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Association of Internet Researchers conference 2007, Vancouver, 17-20 Oct. 2007

Au Revoir Montréal, Goodbye Canada
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Well, that's it - AoIR 2007 and WikiSym 2007 are over, the drizzle has caught up with me here in Montréal after a couple of very pleasant days with temperatures in the 20s; time to get back to the Australian spring. It's been a very successful if brief tour through Canada for these two conferences, and I've particularly enjoyed catching up with what by now feel like old friends from the Association of Internet Researchers, as well as meet a few new faces - you know who you are. It's a privilege to have been elected to the executive of such a vibrant community - and I look forward to seeing everyone again for AoIR 2008 in Copenhagen (which looks to be in very good hands).

Online Politics Research

Wow, time has passed quickly (and very enjoyably). We're in the final session of AoIR 2007 here in Vancouver, and Chris Wells and Justin Reedy are the first speakers; their interest is in the use of Internet in direct democracy. Direct democracy in the U.S. and elsewhere is increasingly common, increasingly important, and different from conventional democratic forms in important ways (the European constitutional referenda in a number of countries are one key example here, while in a number of U.S. states there have been referenda on limiting property tax rates).

Encouraging and Mapping Political and Creative Engagement

We're coming towards the end of the last day here at AoIR 2007, and Kirsten Foot is the first speaker in the post-lunch session, presenting a co-authored paper on link structures and engagement practices in U.S. and U.K. fair trade networks. Fair trade movements aim to develop more equitable practices in international commerce in a variety of commodities (not just coffee), and Kirsten and her colleagues examined fair trade movements' historical roots (since the end of World War II) in a previous study; in the U.K., contrary to the U.S., there are also important relationships with government bodies (and there are a number of official 'fair trade towns' in the U.K., but only one in the U.S.). U.K. movements are now having some impact even on European Union policy, in fact. In the U.S., targets of such movements are usually corporations, by comparison.

Pushing Towards Open Access Scholarship

We're in the final keynote for AoIR 2007 already (I missed the morning session this Saturday as I was having breakfast with Henry Jenkins this morning) - the keynote speaker today is John Willinsky from the Public Knowledge Project. He begins by noting issues of civic participation and access to knowledge as a key question of today, and relates these especially also to academic publishing: 'you make all the content, they take all the wealth' also applies in this environment, and the moral economy of academic work must be carefully considered. Fan writing, fans going public with their work - something that Henry Jenkins talked about yesterday - also translates into important challenges for academics: we, too, should aim to make our work more public, and connect it to wider civic concerns. This goes well beyond questions of technologies of access and distribution - it requires a shift of thinking; we need to 'get in the game', to allude to the 'Let's Play' theme of this conference.

The Moral Economy of Web 2.0

Henry JenkinsVancouver.
The second keynote at the AoIR 2007 conference is by MIT's Henry Jenkins, speaking on the moral economy of Web 2.0 (in a presentation coauthored with Josh Green and emerging from the work of the Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT). The central principle of Web 2.0 is to embrace the power of collective intelligence, as Kevin O'Reilly has said; another take on this is that users make all the content, but corporations keep all the revenue (according to There's a proliferation of pronouns (you, we, us), which opens an interesting tension of individual versus collective action (is 'you' singular or plural here?). Indeed, YouTube is a meeting place of so many different communities that talking about it in general misses most of the specificities of individual uses.

Uses for Second Life

In the post-lunch session at AoIR 2007, I'm in a session on Second Life, which starts off with Slava Kozlov and Nicole Reinhold from Philips Design (the design division of Dutch electronics giant Philips) in the Netherlands. The begin with an introduction to the many spaces of Web 2.0, and note that many users have existences, identities, experiences in a number of these spaces, engaging with them in a playful manner which includes experimentation and exploration, role-playing, active and imaginary work, and a focus on experience and process rather than efficiency and results. How playful, in this context, is Second Life?

Communities? Wikipedia, YouTube, and Other Projects

The next session at AoIR 2007 begins with a paper by Ralph Schroeder and Mattijs den Besten on the section in the Pynchon wiki which has sprung up to collaboratively annotate Thomas Pynchon's much-anticipated novel Against the Day. There are some interesting statistics on how user participation shifted from the Pynchon mailing-list before the release of the book to the wiki once it was released; today, the wiki works as a reference source, as a tool highlighting connections to other Pynchon novels, and interpreting the content of the book. By July 2007, it had 200 contributors, 5000 entries, and contained some 400,000 words.

Pedagogy 2.0

This Friday morning at AoIR 2007 I find myself in a pedagogy session, and Gary Natriello and Anthony Cocciolo have made a start. Their interest is in the effect of Web 2.0 learning environments on student learning. PocketKnowledge is one project which they've designed, in which users maintain a high level of control of their information, a high level of community trust, and a non-authoritative organisation of information, which ideally generates a playful attitude. Users create 'pockets' of information, and get to determine organisation, access and copyrights for this material, but user-to-user comments are also possible.

Understanding the Geography of Internet Use

I came in a little late to the next session at AoIR 2007, and Alex Halavais has already started. He's starting by talking about a series of search engine tests he's done using a set of 25 random English nouns, using Google and Yahoo! in a number of their country-specific versions. He coded the first 100 results of these searches for their country location (mostly assuming that the ccTLDs were accurate) and examined the whois records.

The result has that in most cases here, links were mainly to sites in the U.S. (except for Australian search engine versions, interestingly), and otherwise to the home country. The question, then, is how Google decides where to guide people - shouldn't localised search engine versions be more strongly localised in pointing to domestic sites?

Gathering Internet Statistics

Lars Kirchhoff at AoIR 2007Vancouver.
The post-lunch session on this first day here at AoIR 2007 starts with a paper by Lars Kirchhoff, Thomas Nicolai, and me, and Lars is here to present it with me. The PDF is already online, and I'm recording our presentation and will add it to our slides below as soon as I can.


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