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Convention

From Academic Kids

Convention has at least two separate and very distinct meanings.

With the original meaning of "to come together" or "to assemble", the term may refer to the physical meeting together in one place of a group of people for some common, specific purpose. Both the physical location and the act of coming together may consitute "a convention".

The term may also refer to a set of widely agreed or accepted rules or customs. In this latter sense, certain types of rules or customs may become law, and regulatory legislation may be introduced to formalise or enforce the convention (eg. laws which determine which side of the road vehicles must be driven). In a social context, a convention may retain the character of an "unwritten" law of custom (eg. the manner in which people greet each other, such as by shaking each other's hands).

Contents

A "convention" as a meeting place

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Nm_toronto_metro_toronto_convention_centre.jpg
Metro Toronto Convention Centre, late 2004.

Generally, a convention is a gathering of individuals who meet at a pre-arranged place and time in order to discuss or engage in some common interest. The most common conventions are based upon fandom, industry, and profession. Fan conventions usually feature sales, people dressed up as their favorite characters, and guest celebrities. Trade conventions typically focus on a particular industry or industry segment, and feature keynote speakers, vendor displays, and other information and activities of interest to the event organizers and attendees. Professional conventions focus on issues of concern to the profession and advancements in the profession. Such conventions are generally organized by societies dedicated to promotion of the topic of interest. Conventions also exist for various hobbies, such as gaming or model railroads.

In the technical sense, a convention is a meeting of delegates or representatives. Often times organizations which are made up of smaller units, chapters, or lodges, such as labor unions, honorary societies, and fraternities and sororities, meet as a whole in convention by sending delegates of the units to deliberate on the organization's common issues. This also applies to a political convention, though in modern times the common issues are limited to selecting a party candidate or party chairman. In this technical sense, a congress, when it consists of representatives, is a convention. The British House of Commons is a convention, as are most other houses of a modern representative legislature. The National Convention or Convention, in France, comprised the constitutional and legislative assembly which sat from September 20, 1792 to October 26, 1795.

Many sovereign states have provisions for conventions besides their permanent legislature. The Constitution of the United States of America has a provision for the calling of a constitutional convention, whereby delegates of the states are summoned to a special meeting to amend or draft the constitution. This process has never occurred, save for the original drafting of the constitution, although it almost happened in several cases. The US Constitution also has provisions for constitutional amendments to be approved by state conventions of the people. This occurred to ratify the original constitution and to adopt the twenty-first amendment, which ended prohibition.

Con is a common slang for convention (as in "DEF CON" a hacker gathering similar to Hackers on Planet earth).

A "convention" as a shared rule or custom

General

A convention is a rule or a selection from among two or more alternatives, where the rule or alternative is agreed upon among participants. Often the word refers to unwritten customs shared throughout a community. For instance, it is conventional in many societies that strangers being introduced shake hands. Some conventions are explicitly legislated; for example, it is conventional in America and Germany that motorists drive on the right side of the road, whereas in England and Barbados they drive on the left. The extent to which justice is conventional (as opposed to natural or objective) is historically an important debate among philosophers.

Customary or social conventions

In every field of art, science, or other human endeavor, there are conventions that may simply be expectations (strangers being introduced shake hands, paintings are rectangular) or stock devices (a comedy ends with a marriage, but a cowboy film can end with the hero riding off into the sunset). There are generic conventions that are tied very closely to a particular artisitc genre - and may even help to define what it is. Prominent are fan conventions, especially science fiction convention.

Government

In government, convention is a set of unwritten rules which the participants in the government are expected to follow. These rules can be ignored only if justification is clear, or can be provided. Otherwise, consequences are sure to follow. Consequences may include ignoring some other convention that has until now been followed. According to the traditional doctrine (Dicey), conventions cannot be enforced in courts, because they are non-legal sets of rules. Convention is particularly important in the United Kingdom and other governments using the Westminster System of government (e g Canada and Australia) where many of the rules of government are unwritten. An example of constitutional conventions being broken is the Australian constitutional crisis of 1975 where the Governor-General of Australia dismissed his Prime Minister by his own judgement.

International law

The term convention is also used in international law to refer to certain formal statements of principle such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Conventions are adopted by international bodies such as the International Labour Organization and the United Nations. Conventions so adopted usually apply only to countries that ratify them, and do not automatically apply to member states of such bodies. These conventions are generally seen as having the force of international treaties for the ratifying countries.

External links

da:Konvention de:Konvent fr:Convention nl:Conventie pl:Konwent sv:Konvention

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