Theorizing the Web

Hundreds of smart, stylish and intelligent people met in Brooklyn for two days in April. But this wasn’t just a hipster meetup in Williamsburg it was the venue for the refreshingly interesting Theorizing the Web conference.

Conference in New York

Setting the conference in a studio was a fun idea. The space was made up of large, mostly white, rooms and were a fun backdrop for the creative lineup of speakers all exploring the many exciting things the web have brought our society.

With three parallel sessions going on at all times and a very active twitter back channel the experience is exciting and intense. And unfortunately this also leaves the visitor with the experience that there was so much happening elsewhere. The good news is that everyone gains their own personal conference experience.

Some of the highlights of my conference were @the_log_lady on the poetics of image search, @OddLetters brilliant analysis of the gay girl in Damascus, @AnneLBurns on disciplining the duckface, @mathuclair provoking thoughts on neoliberalism and digital technology, and @hegemonyrules on assholes on reddit.

Now that I look through the program I realize how much I missed and how much more I would have loved to see. The joy of the conference however is the chance to participate, present (I spoke about the impact of e-books on culture) and to talk to smart people with a burning interest for the was in which the web is changing our lives.

Thankfully the sessions were both livestreamed and recorded and can still be accessed here.

Sun, Sand and GikII VIII

It’s GikII time.

When robots, drones, autonomous agents, Facebook stalking, teleportation, 3D printing, MMORPGS, science fiction, computer games and superhero justice are discussed within the realms of the law and LOL cats, you know the time for the annual GikII workshop has arrived! Yes it’s time for GikII VIII – and a time to immerse ourselves in debates about cutting-edge technology, popular culture and the law.

This year GikII will be “in sunny, golden-sandy Southern city of Bournemouth with its sparkling sea and almost California-like-but-not-quite atmosphere. It will be held on 16-17 September 2013”

All the info you need is over here.

Bileta 2013 Call for papers

I have a soft spot for the Bileta conference. It’s one of the earliest technology law conferences I began to attend and many of the people I met at the early conference are still colleagues. Bileta is the British and Irish law education and technology association and this years conference will be held between 10th – 12th April 2013 at the Liverpool Law School, University of Liverpool.

The extended call is here:

Important Dates

January 18, 2013: Submission of abstracts and panels (subject to double blind review).  February 1, 2013: Notification of acceptances.
March 15, 2013: Full Papers (between 7,000 and 10,000 words, excluding footnotes).

IR13: notes from a conference

This is part conference report and part therapy. For the inadequacy of the former I give you my apologies, for the erratic gushing of the latter I offer none.

I cannot really blog the explosion of experience that is the Internet Research conference. It’s a gathering of the creative intelligentsia of my tribe. You cannot swing a cat without hitting someone attempting to debunk, reinterpret, explore, tease out, affect or simply study an amazing little feature that is technology and life. Some of these are pointed out by the newbies in a hushed tone using the honorific “the”, as in isn’t that The so-and-so. But this quickly changes and the fans are seamlessly made into friends and friends form this tribe and shape this conference.

Code is the invisible omission of the gathering. It’s always there but seldom mentioned, and sometimes, I fear, a bit misunderstood. But Susanna Paasonen captured the true nature of worlds created by codes: In a world of code, gaps and omissions can become knots of anxiety. Pure poetry.

It’s not a code conference. Mary L Gray put it well, she no longer wants to do toaster studies. When we become so immersed in technology then technology itself should not be the focus. Studying another toaster will not achieve much. It’s a people conference with a core of intelligent strong women. Usually I don’t care about the gender of a panel but when a conference begins with a panel of female power researchers – you notice.

The scholarship is first class – expect nothing less! But what sets IR apart is the passion of the delivery. Passion was set by the first speakers and absolutely lifted to a next level when Terri Senft gave her talk. Picture it: we were in a darkened theatre, she spoke without slides, capturing the audience by segments until she had us all. You could have heard a pin drop! Or to be more clear: we were mesmerized and stopped twittering bon mots and pithy phrases. Thank you Terri you made my conference with that passion and by demanding we shift attention from meaning to mattering.

The idea of IR is to capture the elusive meaning of technology this also was set forth in the beginning when in reply to a question about listening to users experiences with technologies replied: Sometimes a boring-ass story about a phone isn’t really about a phone.

From this the all too brief days become an intense mix of ideas, conversations, papers, discussion, disagreements, arguments and support. And it has a twitter channel that equals to a presidential debate (well, in tweets per capita). You may have guessed by now its about the conversation. Anybody can create a conference where we present papers – creating a forum for discussion is differnet. In many conferences the words “I disagree” are usually hidden underneath another phrase but here if you have the ideas you push them: titles, publication lists and other academic merits be damned – here they talk.

This is where a true conference blog becomes pointless. This crowd has history reflected in memes and traditions – some more obscure than others. There is Senft’s hair, Zizi’s hats and, of course, the sing star (or Kylie’s passion). Where there is culture there is counterculture (what else could the short lived Kruse Klang hair appreciation society be?)

Highlights for me were – and of course I will miss many:

Tim Hutchings mix of religion and technology “of course there is an app for that” and understanding surviellance through scripture. Hey Zuck! God was the original source of radical transparency! Lorie Kendall’s look at personal archiving and geneologi basically turned serveral concepts upside down – the family is not about togetherness but a legitimacy for the individual. Joseph Regal’s infocide: the fascinating study of people in open content movements who decide to leave their online life sometimes removing all traces sometimes removing just themselves.

Activism turned out to be a major theme. Most of these academics are, or present like, activists but the tracks that contain activism and activism studies also shows that internet is a crucial infrastructure for social movements. We knew this but the studies show how, who, why and concerns about the future.

The best new term I learned came from an audience comment: asphal: the Indonesian term for a thing that isn’t authentic but works anyway. Imagine this as a part of a piracy, plagiarism or trademark discourse?

The social events are social. Meeting new people and old friends. Looking for real ale in Manchester with the Culture & Communications people from Drexell was a highlight.

This rambling will stop here. This is my second time at IR and I highly recommend it to all who are interested in Internet Research.

Beating the crowds: A pre-emptive study of Teleportation Law

With a few days margin I finally got around to submitting my abstract for this years GikII which will be in London. The title is “Beating the crowds: A pre-emptive study of Teleportation Law”. This is among the coolest conferences as the people are smart and funny – and tend to explore the stranger sides of technology law.

The deadline is  August 13th 2012 – so there is still time for you to submit.

Here is my abstract:

Great strides are being made in the field of instantaneous transportation. Only recently (2006), physicists in Denmark and Germany passed gas over a distance of several hundred centimeters. Despite this great leap, scientists are still struggling with the concept of human teleportation.

To the cultural historian, however, the concept of teleportation (the shifting, usually instantaneously, of matter from one point to another without physically passing through the territory between the points) is well established. Teleportation appears in a plethora of sources: from the founding legend of the Kingdom of Champa to Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen and in almost every episode of Star Trek.

This lack of progress among physicists creates a window of opportunity for jurists to ensure that the necessary legal fundamentals are laid out in preparation for the scientific realization. This will ensure that, at least in this area, jurisprudence is not caught in the steel trap of Wendell Holmes’ pessimistic dictum of the law being inevitably behind the times.

In order to ensure that only the (current) laws of physics are broken it is necessary to look at teleportation from the several perspectives. The goal of this paper is to prepare an initial study over the necessary areas of law needed to successfully carry out human teleportation. It will, inter alia, look at criminal law, intellectual property, illegal downloading, privacy, protection of personhood, human rights, medical law and immigration issues.

With this paper the author hopes to demonstrate the ways in which technological breakthroughs require a reappraisal of existing legal attitudes and a revaluation of their underlying norms.

GikII 2012 Call for papers

My favorite conference is GikII. it wins in weirdness of topic, depth of research and thoroughly nicely people. The call for papers for this year is out now: Check it out here. This is technology & law taken to the edge!

It’s harder than it used to be to write a Call for Papers for GikII, the so-cool-it-hurts blue skies workshop for papers exploring the interstices between law, technology and popular culture. Back in the day,  you could dazzle the noobs just by mentioning past glories like the first paper on Facebook and privacy, Harry Potter and the Surveillance of Doom, regulation of autonomous agents according to the Roman law of slavery, edible technologies and copyright in Dalek knitting patterns. But nowadays we live in a world where we routinely encounter unmanned surveillance drones used to deliver tacos, in commercial asteroid mining with Richard Branson, 3d printers used to create human organs and the fact that Jeremy Hunt still has a job. Still, if any of these or the other many phenomena of the digital age in desperate need of legal attention are digging a tunnel out of your brain, then send us an abstract for the 7th Gikii workshop!  Maybe this year it will be your paper which contributes the seminal GikII meme following in the honoured footsteps of LOLcats, flying penises, and knitted Daleks.

Why I love #fscons

For an academic, conferences are a way of life. At their best they are crossroads and meeting places between academics working either on the same topic or with the same method or theory. In the worst case they are an event where you meet the same people, talk about the same things and re-draw familiar battle lines. Don’t get me wrong even these “worst case” scenarios conferences are still valuable as they are all about meeting people.

But then there is FSCONS.

Once a year for five years my own workplace is transformed into the conference for free software and free culture. The participants are not their because they have papers to present but because they have ideas they want to spread. The audience are not there because they are working on developing their position in an academic hierarchy, but because they believe in the importance of the fundamental premise of the conference.

This is not to say that this is all about preaching to the converted. The audience is very dedicated, and knowledgeable about their topics. Take for example the first talks in the first session:
Karsten Gerloff “The Water in Which We Swim: Policy issues around Free Software”
Jeremiah Foster “Embedded Free Software/Open Source in your car”
Fredrik Gladhorn “Accessibility for Qt and KDE”
Daniel Berntsson “Bitcoin: Decentralised Currency”

And the whole conference continues in this way. The hard hackers meet and mingle with the digital rights activists.

In addition to this it’s all about the people. The relaxed social event to this evening was filled with a breadth of discussions. We had comparisons between 1984 & Brave New World, the cult of leadership & superstar CEOs, penicillin and yoghurt, hardware hacking & aduino, the role of royalty in free culture NCOs… Everywhere you turn their is a passionate group arguing intently on everything from the gender of Jabba the Hut & Admiral Akbar to the purpose, meaning and ability of democracy.

In a moment of strangeness a discussion turned to walls: their meaning, construction, definition and more importantly how to differentiate between walls and wall-like structures. Everyone had opinions and the light-hearted discussion continued for longer than such a question normally would or could last.

When I next checked on twitter I had been challenged to hold a lightening talk entitled: What is a wall?

How could anyone not love FSCONS?

Soon time for FSCONS 2011

It’s soon time for my favorite annual Free Culture event. This time, it’s the 5th FSCONS conference will be between 11th and 13th of November. As usual it is held in Gothenburg, Sweden.

FSCONS is the Nordic countries’ largest gathering for free culture, free software and a free society. The conference is organised yearly with 250-300 participants primarily from northern Europe. The main organiser is the Society for Free Culture and Software.

This years keynote speakers will be Richard Stallman & Christina Haralanova.

This year’s track are Building Together — Manufacturing Solidarity, Development for Embedded Systems, Development in Free Software Communities, Free Desktop Environments, Free Software in Politics, Human Rights and Digital Freedoms, Social Events, The Future of Money, Universal Design — Aiming for Accessibility.

Since I am not a coder I am especially looking forward to attending Book scanning, proofreading, and advanced reuse & Bitcoin: decentralised currency & Policy issues around Free Software & Privacy or welfare – pick one: Cryptocurrencies, taxation, and the legibility of culture & WikiLeaks, Whistleblowing and the Mainstream Audience & Internet and Civil Rights In LATAM & many more. Not to mention the great discussions and beer drinking nights.

Oh, and I will be giving the presentation Off the grid: Is anonymity possible?

Registration here.

Information Science and Social Media

TGIF! It’s not that this week has been heavier than usual but it is nice to have the weekend to unwind and … well let’s be honest work on a paper that’s due soon. Sad but true.

The good news is that next week its time for ISSOME (Information Science and Social Media) in Turku, Finland. Check out the program. The papers look really good:

– Behavioural Traces and Indirect User-to-User Mediation in the Participatory Library / Lennart Björneborn

– How to study social media practises in converging library spaces. Making the case for deploying co-presence ethnography in studies of 2.0-libraries / Hanna Carlsson

– Implications of the Web 2.0 Technologies for Public Libraries intending to Facilitate Alternative Public Discourse / Leif Kajberg

– Geo-encoding of local services and information: / Samppa Rohkimainen

– The use of social media technologies in the work practices of information professionals / Sally Burford

– Examining the use of Internet and social media among men at military conscription age / Heidi Enwald, Noora Hirvonen and Tim Luoto

– To Inform or to Interact, that is the question: The role of Freedom of Information in Social Media Policies / Mathias Klang and Jan Nolin

– Designing Games for Testing Information Behavior Theories / J. Tuomas Harviainen

– Critical about clustering of tags: An intersectional perspective on folksonomies / Isto Huvila and Kristin Johannesson

– The creation of a personal space on the Internet: self presentation and self-disclosure in blogging / Jenny Bronstein

– On social media and document theory: an exploratory and conceptual study / Olle Sköld

– Linguistic and Cultural Differences in Content Management – Indexing and titling in multilingual and multicultural blogosphere / Susanna Nykyri

– Writing for Wikipedia as a learning task in the school’s information literacy instruction / Eero Sormunen, Leeni Lehtio and Jannica Heinström

– The Use of Weblogs and Microblogs in LIS Online Courses: A Case Study / Lu Xiao and Diane Neal

– Teaching social media in LIS: a bridging approach / Monica Lassi and Hanna Maurin Söderholm

– A Community-based Learning Approach towards Training Librarian 2.0 / Lu Xiao

– Author disambiguation for enhanced science-2.0 services / Jeffrey Demaine

– A Comparison of Different User-Similarity Measures as Basis for Research and Scientific Cooperation / Tamara Heck

– WikiLeaks Comments: A Qualitative Investigation / Noa Aharony

Looking for Love in All the Right Places: Defining Success in the World of Online Dating / Christopher Mascaro, Rachel Magee and Sean Goggins

Anyone know what to do in Turku? Anything that shouldn’t be missed?

Great idea: Nordic Techpolitics

Thanks to the hard work of people like Bente Kalsnes the first Nordic Techpolitics conference will be held in Oslo on Friday 2 September. The event

…is a must-attend conference for everyone interested in how technology is changing politics, government and societies in the Nordic countries.


Technological changes affect every aspects of society, and institutions and policy makers are struggling to catch up with the latest tools and possibilities. This conference will explore how we can use technology to improve politics and governance, increase participation and create smarter solutions in everyday life. We will also peek into some of the dark sides of how technology is changing society for worse.

Expect to learn about how transparency, innovation and collaboration are the driving forces for change in modern societies.

Check out the schedule here.