In the academic world, being “invited” to a conference usually means that someone will be paying for you to come. This is always a nice thing: you get to engage in a conference without having to worry about the money side of things. Folks at some universities and in some fields do not have to worry about the money end of things much anyway (at least when it comes to conference travel and fees), and while my own department has been very supportive in this regard, money is still an issue.

Anyway, an “invitation” to Future Forward in Portsmouth next week is really an invitation to spend $1000 on a conference. It actually looks like it would be a fairly interesting gathering, and for those who are entrepreneurs in the area, my guess is that it is well worth the $1000 investment. But it isn’t for me.

What I find interesting about this is that as a researcher and educator, the conference organizers have titled me (among others) an idea merchant. I don’t find that title as objectionable as some might.

But it does raise an interesting question. Do they assume that the $1000 buys me some ideas? I tend not to be in the business of buying ideas. I suppose I do, to a certain extent, when I buy someone’s book. But truth be known, I don’t even do that much.

No, I think they mean that I am in the business mainly of selling and trading ideas, and the $1000 is the equivalent of a swap meet fee, or a place in the mall. This implies that I am doing a fair amount of business in buying and selling ideas. Some educators and journalists are.

Is it strange that I would rather shop in boutiques than in a mall, no matter how exclusive the mall? That I’d rather swap than buy or sell?

The irony, of course, is that while they attract a very interesting set of participants, they exclude folks that might be equally interesting by charging this amount. Many folks who are teaching in universities are full of ideas that they have little interest in owning or selling–if they were interested in this, they would already be doing so (as some are). Universities are poised to make a killing on this market, and are quickly trying to wring out as much “intellectual property” as they can from their professorial ranks. It would seem to me to be largely to the benefit of entrepreneurs to invite these sorts of folks to trade ideas. They might be surprised what they could get for some shiny beads.

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