is Reflective Reasoning?)

1. Reflection Is Not Necessary For Skill

At first glance, reflection seems like a skill. However, skill need not require reflection. To illustrate, consider mathematicians.

Some professional mathematicians have a sense of whether a theorem is provable just by looking at it. In other words, some mathematicians seem to be able to make good judgments unreflectively. That seems like a skill. After all, determining the provability of mathematical theorems at a glance is probably not the kind of thing that amateurs can do. Rather, unreflective proof estimation is a skill that requires years of training.

This suggests that reflection is not necessary for something to be a skill. After all, mathematicians seem to exercise skill without reflection.

2. Reflection Cannot Be A Skill

While some think that reflection is merely unnecessary for skill, others seem to think that reflection is altogether incompatible with skill. For instance, some people say things like “our snap reactions are the real measure of skill because they represent our true level of expertise”—I’m not quoting anyone in particular, but here’s an excerpt from someone who might say something like that:

Have you ever been driving effortlessly along a city street in a stick-shift car and suddenly found yourself consciously thinking about the gear you are in and whether it’s appropriate? Chances are the sudden reflection upon what you were doing and the rules for doing it was accompanied by a severe degradation of performance. (Dreyfus, 1986)

The idea is that skill is exercised unreflectively; skill is not the kind of thing that we can do reflectively. So if a skill is the kind of thing that is exercised unreflectively, then reflection—by definition—seems to be ineligible for skill status.

3. Skill Can Be Reflective

As you might expect, some philosophers disagree with the idea that reflection cannot be a skill (Montero, 2016). These people refer to examples of skillful action—e.g., professional dancing or, in my experience, welding—that seem to benefit from mindfulness and concentration. So insofar as mindfulness and concentration amount to reflection, it would seem that there are cases of skill that are reflective.

A question that remains is whether this allows us to conclude that reflection is a skill. Perhaps this only gets as far as saying that reflection can be involved in skillful action. Does this get us all the way to the conclusion that reflection itself is a skill? An answer to that question would seem to require an account of what skill is (and is not), which goes beyond the scope of a blog post. Fortunately, I have blogged about this in the past. So if you’re interested, you might want to check out “The Roles Of Intuition & Reflection In Skill & Expertise“.

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How to Record Professional-Quality Conference Presentations

A timely guest post by Katlyn Proctor

Recording a conference presentation is helpful for many reasons, from wanting to share the presentation with others to having it simply to look back on and refer to. Having a high-quality recording is therefore essential and needs to be done right the first time. There are different ways you can record conference presentations depending on the quality needed, what it will be used for, and whether your conferences are in-person or wholly online. This post will cover the basics to get you started.

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On Whether Reflection Is A Virtue

Some philosophers think of rationality in terms of virtue. For them, the rational thing to do is what the epistemically virtuous person would do. One type of reasoning that I study is reflective reasoning in which we step back and reconsider a gut reaction. So I have found myself asking, “Is reflective reasoning a virtue?” In this post, I’ll briefly consider reasons for answering “yes” and reasons for answering “no.” Continue reading On Whether Reflection Is A Virtue

Online Conferences: Some history, methods & data

In the wake of virus outbreaks in multiple countries, many scholars are reconsidering conference plans. As someone that has organized multiple online conferences—sometimes during states of emergencies—I have thought a lot about how online conferences can be more resilient to such emergencies. I have also found online conferences to be preferable in many other ways, which I explain in a paper about the history, methods, and findings of online conferences. The paper is currently under review for forthcoming in a collected volume about sustainable academic practices (see my CV). The accepted version of the manuscript is available for free below.

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Upon Reflection Podcast, Ep. 3: Causal Network Accounts of Ill-being: Depression & Digital Well-being

Welcome to the third episode of Upon Reflection, a podcast about what we think as well as how and why we think it.

In this podcast, I read my chapter, “Causal Network Accounts of Ill-being: Depression & Digital Well-being” from Ethics of Digital Well-being: A Multidisciplinary Approach. In this chapter, I review how well-being and ill-being can be understood in terms of the causal networks studied by economists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and other scientists. As with all of my writing, the free preprint can be found on my CV at under “Publications“.

If you want to hear more, you can subscribe wherever you find podcasts. You can also find out more about me and my research on Twitter via @byrd_nick, or on Facebook via @byrdnick. If you end up enjoying the Upon Reflection podcast, then feel free to tell people about it, online, in person, or in your ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review.

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Two Years In The Life Of A Grad Student: Time Logging Data

I have had some side gigs in graduate school that involved creating invoices for hourly work—web development, copyediting, research assistance, etc. I used Toggl to log my time. At some point, I realized that I could log all of my work time—not just the billable time. So in 2018 and 2019, I logged all of my work time. In this post, I will summarize the 2018 and 2019 data and mention some take-aways for 2020.

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