AOIR 8.2.2

I sorta dropped the ball on conference blogging yesterday, as I got increasingly caught up in conferencing itself — but I’m going to attempt to catch up on the rest of the day:

The second panel I attended yesterday, just after lunch, was the one I moderated, entitled “youth and play.” I’m not sure that was the best mode of characterizing the collection of papers presented, three of which did have to do with youth, and a fourth of which did have overtly to do with play, after a fashion at least, but those categories aren’t really what tied the papers together. (The fifth presenter did not show, which improved the panel’s operation, in that we actually got to discuss the papers more deeply, but which I would nonetheless mark down as extremely bad form.) If anything, I’d say that issues of trust and identity connected the papers more firmly than the panel’s title terms.

The panel began with a paper from Hebatallah El-Semary on Egyptian children’s uses of the internet, and particularly the relationships they have with their parents around such use: how much do their parents regulate or monitor their internet usage (not much), and how much do children resist their parents’ attempts at filtering such exposure (significantly). The second paper, by Oren Golan, focused on Israeli youths’ negotiations of anonymity, identity construction, and trust in online communities; the issue of how much information about themselves to reveal is a significant one in a small country where the seemingly random person they’re chatting with could turn out to be the brother of their cousin’s best friend. The third paper presented the results of a study, conducted by Stepan Konecy and David Smahel, of Czech adolescents and young adults, investigating how much internet users lie about themselves online, and about what subjects. Finally, Edgar Gomez and Elisenda Ardevol presented their work, conducted with Adolfo Estalella, on what they termed “playful embodiment,” a look at the practices of a number of Mexican and other Latin American bloggers and content creators who construct their online identities not by erasing the body but by calling attention to it, photographing it, writing explicitly about its processes and desires.

The discussion afterward was quite engaging, as the audience teased out the interconnections and differences amongst these papers. The one thing that I didn’t say then — as I couldn’t quite figure out how to frame it — was my sense that, though it was really exciting to have a panel bringing together issues from such a wide range of perspectives from around the world, there was an irritating sense of the panel being explicitly marginalized as an “international” panel, as though the non-U.S., non-western-European voices were only able to speak to one another, rather than to the conference at large. There was the usual bit of exercise during the association’s general meeting later in the day about AOIR needing to include the perspectives of the developing world in the conference, but somehow these well-meaning requests fell flat for me, considering the ways that the non-western work already present at the conference is segregated.



  1. First, I’d like to say that I think Mia did a pretty decent job of grouping papers by topic. Is it not perhaps possible that the work that is non-American-centric also tended to be youth-centric? I could plow through the program, but I suspect that may have been the reason for these papers appearing where they did, rather than some intention to marginalize global or non-US work.

    Perhaps it is the empiricist in me, but I will look forward to the final tally of where people came from. Clearly, in North America, we are going to get more North Americans. One of the reasons we situated the conference in Canada, besides a very nice proposal from SFU, was that it would permit easier travel for non-Americans.

    I suspect we are at least as international as organizations like the *International* Communication Association. But I think the best road forward is to find models that have worked in diversifying the participation in other conferences. Our standard answer (propose a panel!) is obviously not a good prescription in this case.

  2. Although I also think that Mia did a great job, I can’t really accept the easiest conclusion that “non-American-centric also tended to be youth-centric” because, as Kathleen mentioned (thank you very much for bring that up) we don’t really have in common the “youth”. I don’t want to argue that our panel was “marginalized”, but I personally felt that we, as the “international” scholars that want to participate more in the association, missed an opportunity. And also that “mainstream American academics” also missed an opportunity to put their work in a global perspective. Finally, we read American books, we try to communicate in English and we try to participate in the current discussions, what about American scholars? Are they reading in Spanish, Hebrew, Arab and Czech? (I have to thank specially David Silver for his warm participation in our panel and for his sensibility and kindness with us and of course Kathleen for brought this subject and for been there).


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