[Air-L] Reminder: Mastodon event at Warwick deadline approaching

nathaniel tkacz nathanieltkacz at gmail.com
Tue Apr 11 04:54:32 PDT 2023

Hello AoIRers,

The call for presentations for our Mastodon research event is closing on
the 14th of April. We hope to see you in person or online! Here are the
details once again:

Call for Presentations

Mastodon: Research Symposium and Tool Exploration Workshop

Date: 22nd and 23rd of June, 2023

Place: University of Warwick, UK + online (hybrid event, GMT time)

Submission deadline: 14th of April, 2023 (Register hereLink opens in a new

Although established in 2016, Mastodon grew rapidly in the second half of
2022. From an estimated 500,000 monthly active users (MAUs) it reached an
apparent peak of 2.5 million MAUs in December 2022 before settling back to
a reported 1.4 million as of late January 2023. The rise of Mastodon cannot
be separated from the tragi-spectacle of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, and
this raises new questions about the relationship between social media
platforms and their alternatives. How should we understand the significance
of Mastodon, both as an alternative to Twitter and in its own right?

We know Mastodon has long appealed to users invested in the infrastructural
politics of open-source and federated architectures. But less is known
about Mastodon’s forms of sociality and how its infrastructural
characteristics shape this sociality. Can Mastodon sociality scale without
the viral dynamics of algorithmic feeds? Should we even evaluate Mastodon
based on its potential for growth on the scale of the commercial platforms?
Are its new users simply on a Twitter sabbatical? How has the influx of
users altered the dynamics of Mastodon?

Mastodon users are spared from the advertising-derived attention economy,
but ads are relatively low down on the scale of undesirable interactions on
social media. How is Mastodon handling racism, trolling, and content
moderation? Is there a specificity to the violence and abuse experienced on
Mastodon as compared to its commercial counterparts? Mastodon introduces a
novel level of social media governance, the instance, whose structures of
authority can take various forms, from mini-chiefdoms to more deliberative
collectives. What do we know about how different Mastodon instances handle
governance and the exercise of their ‘instance-power’? Conversely, which
tactics have malicious users developed to circumvent moderation or
blocking? If platform politics emerges through the unique affordance of a
platform, what might we expect from the federated architecture of Mastodon?
Finally, Mastodon’s architecture presents new challenges and opportunities
for digital research. What kinds of research do the existing tools (such as
the R package “rtoot”) enable and what other tools and software might we
want to develop? Could Mastodon be used to explore more conscientious ways
of doing API-style research, and platform-community research in general?
This event seeks to take the pulse of current Mastodon research. It will
involve a one-day symposium featuring research presentations and a plenary
address by alternative social media researcher, *Robert Gehl*. This will be
followed by a one-day tool exploration workshop exploring the RToot package
and other research tools. The symposium will be a hybrid event based at the
University of Warwick. The tool exploration will be in-person only. If you
would like to participate in this event, please submit an application via
the following website by the 14th of April:

You will be asked for the following:

   - a 300-word presentation abstract
   - either a URL link to your research profile or a 150-word biography
   - an indication of attendance mode (in-person or online)
   - an indication of whether you wish to participate in the tool workshop
   (in-person only)

Possible topics might include:

   - Mastodon governance
   - Mastodon feature analysis or interface criticism
   - Cultural studies of Mastodon
   - Black Mastodon
   - Mastodon sociality and/or community dynamics
   - Platform migration
   - Mastodon and Twitter relations
   - Mastodon apps
   - Instance politics
   - Cross instance research
   - Methods and tools for studying Mastodon
   - Novel use cases of Mastodon instances

If you have any questions, please get in touch with

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