Preconference Workshops

AoIR routinely hosts several preconference workshops before the main conference. Attendees must register to attend a preconference; the price of the preconference is included as part of the main conference. All workshops will be held on October 5th. Descriptions of each are below.


AoIR Early Career Scholars Workshop

Organizers: Andrea L. Guzman (Northern Illinois University), Jeff Hemsley (Syracuse University), Marisa Elena Duarte (Arizona State University), Kelly Boudreau (Brunel University), Catherine Steele (Colorado State University)

Synopsis: This half-day workshop aims to bring early career scholars together to address unique issues they face, develop strategies to achieve career goals, and foster a professional network. AoIR’s strength is its community. Many of AoIR’s senior members “came up through the ranks” together and have built a strong network that has benefited their careers. AoIR has a formal mechanism for mentoring doctoral students, and with this workshop, we hope to introduce a similar initiative for junior scholars like ourselves. Our intent is to be as inclusive and representative as possible.

Upon obtaining a terminal degree, early-career researchers and educators are presented with a series of hurdles to negotiate as well as opportunities. First, we have to negotiate the transition from graduate student to early career professional that requires a higher level of autonomy and responsibility with the challenge of figuring out the pragmatic and social aspects of a new work environment. Second, and simultaneously, we must work quickly to establish ourselves in our fields and, often, secure funding. Third, we must take on more prominent service roles. Fourth, after being guided by our advisors and committees for several years, we quickly move from mentee to mentor as we work with our own students. Fifth, we must learn to navigate the ins-and-outs of moving to the next level of our careers (e.g. obtaining tenure in the U.S., or applying for promotion UK), and ensure time with family and friends. Being a junior scholar also can afford certain benefits, such as job mobility within and across academic systems. However, while recognition of internet scholarship has come a long way since AoIR’s inception, junior scholars still may find themselves facing certain hurdles in gaining recognition for their research (i.e. subject, method, etc) in terms of promotion. In fact, some of the challenges we face also are opportunities to work towards changing the ways in which internet scholarship is perceived and valued within the academic structure.

These are just some issues covered by this workshop. AoIR is an international and diverse organization, and our experiences as scholars and educators vary by country, institution type, and field and are framed by our own identities (race, gender, etc). Our goal is to discuss shared challenges and opportunities while understanding differences so that we can build our own professional networks at the same time that we create a community of scholars who will eventually become future career mentors within AoIR.

Format: We are planning three sessions. We will open with introductions and a brief discussion among participants about what we would like to address within the workshop. The first session will be a fish-bowl like discussion among early-career scholars. This is intended as a get-to-know others event as well as an opportunity to discuss the issues and opportunities we face on the road to tenure or promotion. Organizers will bring starting questions to get the conversation moving and incorporate any other questions and concerns posed by participants. The second session will be a panel of established scholars (equivalent of associate or full professors in the U.S.) who can share their insight and experiences. The organizers will start the panel with questions drawn from the first session. In the final session, participants will form small groups with a senior scholar to address topics relevant to them (type of institution, academic system, etc). Time will be left for follow-up questions and group discussion. We also are planning an informal social activity following the workshop.

To date the following mid-career and senior scholars have agreed to serve on the expert panel and share their insight: Jenny Stromer-Galley, Syracuse University; Charles Ess, University of Oslo; Alex Halavais, Arizona State University; Karine Nahon, College of Herzliya/University of Washington; André Brock, University of Michigan; Anja Bechmann, Aarhus University. We also plan to recruit additional panelists.

Audience: This workshop is geared toward early career scholars who have their terminal degree and are working toward establishing themselves in a scholarly career.

Goals: 1) Provide a space for the next generation of AoIR scholars to start building strong ties with each other, more established researchers, and the AoIR community. 2) To promote understanding of the breadth of academic work, including our shared experiences and differences. 3) Connect with established academics to learn strategies for forwarding our careers. 4) Gain insight into how to formulate similar workshops in future years that support the need for mentoring early scholars in the AoIR community.

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Internet Rules . . . . for Higher Education

Organizers: Kerry Burner (Florida State University), Rajash Rawal (The Hague University), Vanessa Dennen (Florida State University), Paul Nixon (The Hague University)

The use of the Internet as a resource repository, delivery platform, and communication medium has all but become ubiquitous in higher education settings. Internet use is typically governed at a high level by multiple entities: the institutions who develop policy, the governments who develop regulations, and the corporations who design the means of access. While the Internet is a global tool, these various local entities have tried to regulate its use in various contexts. While these help to shape the general approach to incorporating the Internet, at the level of the classroom, instructors often find themselves needing to be much more granular about Internet use for higher education purposes. That is, these entities are shaping classroom use but not at a sufficient level, and instructors need to address practical higher education use with specific guidelines. Developing these guidelines relies on decisions that need to be made across dimensions like personal vs professional use; in-class and extracurricular use; providing instructor modeling, learner instruction and guidance.

In this workshop, we will work collaboratively to develop guidelines specific to the faculty, students, content area, and learning context to address pressures such as sociopolitical issues, personal privacy issues, identity issues, technology issues – including access, cultural and geographic issues, and legal and corporate constraints. This grassroots approach to developing guidelines offers workshop participants an opportunity to think through real world tensions such as free speech and activism in a learning context where lines of acceptability are not unilaterally drawn. Recognizing that life operates within a system, we need to be savvy to function within that system – or more realistically sets of systems and networks – but as members of the academy, we should also be active participants in (re)shaping the very systems that delineate our interactions with the Internet and its use in higher education settings.

The workshop facilitators will begin with a review some existing guidelines (e.g., institutional policy, government policy, and the terms and conditions of the tools), then move to guided activities to identify and define the constituting factors influencing the development of a classroom specific set of guidelines for Internet use in the classroom. Once the factors are identified and defined, the workshop participants and facilitators will collaborate to develop guidelines that respond to them. At the conclusion of the workshop, the facilitators and participants will have developed a constellation of guidelines that attempt to address the practical reality of using the Internet in the classroom.

These guidelines will not be definitive, but rather adaptive, recognizing the unique confluence of individual, institutional and cultural pressures that affect the ways in which faculty and students interact with and are received by netizens at large in a learning context. We anticipate that the “rules” generated by this workshop will provide a menu of options for faculty with which they can tailor guidelines for their specific learning contexts, students, and pedagogical approach to Internet use. Too, they could be of value to institutions as they revise and refine their own policies in response to the ever-changing technology, privacy, and sociopolitical landscapes

Our working draft of “Internet rules … for higher education” will be made available online so all participants and other interested parties may access them and adapt them for their own purposes. We will use a creative commons license –

Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) – so that these guidelines can continue to evolve in response to the ever-changing landscape of Internet rules.

Workshop Format and Activities:

This workshop will combine the following activities:

  • Presentation of existing rules and guidelines by the facilitators
  • Brainstorming activities involving all participants
  • Design guidelines in small groups while the facilitators circulate and assist the participants
  • Sharing/debriefing of the small group design activities
  • Participants individually develop guidelines deployable in their classrooms
  • Capture of all ideas generated at the workshop to be shared online with all participants

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Legal Hackathon: Building Standards of Privacy and Security-by-Design for the Internet of Things

Organizer: Maximilian von Grafenstein (Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Germany)

Using the example of gathering personal data via a public wifi infrastructure for Smart City applications, this half-day workshop, facilitated by Max von Grafenstein, focuses on the question of how privacy- and security-by-design standards (be they de facto standards or those in the form of co-regulated codes of conduct or certificates) may constitute appropriate regulatory instruments that balance the individual and societal need for data based-innovation and protection against its risks. To elaborate on this question, the workshop uses the format of a Legal Hackathon, which refers to the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of software hackathons. Seeking to quickly transpose some initial ideas into working prototypes and/or clarify these ideas through prototyping, the Legal Hackathon format promises to provide the ideal conditions for a first proof of concept for privacy- and security-by-design standards for emergent innovations based, for example, on personal data gathered via a public wifi infrastructure in a Smart City environment and, more generally, the Internet of Things (IoT).

The idea of standards is promising since, in principle, they provide for appropriate instruments that create trust not only on the economic and social level but also with respect to the law. The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has recently passed the trilogue and consequently comes into force the 25th of May 2018, requires data controllers who process personal data to “implement appropriate technical and organizational measures (…) which are designed to implement data protection principles”. However, legal uncertainty is high because there are several unanswered questions. For example, first, what do the data protection principles specifically mean?; second, what stakeholder(s) fulfill(s) the legal criteria of a “controller”?; and third, should the producer(s) of the infrastructure, for example, of the IoT device, be involved, if they are not a “controller”, in order to enable the actual controller to implement such privacy-by-design measures?

The Legal Hackathon addresses these questions by inviting companies and startups that are developing IoT solutions for Smart City environments, security- and privacy-by-design experts and academics from the legal, social and economic sciences to elaborate on the concept, impact and functions of European data protection law. The Legal Hackathon seeks to elaborate, in particular, on the following aspects: First, whether or not it is technically, organizationally as well as legally possible to create a common privacy- and security-by-design standard for personal data gathered via a public wifi infrastructure; second, if so, what this standard should look like to ensure that the trust-enhancing advantages outweigh the technical and organizational efforts (particularly when it comes to an individual’s „consent“); and third, whether or not such a standard could fulfill the requirements provided for by the GDPR with respect to the procedures for codes of conducts and/or certificates.

If the Legal Hackathon can generate constructive outcomes, this will serve as a first proof of concept for the general claim that privacy- and security-by-design standards are a serious issue for those seeking to find a balance between the societal need for data-based innovation and protection against its risks. The findings may be transposed, in subsequent Legal Hackathons, to further areas of the IoT such as Smart Homes or Wearables.

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Digital Methods in Internet Research: A Sampling Menu

Organizers: Erik Borra (University of Amsterdam), Axel Bruns (Queensland University of Technology), Jean Burgess (Queensland University of Technology), Carolin Gerlitz (University of Amsterdam), Anne Helmond (University of Amsterdam), Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez (Queensland University of Technology), Peta Mitchell (Queensland University of Technology), Richard Rogers (University of Amsterdam), Fernando N. van der Vlist (University of Amsterdam), Esther Weltevrede (University of Amsterdam), Patrik Wikstrom (Queensland University of Technology)

This full-day workshop introduces participants to digital methods and their applications in media, cultural and internet studies via a series of short talks and masterclasses. Participants will be supplied ahead of time with learning resources including tutorials, readings and rich media examples. The schedule provides opportunities for discussion and practical experimentation. The workshop is designed for internet researchers at all stages of their careers.

Short sessions

Conceptual Introduction: Situating Digital Methods (Richard Rogers)

There is currently a debate at hand over aligning political and social research with the digital age, concomitant with the rise of the term Big Data. For some, it has been termed the computational turn, meaning the importation of computer science techniques into social research practices. Another could be the digital turn, where the study of digital culture informs research that makes use of online data, software and visualizations. To make this distinction between the computational and the digital turns is also a means of resisting a monolithic understanding of research in the digital age. Here I briefly situate and discuss a series of digital research practices called cultural analytics, culturomics, webometrics, altmetrics and digital methods, providing short examples of what they could offer in terms of research.

Twitter studies with DMI-TCAT (Erik Borra)

The workshop provides an introduction to the open source Twitter Capture and Analysis Tool (TCAT). The tool, which can be downloaded and installed on a server, allows for a battery of analyses of a tweet collection (also made via the Twitter APIs sourced by TCAT), from simple and experimental activity measures to those concerning mention, reply, hashtag, URL reference, retweet and other analytical opportunities. TCAT has been designed for data collection and analytical prep and may be used in conjunction with other network analysis tools as Gephi, which is also introduced in this workshop.

Analysing Social Media Data with TCAT and Tableau (Axel Bruns)

Especially when working with large social media datasets, visual data analysis is now an indispensable part of the scholarly research and publication process. Data visualisation is able to provide a rapid overview of patterns in the dataset, and to pinpoint specific events and areas that should be selected for further in-depth analysis. The social media data analytics workshop will focus on a key emerging tool for large-scale analysis, Tableau, for processing and visualising large datasets.

Analysing Network Dynamics with Agent Based Models (Patrik Wikström)

Information diffusion and other time-based processes in social media networks are examples of inherently complex phenomena characterized by nonlinear properties such as “tipping points” or “virtuous” (or “vicious”) circles. These properties make them very difficult to capture with our traditional approaches for theory development and we often run the risk of making superficial analyses that are able to explain the observed patterns. This workshop showcases Agent Based Modelling, which is an approach that has proven to be a useful alternative for unpacking complex and dynamic phenomena.

Tracking the Trackers (Anne Helmond, Carolin Gerlitz, Esther Weltevrede and Fernando van der Vlist)

Social media plugins, including social buttons, enable users to engage with platform actions such as liking, sharing or tweeting across the web, but at the same time function as third-party objects tracking users across external websites and apps and feeding data back to the associated platforms. In this workshop we will explore how to detect, map and analyze such tracker networks. We will demonstrate the Tracker Tracker tool, developed at the University of Amsterdam, which is able to scan sets of websites for trackers and output the results in a graph file that can subsequently be used in the free network visualisation software application Gephi.

Multiplatform Issue Mapping (Jean Burgess & Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez)

Issue Mapping is an advanced method for making sense of the public engagement around topics where there is a lot of uncertainty or disagreement. This workshop introduces the University of Amsterdam’s DMI Tumblr and YouTube tools, and the free network visualisation software application Gephi. We demonstrate how to use these tools in combination to build an inventory of key media objects (including hashtags, URLs and audiovisual texts) and to map the issue networks associated with digital media controversies.

Analysing and visualising geospatial data (Peta Mitchell)

Spatial information, or geodata, is a rapidly growing subset of big data. Social media platforms that rely on location-based services, as many do, are increasingly geosocial, generating large, real-time geodata sets. This workshop will focus on the particular challenges facing socio-cultural researchers in relation to accessing, analysing, and visualising spatial information, particularly in regard to geosocial media data. The workshop will provide a practical introduction to using the web-based mapping platform CartoDB to visualise and spatially analyse geodata. The ethics and limitations of dealing with geosocial data will also be explored.

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404 History Not Found: Challenges in Internet History and Memory Studies

Organizer: Kevin Driscoll (University of Virginia), Camille Paloque-Berges (Conservatoire national des arts et métiers)

Speakers: Paolo Bory, Gianluigi Negro, USI – Università della Svizzera Italiana of Lugano, Switzerland;
Félix Tréguerfelix, CRH-EHESS, Institute for the Communications of CNRS, France;
Patrick Davison, Culture, and Communication Dept., NYU, United States;
Hilde Van den Bulck, Media, Policy and Culture – Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium;
Robert W. Gehl, Department of Communication – University of Utah, United States;
Julien Mailland, The Media School – Indiana University, United States;
Michael Stevenson, Research Centre for Media and Journalism Studies – University of Groningen, The Netherlands;
Gerard Alberts, Marc Went, Robert Jansma, Graduate School for Informatics – University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

How did the Internet become relevant in today’s culture and politics? How were its codes and rules—whether technical, social or cultural—constructed, challenged, and normalized? How did net culture become a mass phenomenon of global importance? To understand why and how the “Internet rules” today, it is essential that we look back at the internet’s past. In this pre-conference, we will discuss the specific theoretical and methodological challenges that arise in the study of the internet through time and memory, for purposes of both historiography (what net histories and how?) and epistemology (net histories as an object of media research). Attendees will be invited to participate in three hands-on, interactive sessions organized around issues, sources and methods fundamental to researching net diachronicity.

Net history survives in unexpected places, unfolding through time and space, collapsing in on the present. The artifacts that surface may be incomplete or inscrutable absent their original contexts, requiring us to borrow creatively from other fields and develop new historical methods (Ankerson, 2011; Brügger & Finnemann, 2012; Paloque-Berges, 2016). From formal archives and oral histories to lingering web sites, software, and hardware artifacts, the material evidence of the past suggests a diversity of social, temporal, and technical regimes. Indeed, recent scholarship on early networks reveals a greater range of experiences, technologies, norms and motivations than is found in best-known histories of the internet (Brammer, 2015; Brunton, 2013; Driscoll, 2014; Hargadon, 2011; Mailland, 2015; Paloque-Berges, 2011; Rankin 2014, 2015; Russell, 2014; Russell & Schafer, 2014; Schafer & Thierry, 2012; Schulte, 2013; Streeter, 2011). In their wake, we question how to make sense of conflicts and contradictions while respecting the subjective lived experiences of individual participants. What is our responsibility to find and document hidden histories, obscure sources, and less visible networks? How will a richer understanding of the internet’s past change how we engage with its present and imagine its future?

This pre-conference will include three workshop sessions organized around core research challenges in net history: (1) epistemology, (2) sources and methodology, and (3) mediation and transmission. Selected participants, rather than present whole case studies, will intervene on specific challenges—for instance: theoretical paradoxes or deadlocks, methodological problem-solving, and demonstrations of born-digital artifacts. The audience will be involved by taking positions, suggesting ad-hoc solutions, and identifying common themes.

Session 1 begins with the fundamental question of how to define our object of study. What is “the internet”? Where did it come from? And how was it constructed socially and scientifically? Is it a technical term defined by a particular set of protocols or a colloquialism with more fluid meaning? Second, what historical narratives are already in circulation? How are attention and visibility distributed across these narratives? And, third, what is the role of memory in the practice of internet history? Many of us have first-hand experiences with early computer networks. How can we combine archival materials and oral histories?

Session 2 will be dedicated to presenting specific methodological problems regarding sources and their materiality. Participants are encouraged to bring examples of sources, artifacts, and archives to share and discuss with the group. What artifacts are you working with and what do you wish you had access to? What special techniques are required to make sense of your materials? To what extent should internet researchers be literate in the conception, evolution, design and use of particular technologies? What are “born-digital” source and what new issues does they raise?

Finally, Session 3 concerns efforts to turn complex historical issues into projects that can be experienced by non-specialists. Specifically, we will consider how net histories and memories circulate in the world, shaping how broader audiences come to know the internet’s past. Beyond books, museums, films, and other venues for public history, we will focus on emulation. What does accessible emulation reveal or hide about computing of the past? How can we incorporate emulation into the study of net history? What are its limits?

An over-arching goal for the pre-conference is to create a dedicated space for net history and memory studies at AOIR16. In this sense, we build explicitly on the foundation set by the Comparative Internet History pre-conference held in Denver at IR14 and the Internet Histories pre-conference held in Vancouver at AoIR 8.0, acknowledging contributions to issues in the field of Internet histories from historians (SHOT/SIGCIS, HAPOC, IFIP), but also interdisciplinary research (RESAW, TTOW). The pre-conference will also include a few concrete outcomes that we plan to share with the larger AOIR community and anyone interested in studying relationships between Internet and diachronicity. We wish to craft an agenda, expressed in terms of “common problems” or “challenges & opportunities,” as well as a set of common resources including scholarly publications, archives, and online materials to support researchers and teachers who wish to incorporate net histories in their work.

This pre-conference will be a full-day workshop facilitated by Kevin Driscoll and Camille Paloque-Berges with support from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche project Web90. The discussions and hands-on activities will be accessible to all AOIR attendees but will be especially engaging for researchers encountering issues of temporality, memory, nostalgia, or a need to “go back in time” in their own work.

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The Internet Rules, But How? A Science and Technical Studies Take on Doing Internet Governance

Organizers: Julia Pohle (Berlin Social Science Center), Francesca Musiani (CNRS/Paris-Sorbonne/UPMC Paris), Dmitry Epstein (University of Illinois – Chicago), Christian Katzenbach (Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Germany)

Over the last decade, the regulation and governance of the Internet at the national and international level have attracted growing attention by policy-makers and researchers. This is particularly the case in post-Snowden times which increased distrust of formal government institutions and their ‘dangerous liaisons’ with the private sector. Accordingly, observing and researching governing processes as they relate to the Internet is both timely and important.

Traditionally, researchers and practitioners in Internet governance (IG) focused on new institutions that have been explicitly established to discuss and negotiate the technical coordination of the Internet or Internet-related public policy issues (e.g. ICANN, WSIS, IGF). Recently, authors have criticized this institutional focus, arguing the need for a more comprehensive conceptualization of IG (DeNardis, 2012; Musiani, 2014; Hofmann et al., 2014). Among these recent developments, a small set of publications has drawn on perspectives from Science and Technology Studies (STS) to rethink and substantiate questions of ordering and governing the net. These contributions highlight the day-to-day, mundane practices that constitute Internet governance, take into account the plurality and ‘networkedness’ of devices and arrangements involved, tackle the politics of platforms, and investigate the invisibility, pervasiveness, and apparent agency of the digital infrastructure itself.

IG, in this view, is not only negotiated in dedicated institutions; the doing of IG more broadly consists in practices and controversies of the design, regulation, and use of material infrastructures. Accordingly, the observation and investigation of practices require different, innovative research approaches, which delve into the variety of ways in which digital uses and practices may be an integral part of today’s IG. In this way, STS-informed perspectives are increasingly instrumental for challenging and expanding our understanding and for informing our examination of ordering and governing processes in the digital realm.

This preconference workshop seeks to nurture the growing interest in researching and observing IG from an STS-informed perspective. More broadly, the workshop aims to facilitate a discussion and an exchange of perspectives about the intertwined roles of design, infrastructures, and informal communities of practice in IG. This workshop is part of a broader effort of advancing an STS-informed conversation on Internet governance: it builds on the successful panel on STS perspectives on IG that took place during AoIR 2015 in Phoenix; and, it seeks to expand this discussion, which we continued through a special issue of the Internet Policy Review, which focuses on the same topic and will be published in early September 2016.

The full-day workshop will consist of four sessions, including two research panels, a methodological fishbowl session, and an open roundtable discussion:

The first research panel will focus on theory, inviting papers that share a strong conceptual interest in understanding how STS can inform theoretical perspectives on Internet governance, for instance by revealing socio-technical controversies or by unveiling power and control structures embedded in Internet architecture and its governance institutions;

The second research panel will focus on STS-informed empirical work on Internet governance, inviting papers that make use of the conceptual and methodological tool-sets of STS to observe and study IG practices and the ways in which the norms shaping the provision, design and usage of the Internet are negotiated, and de- and re-stabilized;

For the methodological fishbowl session, we will invite several researchers to report on their experience with STS-inspired Internet governance research. The open discussion will focus on the practicalities of doing participatory observation in IG and the challenges of negotiating one’s role as a researcher and an active participant (or even an activist) in IG processes;

The final open roundtable discussion will reflect on the notion of “black box” as it relates to the treatment of technological artifacts in public and media discourses (e.g. related to the French intelligence bill). We foresee that unpacking the notion of the “black box” will also help engage IG research and researchers with the broader community of Internet scholars and AoIR, who are deliberating topics such as politics of platforms and algorithms.

The preconference workshop is planned for 5 October 2016 and could either take place at the venue of the AoIR conference or, alternatively, at the Berlin Social Science Center. It is supported by the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet), the Internet Policy Review of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG, Berlin), the Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Institute for Communication Sciences (CNRS/Paris-Sorbonne/UPMC, Paris).

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