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Revisiting Produsage

After the “Compromised Data” symposium in Toronto I’ve made my way over to Europe, where my first stop is a PhD symposium in Copenhagen where I’ve been invited to present an update on my work on produsage. Here, I’ve revisited the fundamental concept of produsage and made the link to my current work on the uses of social media, especially in a journalistic context. Slides and audio below:

When Wikipedians Go Wrong

The final day at AoIR 2013 starts for me with a panel on conflict, controversy and aggression in online spaces in which Theresa Sauter and I also have a paper - but the first presenter is Heather Ford, whose focus is on Wikipedia. She has been involved with Wikipedia for some time, and has seen a substantial level of conflict (leading to article deletions and user bannings) during that time. Her paper here focusses on the specific case of a Wikipedian being stalked and banned.

Being a Wikipedian means being part of a peer-production community, which Benkler and Nissenbaum have claimed fosters virtue. But more recent research has exposed some of the darker sides of Wikipedia - as experienced especially to newcomers to the community. Entering the now-mature project at a late stage is difficult, and many contributions from newbie users are reverted by established participants; this has been seen as contribution to Wikipedia's decline and the slow-down of new user sign-ups.

The Emergent Rules of Games Spectatorship

The next speaker at this AoIR 2013 panel is T.L. Taylor, focussing here on spectatorship in gaming. The mix of playing and watching has always been central to gaming as a social activity, but game studies has always privileged the hands on the controller; spectatorship has traditionally also relied on physical co-presence (e.g. at gaming championships).

But now there are sites like Twitch, which enable gamers to make their private play public as a livestream, and even to make money in doing so, as a spinoff from The site currently has some 600 unique broadcasters per month, with some 45 million viewers per month and around 1.5 hours of play watched per day (hope I have those stats right). On Twitch, viewers can choose by game title, player, or channel, and players can trigger occasional commercial breaks in order to generate revenue.

The Emancipatory Potential of Tech Activism

The final speaker in this first AoIR 2013 plenary is Christina Dunbar-Hester, whose focus is on activist technical projects - such as micropower radio stations or community wifi networks. The activists describe such activities with the Amish term of barnraising, highlighting the community empowerment and self-sufficiency aspects of such initiatives. The hope is to demystify technology and generate political engagement through further hands-on knowledge sharing.

There is a big difference in this in how technical expertise is seen as empowering (through sharing) rather than disempowering (through the emergence of knowledge elites). But there remains a strong white middle-class basis to this - such sharing continues to speak largely to a male white addressee, and the involvement of women or minorities in these initiatives remains rare.

Radical Refusal as Couchsurfing Goes Commercial

The final speaker at this AoIR 2012 session is Zeena Feldman, whose focus is on the Couchsurfing Website. She begins by suggesting that the Net has always been a space of competing discourses, a hybrid space, and the same is true for social media as well. Social media have been seen as technologies of resistance as well as of repression, and the case of Couchsurfing illustrates this.

New Presentations and Publications on Twitter and Blog Research

Time for another quick news roundup. Following on from the ANZDMC 2012 conference in Brisbane, where Jean Burgess and I presented our research into the use of Twitter during the 2010/11 Christchurch earthquakes, there were another few follow-up presentations of our research on social media and crisis communication.

First, I flew down to Melbourne to run a workshop on social media and disaster resilience together with Chris Fisher from the Queensland state Department for Community Safety, as part of the Disaster Resilient Communities conference. I’ve now published my two presentations from the workshop (slides + audio); they’re both online here.

Understanding Patterns of Online Discussion

The next speaker at DHA2012 is Sora Park, whose interest is in the processes of online discussion participation, initially especially in the context of the 100 days of political protest in South Korea in 2008. Different online discussion platforms have different affordances, of course – some will list only the most recent or most popular (or most recently popular) posts, for example, thus directing users’ attention towards specific contributions.


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