Tag Archives: conference

The Price of Scholarship

So I had been accepted to speak at a conference in Amsterdam earlier this month and I had really looked forward to being over there again.  Unfortunately, it became clear in early February that this was not going to be possible, given our budget, our financial burdens, and the total lack of travel funding, not to mention possible job and pay cuts next year because of California’s ballooning deficit. SO I withdrew from the conference.  –And no, they had no options for virtual participation.  I checked.

Disheartening to say the least.

But I’m stubborn, so I have turned my attention to conferences closer to home; I’ll try to present that paper next year at a conference on the West Coast, and submit a related one for a conference in the NL in the fall, saving up for that travel. (still iffy but you never know).  I’m also sending at least one paper based on my MMO research straight to a collection of essays later in the year (if the abstract is accepted). I don’t have to travel at all for that. 🙂

I don’t mind so much having to pay my own way, but if you work at a job that doesn’t see your research as part of the job, so that you have to do it outside work hours, and you have to keep that job in the hopes of paying for travel for that research… and when I say you, I actually mean me… well, I have to wonder how hard I’m willing  to struggle.  How much time to write and do the research can I take away from my friends and family on top of that 40 hours a week that I’m at work?

We’ll see…

Ethereal Archives: The Evolution of Information Structures from Social Networks and Their Impact on Collective and Personal Identity

How do collective archives emerge from the individual digital memories of participants in social networks, facilitated by social software? Networks in northern California are studied and described as “ethereal archives” because they are widely distributed, linked through blogs, microblogs, and other locations in which content is always changing. Digital technology allows preservation of memories, and at the same time broadcast of those memories to the community in many formats, including text, photostreams, video collections and on social networking sites. Over time, events, objects and even people generate folksonomic tagging across platforms, and a shared understanding of the things being described.

These archives become an extension not only of personal, but of collective memory; both individual and community identities are shaped and preserved in collaborative ethereal archives, made up of numerous people’s online collections of text and other media. They are dependent for organization on social connections across the network expressed through links shared via numerous platforms, and studying an ethereal archive’s emrgence reveals that it both reflects and shapes the communities from which it arises.

I’ll be presenting a paper on the above, if I have enough money to get to Louisville for CCCC ’10.

Finally Posting Again…

I took quite a stretch off from posting here because I was focusing on my teaching blog, Ethereal Education.  Now that it is pretty well under control, I will resume, though probably sporadically until Spring break anyway.  The teaching blog is going well, and I’ve learned a lot more about theme templates in the process of setting it up, so I may change this theme again.

In the next 12 to 24 hours I’ll start posting the entries I’ve written while in SF for CCCC.  There was no wifi in most of the conference (aaargh!) so I had to just write them as documents…

Anyway, as you’ve divined, I’m in San Francisco for the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) and was speaking about teaching grad students about technology.  My talk went well, but I’ll post about that later.

Nice to be back.

Final Version

Update: Accepted.  🙂  Now just have to find a way to pay for the trip.

Thanks to Mirko for the valuable feedback, to Jonathan for encouragement, and to Pirate Cat Radio, Baghdad by the Bay, for music to write by.  I submitted this today for the MiT6 conference.

Ethereal Archives: The Evolution of Information Structures from Social Networks and Their Impact on Collective and Personal Identity

This paper explores how a collective archive may emerge from the individual digital memories of participants in social networks, facilitated by social software. Examples are drawn from social networks in northern California, particularly the SF Bay area, though being largely carried out online, these networks are actually much more widely diffused.  These structures are described as “ethereal archives” because they are widely distributed, mainly linked through blog entries, microblogs, and other ephemeral locations in which content changes over time. At they develop, standard tags and terminology begin to emerge and also a shared understanding of the objects, events, and people being described. The evolution of these ethereal archives represents a response to the disappearance of space, both storage and geographical as a contraint on archives.  Digital technology allows us to preserve our memories both easily and without the constraints of space, and at the same time to broadcast those memories through a variety of textual formats, along with photostreams, video collections and social networking sites that incorporate all of these.

Although this already huge and rapidly growing mass of information seems to have escaped the bounds of space, it is now constrained by time: the time it takes users to navigate, find, and attend to any one item. Harold Innis argued for the importance of communication over time, because these accumulations become an extension not only of personal, but of collective memory.  Both individual and community identities are shaped and preserved in collaborative ethereal archives, made up of a few people’s photostreams, another’s blog, yet another’s video collection, and many others’ microblog feeds.  While digital media allow communication of all kinds to be preserved, the volume of communication is now so great that much may be lost in a sea of texts, images, audiofiles, and videos.  Users face three related problems: how to find information, how to choose from what they find the information most relevant to their purpose, and how to manage the accumulation both of their own information, and links to information provided by others.

As these materials accumulate, they may prompt the emergence of a community that shares particular interests, or expand what was once a small and physically proximal group into a much wider and more influential network. When people connect, their linked personal collections become an ethereal archive, dependent for its organization on social connections across the network expressed through links shared via numerous platforms.  Events, objects and even people begin to generate folksonomic tagging across platforms, most often in the form of #tags and @names. Not surprisingly, clear examples of these ethereal archives have evolved around San Francisco, wherein reside not only many technophiles, but also cooperatively minded people.  In these social networks the transmission of data, along with its storage or creation becomes an important contribution from members; all three activities are required for the emergence of an ethereal archive. Studying this emergence reveals that ethereal archives both reflect and shape the communities from which they arise.

New Media (or whatever we call it) at the MLA

From 27-30 December I made the traditional pilgrimage of English faculty everywhere to the annual conference of the Modern Language Association, since time immemorial held between Christmas and New year’s. This year, lucky for me, it was held in San Francisco. Bigger and … well, bigger than ever. Forty-eight concurrent sessions every day, from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm every day.

I spoke about new media and my belief that we need to ditch that term, and expand our attention to a wider range of issues than are currently getting much play in the US, –I’ll upload my remarks shortly. There was a panel on Participatory Education 2.0–quite good; a workshop on evaluating digital scholarship for tenure–grim; a panel on E-literature–contentious and quite a few others as well.

The participatory education panel included remarks from Cathy Davis (Duke) about the HASTAC project (which is aimed more at faculty than students), Howard Rheingold (Stanford) about the set of tools he’s been developing and his basic thoughts. His essay in Joi Ito’s book, FreeSouls captures most of those ideas. And Greg Niemeyer (UC Berkeley) spoke about the Black Cloud project which involves students and schools in measuring air quality in their communities. You can join the project at the main Black Cloud page. This was really a valuable panel more for making me aware of possibilities than anything else.  Rheingold in particular has done a lot to integrate technology into his classes in ways that enhance participation and I can see things I shoould do very differently.

The E-lit panel was about “Genre, Form, and Cultural Practice in Contemporary Electronic Literature” and included leading lights from the E-lit scene: Scott Rettberg, one of the editors of the Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 1, and Sandy Baldwin who directs the Center for Literary Computing at West Virginia University, Maria Engberg who has just finished her PhD but is already well-known for her work on digital poetry, were the main speakers, while John Cayley responded and Jay David Bolter presided over the panel.

The basic question boiled down to “what is electronic literature” and was unresolved. Sandy and Scott had almost opposite views on whether it is better to define it broadly or narrowly. For me the highlight was going to lunch with Maria, Sandy, Jay, my friend Aden Evens and my co-panelist Joe Tabbi afterward, where we could continue the discussion less formally and over some yummy Thai food. 🙂

I’ll write about the tenure workshop later, but for now here’s a link to material organized by the MLA Committee on Information Technology.

There were even a few tweet-ups, but they weren’t as well-organized as might have been, given the technology, and this was complicated by the lack of an open wireless network in the conference meeting rooms. Really I would have thought that would be a given for a huge national conference by now.

Along with attending the conference, I also visited an exhibit on Participatory Art at the San Francisco MoMA and got to hang out with some people I mostly only connect with via Twitter and Facebook, so that was great. More on that stuff later as well.

My Panel

I don’t want to brag..well, actually I do. The panel went very well considering how many speakers we ended up with. Everyone kept to the time limit, no one had technical problems. And the talks themselves were all quite good; I think even exceptional in going beyond the anecdotal case studies we so often see when it comes to work on participation. Since we had so many speakers, there was really no time for discussion; that was the one downside, but I did have some short chats with people later on about our panel, so I guess they liked it.

Here is a link to my prior post which has links to all the full papers.

I also recorded audio for the whole panel and hope to eventually make podcasts for each speaker.

Big thanks to Elfi, Anders, Christian, and Mirko. You guys rock! 🙂

Finally, I really have to thank Bernhard Rieder for his masterful work as respondent. He had quite a job having to read all five papers and find some way of summing them all up. I also recorded that, thankfully because Bernhard had good ideas that inspire further development of my ideas at least. –I heard the same from Elfi, in fact.

Marianne van den Boomen at IR 9.0

The next talk I saw was Marianne’s; a much more developed version of the research she presented at New Network Theory in Summer ’07. The title this time was “E-sociability metaphors:
From virtual community to social network and beyond,” and looked at the evolution of metaphors used to describe social relationships on the Internet.

The most interesting point for me was the really concrete way she identified ways that Web 2.0 platforms in their technical workings actually might be described as undermining the previous kinds of online communities that were so much glorified.

As she puts it, Internet communities were once like this:

  • localized social aggregation on the Internet
  • based on shared practice, interest, or value
  • gathering at a collective place
  • having a core of recurrent active users
  • engaged in on ongoing group communication
  • and so developing a common frame
  • of reference

But, Web 2.0 technologies create this:

  • the page is dissolved as unit for collective gathering
  • on the fly aggregation and reassemblage of user enriched data
  • interacting data entities rather than interacting users
  • no common collective place of gathering
  • no ongoing debate between a recurrent group of users

At least in part these changes occur because of technologies–scripts, usually–that allow dynamic html content to be generated, saving time and bandwidth by not serving page after static page or creating whole new pages from scratch. This means that users don’t have to interact with each other or with other real people (web-mistresses, sys-admins, site owners or whomever). Instead the system can answer most requests.

While this is true, in fact, fora still exist, and people often interact through blog comments, wall-posts on Facebook, etc. But it’s probably true that the focus is not any more on centralized “gathering places.” Insteadit seems more like visiting neighbours, to me. Occassionally you all get together socially, but most interactions are one to one. But that is often what we do in person too, isn’t it? Phone calls, meeting for coffee or lunch, sending email. Historically we might say that this is more typical, so I don’t know that we can really blame web 2.0. On the other hand, I haven’t researched the whole history of human intercation (yet!), so maybe this is so. SHould have asked about this at the talk, but I guess I can just send a message… 😉

Papers for IR 9.0

Here is our panel, by the way:

Web 2.0 sites are praised for promoting sharing and collaboration; at the same time, they are criticized for violating user privacy and profiting from the free labor of users. This panel considers the complexity of relationships among users, and between users and system designers. In particular, each paper explores what motivates user behavior, whether website loyalty, desire for sociality, indoctrination in networked behavior, or the power relations among owners/designers, consumers, and prosumers.

Elfi Ettinger presents in-depth interview results from users of an e-recruiting platform and interviews with system designers of the same platform, conducted in order to determine which design would insure long-term participation of its users.

Anders Fagerjord relates a study of what Norwegian Facebook users publish about themselves in their profiles and the way they represent themselves through “prescripts” provided by popular applications and publishing tools.

Christian Ulrik Andersen analyzes the Facebook software interface, in particular the Vampires game, to explore its discursive and semantic properties and reveal the political aspects of the software.

Kim De Vries combines a rhetorical analysis with an auto-ethnographic study of academic and scholarly Facebook users to explore how we interpret the social connections made through social networking applications.

Mirko Tobias Schaefer explores user participation that in the last 10 years has developed on a global scale and now contributes to the development of software as well as changing, commenting, creating and distributing media content.

A collection of all the papers is posted on the IR 9.0 conference site, but only members can see it and some papers are slightly abridged, besides it being one giant file. You can see full, individual papers here:

Participation Inside? User activities between design and appropriation. by Mirko Tobias Schäfer

Networking Vampires — Life in a social network seen through a game. by Christian Ulrik Andersen

Anders is missing ”is”: Posting and Prescripts on Facebook. by Anders Fagerjord

Sustainable e-Recruiting Portals: how can we motivate career-long applicant participation? by Elfi Ettinger

And I will add mine later today… Ok, I didn’t, but it’s finished and out for feedback, so probably by tomorrow night… damn, good feedback means revision…

Ok, here is mine though I am probably going to revise further; at least I feel this draft is not too embarrassing. Your Friend has just tackled you. Bite, lick, or tackle them back, or click here to theorize about what this all means.

Brian Massumi at SLSA

“Signs of Danger: The Political Ontology of Threat”

This was quite a talk. Massumi set out, step by step, the arguments used by Bush and his cronies to justify war in both Afghanistan and Iraq and every other vile act they’ve committed. And as was lucidly explained, the same trick was used every time: a feeling of threat was created based on what bin Laden/Hussein/terrorists would do if they could. This equation can’t be denied with factual evidence because it exists always in a speculative future–no WMDs? Well they would have had them if they could have. No evidence of terrorist acts by those prisoners in Guantanamo? They would have done it if they could have.

The way Massumi described the tactics was often extremely funny, but often I felt I was laughing more in pain than amusement, especially when remembering how hard people worked against our going into Iraq and how that accomplished exactly nothing. In the end though, I hoped he would say something about how humor operated in or against this dynamic of fear, and there was even a question about that. But he didn’t address possible counters, humorous or otherwise, and in a way seemed strangely distant from the whole subject.

After this talk, everything was over, the weather was foul and we tried to regroup for dinner and many drinks, as we’d been vowing to really enjoy since Thursday, leading to another sort-of adventure, but that’s another story.

SLSA Saturday evening reception

After the last Saturday panels, there was a nice reception at the Portland Museum of Art. I went over with Paweł and some other SFRA folks; once there we found Istvan, Sherryl, Ed Chang and everyone, actually. We continued talking to Jamie Bono about video game cheat codes…I realize now that I forgot to describe that panel. Damn, now it will be out of sequence…well, anyway.

People had another good chance to talk and I had the feeling that we had all finally been there long enough and gotten to know some people enough that really good conversations were underway–so of course it was the last evening. So, right, cheat codes. We reached something of an impasse on whether or not searching for and using cheat codes should be compared to close reading and/or digging into textual history, partly because we had never spelled out what we meant by close reading and partly because (I think) we were all rather conferenced-out and possibly a little buzzed. I think I need to ask Jamie for a copy of whatever he’s actually written on this so far.

Also at this point it was clear that people had settled on who they were hanging out with at the conference–I mean, that while this probably happened by the end of the first day, I could actually see it at this reception. Because this conference was small enough that we all saw each other every day, and because most people went to most sessions, we soon recognized most of the faces. So it was pretty easy to see that the same people were together in panels or at receptions, lunches, and so on.

I find this interesting because I realized some time ago that most professional collaborations began as friendships, or at least between schoolmates, and often between people who were romantically involved. You may be thinking “what about the internet? Doesn’t that make it easy to connect?” Actually, I heard a quite convincing talk at New Network Theory in which a study of scientific collaboration had found that they largely occurred between people in close proximity, or who had at least one face two face meeting that began the relationship.

So when these groups form at a conference, I’d bet that within 6 months we could spot the professional results, if we looked for them. I think the need to meet in person suggests something interesting about the importance of embodied experience. More on this after I report on Massumi.