October 16, 2008

A Taste of Internet Research 9 in Copenhagen

by Nick Montfort · , 6:42 am

I arrived at ITU-Copenhagen just in time for the first keynote of the ninth AoIR (Association of Internet Research) conference – my first AoIR.

Mimi Ito has been studying and speaking about mobile media recently, but the topic she took up at AoIR in her keynote was youth participation in networked publics. Drawing on more than 4,000 questionnaires and more than 5,000 hours of observation, she and her team put together a deep and broad ethnographic study. The work was motivated, in part, by a “munging” together of personal, amateur, professional, and mass production of media. Instead of ranking skills and access, Ito identifies genres of participation: friendship-driven and interest-driven. (The interest-driven communities include, for instance, those devoted to fansubbing, adding subtitles to anime, or making AMVs, anime music videos.) The work overturns some assumptions about teen socializing online and about cultural production by non-professionals. The full report and discussion of it, coming in November, is sure to provide a nuanced look at how youth and the Internet connect. For more information: http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu

I heard Celia Pearce’s talk on the Uru diaspora, and on how the removal of Uru crated the concept of “homeland” for players of that MMO, who adopted a voluntary ethnicity and then went to other games, bringing elements of Uru culture with them. Luca Rossi spoke about guilds in MMOs, and specifically WoW. He discussed issues they have defining themselves and their memberships, and how they deal with conflicts – for instance, by using guildkick. Mia Consalvo presented joint work with Timothy Dodd Alley, Nathan Dutton, Matthew Falk, Todd Harper, Adam Yulish, and Howard Fisher: A reply to Ian Bogost’s Unit Operations in which they developed a new “unit” that are also expresses through procedural rhetoric, one called “hard work is rewarded” which is often portrayed through montage and is related to Scott Rettberg’s observations on the corporate ideology of WoW.

I won’t try to reiterate the entire program full of titles, or even the one column (of ten concurrent sessions) representing the talks I’m managing to hear. But there’s a hint of what this AoIR, or at least the beginning of the gaming track, is like. I present tomorrow at 9am; my talk will be “And the Ports have Names for the Sea: Reimagining games for the Atari VCS.”