Life on the Move: Social Network Roundtable audio now up

Last week I attended the Association of Internet Researchers’ 9th annual conference, this time in Copenhagen Denmark. One of the things I did there was participate in a roundtable about social networking research called Life On the Move put together by Daniel Skog (Umeå University, Sweden) and Lewis Goodings (Loughborough University, UK). The other panelists included Malene Charlotte Larsen (Aalborg University, Denmark), Raquel Recuero (Catholic University of Pelotas, Brazil), Jan Schmidt (Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research, Germany) and Amanda Lenhart (Pew Project on the Internet and American Life, US).

We look at a diverse range of sites in different countries, including LunarStorm in Sweden, Brazilian use of Orkut, Danish youth on Arto.dk and more, as well as taking broad perspectives such as Amanda’s work with Pew that starts with users rather than sites. Despite this, we found ourselves agreeing on many many points, particularly the need to acknowledge that people move amongst many different sites both online and off (I was intrigued by Malene’s point that people spraypaint their Arto usernames on subway walls). The discussion with the many people in attendance was very high quality.

Thies Willem Böttcher was kind enough to record the session and an (85MB) mp3 is available here.

Many thanks to Daniel and Lewis for getting us together, and I hope those who were there found it helpful and that those who weren’t will enjoy the audio.

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Futures of Entertainment 3

I’m very happy to announce that I’ll be speaking at Futures of Entertainment 3, put together by the Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT:

Convergence culture has moved swiftly from buzzword to industry logic. The creation of transmedia storyworlds, understanding how to appeal to migratory audiences, and the production of digital extensions for traditional materials are becoming the bread and butter of working in the media. Futures of Entertainment 3 once again brings together key industry leaders who are shaping these new directions in our culture and academic scholars immersed in the investigation the social, cultural, political, economic, and technological implications of these changes in our media landscape.

This year’s conference will work to bring together the themes from last year – media spreadability, audiences and value, social media, distribution – with the consortium’s new projects in moving towards an increasingly global view of media convergence and flow. Topics for this year’s panels include global distribution systems and the challenges of moving content across borders, transmedia and world building, comics and commerce, social media and spreadability, and renewed discussion on how and why to measure audience value.

Confirmed speakers for this year’s conference include: Javier Grillo-Marxuach (The Middleman), Alex McDowell (Production Designer, The Watchmen), Kevin Slavin (Area/Code), Donald K Ranvaud (Buena Onda Films), Amber Case (Cyborg Anthropologist and Social Media Consultant), Mauricio Mota (New Content [Brazil]), Alisa Perren (George State University), Amanda Lotz (University of Michigan), Sharon Ross (Columbia College Chicago), Nancy Baym (University of Kansas), Alice Marwick (New York University), Vu Nguyen (VP of Business Development, crunchyroll.com) with more to come.

It’s going to be good, so if you’re in the neighborhood or looking for a good excuse to visit Boston or bone up on the latest in fandom’s key issues, be there!

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How Last.fm strengthens relationships and creates new ones

One of the big questions raised by social networking sites is what the heck those “friendships” really are. In this paper, written with my former Ph.D. student and now Ohio University professor Andrew Ledbetter, we examine this in the case of Last.fm. Based on a large survey of users, we pose the question of what predicts how strong or well developed Last.fm friendships are.

The short answer is that the best predictor is not shared taste in music (which has no effect on relational development), but how many different ways people communicate with one another. For each medium added, people’s relationships are a little closer. This means that sites like Last.fm can provide pairs with an additional way to maintain and strengthen their relationship that goes over and beyond what they get through email, instant messaging, phone calls and other means of interaction.

On the other hand, the “friendships” that begin via Last.fm don’t go very far, even if shared taste was important to the relationship’s initiation.

Overall, the “friendships” on Last.fm are pretty weak. The notion that shared taste makes people “musical soulmates” makes for good mythology, it seems, but not strong interpersonal connections.

You can download and read the paper here. For reasons I don’t understand, the tables did not get included in this PDF. If you really want to see them, email me.

If you’re in Copenhagen this week for Internet Research 9.0, drop on by and hear this presented live in person.

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Fan Labor: Exploitation or Empowerment?

Hi there. Remember me? Ok, so I’ve been an epic blogging fail lately. But there’s a good reason! I’ve been writing full length things. Like the 2 papers I’m about to share here.

This coming week I’ll be in Copenhagen presenting at the Association of Internet Researchers’ ninth annual conference (Internet Research 9.0). I’m giving two papers, one about Swedish indie fans online and one about friending on Last.fm.

Here is the paper about Swedish indie fans. My collaborator Robert Burnett and I interviewed a number of mp3 bloggers, archivists, indie label guys and musicians. In this, we demonstrate the importance of the (unpaid) work fans do in spreading this music beyond the border of Sweden, making it a globally accessible and appreciated commodity, and we pose the question of whether this is exploitation or empowerment.

There is a critique of Web 2.0 that argues it is based on free labor done by users from which others profit. We argue that this critique has some merit, but undervalues the rewards fans get from doing this kind of work. We identify the costs fan laborers pay and the rewards they receive. In the end, the tension between empowerment and exploitation is one that each fan laborer has to manage on his or her own. We identify three strategies through which they do this: distancing themselves from the scene as outsiders, viewing themselves as peers of those they ‘work’ for, and viewing their work as an investment in a future career.

You can download the paper here.

Come back next week for the Last.fm paper.

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