[Air-L] Mastodon Research CFP, June 2023

nathaniel tkacz nathanieltkacz at gmail.com
Wed Mar 15 12:04:56 PDT 2023

*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)

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?

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 featuring RToot developers David
Schoch and Chung-hong Chan. 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 midnight (anywhere) on 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 n[dot]tkacz[at]warwick[

Thanks for your consideration,

Nate Tkacz, Carlos Cámara-Menoyo and Fangzhou Zhang

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