Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Abstracts accepted at three upcoming conferences

My master's thesis work in progress on the sociology of online publics will be presented at no less than three conferences this year. First comes the DASTS 2012 conference later this month, which is also a rehearsal for the huge 4S/EASST conference in Copenhagen in October. The third conference that I am going to present at is the 26th Conference of the Nordic Sociological Association in Reykjavik, Iceland, this August - for which I received a student scholarship to cover some of the costs (thanks!).

Here follows the short version:

Public-formatting technologies and their displacement

Recent research within STS (e.g. Marres, Latour) has followed Dewey’s argument that the contemporary public is not a stable sphere, but rather ”scattered, mobile, manifold” (Dewey 1927, p. 146). This paper aims to contribute to the research agenda of how publics organize under plural, socio-technical conditions. Based on a case study of a snowstorm on the Danish island of Bornholm that kept hundreds of islanders snowbound for a week, the study traces how media technologies were used to bring together the symbolic and material resources needed to translate the snowstorm from a private nuisance to a public issue. For about a fortnight, public service media as well as so-called social media overflowed with efforts to represent the snowstorm and its consequences. The paper argues that the different socio-technical materialities of these media technologies resulted in diverging ways of perceiving and public-izing the consequences of the snowstorm, and thus formatted the public in different ways. The analysis suggests that public service media, although designed as a home for ’the public’, were less successful in producing sufficiently common understandings of the situation. In their place, Facebook groups emerged as a stabilizing technology for unruly publics, despite – or rather because of – the platform’s original design intentions, which allowed for ongoing negotiation as to what could be deemed private obstacles and public issues. As such, the case is an exemplary displacement of design intentions that contributes to our understanding of how media technologies format the contemporary public.

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