Upcoming talks and workshops

Next week I’m heading off for an intense month of research travel to the UK, Germany, and Brazil. Here’s the list of presentations, conferences and workshops I’m involved in.

First up is the YouTube conference at Middlesex University, where I’m doing the opening keynote:

YouTube’s Platform Biography

The contemporary media environment is in part shaped by a relatively small number of proprietary platforms, several of which are the lead characters in stock narratives about the journey from scrappy Web 2.0 startup to media megacorp – and YouTube is a paradigmatic example. In this presentation, I outline the challenges of empirically studying these platforms – these new media institutions – especially as they change over time. I illustrate the problem by revisiting my early empirical work on the popular cultural forms and practices that were emerging via the platform as it was in 2007; and the practical impossibility of repeating the exercise now. I then propose a solution to this problem of studying change over time: the Platform Biography approach. Building on this model, I revisit the story of YouTube’s evolution from informal videosharing service to major media player. I argue that the competing uses and ideologies that have structured YouTube from the beginning provide a compelling narrative of change, and an explanatory framework for both YouTube’s cultural generativity and the ongoing challenges that it faces – as a business, a digital media platform, and a cultural institution.

I’m stopping by Oxford on the27th and 28th, to catch up with all my wonderful colleagues at the Oxford Internet Institute. Meetings, but no talks!

On 29th September, I’m stopping by the University of Sheffield to deliver the Digital Society Network annual lecture:

Doing digital media research over time and across platforms: Lessons from studies of YouTube, Twitter and games culture

Contemporary digital media and communication scholars use methods that both critically interrogate the digital media technologies or platforms that mediate cultural participation and public communication and are grounded in the digital traces that such activities leave behind. Because of this dual focus on sociotechnical critique and digital methods, the sociocultural aspects and technologies of both media and methods have significantly and productively transformed each other. But there remain significant challenges, not least among which are the difficulties of studying public communication and cultural participation across platforms and the challenges of engaging with the ways that ephemeral and proprietary digital media platforms change over time. In this talk, Professor Jean Burgess discusses these challenges and illustrates them through three recent and ongoing projects.

First, Jean provides a narrative of YouTube’s transformation from relatively underdetermined video-sharing service to major, multilevel media platform. In doing so, she reflects on her early empirical study of YouTube’s most popular videos and the impossibility of repeating it now. Second, Jean outlines the ‘platform biography’ approach (jointly developed with Nancy Baym) as a way to study platforms as they change over time. In this case Jean tells the story of Twitter’s oldest key features: the @reply, the #hashtag, and the Retweet, showing how they act as mediators between multiple media ideologies, individual human desires, and business logics, as they co-evolve throughout the history of the platform. Third, Jean draws on a recent case study of the controversy around an episode of Law and Order: SVU around violence in videogame culture to demonstrate the necessity and challenges of tracking public controversies across digital media platforms, especially in the context of ‘born digital’ controversies bound up with the cultural politics of the internet itself.

It’s off to Berlin that evening, to gear up for the Association of Internet Research Conference (program here) where I’m doing a whole lot of things:

  • A full-day pre-conference called Digital Methods in Internet Research: A Sampling Menu jointly organised by QUT Digital Media Research Centre and the University of Amsterdam’s Digital Methods Initiative. Last I looked there were 88 people signed up for this! I’ll be presenting with Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez on our Multiplatform Issue Mapping work, based around the version we’ve delivered previously at our DMRC Digital Methods workshops and the Digital Methods Summer School.
  • A panel jointly organised with Nancy Baym called Platform Studies: The Rules of Engagement, featuring Anne Helmond and Taina Bucher, Nicholas John, Stuart Cunningham and David Craig, as well as our own paper “@RT#: Towards a platform Biography of Twitter”. It’s based on work we’ve been doing together for a couple of years now, and which we’re turning into a monograph for NYU Press.
  • The Sharing Economy and Its Discontents – a panel featuring Mary Gray, Jack Qiu, Ben Light and others, including a DMRC paper on Uber’s discursive legitimation and social media traces of material participation in that process, by me, Nic Suzor, Patrik Wikstrom, and Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez.
  • A roundtable on Feminist Data Visualisation put together by Helen Kennedy and featuring such an all-star line-up of international speakers that it had to be split into two sessions (here’s the other one).

After that, Axel Bruns and I are off to Brazil for the second visit of our funded research exchange with colleagues a the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, or PUC-SP for short. The project focuses on the development of shared methodologies for researching networked political practices, and on this visit we’ll be crunching, visualising and analysing huge volumes of data relating to the local elections that are about to kick off there–and using this process to reflect on the challenges and next steps in truly cross-national political communication research based in social media data analysis.

Then, finally, home.

Emerging Methods for Digital Media Research: An Introduction

I’m very pleased to be able to announce that the methods-focused special issue of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media (JOBEM) edited with my CCI colleagues Axel Bruns and Larissa Hjorth is out now.

When the original Call for Papers went out we had an extraordinary response, and it was genuinely difficult to sort through so many great abstracts to get to a balanced set of papers, but I am totally happy with the results – this is a special issue that I think really is more than the sum of its parts, making a statement about the state of the art and the forward agenda for questions of methodology in our field. And I know that for sure I’ll be using these papers in my own work in the immediate future.

Thanks to the efforts of the journal’s general editor Zizi Papacharissi the full issue will be made open access later in 2013, but for now it’s behind a paywall. So with permission I’m reproducing the editors’ introduction here.

Bear in mind also that many of the authors work at universities with institutional repositories – it may be possible to access pre-print versions of the articles.

Emerging Methods for Digital Media Research?: An Introduction

Jean Burgess, Axel Bruns and Larissa Hjorth

Now as in earlier periods of acute change in the media environment, new disciplinary articulations are producing new methods for media and communication research. At the same time, established media and communication studies methods are being recombined, reconfigured and remediated alongside their objects of study. This special issue of JOBEM seeks to explore the conceptual, political and practical aspects of emerging methods for digital media research. It does so at the conjuncture of a number of important contemporary trends: the rise of a ‘third wave’ of the Digital Humanities and the ‘computational turn’ (Berry 2011), associated with natively digital objects as well as the methods for studying them; the apparently ubiquitous Big Data paradigm, with its various manifestations across academia, business and government, bringing with it a rapidly increasing interest in social media communication and online ‘behavior’ from the ‘hard’ sciences; along with the multisited, embodied and emplaced nature of everyday digital media practice.

The issue contains seven articles that advocate for, reflect upon or critique current methodological trends in digital media research. It ranges from a discussion of the emergence of a new wave of Digital Humanities (Neils Bruegger and Niels Ole Finneman), the potential for digital media research of emerging approaches like Media Archaeology (Frederick Lesage), the role of language in research (Randy Kluver, Heidi Campbell and Stephen Balfour), to the ways Big Data is impacting upon content analysis (Seth C. Lewis, Rodrigo Zamith, and Alfred Hermida), digital media methods (Merja Mahrt and Michael Scharkow) and the large-scale policy research potential of community media archives (Nicole Matthews and Naomi Sunderland).

The special issue begins with Randy Kluver, Heidi Campbell and Stephen Balfour’s ‘Language and the Boundaries of Research’ which argues that ‘data-driven research’ has failed to engage with its increasingly internationalized context, especially in terms of its Anglophonic or Western-centric focus. As Kluver et al. rightly identify, the field remains focused upon Western media as a placeholder for ‘global media’. Here we are reminded of the importance of understanding Digital Media in context. While Big Data can often abstract the cultural, social and linguistic nuances of digital media practice, there is a growing pool of researchers exploring interdisciplinary methods such as ‘ethno-mining’ that use ethnography to critique Big Data (Anderson et al. 2009) and situate digital media as part of the complex dynamics of everyday life (Coleman 2010). In their review article ‘The Value of Big Data in Digital Media Research’, Merja Mahrt and Michael Scharkow provide a critical survey of methodological approaches to media communication and how the field is being reconfigured in an age of Big Data. In particular, Mahrt and Scharkow focus upon the consequences of using Big Data at different stages of research process, in dialogue with the traditions underpinning manual quantitative and qualitative approaches. For Seth C. Lewis, Rodrigo Zamith, and Alfred Hermida in ‘Content Analysis in an Era of Big Data: A Hybrid Approach to Computational and Manual Methods’, by blending computational and manual methods one can gain insight into content. Drawing on a case study of Twitter, Lewis et al. argue that a hybrid method of computational and manual techniques can provide both systematic rigor and contextual sensitivity.

This is followed by Anne Galloway’s ‘Emergent Media Technologies, Speculation, Expectation and Human/nonhuman Relations’ in which Galloway draws on her background as one of the earliest researchers to study ubiquitous computing to discuss the role of sociology in situating emergent media technologies as part of a cultural process involving a range of human and nonhuman actors. Here Galloway focuses upon the often-overlooked aspect of anticipation and expectation in the process of media practice and the production of imaginaries for and of the future. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour, Galloway concludes with some thought-provoking questions for relationships between Digital Media methods and design.

For Neils Bruegger and Niels Ole Finneman in ‘The Web and Digital Humanities: Theoretical and Methodological Concerns’ there is a need for the Digital Humanities to understand the complex social, temporal and spatial dimensions of the web. Using the case study of the real-time and archived web (as a dynamic depiction, not simply a copy of what was once online) to illustrate their point, Bruegger and Finneman argue that currently the Digital Humanities is limited in its ability to capture the moving architecture of digital media. Complimenting this discussion by picking up on some aspects of the related field of software studies as well as cultural analytics and media archaeology, in ‘Cultural Biographies and Excavations of Media: Context and Process’, Frederick Lesage argues for a ‘cultural biography’ approach to the study of software as media objects – as ‘things’.

Nicole Matthews & Naomi Sunderland’s ‘Digital Life Story Narratives as Data for Policy Makers and Practitioners: Thinking Through Methodologies for Large-scale Multimedia Qualitative Datasets’ explores the role of community-based digital media narratives (e.g. via digital storytelling projects) in ‘amplifying marginalized voices in the public domain’. It is clear from Matthews and Sunderland’s piece that despite the large numbers of these projects and hence the depth of research potential in the stories they have produced, the effective deployment of this potential in social policy remains a missed articulation with political, ethical and methodological dimensions.

Anderson, K., Rafus, D., Rattenbury, T., and R. Aipperspach (2009). ‘Numbers Have Qualities Too: Experiences with Ethno-Mining’, http://www2.berkeley.intel-research.net/~tlratten/public_usage_data/anderson_EPIC_2009.pdf
Berry, D. (2011). The Computational Turn: Thinking About the Digital Humanities. Culture Machine, 12. Retrieved from http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/440/470
Coleman, G. (2010). Ethnographic Approaches to Digital Media. Annual Review of Anthropology, 39: 487–505.


1. Randy Kluver, Heidi Campbell and Stephen Balfour, Language and the Boundaries of Research: Media Monitoring Technologies in International Media Research

2. Merja Mahrt and Michael Scharkow, The Value of Big Data in Digital Media Research

3. Seth C. Lewis, Rodrigo Zamith, and Alfred Hermida, Content Analysis in an Era of Big Data: A Hybrid Approach to Computational and Manual Methods

4. Anne Galloway, Emergent Media Technologies, Speculation, Expectation and Human/Nonhuman Relations

5. Neils Bruegger and Niels Ole Finneman, The Web and Digital Humanities: Theoretical and Methodological Concerns

6. Frederick Lesage, Cultural Biographies and Excavations of Media: Context and Process

7. Nicole Matthews and Naomi Sunderland, Digital Life Story Narratives as Data for Policy Makers and Practitioners: Thinking Through Methodologies for Large-scale Multimedia Qualitative Datasets

My whereabouts, some recent media coverage

I’m writing this from Cambridge (MA, USA; not UK), where I’m a few days into my stint as a Visiting Researcher at Microsoft Research New England. I’m thrilled to be able to spend some quality time with the Social Media group here, including long-time colleagues like Kate Crawford (who has worked with us on our Crisis Communication projects), Nancy Baym, Mary Gray and danah boyd, without a doubt some of the smartest and most collegial social media researchers anywhere. It’s also a very interdisciplinary setting populated by some of the world’s leading computer scientists, mathematicians, and economists. I’m here until mid June, when I’ll return to QUT to continue on as Deputy Director of the CCI as well as taking on a new role as Director of Research Training Programs in the Creative Industries Faculty – so a big, bumper year ahead.

In the meantime, here are a couple of recent media interviews I did and that are still available online (for now).

The first was a live interview on ABC Radio National’s Life Matters program. The story was called Your ‘Posts for Profit’, and this is the ABC’s summary:

There are millions upon millions of Twitter posts every day, a vast source of information for businesses and marketers. Access to this massive stream of data is sold by Twitter to those that can afford to buy it. But should it also be available to non-profit organisations for research purposes, and what will be the ultimate cost if these types of organisations are shut off from the data stream?

Full recorded audio and transcript available at the Radio National website.

The second is a segment on this week’s Queensland edition of the ABC 7.30 report, taking a look at the 2013 Queensland Floods, and how both community and government uses of social media in such situations have changed over the past few years. The video is available here (as I say, for now).

screen grab from 7.30 report interview

Cross-posted to the Mapping Online Publics blog.

CCI Winter School (or ‘summer school’ for northerners) – apply now!

In my new role as Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation (CCI for short), I’m excited to be leading the team that’s organising our most ambitious PhD and Early Career Researcher activity to date – the CCI Winter School, to be held in balmy Brisbane in late June this year. It’s a selective but free event (you or your institution only need to cover your travel), involving a fairly small group of promising PhD students and early career researchers from around the world. Applications close on 31 January 7 February – don’t miss out!

CCI’s 2012 Winter School (coinciding with summer in the northern hemisphere) offers selected doctoral students and early career researchers a week-long program of interdisciplinary study, collaboration and social interaction in the broad area of creative industries and innovation research, drawing on the Centre’s expertise in media, cultural and communication studies, economics, education, policy and law, in relation to the creative economy.

We welcome applications from emerging scholars working on related topics including, but not limited to:

  • Cultural, media and creative industries policy
  • Digital society
  • Community arts and media
  • New business models in the creative economy
  • Innovation studies
  • Economics of the creative industries
  • The creative industries in Asia
  • Transmedia
  • Internet studies
  • Copyright and intellectual property
  • The challenges of ‘big data’
  • Creative careers and creative labour

Participants will work with leading researchers, engage in intensive workshop activities and receive direct feedback and individual mentoring on their own work. Social activities will provide additional opportunities for participants to get to know each other and form collaborative relationships that will last for years to come.

For all the info, lists of mentors, an indicative program and the online application form, visit the CCI Winter School website.

Transforming Audiences Keynote

[crossposted at the Mapping Online Publics blog.]

On the 1st and 2nd of September I was in London at the third Transforming Audiences conference, hosted by CAMRI at the University of Westminster. I was one of four keynote presenters – alongside Nancy Baym, Patricia Lange, and Adriana de Souza e Silva. I had a great time, and I’m very grateful to David Gauntlett and the other conference organisers for inviting me. The keynotes were all video-recorded, and I’ll post the video of mine here once it becomes available. In the meantime, here are my abstract and a copy of the slides (mostly pictures, as is my practice when giving these kinds of talks).

From ‘Broadcast Yourself’ to ‘Follow Your Interests’: Social media five years on

When YouTube started to become popular in 2006, it had little functionality beyond the uploading and sharing of videos, and the invocation to ‘broadcast yourself’. Around the same time, Twitter first invited users to share everyday updates with friends and colleagues in response to the simple question ‘What are you doing?’. In 2011, YouTube is a central player in the contemporary media ecology, extending well beyond amateur videosharing; and Twitter plays an increasingly central role in the origination and dissemination of real-time news, largely as a result of social, cultural and technological innovations originally introduced by the user community. At the same time, the ongoing commercial evolution of these and other ‘social media’ platforms has gradually repositioned us – as ‘users’ – in new ways. In this presentation I trace some common trajectories across several social media platforms, and discuss their consequences for the future of participatory culture.

Travel Gazette 1: Ankara & Istanbul

I’m still near to the beginning of a five-week research trip through Europe – I get home at just about the end of October. I’m going to do a series of gazettey blog posts, both as an aide-memoire and a way of sharing my trip given the patchiness of internet connectivity that goes hand in hand with travel (and hence the inability to tweet incessantly!).

So, John Hartley and I spent most of last week in Turkey at the very kind invitation of our colleague and PhD student Burcu Simsek, who is both a member of staff at Hacettepe University in Ankara, and a CCI doctoral candidate. Thanks to Burcu we had an excellent tour of both of Hacettepe’s campuses, as well as all the must-see tourist stuff: museums, the older bazaar streets, and plenty of excellent food.

The main purpose of the trip for John and me was to do one keynote presentation each, as well as a joint panel on Digital Storytelling, at Bilism 2010, a big national IT conference. My presentation on YouTube discussed the ways we might use YouTube’s 5 year history and its competing futures to think about current controversies concerning the future of the Internet more broadly – tensions between various nationally-specific ideologies of ‘openness’, in tension with equally different norms of ‘control’ was what I tried to boil it down to. Of course giving a paper on the popular uses of YouTube in a country where it is currently blocked by official legislation was slightly surreal, but given the number of people who were already familiar with Charlie Bit my Finger and Susan Boyle, (and how easy it is to bypass the block), I think it went OK.

John, Burcu and I also presented a joint panel on Digital Storytelling, which Burcu has introduced to Turkey via a very productive partnership between Hacettepe University and the womens’ organisation Amargi. The digital storytelling workshops she has run so far are also the primary fieldwork component of Burcu’s PhD on digital storytelling and womens’ participation in the Turkish public sphere. In fact the panel was kind of the first public launch of digital storytelling in the Turkish context, so it was pretty exciting to be part of that.

At the end of the conference all three of us flew to Istanbul for the most intensive day of touristing I have ever experienced, including among many other things 2 hours of awe and wonderment at the Hagia Sofia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (video below), and the Sultan’s Palace.

After all that (and of course more food), we survived what has to be the world’s best example of Extreme Shopping: the Grand Bazaar; and finally, a brief dip into Istanbul’s extremely lively nightlife, finishing up with a gig (part of the Akbank Jazz Festival) at Babylon, a pretty important insitution in the local music industry, with its own magazine, record label, and so on.

Next up: Urbino, where I’m writing this!

OII Summer Doctoral Programme to be held in Brisbane in 2009

Back in 2004, along with my good friend and colleague Marcus Foth, I was a participant in the second annual Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Program. It was one of the most intellectually stimulating experiences of my PhD candidature, and the friendships established there have remained both socially and academically rewarding ever since. It was also really fun, so I felt quite nostalgic when I went back for a visit back in October.

Given I know how valuable the SDP Programme is to those who are fortunate enough to participate in it, I’m very pleased to be able to announce that the next one will be held in Brisbane at QUT next year.

From the official website:

We are delighted to announce that the seventh OII Summer Doctoral Programme (SDP) will be conducted and organised by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) in partnership with the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, Australia from 6-17 July, 2009.

The thematic focus this year will be on ‘Creativity, Innovation and the Internet’.

The aim of the programme is to bring together advanced doctoral students engaged in dissertation research on diverse aspects of creativity and innovation relating to the Internet and other ICTs. By sharing their work and learning from leading academics in the field, students can enhance the quality and significance of their thesis research and create a peer network of excellent early-stage researchers.

We welcome applications from advanced doctoral students in any discipline whose work in the field of Internet research engages with the overall themes of creativity and innovation.

Specific topics will include, but are not limited to:

  • Methodological innovation and multidisciplinarity
  • Innovative uses of ICTs in developing contexts
  • Practice-led and performance-based Internet research
  • The economics of creativity and innovation
  • Community and industry partnerships
  • User-led innovation and user-generated content
  • Citizen journalism and community media
  • Mobile, locative and urban media
  • Digital literacy and pedagogical innovation
  • Regulatory barriers to creativity and innovation
  • Copyright and its alternatives
  • Innovation policy

As well as drawing on the OII’s faculty and research interests, the 2009 SDP will reflect the research interests of the nationally-funded ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation (which is where I work) and the QUT Institute for Creative Industries & Innovation (iCi).

This collaboration has been in the works for some time, and I’m really looking forward to it.

And yes, technically it will be winter here, but let’s not give anyone the impression that the weather will be anything other than gloriously sunny. I should also mention that the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association conference, themed ‘Communication, Creativity and Global Citizenship’ will also be taking place in Brisbane at almost the same time, so it’s going to be a good place to be.

More information and the application form at the OII website.

Talkings (updated)

Following the Association of Internet Researchers conference in Copenhagen later this week (which I’m very excited about!), I’ll be spending a few days in the UK and I’m giving a couple of talks there.

The first is at City University, where the CCI has established a ‘node’. QUT colleague John Banks and I will be kicking off their Creative Industries Policy and Research seminar series with a two-handed presentation based on our recent work on YouTube and the games industry respectively:

Navigating Expertise

Across the new media landscape, both the pessimists and the optimists recognise a blurring of the professional-amateur divide, and the increasingly interdependent relationships between ‘producers’ – whether of media ‘content’, experiences, or new technologies – and users. Among the most frequently discussed examples of online co-creation are the Wikipedia (a significant site of collective knowledge production), YouTube (where the production and consumption of broadcast, user-created and remixed video content converge within a more or less ‘flat’ common architecture), and Massively Multiplayer Online Games (where gamers are collectively undertaking work that was formerly undertaken only by professional designers and developers). Beyond the specificities of these examples, the shifts that they represent have broader implications for the way we understand knowledge, innovation and agency.

This seminar explores the ways that knowledge and value is produced, contested and mobilised in new media contexts, working through two case studies (the games industry and the YouTube community). Banks and Burgess consider how the ‘problem’ of expertise is playing out in each case.

Date: Wednesday 22 October
Time: 15.00-16.00
Room: AG03
RSVP to lucy.montgomery@qut.edu.au

Following that I’m heading back up to the Oxford Internet Institute not only to indulge in some nostalgia for the Summer Doctoral Program, but also to give a talk about the study of YouTube Joshua Green and I completed earlier this year:

Making Sense of YouTube

Monday 20 October 2008 16:30 – 17:30 Tuesday 21 October 2008 16:30 – 17:30

Location: Oxford Internet Institute, 1 St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3JS. This event is open to the public. If you would like to attend please email your name and affiliation, if any, to: events@oii.ox.ac.uk

This presentation reports on a recent study of YouTube that relied principally on a survey of 4300 of the most ‘popular’ videos, which were categorised according to criteria derived from media and cultural studies approaches to the analysis of media genres and practices.

The analysis produced new knowledge about the extent of particular uses of the platform (such as vlogging, political commentary, or the ‘distribution’ of broadcast content); and the relationship between different modes of ‘audience’ engagement (commenting, responding, rating) and particular content genres.

The presentation builds on the findings of the study to discuss the co-existing and competing uses that are actually being made of YouTube – by the media industries, by audiences and amateur producers, and by particular communities of interest; as well as to consider the way that these practices challenge existing understandings of cultural ‘production’ and ‘consumption’, and their implications for the uncertain and competing futures of participatory culture online.

Also, the book out of that study, YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture, is now finally going into production at Polity Press (woo!), and should be out early next year. More very soon (including groovy cover art)…

Creating Value Conference: Keynote addresses now available online

From 25th – 27th June 2008, our research centre, the CCi, held its International Conference – Creating Value: Between Commerce and Commons. You can now watch video footage from two of the keynote addresses made over the course of the conference, from Baroness Susan Greenfield (‘Creating Creative Brains’) and Professor Henry Jenkins (‘What Happened Before YouTube?’).

Go here to view the videos.

ICA Montreal: Quick Wrap-Up

A couple of days ago I got back from the International Communication Association conference in Montreal. I loved the city instantly, and the week I spent there was very productive — although similarly to Jon Gray’s experience, the most productive and inspiring moments occurred in between everything else — chats in the foyers in between sessions, and even more so over lunches, dinners, and drinks with colleagues. It was the first ‘mega’ conference I’d ever been to — normally I tend to go to smaller, interdisciplinary ones, rather than huge multidisciplinary ones. I think I now understand the world of academia described so cynically by David Lodge, but my experience left me far from cynical.

I was there primarily to present with Josh on our empirical YouTube research — the content survey that forms the middle chapter of our book YouTube: Online Video and the Politics of Participatory Culture, which is forthcoming from Polity later in the year (bonus moment of excitement: seeing it in the Polity 2008 catalogue!). It was the first time we had presented our findings together in a really comprehensive way, and although we had ‘seen’ each other on video chat almost daily while writing the book, it was actually the first time we had been in the same country since we started the project. We’ll be presenting on the study again at the CCI Conference at the end of June, by the way.

Our panel was called Engaging With YouTube: Methodologies, Practices, Publics, and it was designed to bring together a group of people doing empirical work that deals with the problem of how to approach YouTube as a research object (or research problem), rather than as a convenient source of examples.

Our fellow presenters included Greg Elmer, Fenwick McKelvey and Brady Curlew, the dynamic team from the Infoscape Research Lab at Ryerson University, who were discussing their work on the uses of YouTube in relation to Canadian electoral politics, making use of a range of methodological approaches and tools, including hyperlink analysis and content analysis. Also, Ashlee Humphreys demonstrated some unconventional ways of thinking through the relations between ‘consumers’ and ‘celebrities’ in the YouTube attention economy, drawing on ethnographic (‘netnographic’, actually) data, and using the innovative models that she and Rob Kozinets have developed.

Finally, we were especially privileged to be presenting alongside Patricia Lange, whose 2 year ethnography with the YouTube community has produced a number of important insights into the ways in which YouTube operates as a social networking site for certain participants; and the rich mundanity of the communicative practices that take place there. Most importantly, her work insistently reminds us of the need to fully consider the lived experience and materiality of everyday cultural practice–which is very important, because discussions of the media in everyday life still tend to the weightless. I’m really looking forward to the book that will eventually come out of this work. In the meantime, check out the AnthroVlog!

Overall, the panel turned out to be a well-balanced and highly energetic event, despite the fact that few of us knew each other beforehand. And most pleasingly, the discussion flowed on seamlessly into a number of simultaneous and highly animated conversations among the panellists as well as with fellow YouTube researchers from the audience, continuing on all the way down the street to the pub for celebratory drinks. I take that as a good sign of things to come, and I’m looking forward to continuing the conversations into some collaboration. Based on the number of projects we heard about that are underway, it’s clear that there is going to be a proliferation of research-based articles on YouTube coming out in print in the next 12 months.

My conference highlight would have to be the excellent party generously thrown by Jonathan Sterne. I have no idea how that many people fit into one apartment, but it was a fantastic night and the site of some really stimulating arguments and discussions [and Jonathan, I didn’t break anything!]. I’m looking forward to Jonathan’s visit to Australia next month, where we will attempt to return his hospitality, as well as getting down to doing some much-needed work on the importance and materiality of sound and listening practices in contemporary culture as part of the Technologies of Listening Workshop.

At Jonathan’s party, I finally managed to connect up with Will Straw, but not until after putting a number of very accommodating Canadians to work on a Straw-hunting mission. It was a very crowded party! Will was one of the external examiners for my Masters thesis, but we had never met before, so I was excited that we got to have a bit of a chat.

Oh, and there was some pretty spectacular dancing done. Not by me, obviously.