Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
That's my neighbor, Brent Adair, playing at Flipnotics at the Triangle in Central Austin. He's a singer/songwriter with a very fresh sound and good rapport with his audience. Check him out at www.brentadair.com and listen to his new tracks on www.sonicbids.com/brentadair.
On the other hand, you have a platinum-selling band playing for local fans at a legendary venue...
Miles Zuniga, Tony Scalzo, and Joey Shuffield of Fastball have been playing some shows recently, showcasing old hits and new material. They had a mega hit in the late 90's with The Way. The talented songwriters Zuniga & Scalzo share vocal responsibilities, and have enjoyed frequent comparisons with Lennon/McCartney for their pop hooks, unique harmonies, and chemistry. They still deliver a tight rock-and-roll show, and the crowd at the Continental Club in South Austin these past few Wednesdays has responded enthusiastically to seeing their old friends making music together again.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
One of the things I noticed right away upon arrival in Vancouver was that people were very nice and polite, also friendly, but not in a creepy way. It reminded me a lot of how Austinites are. I chalked it up to this being Canada and all. But, I passed a newstand yesterday, and the top story was about how Vancouver was named Canada's 2nd most polite city. So, I guess they are even considered extra polite among Canadian's. I found this article online that explains that it is a Reader's Digest survey. The #1 city is Moncton, New Brunswick, and according to the article "locals say simply asking for directions can get you invited over to a total stranger's house for tea."
Here are some photos from my afternoon walk. Today, I plan to take a Ferry across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver (North Van, as they call it) to go to a market on Lonsdale Quay (pronounced "kee").
Downtown buildings. The Waterfront area has a lot of residential development.
This upside-down house is a sculpture featured on the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale. It is the "Device to Root Out Evil" by Dennis Oppenheimer. More can be found at http://www.vancouverbiennale.com/sculptures_page.php?sculptureID=17
I attended two panels during the final afternoon of AOIR. The first was on research methods for studying blogs. This can be challenging at every stop, as you consider which blogs to study, which posts, and how you will study them (content analysis, survey bloggers, ethnography, participant ethnography). I got some good ideas. Social networks provide new challenges, as in many cases (like Facebook), you have to be-friend someone before you can see their profile info. Gaining that access can be difficult and can also affect the research process.
Patricia Lange (pictured) of USC made an interesting presentation about her experiences studying video bloggers. Some of the issues regarding anonymity of subjects are questioned, because these are people whose work is already out there. They are visually represented. There are challenges associated with putting so much in the public (threats, flames, etc.).
The last panel I attended was on gender and technology issues. I got some good ideas about how others are integrating gender topics into their study of blogs and social networks (identity, representation), as well as research on girl gamers, and women in IT professions. I really need to be re-focusing on this area, since I haven't done any gender research since I completed my dissertation.
So, this was a great conference. I met some interesting people, saw some great keynotes, and got some really good ideas for moving forward with my own research. The diversity of scholars here, across disciplines and nationalities provides for a rich and productive experience. Now, I have a day to try to enjoy Vancouver.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
For those of you unfamiliar, you might not be aware that a large and often the main responsibility of your college professors is academic publishing. They won't get tenure without it, and that means they will get fired. Usually, a university department gives you 5-7 years to establish a publishing record, and at the end of the process, tenure is evaluated.
Academic publishing consists of writing research papers and submitting them to journals. The journal has an editor (an unpaid position), and the editor does a cursory review of the paper to determine its applicability to the journal. It is then assigned to reviewers (also unpaid). This is called peer review, and usually 2-3 people review a paper to help the editor decide whether or not to publish your article and if it needs revisions, changes. The review process has taken, in my experience 3-18 months. If it gets accepted, it might take another 12 months before it makes to an issue of the journal. If it doesn't get accepted, you have to start all over again, maybe making changes based on the rejection feedback. All this time, your tenure clock is ticking. It is a stressful process, one in which the author has very little control, and one that is not necessarily efficient. By the way, if your article gets published, you don't get any money. So, this is very much like the free content we are all creating making News Corp (MySpace), Facebook, and Google (YouTube) rich.
So, who makes money in the academic publishing system? Publishing companies do. They charge for subscriptions, usually hundreds of dollars a year, and can be thousands. Libraries are the typical subscriber audience, but individuals may also subscribe. So, that means that once you leave the comforts and pleasures of the university environment, your access to knowledge is severely limited. So, learn while you can folks....
Now, to Willinsky's talk. The theme should be obvious. If everyone in the academic chain is unpaid, then why should we use a publishing system that is based in print, is closed in terms of access, and supports very poor processes. I mean, if the public is contributing content on social spaces, and fans are having this big impact via blogs and social networks, why aren't academics using the same methods? One big sticking point is the ways that universities value certain publications over another in the tenure process. Traditionally, online journals were not considered very prestigious, but that is changing. Willinsky encouraged AoIR, who has and is still considering a journal association with the group, to consider some options.
-Make archiving policies clear - I had no idea that it was legal to post on a Web site a pre-print of an article under review at a journal, as long as you identify it as such. And, then there are rules regarding post-print, that you can post a copy of an article (not a pdf of the print version) as long as it complies with the publishers pre-print timeframes
-Become politically aware of mandates associated with granting organizations, like NIH.
-If going with a publisher, argue the archiving timeframes and definitely use delayed access (make actual articles available online after a certain embargo timeframe).
-Create an online journal using free and available sofware (his Open Access project).
These are really good suggestions and just a starting point for having the academy reconsider how we value certain types of publications. We need to engage the potential of the Internet. As Willinsky said as he ended his presentation, "the role of participation and engagement are critical to the academy and scholarship."
It is still raining, and when I say raining, I mean pouring. There are two more panel sessions this afternoon. I will be attending one on blogging research methods and one relating to gender issues.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Jenkins talk on The Moral Economy of Web 2.0: Reconsidering the Relations Between Producers and Consumers has been the highlight of this trip. I started reading his book Convergence Culture on the plane, because I was asked to write a review of it for Journalism and Mass Communication Educator. I'm only three chapters in, but I am already teeming with ideas and inspiration. Several interesting points came out of his presentation. He contrasted a typical, corporate focused definition of Web 2.0 (Network effects from user contributions are the key to market dominances in the Web 2.0 era - Kevin O'Reilly) to a more practical explanation (You make all the content, they keep all the revenue - bash.org). I was going after some of these attitudes in my survey. He also called Web 2.0 fandom without the stigma. Jenkins has studied and participated in fandom for many years, so he is speaking from experience when he recognizes that those who were once textual poachers (his term) are now central in the Web 2.0 world.
He mentioned briefly about the demographics of participation, that there was a study about YouTube that identified that white men were the dominant creates of YouTube videos. I will have to see how that shakes out in my study. But, I have been looking at the gender implications of contribution since I first started at UT. I need to get some of that old stuff out and brushed off to revisit.
Some of his high level points:
- Convergence is a cultural rather than technological process.
- In a networked society, people are increasingly forming knowledge communities to pool information and work together to solve problems they could not confront individually (collective intelligence).
- Seeing the emergence of new forms of participatory cultures (a contemporary revision of folk culture) as consumers take media in their own hands, reworking content to serve their personal and collective interests.
- Low barriers to entry
- Strong support for sharing creativity with others
- Information mentorship between new and experienced members
- Members believe contributions matter
- Care about others' opinion of self and work.
He even mentioned the paradox of Stephen Colbert, who gets the user-generated content thing (green screen challenge, etc.), and Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, requesting take-downs of Colbert images on YouTube.
He explored the idea of a moral economy, in that we have to question a society that uses metaphors like pirate or sharing interchangeably, and what is meant by each. Are corporations trying to have it both ways?
Shout outs throughout the presentation referenced the work of Clay Shirky ("everyone is a media outlet"), Axel Brunes (idea of produsage - community can achieve more than a closed team of professionals), Benkler, Tiziana Terranova (free labor), Lawrence Lessig (the past always tries to control the creativity that builds on it). He even mentioned Andrew Keen, but mainly as a critique of his idea of the cult of the amateur as not fully complicating the role of participatory culture.
Another theme that I found worth further exploration is his idea of a shift from Intellectual Property to Emotional Capital.
Lots to think about, study, and discuss...
Continuing with the SL theme of this conference (can you tell that Linden Labs is a sponsor?), I went to a research panel on Second Life. The first was actually from Philips, consulting on behalf of companies trying to engage SL. They talked about the intersection of the virtual world and corporate culture as a form of digital neuroses. Characteristics of a virtual world are playfulness, creativity (designing), interaction, freedom to explore, role playing, joy and fun. These don't always mesh well with corporate goals, but this is no different than when a company from one culture (say the US) tries to market in another that is very different (say China). Interesting.
With the comments about creativity, I am reminded of why I initially began working on the Web. It was a form of creative expression, before which I never felt like I had any artistic talent. But, I could do Web Design and I was exciting about the process of making these spaces. Maybe this is what I will like about SL?
There were a couple of presentations about library applications, one that discussed holding six sessions of a class in SL. What do you think about that?
The final presentation that I saw (there was another but I had to leave to get some coffee and then a good seat for Henry Jenkins) was by Aleks Krotoski (pictured above) from the UK. She discussed network analysis is SL, and the role of opinion leaders. This brings up some good points for my next phase of research into the diffusion of social networks.
The Social Networks panel this morning was very interesting. First, Naomi Baron presented a paper on presentation of self on Facebook. She had looked at both quantitative and qualitative responses of the ways people use IM and the Facebook profile. I guess people used to use the "away" message of AIM much like profile (status) info on Facebook. She mentioned one quote from the survey in which a student identified the role of the Facebook profile as "me on my best day." In other words, this is your best foot forward or the way you want people to perceive you.
Some researchers from Western Michigan presented It's Complicated: Speaking Like a Facebook Queen" which studied the way that Facebook interacts in personal relationships, development, maintenance, and dissolution. One interesting statistic that they quoted was that drinking beer was tied with Facebook as the thing college students most enjo.
A researcher that I have referenced in my own work, Danah Boyd (pictured above) presented From the Mall to MySpace: American Youth Socialization in public spaces. She discussed how teens use social networking to break out of the increased control and surveillance that is imposed by parents (you can't go out, it's dangerous, etc.). The sites serve an important social function for people otherwise isolated.
The final paper was a look at a activities on a Danish social network site Arto. Maline Charlotte Larsen identified four discourses: sincerity, appearance, love and friendship. It is interesting to see the different methods and models that researchers are using to study these spaces. There is a panel on papers dealing with Second Life this afternoon, then the keynote by Henry Jenkins.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
The rest of the day was fine. I went to some paper presentations on Space and Place. They all had to do with the ways that technology is changing our ideas of physical space. A researcher from Denmark did a paper on Virtual Tourism, how it doesn't replace travel, just enhances it when you do, giving you information, representation through sharing photos and memories of trips, networking with new people about their travels, keeping in touch with people you meet during travels, identity building, or the ways that people use travel to define themselves, and global awareness or how much people use virtual travel to learn about the world.
The next had to do with the shifting nature of the ideas of public and private on blogs and in other social spaces. The interesting points contrasted our traditional view of public/private as dichotomous and that social interaction was based on some level of co-presence. But, the 21st century model is based on complex negotiations of privacy (should I make this available to everyone, no one, just friends, etc) and social interaction is now based on interest more so than place.
The third paper was given by Homer Gil de Zuniga. He is a new professor at UT, and he now teaches the Web Design class that I taught there. This was the first time I was able to meet him in person, although we have had some email exchanges. His paper had to do with developing a model for political participation based on what he termed geo-identity and media use, with a specific focus on implications in the European Union.
Tomorrow, Henry Jenkins is the keynote. I started reading his book on the plane, and there are some good ideas in it about social networking and popular culture, how it generates strong participation and loyalty...how companies would love a piece of that.
I should be better connected tomorrow.
OK, so it's not sunny, and I am not feeling very cheery. I'm having some Internet challenges here. For some reason, my laptop is not behaving with the wireless at the conference, and things were really spotty in my hotel room (had to sit on the floor near the door to pick up the connection). I got in last night at 1:30am (and that's Pacific time). Now, I am in a computer lab here at the conference, schlepping on a Dell. Yuck.
So, let's move on. At least I am in contact once again. The only thing I have attended so far has been the Keynote from John Lester of Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life. It was a very interesting presentation, makes me think I need to get out there, to at least assess the potential. Lester emphasized throughout the presentation that we, as researchers, need to be studying SL. Of course, LL would love the PR and the attention, but there are some valid research questions. He did some stage-setting at the beginning of the pres, stating that SL simulates 375 square miles of physical space, and they use 15,000 CPUs (servers) running 24/7 to host it. He was careful to point out that SL is not a game, although people do play games in it. But, there are other applications for business, education, health, entertainment, support.
In terms of demographics, SL skews older than other social networks or massively multiplayer environments, average age is 35, but is fairly gender neutral. He didn't talk about ethnicities represented, but I am not sure that people are required to identify themselves that way.
Their main purpose is to provide the platform and the tools so that the users can create the experience. So, it is similar to Facebook or MySpace in that it doesn't actually create any content. He said a couple of times "We build something cool for users, then get the hell out of the way." From what I was able to glean, there are developer types who can handle the scripting to make cool things, and there are regular users that might want to buy these things. So, that is similar to the open source development model that we have been discussing regarding Facebook. He did not discuss other ad models, other than commercial entities setting up shop in SL.
He said that the reason the graphics look like something from the 1990s is that it is much more difficult (in terms of bandwidth) to stream a virtual world than when it is running on a computer. But, they are working on it. And, others are creating applications that have improved on the graphic environment.
Lester said that the world that people are creating is something between reality and fantasy, what he called an oasis of the surreal. So, you see a hybrid of real world things alongside things that are completely made up. He showed Vassar College's simulation of the Sistine Chapel, but then showed how people could fly up and hang out on ledges (which you could not do in the real chapel).
I found his section on health support in SL to be the most applicable. People with physical disabilities are using it to explore mobility that they do not have. And other disorders are assisted, such as Asperger's Syndrome, stroke survivors, depression support, cerebral palsy. These implications are fascinating.
I am starting to get the sense that SL is really just the next generation of browser. If Facebook adds a social aspect to browsing, SL adds a 3D aspect. Is this the future?
I wish that Lester had shown an actual demo of SL, rather than his simple presentation with still photos. I feel I still need to get into the environment to actually comprehend. And, now I wish I had added some questions specifically about SL on my survey. I will have to see if anyone talked about SL in the Other or Comment fields.
I'll probably write more later, because now I am hungry and must seek lunch.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
For me, Wilco was the headliner of this festival. Yes, I did attempt to watch Bob Dylan, but my basecamp location was complicated by the limited camera angles on the jumbotron. I might as well have been watching Lawrence Welk. So, back to Wilco. This was a great set, high energy, beautiful songs, with chaotic (in a good way) accompaniments at times. They played both old and new, with lots covered on Sky Blue Sky, but also early tracks from AM and Being There. Jeff Tweedy's voice was amazing. 75 minutes was just not enough to do justice to the body of work that they have amassed. Come back to Austin soon!