Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Emerging Themes

So here I am, we are in the last paper session before the wrap-up and I'm still trying to come up with some thoughts about emerging themes. Hampered a bit by the fact that rather than reading the proceedings yesterday after dinner, instead I stayed late at the dinner talking to David Krebs and enjoying the warm evening. But here are some things I notice keep coming up:

  • collective memory
  • failure of offline/online and real/virtual distinctions
  • persistent lack of quanititative data
  • most differences among users seem to have disappeared, except for age, and among the FLOSS community, still huge gender differences.

Data collection is especially tough because companies don't give away the data, and user surveys have all kinds of limitations. It seems the best way for a number of platforms is to design an application users would like to add for somereason that also collects data on them for the researcher.

Distinctions --all agree we need finer distinctions, but little agreement on what they should be, especially when ontological issues start coming in, or questions of whether or how online actions are carried into offline life. (to reiterate that stupid distinction!)

Collective memory is quite interesting because it's so overtly influenced by the platform being used and in what way things are archived or not. So for example, messages can be reviewed later, but battled can't (unless they were deliberately filmed.)

Disappearing distinctions --I was quite encouraged to hear from several speakers that use of technology seems more equal now except for age, and even around age, the issue is not so much using tech or not, but the manner of use. However, the gender issue in FLOSS communities is troubling because even though those communities are small, they represent an important measure of participation in creation. If women continue absent, then the tech developments will remain slanted toward what interests and works well for men, and the cycle continues.

Pausing now to hear a talk about blogging and identity.

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