AOIR 2004 impression

AOIR 2004: Ubiquity? University of Sussex, 19-22 September 2004.
AOIR 2004 turned out to be conference where a lot of the speakers didn’t show up and the intenet access was below average, actually did turn out to be a pretty good place to exchange research ideas. For me, the first day of the AOIR 2004 conference (Monday September 19, 2004) was all about ‘Inter/National Systems’.

The panel I attended in the afternoon featured two speakers, both presenting site specific case studies on Bulgaria and Poland. In the latter lecture, Municipal Websites in Poland: prospects for more participation of citizens in political communication?, Anna Przybylska elaborated on the civic activism in Poland.
She did this by studying local websites and their use. She came up with some quite stunning figures, like the fact that only 2% of the population gets information on local issues from the Internet. Oral news distribution takes up to 40- 72%! More and more, people meet each other and debate with each other & local authorities on Internet forums.

In her lecture titled The Internet in Central and Eastern Europe, Maria Bakardjieva (University of Calgary, Faculty of Communication & Culture) focused on the domestic Internet usage in Bulgaria. In Bulgaria, only 7.2% of the population has home Internet access. She used an ethnographic approach to the evolution of the Internet as a communication medium in the societies of Central and Eastern Europe. “By appropriation, people add features to the medium”. Therefore, she stated, a different Internet is formed with every culture. Since Internet access is still outrageously overpriced, people tend to share their subscriptions by literally splitting their access and draw cables between their houses. Apparently, some neighborhoods in Sofia have pure cable spider-webs draw in the air between the houses.
By placing free content on the server (software, films, music, etc, illegally of course), Internet Clubs (the local Internet providers) persuade people to subscribe to their LAN-services. These LANs are inaccessible from outside of Bulgaria. Bakardjieva calls this the ‘bootlegging tactics of LANs.

Tuesday’s BLOGS-sessions were very interesting, let me just highlight a couple of the presentations:
Lena Karlsson, “It’s a book club of sorts except it’s an online journal club”
Lena Karlsson researched the how and why of Bloggers, focusing on four major Chinese/American websites. The questioned blog authors were very supportive, linking to her research site. She collected a total of 923 completed surveys, with questions like: If you have decided to lurk, why is that? If you have decided to become an active participator, why is that?
The researched online journals were:,,,
Most of the users were women in the age of mid 20s-30s. Most readers are lurkers (non-writers), it’s apparently deemed to be the author’s site, there’s always a threshold to post.
Reasons to lurk:
• Feeling insecure about what to say / how it is perceived;
• Just like to read
• Don’t know the author
Reasons to participate actively are yet to be researched. The topic seems to be crucial in how to position yourself as a reader. And if you don’t have a weblog of your own, you’re likely to be more hesitant to post.

Carolyn R. Miller & Dawn Miller, The ubiquity of the Blog: a genre analysis.
North Carolina State University
Miller & Miller wanted to find out why the blog is so compelling? Their first hunch: the intersection of public & private. The notion of genre may help to explain… Blogging is a rhetorical phenomenon, ‘fittingness’ (in the decorum) is a social construction. Genres are profoundly ideological, they allow for innovation.

They recognized the following contemporary cultural moment (kairos):
• Mediated voyeurism (Calvert 2000) widely dispersed but relentless celebrity;
• Unsettled boundaries between public and private;
• New technology disseminates these challenges.
Miller & Miller regard blogging as a social action, supporting both self-expression (self–clarification and self-validation), and community development (relationship development and social control).

And finally the overall flaws of the conference: People’s no show & no Wifi!
I can’t write about AOIR 2004 without mentioning this, sorry! Of course the inaccessibility of the (Wifi) network for conference delegates, gave everybody (but especially the Bloggers) a very hard time. More problematic however was that a lot of the speakers did not show up, and were still mentioned in the program. Is this some sort of conference fraud, a new criminal trend where people sign up for conferences just to get on the printed program? Of course it looks nice on your resume, and who will ever check if you were actually there? Geert (Lovink) even suggested making a black list of secret conference drop-outs!

Find more on the conference:
Blogging at AOIR 2004
AOIR 2004 Topic Exchange