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2nd Digital Cultures Workshop: Social Media Publics. Part II

Carsten Sorensen of LSE gave an entertaining keynote, we got distracted by video snippets that illustrated the stories of interaction asymmetry: mobile technology imagined in the future. James Bond shots and the General Post Office’s view dating back to 1964 helped us remember how much things have changed and how intrusive technology has become. Nodding audience. Some of the points he made echoed research conducted in the late 1990s when researchers such as Paul du Gay, Hugh Mackay et al. had started looking into the use of media in the domestic sphere with practices of appropriation ranging from muting the TV screen to behaviours such as collective commenting . I felt that even though technology has been insinuated in complex environments and helps us to micro-coordinate our multiple commitments and roles within all the massive amplification of networked connections, again, the actual practices and meaning making processes on the underlying individual level are hardly understood. This may be due to the fact that they are embedded in wider discourses, ‘unconsciousnesses’, taboos and collective cultural and sub-cultural systems – all of them extremely hard to grasp in surveys aiming at representative samples.

From the very general level to a much more specific field, the research done by David Wilson, Mark Bailey, and Philip Gray, University of Glasgow, was placed in the ‘organisational context of molecular genetics research laboratories’ and investigated individuation, privacy and social media from various angles. Collaborating and sharing data and equipment, i.e. notebooks in labs (lab books) enables post-graduate and doctoral students to capture progress but at the same time, the issue of community versus personal [intellectual] property poses dilemmas which cannot be resolved in a culture that demands individuation and places the highest incentives and rewards on those who rather don’t share. Apart from the powerlessness and the limited sense of control also issues such as monitoring others’ work progress are at stake.

The dilemmas made visible by Wilson et al. were fascinating as they may be paralleled in other fields where online collaboration and content sharing are equally subjected to the notion that competing against each other is rewarded – for status and power reasons – rather than the produced result itself. It would be a major step forward to review and redefine acknowledging practices such as the display of share of work done by individuals, for instance in papers published by more than one author. Currently, one of the most common practices is to list authors in alphabetical order. Here, also publishing entities, editors and reviewers would have a chance to bring about change. For instance by using social media and making reviewing processes more transparent, including the commenting on each other’s reviews.

Why aren’t reviews of papers submitted for conferences made accessible to delegates so they can learn from each other and/or collaborate on future projects? Facilitating such possibilities would mean to rethink plagiarism and power and take a more innovative approach. Current practices are not transparent, they often seem to protect the reviewer rather than the reviewed. In some instances, reviewers gave less than constructive feedback, resulting in a notion that more transparency would be beneficial in multiple ways. This issue was also subject to discussion at the 3rd ICWSM, the AAAI conference I attended in San Jose, California.

At The 2nd Digital Cultures workshop, though, Nic Crowe’s paper was my personal favourite. A lecturer at Brunel University with a background in youth work and teaching, his ‘Work, rest and play in the Digital Playground’ was not just striking in terms of presentation, he made all the difference due to his empathy and sound understanding of youth culture, practices and dilemmas. As Digital Natives (Prensky: 2001), youth in online worlds such as Runescape use these virtual spaces as social contexts, not any different from material spaces in their imagined potentials, they offer safe arenas which allow for trial and error experiences that prepare for real life actions. As an interlocutor was quoted “I can try my best lines online and avoid making myself a fool in real life” – she was referring to a virtual boyfriend. Becoming streetwise in virtual worlds while engaging in ‘deviant’ activities in virtual spaces as well as mundane experiences such as getting a haircut or treating oneself to a holiday too expensive in real life, the experience results in real life pleasant feelings that are all providing supplements and replacements for lost real spaces.

As conventional spaces have been made unworthy accessing or have become altogether inaccessible – Nic mentioned the curfew in Richmond/London area and spaces that had been equipped with policing devices such as mosquitos – this piece of research echoes danah boyd’s findings in the US. He also presented a few statistics that underlined why these conditions are not due to change any time soon: the US$60 billion p.a. industry is booming with 9 video games sold every second on every day in 2007.

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editing and publishing: a workshop @ IR9

On 15th Oct a workshop in editing and publishing took place in Copenhagen as part of the wider AoIR conference. As a fairly green post-graduate student my hopes were to gain insight into what appeared to me as a huge blackbox: the eminent celebrities of academia selecting in mysterious and unclear processes whatever they may want to publish, whenever and according to whoever’s rules. Something like this, admittedly cynical, had blurred my view. So it was refreshing to see a workshop aimed at de-mystifying the practices and rules, being actually overbooked, so obviously I wasn’t alone with my lack of clarity. Co-organiser
Marcus Foth – who did a fantastic job – reassured us that there would be a range of strategies available to make life somewhat easier and the help offered by the present co-editors would make the whole business much more of something that can be approached systematically.

Nick Jankowski, co-editor of New Media and Society clarified that the successful submission of a conference paper should be seen as the very first milestone prior to any publications in journals. Make sure you know whether your paper will be made available online or offline and how aspects such as embedded multimedia or screenshots will be dealt with. The UK standard is double blind and peer review – which may not be taken for granted around the globe, so better double-check.

We were then given an overview of abstracting and indexing services such as the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), and the ISI Web of Knowledge as well as CiteULike which will help you map your citations with Google Scholar being another interesting option.

There is criticism as to bias and reflection of relevance, though, in so far as the SSCI for example was accused of being ideologically driven against free market oriented research. In contrast, Google Scholar was hailed as much friendlier and intended to empower individual academics with their Publish or Perish policy. There is a nice piece of software coming along that lists your statistics – exactly what we all want to know in these days, I guess.

In brief, we were encouraged to submit our manuscript by trying to establish a relationship in person with the editor/s or attaching a proper letter to the draft manuscript. Keeping in mind that this may be the first steps towards a life-long relationship, well sort of. Submission rules may differ: whether online or hardcopies might be required, books can be sent for review to more than one editorial board, journals usually only to one. Expect 2 weeks for the internal assessment and 3-8 weeks for external reviews. The author will be notified of the outcome, so brace yourself to be accepted, rejected or for the review/revise/resubmit cycle. The max period should be no longer than 12 weeks for revision, then the above repeats and the final decision to publish hopefully is going to reward you for all the hard work. Don’t be shy when it comes to following up, as Lisa McLaughlin, Editor of Feminist Media Studies pointed out: the tiny number of people working under volunteer conditions in some of the journals and the large number of submissions are behind the max time spans which can be expected: 12 months for revision, 18 months for publishing.

Now, that is certainly a nightmare for anyone researching new media, online social networks and the blogosphere…clearly, we had some discussion about this issue and tried to shed some light on the ways new media should be harnessed in the publishing industry, however, much more is to be discussed yet. Not at least because the seismic paradigm shift may entail a power shift.

The following individual academics provided discussed in panels as well as in small groups with delegates and this was an invaluable experience. I am most grateful Daniel Cunliffe‘s generous support and patient answering of all my many questions. He is Associate Editor of the New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia. Elizabeth Buchanan, Associate Professor at Center For Information Policy Research in Milwaukee and Brian Loader, co-director of the Social Informatics Research Unit (SIRU) at the University of York, were remarkable in their critical views. Issues such as cultural differences, personal attitudes, the standard of assessment as well as differences among disciplines were at the centre of debate. A discussion of the ethics and politics of reviewing constructively and in a reflexive manner made me help to understand the wider infrastructure and gain an idea of what is possibly going to expect me in the not so far future. Certainly, I will try to see a reviewer’s comments from a much more holistic perspective and keep in mind that publishing and editing is of dialogical nature and are meant to strengthen the paper under scrutiny.

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