This is not a typical blog post.  It has far too many words–many of which are jargony– no images, and formal citations where readers would expect/prefer hyperlinks. Rather, this is a literature review. A dry recapitulation of the often formulaic work of established scholars, forged by two low-on-the-totem-pole bloggers with the hope of acceptance into the scholarly realm through professionally recognized channels–in this case, the American Sociological Association annual meetings. Nathan Jurgenson (@nathanjurgenson) and I are working to further theorize context collapse. To do so, however, we need to fully understand how the concept is being and has been used. Below we offer such an account, and ask readers to point out anything we’ve missed or perhaps misrepresented.  In short, we hope to share our labors, and invite readers to tell us how we can do better.

Recognizing that this is an atypically time/energy intensive blog reading experience,  I offer you, the reader,  a joyous and theoretically relevant moment with George Costanza before the onslaught of text: 

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The Twitter backchannel in action. Photo by Rob Wanenchak.

Last weekend, I had the double pleasure of presiding over an excellent panel on technology and protest, and having David Banks as my extremely capable Twitter backchannel moderator and Livestream assistant. Both the Twitter backchannel and the Livestream were getting their first serious run as an institutional part of Theorizing the Web, and despite some minor difficulties with mics and cameras, I think they were a clear success.

But the experience of presiding on a panel and then serving as the backchannel moderator for the panel immediately after delivered some interesting revelations regarding what these kinds of technology actually mean for how our conferences work, and for how we engage with and in our spaces of knowledge production.


TtW12 twitter backchannel
The TtW12 Twitter back channel. Photo by Rob Wanenchak

Theorizing the Web 2012 was great. Everyone involved did a bang-up job. I certainly learned more in a single day than I usually do at weekend-long establishment conferences. I have said a lot about conferences (here, here, and here) as have fellow cyborgologists (Sarah, Nathan, and PJ). All of these posts have a common thread: academia is changing, but conferences seem out of date in some way. They are needlessly insular, they rely on hefty attendance fees that are increasingly cost-prohibitive,  and they rarely take advantage of social media in any meaningful way. The relative obduracy of conference styles come into high relief once they are compared to the massive changes to institutional knowledge production. Universities have adopted many of the managerial practices of private companies. They are also acting more like profit-seeking enterprises: putting massive resources into patenting offices and business incubators, hiring less tenure-track teaching staff, and employing armies of professionalized managers that run everything from information technology services to athletic facilities. Conferences, on the other hand, have seen few innovations beyond what I call Tote Bag Praxis.  more...

On September 18th, 2011, Barry Wellman, the early and rather prescient scholar of the Internet, posed a somewhat tongue-in-cheek question to the Communication and Information Technology Section of the American Sociology Association (CITASA): “‘Critical’ – aren’t we all?”  This post was precipitated by a call for papers for special issue of tripleC entitled Marx is Back: The Importance of Marxist Theory and Research for Critical Communication Studies Today (no affiliation with the author).  Specifically, the call invited papers that address (my emphasis):

what it means to ask Marx’s questions in 21st century informational capitalism, how Marxian theory can be used for critically analyzing and transforming media and communication today, and what the implications of the revival of the interest in Marx are for the field of Media and Communication Studies.

Shortly after it was sent, Wellman responded to the call, saying:

Not meant personally, but the use of the word “critical” by a subset of scholars always bothers me as leading to unconscious smugness? If I’m “critical”, your lot isn’t? Who, except flacks and twerps, isn’t critical? Can we criticize the criticalists?

This sparked a debate over the utility and appropriateness of the phrase “critical theory.”  Critics of the phrase raise the following objections: more...

Most of the Cyborgology team is in Las Vegas for the 106th American Sociological Association meetings. Las Vegas is a city that might be defined by its integration of technology and consumerism. In this spirit, we are running a series of posts in the coming days about Las Vegas, the meeting, consumerism and whatever else we might learn on this trip.