By Jill Dickinson, Sheffield Hallam University (@Jill_Dickinson1)

The SLSA’s Annual Conference is a key date in the calendar for many of us; providing opportunities for presenting research, developing collaborations, building contacts, and a welcome chance to catch up with colleagues after a busy year of teaching and research!

After putting together another jam-packed session for the Property People Power and Place Stream, co-convenors Professor Sarah Blandy and Dr Jill Dickinson were looking forward to discussions on a variety of topics, including: pubs, canals, mobility, bankruptcy, mortgage repossessions, and low-income housing provision.

Following the cancellation of the Annual Conference, the navigation to online working presented an opportunity to run the Stream online and hold a ‘virtual Symposium’. Mindful that recent developments mean that those involved in the Stream may be juggling new challenges, we invited presenters to let us know of their interest in being involved and to work with us in identifying a suitable date, time and format.

Leading up to the event, colleagues welcomed the online format for various reasons, including accessibility, and reducing their environmental footprint. Whilst the SLSA Conference does move around the UK, colleagues can face considerable issues arising from the time and costs involved in travel and accommodation, especially international colleagues (because their academic calendar doesn’t necessarily always align with the UK programme) and early-career researchers. Ben Archer, one of the presenters involved in the Online Symposium, noted:

“I was really excited to present at the SLSA conference in Portsmouth, and respect how important conferences such as this are for a PhD student like myself. When offered the opportunity to present at the Online Symposium, I was delighted to have the chance to discuss some of my findings and network as an early-career researcher with academics in similar fields”

Conversely, colleagues also admitted that their experience of online engagement never quite matches that provided by in-person presentations, discussions and socialising, and that’s even when the technology works! They highlighted how another challenge can be finding an illusive quiet corner to participate in online events, particularly for those using shared work spaces and/or juggling home schooling.

Overall, colleagues expressed how the benefits of running online sessions, including convenience, cost, emissions reduction and equity, outweigh some of the challenges presented by online events, and suggested that these factors could potentially result in an increase in virtual events in the future.

The Property People Power and Place Online Symposium took place via Zoom on Wednesday 20 May from 9:45am-12:30pm. Presenters discussed a range of topics including: Public Spaces Protection Orders, dephysicalised property and shadow lands, murals, traces and the sacred/secular of the ‘lawscape’, and digital property.

Over 20 people attended the Symposium. Feedback included:

“Thank you very much for organising this. It is good to keep some form of academic debate and engagement going during these odd times” and “Really well done. Have attended a few online seminars etc (more than usual) during these extraordinary times and it was certainly one of the best, good interaction, made good use of video, and well organised.”

Building on this enthusiasm, we’re looking into opportunities for running further events online – hopefully see you there!

With thanks to:

Benjamin Archer, Sheffield Hallam University

Sarah Gilmartin, University of Lancaster

Jessica Smith, University of Kent