Category Archives: academic

CFP: Public Practices, Social Software: Examining social practices in networked publics

Nicole Ellison, Scott Golder, and i are putting together a workshop for the 3rd Annual Communities and Technologies Conference on Public Practices, Social Software: Examining social practices in networked publics. Below is the basic description:

This full-day workshop proposes to bring together researchers interested in studying social software. We use this term loosely to include social network sites (e.g., Cyworld, MySpace, orkut, and Facebook), contemporary online dating services (e.g., Friendster, Spring Street Personals,, blogging services (e.g., LiveJournal, Xanga, Blogger), tagging tools (e.g., Digg) and media sharing sites (e.g., YouTube, Flickr). Although the functionality of these sites differs greatly, there are some common features: a user-generated profile, visible linkages between users, public communication forums (such as message boards or comments), and persistent traces of user behavior.

Although we intend to appeal to broad range of researchers, we expect that we will primarily draw the attention of those studying social network sites. At the same time, we recognize that there is a lot of crossover between social network sites and the broader realm of social software. We are hoping that cross-pollination would be helpful to both. While we are aware of and have access to dozens of researchers interested in social network sites, we are not certain of the number of researchers looking at other forms of social software.

If you are interested, please see the workshop homepage for more information on how to apply. Note: the deadline for workshop proposals is April 23, 2007. The workshop will take place at the C&T conference on June 28, 2007.

IRB issues covered by NYTimes

In the New York Times today, there’s an article on Institutional Review Boards (the board that handles human subjects issues for academic institutions). I’m definitely amongst the people who constantly bitch about the absurdity of IRBs (even if their intentions are good) and this article discusses my frustration in much more polite terms than i ever could. I’m glad to see this issue being publicized because it’s at the core of my existential crisis. I am most likely going to graduate next year. I’m trying to decide whether or not to go on the academic market. Currently, i’m leaning against it purely because i want to get some research done without the limitations and bureaucracy of an IRB. There’s a part of me that finds that unbelievably depressing. I wonder how many others slink away from academia or choose not to pursue a particular research question purely because of IRB.

(Tx Irina)

announcing two new academic papers

I am pleased to announce that a paper i wrote a while back is part of a cool collection of papers in Reconstruction’s Special Issue on Theories/Practice of Blogging (edited by Michael Benton and Lauren Elkin). My piece – “A Blogger’s Blog: Exploring the Definition of a Medium” – argues that blogging needs to be looked at as a practice on top of a medium, not simply a CMC genre.

Not to jump the gun or anything, but another piece of mine will go live next week in First Monday in a special issue on “Identity and Identification in the Networked World” (edited by Tim Schneider and Michael Zimmer). That one, entitled “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Network Sites” examines the Friending practices that are so common in social network sites. I suspect that this piece might be quite valuable to those of you who are looking at MySpace and going why on earth do people have 9000 friends??? Stay tuned on First Monday for that one!

academic humor

God i love PhD Comics. Right now, my working dissertation proposal title does have a colon in it. And some fancy buzzwords. Rather than wit, it has a symbol. Of course, it’s only a mod of a title i’ve been using for my MySpace stuff generally which makes me uber lame… [“Why American Youth (heart) MySpace: Identity Production and Digital Publics”]

I don’t know if there are other academics reading this, but i’d sooo love to hear your dissertation titles… I sent this comic to a few friends yesterday and it made me giggle to think how stereotypical we all are in our title creations.

Six more days and counting.

if i had a billion dollars

At a recent glitzy conference, a venture capitalist asked me what company i’d create if he funded me. I thought the question odd but it got me thinking. Lately, i’ve met a lot of genuinely rich people and a friend of mine pointed out that the only thing you can do with that kind of money is buy a private jet. Gross. So it made me think… what would i create? I know it wouldn’t be a tech company…

As a kid, did you ever dream of designing a country? Or a city? Or an island? Well, i did. As i got older, i got more practical. I want to design my own university.

I’m fascinated by university structures. How architecture affects the ways in which people interact and learn, the ways in which collegiate social networks affect long term development of ideas, the ways in which disciplinarity divides, the incentives for teaching and research, the problems with competition for scarce funds, the relationship between formal and informal learning for students, etc.

The problem is that i’m not interested in fixing a broken university – i want to start over. (Yes, i realize the problems with this desire…) But, i want to give people a reason to want to learn, give professors a reason to want to teach/research. I want to create a brand from scratch, truly design a system from the bottom up. Wouldn’t that be fun?

politics of breathing

I first noticed my bad breathing habits when i went scuba diving. When everyone was ready to emerge, having depleted their tank of air, i still had half a tank left. I also notice that my reaction to someone disrupting me working on my computer is to take a deep breath. Do i breathe when i’m virtual? I certainly don’t remember to eat, pee or blink so i kinda doubt it.

All of this made me absolutely fascinated with Kelly McGonigal’s The Politics of Breathing: Still Liberating Women, After All These Years? I wonder if the computer is my contemporary corset….

HICSS: Persistent Conversations

HICSS may look like a boondoggle (it is, afterall, in Hawaii) but one of the reasons that i keep applying to it is because the Persistent Conversation track has amazing researchers interested in visualization, social technologies and privacy. The track is meant to bring together people interested in the implications of persistent, archivable, searchable data surrounding communication. What do you do with it? How do you study it?

Anyhow, the abstract deadline is March 31 (abstract – 250 words). If you have research that you need to write up, consider applying to HICSS: Persistent Conversations Minitrack. In addition to good research, there is still a beautiful beach.

SIMS career fair

Do you work for a company that is interested in hiring information school students (think: hybrid between tech, social, business) either full-time or for internships. My department is throwing a career fair on April 1. They asked me to suggest companies but i figured it might be useful to ask y’all if you want to hire folks.

For those who don’t know, SIMS has a Master’s program and a PhD program. The Master’s folks tend to be more interested in actually building products and working in tech companies than us pie-in-the-sky PhD folks who just critique the shit out of everything. At the same time, they have a variety of different useful skills – development, business management, ethnography, usability, information organization, etc.

Anyhow, if you want to participate on April 1, let me know and i’ll recommend you to my department. This is a low-key event (i.e. folks interacting not scary huge recruitment kiosks) and is particularly useful for Bay Area local companies.

Can a Biologist Fix a Radio?

There’s nothing like science humor to brighten my day so i was laughing hysterically when a friend read to me from Can a Biologist Fix a Radio? – or, What I Learned while Studying Apoptosis.

How would we begin? First, we would secure funds to obtain a large supply of identical functioning radios in order to dissect and compare them to the one that is broken. We would eventually find how to open the radios and will find objects of various shape, color, and size. We would describe and classify them into families according to their appearance. We would describe a family of square metal objects, a family of round brightly colored objects with two legs, roundshaped objects with three legs and so on. Because the objects would vary in color, we will investigate whether changing the colors affects the radio’s performance. Although changing the colors would have only attenuating effects (the music is still playing but a trained ear of some people can discern some distortion), this approach will produce many publications and result in a lively debate…

[Note: said friend sees this article as a call-to-arms, not simply science humor… apparently i’m not as big of a nerd as i think.]

Social Software in the Academy Workshop

I am helping organize a workshop on social software in the academy along with Sarah Lohnes. Todd Richmond, Mimi Ito, and Justin Hall. It will take place at USC’s Annenberg Center on May 13-14.

We are currently looking for papers, panels and demos on all aspects of how social software affects and reflects academia (deadline: March 31). Please check out the Call for Participation for more information.