Theorizing the Web 2011 was held on April 9th 2011 at the University of Maryland’s Art-Socy building. It far exceeded our expectations in every way. We received over 100 abstract submissions of which were able to accept 53%. We were joined by Internet research experts from around the world, including presenters who traveled from Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Europe. The conference pushed the capacity limits of the venue with over 230 official registrants and easily 250 people in attendance throughout the day. Events ran from registration at 8 AM and ended with an afterparty that wound down around 11 PM. The program was packed with as many as five concurrent panels in early sessions. The plenary sessions by George Ritzer and Saskia Sassen as well as danah boyd‘s keynote drew audiences of over 150 people.
Sessions covered a wide range of topics pertaining to the social web, including the politics of infrastructure; the role of social media in contemporary social uprisings; the reproduction of race, class, gender, sexuality, and their intersections in a digital milieu; the co-determinacy of the online and offline world (i.e., “augmented reality”) and the dangers of viewing them in isolation; the performance of the self through one’s online Profile and the increasing need to accept the cyborg subject as sociology’s proper unit of analysis; the Internet as more post-Modern than the original objects of analysis under consideration by the post-Modern theorists; the new economies of the Web and the limits of traditional (e.g., Marxian, neo-liberal) modes of thought; the reconfiguration of norms pertaining to privacy/publicity; the democratization of (formerly expert) knowledge via crowdsourcing (e.g., Wikipedia); and the capacity of art to capture/predict our changing relationship with technology.
The conference itself was “augmented” by widespread use of Twitter. In fact, the #TtW2011 hashtag has so far received 2,187 tweets (click here for more analysis). Derek Hansen, an assistant professor in the iSchool, made a visualization of the new connections made at the conference.
The event was heavily documented. Audio, video, images, and reviews are available on the Cyborgolgy blog. To emphasize the recursivity of the online and offline world, much of this content was projected during the conference. Additionally, the we featured two installations: one by Ned Drummond and one by Vicky Lai.
There was also an exciting pre-conference event hosted by the Irvine Contemporary gallery featuring a discussion of art in the Internet age.
I want to express my sincerest gratitude to my co-chair, Nathan Jurgenson (@nathanjurgenson), as well as to all the committee members: Tyler Crabb, who, as treasurer, did an incredible job wrangling funds from several different sources; Sarah Wanenchak (@dynamicsymmetry), our secretary and Jill-of-all-trades, who never failed to keep meeting notes interesting by slipping in a few references to the impending zombie apocalypse; Bill Yagatich (@praxis_in_space), who handled our publicity and tirelessly hassled the Diamondback for appropriate coverage; Dave Strohecker (@dpsFTW), who coordinated the food and the facilities while playing general to our small army of undergraduate volunteers; and Ned Drummond (@maneatingflower), who donated her professional design skills to attempt to satiate the committee’s endless appetite for new flyers, posters, letters, webpages, etc. I also want to thank Rob Wanenchak who took the amazing photos of the event that are on display here.
Discussions are already under way regarding the possibility of Theorizing the Web 2012. Stay tuned!