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."
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.