Have fun at AAG!

The annual AAG meeting is being held this week in Seattle, Washington (April 12-16, 2011).  First of all, what is the AAG?  The AAG is the Association of American Geographers, an organization that represents both academic and professional (but mostly academic) geographers that has several thousand members from both the United States and abroad.

The annual AAG meeting is biggest geography meeting of the year, and I should know.  I have been an AAG member for close to ten years now, and I have presented at the AAG meeting several times.   The AAG meeting is like the discipline it represents; very diverse and multidisciplinary.  At the meeting you will have talks about feminist perspectives of geography, migration studies, land use/land cover analysis, environmental studies, qualitative analysis (I don’t go to those talks, I’m a numbers guy), location analysis, cartography, GIS and its thousand iterations, geomorphology, regional science,  radical geography (yes, that is a real sub-field of geography), geographic education, and much, much more.

Unnecessary side note: At the meeting in San Fransisco my friends and I saw a bait car get pulled over outside of our hotel.  It was like watching Cops, but from the fourth floor of a hotel.

Anyway, the AAG meeting is so big that people often get lost in the meeting schedule and end up missing out on some really good presentations.   At the meeting there are several thousand attendees, and thousands of presentations.  Why are there so many presentations?  Well, the AAG meeting is non-refereed, meaning that you submit a talk and in the inner workings of AAG someone will assign you to a time slot, hopefully in a session with somewhat related talks.  This process is aided by the many special interest groups that help organize the vast number of talks into a working schedule.

In my experience it is best to connect with other geographers (or interdisciplinary folks who secretly want to be geographers) who are in the same research field as you to form a session.  This method ensures that the people in the room during your talk know what you are discussing and hopefully find your work interesting.

Second unnecessary side note: At the Las Vegas meeting my friends and I went to Red Rock Canyon to watch the sunrise after a night a enjoying the town.  Definitely a place to visit when in Las Vegas.

It does takes some skill to navigate the schedule.  I believe you have to search the schedule for specific topics.  Using a general keyword like ‘GIS‘ will return a million different talks. Also, when searching for talks I would stick to sessions that are sponsored by the special interest groups you are a member of.  My biggest pet peeve about AAG (besides never having a place to sit in the lobby of the conference center) is to end up in a talk that has an awesome title and a good abstract but has painfully horrible content.

Alas, I will not be going to this year’s meeting.  Like many other geographers I will be attending a number of smaller and more technically specific meetings and one day conferences instead of the annual AAG meeting.  I tend to get more out of a smaller conference or one that is very technically oriented, rather than a large meeting where you are elbow-to-elbow with a 1000 undergrads in the book fair.

If you are in Seattle for the AAG meeting have fun.  While you are there check out the sites, catch up with some old friends and get a free drink at another school’s alumni party, get a good meal or two, and go watch a Mariners game.