ICCMSN2008 Conference Report

With Peta Hopkins I attended the inaugural International Conference on Computer-Mediated Social Networks 2008 hosted by the Information Sciences (Information Systems) Department part of the Commerce Faculty at the University of Otago, Dunedin , New Zealand, over 11-13 June 2008. The conference was slow to use social networking tools but a Twitter account was set up just before the start (summary) and by the final day a conference wiki was created to host the many outputs of the conference including the collection of slides Slideshare.

In the conference programme there were three significant and varied keynotes:

  • Martin Purvis (HOD Info Sciences, UO) eventually led us through some theoretical bases for social networks and their unintended effects. My favourite quotes were ‘Wikipedia is a process not a document’ and ‘needs AI that’s been 10 years away for 50 years’ (my own thoughts about AI since the 1960s). I found his suggestions about user generated tag post processing and extension very interesting.
  • John Eyles (Telecom NZ and AUT futurist) showed us his gadgets (MP3 player/recorder, miniature HD video camera and smartphone) as he led us through a shaky definition of Web 3.0. He did convince us of the power of social network tools that allow us to control our synchronised life.His demo of creating a podcast on his smartphone that was delivered via 3G to his special conference blog using Hipcast was impressive.
  • David Green (Monash) treated us to some complexity theory, the focus of his VLAB. He is simulating the connectiveness of social networks using simple boolean social networks that have led to the discovery of the fundamental dual phase evolution model that describes the flipping between local and global phases.

Amongst the single stream of 19 papers the presentation by Peta and myself was well received with plenty of questions afterwards. Several of the papers were from PhD students nearing their completion of niche projects involving the use of social networking tools. Some of the standouts for me were:

  • Sophie Nicol from Deakin building elements of game-playing into the learning process
  • Jocelyn Cranefield from VUW with her discovery of the middle layer of intermediary bloggers in a multi-layer online community
  • Peter Sloep (OU Netherlands) building learning networks with self-populating wikis using Latent Semantic Analysis and peer mentoring
  • John Downs (UA) who is using wi-fi-connected digital photo frames as one-way situated messaging appliances that can be scattered through the home or office helping to bind social communities
  • Stephanie Broege (UO) who is conducting very interesting reseach into cell phone usage and extended to include social networks
  • Fa Martin-Niemi (UO) using social media software with a niche financial services SME to leverage storytelling for improved communication as the company expands rapidly

In addition a quarter of the papers were presented by fanatical, not to say addicted, Second Life users. We heard in great detail about context building and scripting, the major problems with the SL architecture, and how Telecom NZ are even considering installing dedicated SL servers just to improve SL usage. With one of the speakers running 11 alternative characters it was estimated the real number of human users is nearer 300,000 worldwide against the 13 million claimed by Linden Labs.

The panel discussions were interesting but the extra panel created at the last moment to proclaim UO’s entry into iTunesU went on a little long at the end of a very full day.

I left with a better impression of the social networks community in this part of the world. There was not a lot of discussion about using social media at an enterprise level and I feel this is an area ripe for further research and development.


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

4 Responses to ICCMSN2008 Conference Report

  1. sarahstewart says:

    I enjoyed myself, but as with any conference, there was stuff that engaged me and stuff that didn’t. I missed John Earles session which I am sad about but I hope his video recording is made available soon. Have a safe trip back to Oz. Look forward to reading your blog in the future. cheers Sarah

  2. Michael says:

    Sarah, yours was the most heartfelt presentation. I hope you find a mix of social media that meets the demanding needs of your profession with its heavy time constraints. My own feeling is that SL in its current form is not the way to go. In your position I would tend in the direction of John Eyles’ approach to podcasting and videocasting as being more time efficient and accessible by your peers.

  3. sarahstewart says:

    Thank you for that. I absolutely agree that SL is not the way to go, and that we must keep it simple. However, I do think SL has potential in midwifery education, when we can provide all the resources and target training. And the more I think about it, the more I believe the lack of constraints and restrictions in SL can be harnessed to make students think about birth in a natural environment. So the conference had a positive outcome in that respect because it has underpinned some brainstorming I am currently doing with a colleague. And who knows what will come of it.

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