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This post originally appeared on Cyborgology – read and comment on the post here.

 This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). See the conference website for information as well as event registration.

Experiencing global events through social media has become increasingly common. For those in the West, the uprisings over the past few years in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere were especially striking because social media filled an information void created by the lack of traditional journalists to cover the dramatic events. By simply following a hashtag on Twitter, we tuned into those on the scene, shouting messages of revolution, hope, despair, carnage, persistence, misinformation, debate, sadness, terror, shock, togetherness; text and photos bring us seemingly closer to the events themselves.

But of course the Twitter medium is not neutral. It has shaped what we see and what we do not. Where is the truth in all of this? The intersection of knowledge, power, struggle and the radically new and transformative power of social media begs for intense theorizing. How we conceptualize, understand, define and talk about this new reality lays the path forward to better utilizing social media for journalistic and political purposes.

This is why the keynote for Theorizing the Web 2012 conference (College Park, MD, April 14th) features Andy Carvin (NPR News) and Zeynep Tufekci (UNC) in conversation. Carvin (@acarvin) has become well known for his innovative use of Twitter as a journalistic tool. Tufekci (@techsoc) has emerged as one of the strongest academic voices on social movements and social media and brings a theoretical lens to help us understand this new reality. Together, insights will be made that have impact beyond just journalism but to all researchers of technology as well as those outside of academic circles.

Who is Andy Carvin; and What Do We Call Him?

Without a deep background in professional journalism, Carvin’s actual title at NPR is “Senior Strategist.” However, Read More »

I want to reflect on Theorizing the Web 2011 by asking for a discussion about what academic conferences should look like. In fact, let’s forget the term “conference” for a moment and ask how thinkers should best organize to discuss intellectual work in public?

Theorizing the Web 2011 was PJ Rey and I’s first attempt at tackling this question [read PJ’s review of the event here]. We started this blog to provide a public forum for ideas and the conference was intended to do the same. Many reviews of the event have emerged (some posted on this blog over the past ten days). What has surprised me most is the degree to which the conference itself has been a main topic of discussion. And while we are very proud that the reviews have been so overwhelmingly positive about our view of an academic event, we understand that this is also a result of the failing of traditional venues for the intellectual exchange of ideas. Academic conferences are too often suffered through and individual sessions often poorly attended. Media outlets tend to ignore anything that smells too much like intellectualism, a term itself that has come to be viewed pejoratively because, at least in part, intellectuals have so poorly communicated ideas to the public. As graduate students, we know we needed to create a world that is better prepared to communicate the critical theories so important to understand our changing realities.

And the result on April 9th went well above our expectations.

We attempted to bring in art, multi-media, interdisciplinarity, and even non-disciplinarity to this event. Registration was pay-what-you-want. The event began with beers in an alley and finished with a loud band. We tried lots of things and will try much more if we do this again next year [we want to].The art was fun, and us organizers can take credit for that. Read More »