Musings on ICA 2

This is the sequel of a Q&A on last week’s ICA conference in London. If you haven’t read the first part, you can do so here:

What did the conference hotel look like?

As if Margaret Thatcher has been the interior architect. (This is actually a sponsored question and answer. Copyright and trademark = @phippukopter 2013)

What did the neighborhood look like?

Very multicultural. Here’s a glimpse:


How was the composition of participants at the conference?

Almost equally multicultural but with very different socioeconomic status. A lot of researchers from (US) American universities presented at ICA. As far as I remember, the universities of Texas at Austin, Michigan State, Wisonsin Madison, and Southern California (Annenberg) had the largest sections. Also Amsterdam (Ascor) figured quite prominently. Here’s a very nice overview with lots of interesting statistical info on the participants:

Which trends did you detect?

Well, I don’t know if they are really trends or just very biased perceptions: First of all, most presentations I visited (and I visited mainly sessions on social media within the communication and technology – CAT – division) were quantitative. Very few qualitative and hardly any conceptual papers were to be found. Within the quantitative papers, most worked with survey and/or observational data. Not surprisingly, studies on Facebook relied more heavily on surveys – and occasionaly qualitative interviews -, whereas the presentations on Twitter almost exclusively had tracking data and some survey evidence. As far as I remember, none of the Twitter studies used a qualitative approach or combined the observational data with qualitative evidence. This is a pity because contextual information and embeddedness is very much needed with “big data” (not all of the Twitter papers could actually be framed as “big data” but some of them definitely). Furthermore, experiments were also underrepresented. In the future, experiments are definitely one important avenue to extend, as causal effects are very hard to identify in survey-based social media studies (“Does social media use cause certain psychological outcomes, e. g. narcissism or satisfaction, or do the psychological outcomes lead to social media use? Are the relationships mutually reinforcing, or independent and caused by a third underlying cause…?”).

Second, the quality of most presentations was very high – both in terms of content and form. Most researchers presenting were eloquent and well-prepared – something not self-evident at scientific conferences.

Third, ICA is the conference where participants used Twitter most extensively (compared to other conferences I have been). One almost had a live stream with tweets popping up every 30 seconds. At least 100 hundred people tweeted, some very frequently, and many more followed the conversations. The organizers had a strong, exemplary “Twitter politic”, encouraging participants to engage, communicating hashtags early on and tweeting themselves if appropriate (e.g. to announce sessions).

(maybe there is another sequel coming up, as I still have some points to share)

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