[Air-L] Let's Talk About AoIR
a.powell at lse.ac.uk
Sat Jun 1 01:50:40 PDT 2013
It's my turn, apparently. I've been really enjoying this discussion, not
least because some of my favorite thinking-people have been
contributing, and I don't get to see those people IRL as much any more.
My first EVER academic conference was AoIR in Toronto. I was a MASTER'S
student and I felt completely out of my league. But people were really,
really nice and good to me. Not just nice as in "remembering my name",
but nice as in, "providing constructive criticism and treating me like a
colleague". To me, that was the key difference between AoIR and other
conferences - the collegiality. That collegiality also extended to the
list, and to the interactions I had with AoIR folks outside of conferences.
I haven't been able to make it to an AoIR conference in a couple of
years, but I participated remotely in Terri's Kissing Booth in 2011 and
last year I attempted to virtually "crash" the last AoIR banquet using
Twitter. The lovely people who were so nice to me in 2003 perhaps
appreciated that too; as a Master's student I didn't have enough money
to go to the banquet and AoIR let me go anyway. Then they sat me with
real live professors who I had hilarious conversations with.
Ten years is a long time. It's enough time for edgy grad students to
finish their studies and struggle through postdocs and finally find
jobs, and it's enough time for technologies too to become
institutionalized. The thing that was still "emerging" and "hybrid" and
strange and weird and exciting (at least to academics) in 2003 is now
the main infrastructure of commerce, government information, and vast
parts of our everyday social interaction.
This means that many more people want to study it, and makes conference
organizing much more work because the conference has to negotiate with
the broader institutionalization of 1. the phenomenon and 2. the
scholarship of the phenomenon. That's hard to do, especially if you want
to leave room for creative and edgy stuff, as well as leaving room to be
really nice to people who are just getting their ideas and careers
I'm in favour of retaining the "big tent" approach in conferences, on
the list and in other venues. I think it represents what's best and most
interesting about AoIR - the collegiality and open-mindedness. There are
now dozens of other entities that are trying to get a piece of internet
studies. I've been to the Web Science conferences. I'm now apparently
part of a network of experts on Internet Science (!! My reflexive STS
scholar-self finds this hilarious !!).
These places are not doing what AoIR has been doing, although they are
also contributing to attempts to make Internet Studies into a
recognizable field. I'm not sure that's exactly what's required. We all
know that the Internet is not one thing, and even if it were, it
wouldn't stay that way. AoIR has been a place to be thoughtful about the
messiness of this process, from a variety of perspectives. We still need
to have places to explore the margins of technology/society
interactions, even when there's pressure to form and defend a single centre.
I'm sorry I won't see you in Denver. It's too far for this time. But if
I have even the slightest opportunity, you'll find me squatting the
Twitter feed, IM-ing in questions for the keynote speakers, or generally
trying to be as productively disruptive as possible - on the internet.
Dr Alison Powell
Lecturer in Media and Communication
London School of Economics
Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE
a.powell at lse.ac.uk
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