Internet Research 10 conf write-up (+blog recovered)

My website has been down for a week +, because of an evil hack affecting several websites hosted by my ISP, but now, as you can see, the blog and more is back.

I had actually planned to “pre-post” that I was going to the Internet Research 10.0 conference, the annual conference for all researchers engaged in researching the cultural, communicative, social and political aspects of internet use. Now I can tell you, that I went and it was, as always, a real nice conference – add to this the enjoyment of being there as a regular participant, not as local chair (which was my role last year). This year, the quality of papers were real high if not the best papers I have experienced at this conference series so far; and this time it was not the least the papers on social media that caught my attention.  You can check the abstracts here (look for Social Media in the long list of themes on the linked page). Below is a few notes on some of the social media papers, that I really liked or know I should be looking at:

Notably I found Gordon Fletcher’s paper “Thananetworking – the social networks of death” quite interesting (abstract here), because it is one of the few papers I have come across that examines how and why people use websites commemorating the dead, in the case he talked about, mostly dead celebrities and people violently murdered. Gordon mentioned Margaret Gibson as another researcher, that has looked into the field of death culture online, her work also looks highly interesting.

A session, that I in general enjoyed much, was the panel on Last.fm, Axel Bruns (as always) did a very solid write-up of that (and all other papers he heard), check out f.i. Nancy Baym’s talk on types of friends (6 types, divided between people you only know from the network and people you know from elsewhere online and offline). Another paper, that caught my attention, was Uwe Mazat’s paper “Disentangling social purposes of online applications”: in it, he and his co-author gives a very impressive overview on the research into various social media forms online, pointing out that the social uses and the social ressources they give access to, are very different, a finding which their own survey of the matter seem to confirm (abstract here). As a highly interesting example of the usefullness of studying social media use in a local culture context,  my ITU colleague Irina Shklovski ,in the paper “Cultural Meanings of Personal Networks”, presented her first findings on the uses of social media in Russia and Kazakstan, an insightful study in how in this cultural context, personal networks also matter a lot in everyday life and online use of networks also mirrors this (abstract). How ever her research also reveals that social media use in terms of purpose and motivation seem similar to what US and Western Europe social media research has shown.   

I didn’t hear it myself, but several people  mentioned Stutzman and Hartzog’s paper on “Boundary Regulation in Social Media through Multiple Profile Maintenance” as being very good, and I know Stutzman has access to massive amounts of data on the early use of Facebook, so I will have to look at that paper too. This and other papers in the session on social media and privacy was intensely discussed on the Twitter backchannel for the conference, #ir10, so I will also have to check out Rachel McClean and Marie Griffith’s paper on “Washing the Dirty Linen – Exploring the increasing publication of private lives through new social media”, presented in the same session (abstract).

This time around, there was also an entire panel on Twitter and Twitter use. In it, Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Internet and American Life project, presented some new hot and still secret numbers  and findings regarding Twitter use in the US (user numbers quickly rising); and Alice Marwick (and Danay Boyd) talked about the difference between writing for an imagined broadcast audienced and for an actively present “networked audience”. Raquel Recuero presented a study of Twitter use in Brazil, which also pointed to the importance of visibility and celebrity status in Twitter culture, and the “metadata” aspects of Twitter-information: that when you follow people, it is not mainly to get access to the information they share, but to gain access to their opinion on this information. You can find references and short summary of the individual papers in the abstract for the panel.

I myself presented a paper on Facebook and status updates: Facebook stories – Status Updates as Social Narratives.  Matt Allen, aka Netcritic, blogged a nice write-up of the paper and the other papers in the session in which it was presented. I haven’t uploaded the paper draft yet, but you can find the slides here soon.