AoIR 8.0: The Aftermath … or Rambling Reflections

It is Saturday early evening and instead of being out making the most of the last few social hours, I am curled up in my pyjamas in my hotel room, looking out at the fantastic view of Vancouver that I have from my 18th floor room. It has been raining since we got here Wednesday evening, and as evening draws nearer, I notice a few spots of blue sky among the clouds – of course, the weather will clear up as we are leaving the city.

On this trip, I learned that I desperately need a new laptop battery. A conference focused on Internet Research, one could only imagine that there were many more laptop plugs than electricity outlets…so, my online time has been limited to my hotel room, and even that was shared equitably with my suite-mate. So, this is my little piece of reflective writing on what was a great conference organized by some very courageous people.

There are alot of other people who blogged the conference, and ‘flickrd’ it, surely many more as during several sessions, I peeked over people’s shoulders to see them blogging. Which, I suppose, brings me to something I have been thinking about over the last 3 days., and some of the blog titles that I saw were not on the list (yet).

In a world where technology is pervasive, lines of what is public and what is private are blurred or redefined (and someone forgot to tell me the new definition), Is it ok to read what everyone and their dog are doing on the laptops over their shoulders in a conference room? So many people were performing quite personal acts in such public spaces. In an auditorium with slanted seating, as I look straight ahead, it is impossible not to see everyone’s screen in my peripheral vision. As a naturally curious person, my eyes sometimes wanders to the content on the screen and I was struck with the fact that many people seemed to think of their screens as a private space (surely I am projecting this, as I did not ask – but to have your personal email open, where anyone can see who has recently sent that person an email, and/or watch the email writing process in live-action time.  Although I know I should not have been looking, I was curious as to why they didn’t think that it was perhaps inappropriate to leave their inbox in full view of everyone behind them.

Which leads me to another interesting (and surely not new to the digital world) observation. When people are using their laptops in meeting spaces (in a place that you are technically supposed to be paying attention) they seem to completely tune out their physical surroundings. No surprise there. Immersion and all that jazz. But what struck me – again – was the way people seemed to have no shame in surfing the net, playing games, emailing or any other non “why I am in this particular space at this particular time” relevant net usage while sitting in the third row – making them in full view of every other person in the room.

Enough with circular ramblings. On with the conference stuff. Met alot of really great people. What I like the most about what I study is the fact that most people who I read and reference are still alive (unlike most of the sociology theory I’ve read over the years) and I often get to meet these fabulous minds at this type of conference. I will not play “fanboi” and talk about the specifics, but I am always honored to be in the presence of people that I met first through their written works.

The sessions I attended were interesting. But what I think I will do – for the sake of not writing a tome in which no one will make it through to the end – I will blog each session (in retrospect of course) and tag it appropriately.

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