AOIR Report

I am very glad I went to Association of Internet Researchers Conference Internet Convergences and presented there because I got to meet the people behind many blogs I read, find out about some neat cross-media research going on and got information about my own research out there. In fact, I’m very excited about a few contacts and possible future ventures that came out of the experience. For now though, I’ll share with you some of the talks I attended. I’ll start with the cross-media papers first:

Cross-Media Research

Anja Bechmann Petersen presented her talk ‘Internet and Cross Media Productions: Case Studies in Two Major Danish Media Organizations’. Petersen spoke about her research into the cross media production processes for two services: coverage of a premier league soccer match by Nordjyske Medier and a weekly youth entertainment production called SPAM by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. Petersen analyses ‘cross media communication’ (a term first introduced by Monique de Haas) according to two perspectives: what she terms the outward and inner. The outward pespective involves movement towards the users, like storytelling and cross-promotion. The inner perspective is the movement within an organization, which includes strategies for having departments work together. Although it was no surprise that Petersen’s study found the companies undertook versioning (or repurposing) of the content in each platform, the study did uncover the company strategy behind that versioning. They did it to increase their audiences (reach) and take advantage of targeting those audinces in advertising. They did not want the audience to move between platforms and so did not use any strategies (like providing unique content) to facilitate that. Petersen’s sophisticated writing style and rigorous methodology provides a valuable addition to cross media research. Luckily for you, the paper is available freely on the web at the Australian Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society [pdf].

Oscar Westlund from the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at Gothenburg University, Sweden, gave his talk ‘Beyond time and Space: the Use of Internet and Mobile Internet Services in Sweden’. Westlund researches attitudes towards news in print, online and mobile phones and shared his studies on the latter in his talk. Besides giving a helpful overview of the state of mobile phone use in Sweden he told us some interesting things about use of the news on different platforms. For instance: white collar 15-29 year olds are the early adopters of news on mobile phones; most news is read on the Net; people read newspapers in the morning, then the Net during the day and mobiles whilst out and about. I look forward to sharing more research with Oscar about content and mobile phones.

Dr Rebecca Coyle, Course Coordinator for the Media Studies program at Southern Cross University, Australia, presented her talk ‘Online Listeners: Radio Convergence and Internet Options’. Coyle provided a thorough analysis of radio and podcasting. She compared the qualities of talk back, radio and podcasts. One thing she mentioned which I was surprised about was a radio station that has started doing a video podcast: 2GB. Radio with pictures! Looking at their website it appears they have three video podcasts: Macquarie National News; Continuous Call Team – Exclusive Look and Rugby League Player Interviews. It is clear here that the radio station is becoming its own TV broadcaster of sorts, which is very interesting. [Note too: jtv in Australia also does ‘vodcasts’ with videos of radio interviews.]

Professor Alexis Weedon, the Director of the Research Institute in Media, Art and Design, University of Luton, UK, presented her talk ‘Convergent Behaviours in Bookshop Browsing’. She gave a great talk about how people browse for books both in stores and online. Weedon draws on alot of theorists I employ and is actually researching cross media, including its historical background. I was very excited to meet her and look forward to having more discussions about cross-media with her in the future.

Professor Arne Krokan, from the Institute of Sociology and Political Science in Norway, presented his talk ‘Blurring the Borders: Effects of Convergence in the Scandinavian Media Sector’. This talk provided an excellent overview of cross media concerns. For instance, Krokan outlined the driving forces behind convergence: globalization, deregulation, derritorialization, digital economy, chaging user behaviours, new technologies and convergent technologies.

Ted Coopman from the Department of Comunication, University of Washington, presented his talk ‘Dumping Dichotomies: Embracing the Pervasive Communication Environment’. He presented a PCE model that addresses the issue of the range of platforms and how they can be used. It was uncannily like my Mono-Polymorphism model but with one specific difference. This difference helped me to reconceptualise my theories. I realised after much brain crunching that I need to unpack my theories again and give each element a unique model rather than have them all represented with a single one. One day next year you’ll see what I’m talking about! But this thought process also opened me up to a great find in a bookstore: Keith Critchlow’s ‘Order in Space’. I bought this and am now revising my visualisations on my theories too. Yummy.

And I should mention myself. I presented my talk ‘How the Internet is the Center of Conjured Universes’ — the only talk that deals with the aesthetics of cross-media. I spoke about the techniques used by ARG players to aggregate real time game information with Guides and Trails; how fans conduct what I call Anachrony Audits (reordering texts into the order of events occur in the fictional World); and the tactics ARG players use to decipher official and unofficial production. I was asked to submit the paper to a journal and so I won’t be putting it online until then.

Other Research

There were lots of other talks that I found fascinating and well presented. Of note was Adrian Miles‘ talk which was straight after mine. he spoke about the affordances of vlogs and how people need to start working with the current state of technology rather than complain and wait for improvements. His and my approaches complimented each other. Kevin interviewed him about his talk and it is now online hereKevin Lim presented his rigorous system for measuring social capital in his talk ‘Building Social Captial for Online Youths: A Singapore Case Study’. Lim also took lots of pics and did video interviews at AOIR so check out his website. Lim and I had some really good chats and I look forward to continuing contact with him. Darren Sharp, from Queensland Univeristy of Technology, Australia, presented his talk on ‘Hacking the ‘Internet of Things’ which was a great discussion about ubiquitous computing (ubicomp). He provided a lucid overview of approaches in the area.

John Banks presented his talk ‘Reconfiguring Project Ecologies in the Video Games Industry’. Banks spoke about his experience working in industry with Auran (off which you’ll find a few papers online) and his role as a community liaison. Auran actively encouraged fan-produced content, paid the fans and put the content into the software. Banks noted that the fans complained of labour exploitation when Auran did not act or do things to their liking. Otherwise they were quite eager to share their content.

I’ve seen the same situation with Second Life and I think the biggest cultural shift has been the attitude of subscribers of worlds like second Life. Subscribers do not view themselves as paying to access Linden’s software or world but see Linden as being paid by them to keep it going. Linden is in service to the residents. So, Linden sees SL as their property and the residents see it as theirs. Personally, because Linden have created a world in which the content is created by the residents and not Linden i do see them as being in service to us.

Banks also went on to talk about the employment of “popular” by academics. He cited Meaghan Morris’ 1988 ‘The Banality of Cultural Studies’ and questioned the habit of researching things that are popular. Banks finds it worrying when academics and industry use the same terms.

I found Banks’ comments refreshingly frank. I have struggled with the idea of using the same terminology for industry and academia. At first this is what I tried to do but found that it just cannot work that way (in most cases). Terms in academia are there to communicate very specific information whereas terms in industry are there to communicate a general idea. Indeed, I realised that the more terms the better as each one is representative of a whole set of ideas, a unique perspective. To have less terms is to impede diversity and complexity and thwart original thought.

Another point related to this notion of the “popular” is the propencity for listing sites and services. After being very dissappointed with industry talks that are just an overview of sites and services with no guidance or interpretation I was surprised to see this in academia as well…especially at a gathering of Internet researchers. We don’t need a listing of cool new things on the Net because we already know about them and a careless listing is something ANYONE can do. Academics should be providing analysis and likewise, industry should be providing guidance. Rant over.

I also enjoyed spending time with, chatting with and meeting Tama Leaver, Nancy Baym, Jason Nelson, Elaine Lally, Sal Humphries and Paul Teusner. I missed Adam Muir’s talk on Internet Ecologies but he has thankfully put it online. I was also very inspired by the philosophy talks.

Those who read my previous post will know, I wasn’t able to go over to Amsterdam to Picnic 06 for the launch on the IGDA ARG SIG Whitepaper. ARGN has a good write-up of it.

As a last personal note, I had a great time catching up with mates whilst away and making new ones. I also developed my theories further which I’m keen to get down to writing up. I also loved seeing new sites, new insects, cats and cultural habits. One sign that I saw repeatedly in Queensland that I found particularly hilarious was this:

“Bags without people don’t make sense”

It is post-terrorism response in Australia where good citizens are encouraged to report packages and baggages left in streets or trains. Poor bags.

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