Jan-Hendrik and I recently wrote a paper to align with a conference theme and a proposed papers session — what a mistake. Thankfully, we also submitted a sort of “back-up” paper should the first fall on hard times.
The conference is always rather large so perhaps we should have known better than to fall prey to the theme and/or take the theme seriously. Still, when we got the call for papers and read the theme, it is hard to ignore (at least in a way) because it has an feeling of legitimacy, it feels (when you’re actually taking it seriously) as if it just might be meaningful, and if it is, then you just might land a better session spot if you bend your work to the theme.
Again, we were wrong, falling prey to the (awkward) siren song of conference calls.
So, themes: this is a fairly straight forward empirical question — under what circumstances do themes shape conferences?
The answer to a question like this we probabaly all have a “good hunch” but I’d be curious to see data.