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AoIR 2010

AoIR 2010 conference, Gothenburg, 21-23 Oct. 2010

Gaming Capital in Social Gaming

The next speaker at AoIR 2010 is Olli Sotamaa, whose interest is in social games and gaming capital. Olli is a social gamer himself (on FrontierVille and Mafia Wars), as are other presenters in this session – these activities are publicly announced on Facebook and other social network Websites, generating what can be described as gaming capital (a special form of social capital); how does this operate in relation to social games, then?

Playing Mafia Wars, for example, isn’t a particularly exciting or deep gaming experience, but it is still very popular; what is of most interest here are the in-game achievements. Games like it are based on a freemium model that attracts as many players as possible, involves them as deeply as possible, and attempts to make at least some of the play. A key design driver is to support sociability and virality, to make the game a natural part of the social economy.

Cooperative and Competitive Social Gaming Models

The next speaker in this session at AoIR 2010 is Luca Rossi, who begins by highlighting the great diversity in computer gaming, and the substantial social aspects of shared gaming experiences. Indeed, creating sociable gaming experiences is now an important aim for the industry.

And yet, playing on Facebook also remains a solitary experience to some extent – you’re playing with others, perhaps, but at a distance. Friends in such games are positioned as resources, who variously can be played with or against. Social relationships are used as games resources, and it is possible that specific game structures work better with specific underlying social structures.

The Emergence of Social Games

And we’re in the final session of AoIR 2010 – it’s been a fun and very busy conference. I might be a little distracted in my coverage of this session, as the Hannover 96 – FC Köln game is on at the moment as well… 2:0 at the moment!

We’re starting with Lisbeth Klastrup, who notes that gaming on Facebook has really taken off in recent times; the Farmville application has been most popular so far, with millions of users. Studying social media network games has become an growing sub-set of digital games research, too.

Hybrid Organisational Innovation: The Case of Tela Botanica

The next speaker at AoIR 2010 is Serge Proulx, who is interested in how sharing practices are organised in the collaborative knowledge environment Tela Botanica. What does it mean to contribute to this type of online environment? The site is a French-language site for discussions on botany, founded in 1999, and highly successful in its field (with some 12,000 members to date).

The site publishes a weekly newsletter with some 7,700 subscribers that is open to contribution to all and allows for comments attached to articles; it also posts events and job offers. There is also the E-Flore database of plant descriptions which uses can contribute to (and which is professionally overseen), an online resource of bibliographic references, and a collaborative project space that allows site members to develop specific projects.

Estonian Youths' Attitudes towards the Digital Environment

The first speaker in the next session at AoIR 2010 is Andra Siibak, whose interest is in the online practices of Estonian youths. The latest generation of users is often described as having a set of particular characteristics (independence, innovation, creativity, authority, control), but to what extent is this actually true? In Estonia, there certainly is a digital generation – 99.9% of 11-18-year-olds are using the Internet, many of them daily, but what are their characteristics, and how do they see themselves?

This study examined school essays by 16- and 17-year-olds on the topic of the digital generation, as well as surveys of 15-19-year-olds. Overall activities were divided into serious and fun activities, with their attendant motives (necessity, obligation, conscientiousness vs. free will). Users 15-19 were the most active age groups, compared to older Estonians; they also stated that they could not imagine living in a society without modern technology. They felt disconnected without such technology, and relied on multiple technologies for access.

Future Directions for the Music Industry: Lessons from the Swedish Independent Scene

The last keynote at AoIR 2010 is by the fabulous Nancy Baym, whose recent work has focussed especially on the Swedish independent music industry. Nancy’s based in Kansas, but is now well connected with the Swedish music scene – and that’s just one example of the international cultural interconnections which we’re now seeing.

Her initial interest in Swedish music stems from exposure to independent music stores in the US which import overseas music; most of these stores are labours of love rather than significantly successful commercial enterprises – and they are now also selling music back to Sweden, in fact! Music Websites in the US and elsewhere in the world which focus on Swedish music are also popular in Scandinavia itself.

A Technological Shaping of the Social in Evidence-Based Policymaking Platforms

The next speaker at AoIR 2010 is Anders Madsen, whose focus is on design choices in policy-oriented technologies of knowledge management. This operates in the context of discussions over the role of knowledge in democracy – how is the relevance of information and facts settled? Two divergent approaches to this highlight the role of science in generating evidence-based policy (which responds to well-defined problems), or alternatively see a range of wicked problems that need broad participation and socially robust policies.

Digital democracy can aid policymaking in these contexts; policymaking procedures can be grounded in new technologies of knowledge management – but this too is either simply about efficient and transparent data-sharing, or about the collaborative production of knowledge, reflecting the earlier division. Some of this leads to discussions of Web design - for example drawing on clearly structured Semantic Web developments, or more folksonomically organised Web 2.0 structures.

Tracking Breaking News across Social Networks

The next speaker at AoIR 2010 is Luca Rossi, whose interest is in how information propagates through social network sites. This works with data from Friendfeed, which is somewhat similar to Twitter, but also allows people to add their own comments and likes directly to other’s posts (more similar to Facebook in this regard).

How can we define information propagation on this site, then? If a user posts some content on Friendfeed, then this message is visible to all of their followers – and if one of the followers comments or likes that message, it also becomes visible to the people following that follower, and so on. Luca’s team collected Friendfeed data for two weeks in September 2009 – some 10 million posts including 500,000 likes from 450,000 users.

Prevalent Community Values on Wikipedia

The next speaker at AoIR 2010 is Jonathan Morgan, who shifts our focus to Wikipedia. His interest is in how communal values are expressed by participants on the site – for example around specific controversies on the site. His project examined the debates around the Jyllands Posten / Muhammad cartoons controversy; here, the editors who created the Wikipedia entry covering this issue decided to include the offending cartoon in the entry at first, which generated substantial debate.

The site’s professed aim is to empower and engage people around the world, and founder Jimmy Wales has echoed these sentiments in his own statements. Surveys of Wikipedians in the English-language Wikipedia also refer to altruism, reciprocity, sense of community, as well as fun and a sense of mission.

The Emergence of Copygrey Services

It’s the last day of AoIR 2010, and the first session I’m attending starts with Jan Nolin, whose interest is in filesharing. He describes this as Internet-based cultural consumption (IBCC), in order to move away from terms like filesharing, peer-to-peer networks, and other more limited concepts. IBCC is a broad and inclusive term, then (though excluding user-led content creation) – it includes societal contexts, technological and economical choices, social relationships, and political and legislative contexts.

IBCC has been important in shaping the Net – it has been in a tug of war pattern between legislation and technology: increased legislation leads to advances in circumvention technology, etc. There was a tech push from filesharers at first, then a legal response, then further evasive technology like Napster, then counter-evasive practices from the industty, and more recently a differentiation between white, black, and grey practices. Most recently there has been a specialisation and commercialisation of grey markets – an emergence of a copygrey business model.


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