Photos + Commentary: Day Four in Brisbane for AoIR Conference

Brisbane Day Four
See just today’s photos or you can see the entire photo slideshow (updated daily)

Briefly, there are six concurrent presentation sessions going on throughout each day. As such I’ve been hopping from room to room speedblogging. Erikca wrote a bit about the conference, while Alex Halavais has done an excellent job mobblogging the sessions he attended (his later sessions overlap mine). I can’t keep up with him, but here’s my take of the day.

8.30am – 9.30am: Communities and Communication Session
“Overcoming cultural and geographic distance in the ‘Net generation’: The impact of the Internet in rural and remote areas”
Dianne Looker • Mount St Vincent University, Canada

In essence Dianne looked at the digital divide between the urban and rural parts of Canada. She surveyed the number of networked computers in each area, and noted the type/speed of their connections, as well as how much time residents of each area spend online. Apparently this is part of a social enrichment project where her goal is to find ways to lessen this digital divide. She mentions social capital as a dimension of community cohesion, but notes that it doesn’t go further than aspects of community bonding.

9.30am – 9.45am: Gaming Session
“Reconfiguring project ecologies in the video games industry”
John Banks • Queensland University of Technology, Australia

John spoke about how game companies were involving more gamers into their product design. They recognize how gamers have been modding games and producing add-ons to make games even more fun. An ethical question arises when we talk about the idea of labor: Are game publishers truly empowering creativity by giving gamers opportunities to mod their games? Or are these game modders being enticed to come under the game publishers’ control, governance or exploitation? This becomes more apparent when we talk about the economics of games, since more games are now being repackaged with gamer created content.

9.45am – 10.00am: Identities and Diversity Session
“Memes and identity in online communities”
Hilary Wheaton • University of Western Australia, Australia

Memes are tricky to define, and in Hilary’s case, she notes examples of quizzes which reveal more about yourself. For example, taking a quiz to find out which CareBear you are. These quizzes are short Q&As, and the hooks are the ability for self-reflection, allowing for dialogue (talking point), giving recognition to orginators, social networking and is in itself, self-replicating. She then went into a rhetoric about the relationship between memes and identity. Focusing on the LiveJournal perspective, she explained the relevant structure of LJ, namely the Info page, the Recent Entries page as well as the Friends page which lets to see your subscriptions (Ed: notice it’s mostly blog technologies rebranded for less tech savvy users). She compares memes to the idea of a virus and whether you choose to be infected by it. Since LiveJournal (or even blogs) lack physical dimensions, memes are a way of reflecting self, by allowing for personal recognition, meaningful interactions and virtual performance.

10.00am – 10.30am
“Circulation of topics on the Web: Bird flu in the e-newspapers and the blogs”
Lina Hellsten • KNAW, Virtual Knowledge Studio, Netherlands

Using the Bird Flu epidemic as a way of tracking news flows, Lina analyzes the content of newspapers, medical publications and blogs for her study. To check for media trends in “bird flu”, Lina used LexusNexis for tracking newspapers, PubMed for tracking medical journals and BlogPulse for tracking blogs. What she found out was that none of the media refer to one another, with the exception of blogs which mostly reference online versions of newspaper articles (hyperlink) and that blogs also tend to focus on local news related to bird flu (makes sense). I was thinking that we would see more references to other media (e.g. TV network news) when there are online features which make such media more accessible. For example YouTube for recorded video content. In the case of PubMed, the layman blogger would probably not have access to it (subscription-based), let alone the skill to search for such relevant medical articles.

This is just the first part of the morning session. There were many more interesting presentations I attended, but with just Alex and me blogging about the conference, it’s overbearing. Once again, I’m sad that no one’s sharing notes from the conference. I seem to be the only maniac running around snapping photos of people and presentations. WTH is going on? I guess internet researchers might understand social media, but very few actually participate in the process. Is blogging too risky, too uncool, or is it just too much work?

You can see what I’ve covered in today’s photos or see the entire photo slideshow which is constantly updated.