The beauty of an online conference: night and day, my pace
On Monday 26th April the Online Conference on Networks and Communities
organised by students of the Department of Internet Studies, Curtin University of Technology and Australian Open Universities started off and will be held until 16th May. 4 Streams with currently about 100 papers and an increasing number of comments centre on Communities and Web 2.0, Social Networks and Identity in Communities and Networks, plus a further still very skinny stream called Early Virtual Communities. The organisers have also set up a blog which lists all previews/ essay abstracts with links to the comments, full papers and the authors.
Briefly, a few key concepts which are discussed in the streams:
Trust, Self, ability, virtual bodies – dis/-embodiment, social marketing, virtual realities, control and privacy, gender, romance and dating, flaming, bullying, hacking, friending, socialising, addiction, activism, community, political impacts, education, collaboration, equity.
A few basic rules are in place which aim at maintaining a respectful and supportive spirit while critiquing those papers and commenting on each others comments. The related hashtag on Twitter is #netconf2010 and the event has also been listed on Facebook. The conference is open to the public, free of charge and a login is not required.
I haven’t been able to locate a Call for Papers nor has the panel of reviewers been made public. The ground covered in the papers I skimmed through and read in more detail is not based on empirical research but literature reviews. The conference blog unites all streams and comments, listed is a brief abstract and a link to the full post with word count as well as an estimated reading time – very handy. This is a fast way to search for keywords or authors within the entire online conference, alternatively there is also the more limited tagcloud.
Apart from the considerable amount of work that must have been spent on preparing and setting this up, the papers submitted all show a level of passion and writing skill that speaks for itself. From a university perspective, this conference is certainly a way to showcase student work but also a way to demonstrate the dedication and support lecturers and tutors have provided to their students. It is an excellent way to attract new students and foster networking within the student community. Moreover, it may – hopefully – inspire other universities to follow suit.
I certainly enjoy the length of the conference, the flexibility and the wealth of papers. What I truly miss, though, is the interaction that makes a real life conference so special: the coffee breaks, the sounds of a conference and the dynamics of space. Delegates rushing around, technology failing, tension and nervous gestures, relief and proud smiles when the presentation was received well. On the other hand, many conferences are marked by such a density of presentations and a very limited timeframe so that a hierarchy of questioning individuals inevitably evolves. In contrast, at this online conference I am looking at a name, just a name – no image, no CV, no bio, no list of publications.
The papers I have found particularly interesting so far and which I commented on are A Virtual Collision: When your private and professional worlds clash by Kaye England and Working Through Personal Identity Issues Using Virtual Communities and Networks by Stephen Harris. While the references provided, the author’s individual style and the structure of the article as well as the argument built, are the usual indicators for quality and credibility, I thought it would help to know a bit more about the authors. For instance their undergraduate degree or majors would be useful, even a simple line providing the research/ study interests would provide me with an idea of the broader background and author has and that would facilitate the structuring of my own comments.
But then, perhaps it’s just me who tends to stick to the usual thinking when I skim through a conference programme, looking for names, affiliations, keywords, key theorists quoted. Good to be challenged. I am curious whether attending an online conference (pop-in and out mode) will make me remember the papers differently – and whether I will meet some of those who have submitted and commented in a future RL conference.
About Britta Bohlinger, CFEFounder and Director of RisikoKlár in Iceland. Native German, global perspective - previously in London and Berlin.
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