Discussants play a special role at We Robot because we organize the presentation of scholarly papers in an unusual way.
For the single-paper presentations (as opposed to panels on a theme), we do not ask the authors to present their own papers. Instead, we select an expert, whether scholar or practitioner, and ask him or her to do the initial summary presentation, and also to offer an appreciation and critique of the paper. The author or authors then reply to the discussant’s comments. All that takes about 15 minutes. Then we open the floor to comments and questions. Papers are available to all attendees in advance of the conference, so discussions can get pretty lively.
If you know of someone who you’d like to see involved in We Robot, or you would like to be a discussant yourself, use the same portal we use for submission of abstracts of proposed presentations and works-in-progress.
Don’t forget that if you are submitting an abstract you can also volunteer to be a discussant just by checking a box on your submission form; in past years we have gotten far more paper proposals than we could accept, but some of the people whose papers we would have liked to take, but could not, did great work as discussants.