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February 10, 2010, 01:00 PM ET

Scholars Use Social-Media Tools to Hold Online Academic Conference

More than 100 researchers interested in the emerging field of the social history of computer programming are running what may be the first academic conference held entirely using Web 2.0 tools.

There have certainly been online conferences before, but the group's idea is to hold a limited-time online conversation using a bloglike network, Twitter, and Facebook. The leader of the conference, Mark C. Marino, an assistant professor in the writing program at the University of Southern California, said that he expected to attract only a few graduate students but that he has been surprised to get a mix of professors and students from around the world. "I literally could not believe the stature of people who were coming to the table," he said in an interview.

The conference, called the Critical Code Studies Working Group, started on February 1 and runs until March 12. The virtual discussions are primarily taking place using the Ning social network, but only people invited by the conference organizers can join in. Mr. Marino created a welcome video that challenges participants to dig deeper into interpreting computer code "to generate close readings of source code."

(CCSWG from Mark Marino on Vimeo.)

An edited version of the discussion is scheduled to be published in the Electronic Book Review. For more on this emerging research area, see an article from The Chronicle Review.


1. jsalmons - February 11, 2010 at 07:25 pm

Very cool but by no means the first! I co-produced and have been presenting in international online conferences since the 1990s, with peer-reviewed papers and workshopsdelivered using all kinds of Web 2.0 interactive meeting platform tools, Second Life, blogs, social platforms, asynchronous and synchronous tools of all kinds!

So sorry, this isn't news.

However, bravo and keep it up. I love the online conference oppportunities for broad professional learning and exchange.

2. vlafaye - February 12, 2010 at 05:48 am

We also ran an online academic conference over 2 weeks last October, with 1000 registrants from 72 countries, covering interdisciplinary themes of interest to the social sciences/humanities. It was free to all and the presentations and comments can still be seen on www.compassconference.wordpress.com . It was so well-received that we're planning 3 more events along the same lines. People certainly seem to like the convenience of participating from the comfort of their own desks!

3. pfanderson - February 12, 2010 at 09:01 am

I have to agree with those who said this isn't the first! The Second Life Best Practices in Education focused on higher education back in 2007. Each year the event, now called Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education, gets bigger and has more participants, including other social media from blogs to Facebook to Twitter and more.

This is my first year on the Program Planning Committee, where I have a relatively minor role scheduling a day's worth of programming on healthcare education in virtual worlds. The VWBPE will be March 12-13 (our 3rd year) and about 5000 attendees are expected. That number does not include folks attending via the web, Twitter, other virtual worlds, or other venues.

I also agree with those who say this is a very cool concept, and I am delighted to see more academics making effective use of online and social media to address economic and logistic constraints of face-to-face meetings as well as enriching scholarly communication through these new technologies.

4. joaomattar - February 26, 2010 at 09:45 am

Last year (May 23-31, 2009), I coordinated the 7th National Distance Education Seminar for the Brazilian Association of Distance Education (ABED), which integrated several web 2.0 tools: Blogs, Eduverse (Active World), FlashMeeting, Flickr, Yahoo mail list, Mindomo, Moodle, Netvibes, Ning, Orkut, Second Life, Skype, Survey Monkey, Television, Games, Webconference, WebRadio, Web TV, Wikis & YouTube, besides many Brazilian based tools. The event was totally online, free and had more than 2,000 participants, more than 100 synchronous and asynchronous activities and more than 160 presenters.
The program was developed in a wiki and is still available online, including links to many of the activities:

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