AoIR 2005 - Internet generations conference
I have just returned from a week in Chicago, where I attended and presented a paper at AoIR 6.0 [the Association of Internet researchers]. Its theme this year was Internet Generations, which like most conference themes was deliberately broad and encouraging of all manner of papers. There were, as usual, an abundance of quantitative researchers who embrace the challenge of documenting who, how many, where and how often people use the internet, blogs and technological tools in numeric form. Whilst I find some of their theories, debates and kaleidoscopic diagrams interesting there is still a significant gulf between their concerns and mine. As Kris noted in his thoughts on AoIR 2004, there is sometimes surprisingly little common ground between papers of similar topics, such as blogging. This is not a complaint. It is actually very useful in contextualising my own work. For instance I was placed in a session called Visuals: Photoblogs and Visual Communication, in which the papers could not have contrasted more. They were not at all what I expected to enage with. One explored photoblogging as a new computerization movement whilst the other looked at socio-communicative orientation of student use of blogs. Both talked in terms of text and numbers and presented ideas in large scale graphs whilst I told stories and used images to describe my work. I am still chewing over how to make sense of these differences in terms of how I see my work and how to frame it in similar circumstances in the future.
I gave a paper about my bus research in which I looked at ways of seeing and researching with and through a blog; how the blog influences the research process and how my research influences the development of the blog. I talked about my experience of using a blog to gather, analyse and present data, about story telling (mine and other peoples via the 73 story blog), about managing multi-facted roles (how to cope with simultaneously being technical, a designer, blogger and researcher) and dealing with the transparency of an online process (how the act of blogging reveals the messy, awkward and ill-fitting fragments of research that are often cleaned and smoothed out in more formal research accounts).
It was an exhausting three and a half days, but I found the conference very useful in terms of how my area of research is being framed by different disciplines. It provided a supportive environment for networking and I found myself in much discussion after and around talks which was as valuable as the talks themselves (and sometimes more due to their brevity). Of particular interest to me was Lilia Efimova's paper on Not Documenting, Doing: Blogging as Research, Sonia Livingstone's keynote Youthful Experts? A Critical Appraisal of Children and Young People's Emerging Internet Literacy, and in terms of my Phd research, Alison Powell's The Politics of Visibilty; Wireless Internet Signals and Control of Urban Space.
Oh, and chicago was incredible. I was there just long enough to start planning ways and means to return.