I have now attended two of the conferences arranged by the Association of Internet Researchers, and both have been great fun and inspiring. I will attempt to pick out some of the more coherent and comprehensible notes I took during the IR9 conference at ITU in October 2008:
Mimi Ito gave a keynote talk about “Hanging out, messing around and geeking out: Youth participation in networked publics” – presenting her own research and other findings from the Digital Youth Project at Berkeley. Her main point was that youth participate in networked publics through many different genres of participation, dependent on the situation, and focused on two general genres: The friendship-driven participation, which reproduces existing social relations and relates to the dominant mode of “hanging out”, and the interest-driven participation, which has gotten more attention from researchers, maybe because we see fans’ and other interest groups’ activities as pointing towards the possibilities of creativity and amateur production afforded by new media. Ito had looked especially at “fan-subbing” – anime fans in non-Japanese speaking environments doing their own translations of works. In this type of interest-driven networks, the recognition in the community for their own work is the highest form of validation participants look for. Ito concluded that it’s important to recognize the diversity in genres of youth participation online, and that in the peer-based learning, participation and reputation building, what constitutes a “peer” changes due to a different structure of validation in the online environment.
I attended a session on fan communities, and especially found Natasha Whiteman‘s presentation interesting. She has done research on online media fandom, and has structured her study of Angel and Silent Hill fan communities around events occuring in relation to the product, especially crisis events such as the Angel, the tv show, getting cancelled. The fans’ reactions to these events afforded an opportunity to study how community and identity are negotiated on the fan forums, and what structures and self-regulations the community imposes on “being a fan”. While also observing ethnographically in these fan communities, Whiteman conducted text analysis of forum postings as a primary method. This approach is close to what I am planning to do in my own PhD research, so I am curious about other research of this type. In this session, Trevor Harvey presented his work on online communities around music composition, especially the online music community iCompositions. It was new to get a look inside a creative online community of amateur music-making that I did not know of, and Harvey’s research on the sociomusical construction of community and place was also interesting to me, as he looked at how narratives of place reaffirm cultural values that operate within that shared space (referring to the work of anthropologist Michael Jackson, I think).
There was of course also quite a few sessions on games and game culture. I will post some notes on those in part II, coming later 🙂