Tag: Web 2.0

#virtualapsa2012 Continued

With respect to my prior post….

In all seriousness, it would not be difficult to do the following:

  • Put up presentations as, say, 10 minute m4a files — straight audio, audio with slides added by hand, or audio-video derived from lecture-capture applications;
  • Post audio comments from discussants, their notes, or both;
  • Associate them all with a dedicated feed or feeds; and
  • Provide a place for listeners to comment on each virtual panel.

We could do this at the Duck. We could create a dedicated blog. We could impress upon APSA that this might make a worthwhile experiment and that they should host it. At the very least, I am happy to handle the logistics for a few trial panels or presentations myself. 


The Great Journal Impact Factor Race, Web 2.x, and the Evolution of the Academy

Back in May Robert Kelley touched off a discussion about Journal Citation Reports and impact factor rankings. Journal impact factor provides a textbook study in the consequences of a well-institutionalized but highly problematic quantitative measure. Impact factor is highly skewed, easily gamed, and somewhat arbitrary (two-year and five-year windows). Nonetheless, it drives a great deal of behavior on the part of authors, editors, and publishers.

Impact factor, of course, is just one objective in the pursuit of prestige. Editors, boards, and associations want the status that comes with being involved with a “leading journal.” Publishers want that prestige as well, but only for its intrinsic value. For publishers prestige, profile, status.. these matters because they separate the journals that a library “must have” from those that the library can do without. So journals such as International Studies Quarterly and European Journal of International Relations remain valuable and prestigious commodities even if they’ve had a few “bad years” in terms of impact factor; very few international-relations scholars, let alone librarians, are going to ditch them in favor of Marine Policy.

I’ve learned a great deal about impact factor and “prestige” over the course of two editorial bids; indeed, one of the things I’ve stressed is how far behind the curve most international-relations journals are at exploiting new media to boost citation counts and the general profile of the journal. Publishers think so too. Indeed, they’d like authors themselves to pick up some of the burden. Here’s an email from SAGE that a friend of mine sent along earlier today (each page is an image, so if you have trouble reading them click on each to enlarge):

This is pretty amazing stuff — on a number of levels.

SAGE covers virtually all the bases, from maintaining an Academia.edu account, to tweeting, to creating a website. They want their authors not only to self-promote on wikipedia, but also to take up blogging.
I’m not sure I’m cool with this. SAGE is asking academics to make significant time commitments. For most article authors, these commitments aren’t commensurate with the benefits they’ll receive. It isn’t as if taking of tweeting instantly makes you an important figure in your area of expertise. My sense is that the RSS feeds of most international-relations and political-science blogs have fewer than fifty subscribers, which suggests typical readership in the dozens. This means that the marginal benefits of the most intensive activities SAGE recommends aren’t likely to be worth the costs in time and effort. 
But journals don’t require these efforts to realize large payoffs. The most successful international-relations journals might achieve two-year impact factors of between three and four average citations per article. Once we get below the top few then we are talking about journals with between one and two average citations per article. The benefits for publishers such as SAGE then, is potentially quite significant. If all that effort generates fewer than ten additional citations for relevant articles, they still might see their journals (easily) catapulted up the rankings.
At the same time, I also feel a bit vindicated. This reinforces my sense — articulated best by Charli and Dan Drezer — that we’re going through a major transformation in the relationship between international studies and Web 2.x activities. Popular writers have long been doing — with the active encouragement of their publishers and agents — most of these things. Indeed, pretty much every author I’ve asked to interview for NBN’s SF and Fantasy channel maintains some combination of blog, website, twitter feed, Facebook presence, livejournal account, and so on. They have to: their income depends on their sales and their relationship with their readers.

The authors of the Duck aren’t exactly strangers to most of these methods of shameless self-promotion. Still, most of us got into new and social media for fun and community rather than for profit. I remember routinely having to justify my blogging activities to my friends, mentors, and colleagues. How times have changed.

At least those are a few of my disparate reactions. I wonder what our readers think.


Academic IR and the Information Age: Journals

As my post on “open access” demonstrates, I’ve been thinking a lot about International Relations  journals over the last few months, particularly with respect to digital media. Charli’s excellent presentation on the discipline and “web 2.0” fell at an interesting time for me, as I was working on a journal bid. My sense is that academic International Relations journals have a mixed record when it comes to fulfilling their varied functions in the field, and that better internet integration would help matters. This post seeks to make that case — albeit in a very preliminary way — but also might be read as a rumination on purpose of IR journals… and an attempt to raise questions about the state of journals within international studies. 

I guess a good place to start might be with the “official line” on academic journals. What are they for? The quasi-random people behind the wikipedia page on the subject write:

An academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research. Content typically takes the form of articles presenting original research, review articles, and book reviews.

We often hear about journals as sites for “leading” and “cutting-edge” research on particular topics and, depending on the journal, particular inflections. But, as many commentators point out, the time from submission to publication at many prestige journals now lasts at least year. Articles sometimes accumulate a great deal of citation and discussion by appearing at online depositories, such as SSRN. Indeed, work in International Relations  — most often quantitative — gets de facto peer reviewed many times before it appears in a journal. Indeed, this kind of peer review is arguably less stochastic and, in aggregate, more complete than what a manuscript receives at a journal.

My sense (and that, I believe, of many others) is that academic journals serve a number of purposes that are connected, but not always tightly coupled, to idealized accounts of what they’re good for.

  1. Professional certification. Leading journals are hard to get into. The volume of submissions, as well as the (related) attitudes of referees and editors, require a piece to “hit the jackpot” in terms of reviewer evaluations. Because referees and editors care about maintaining–and enhancing–the perceived quality of the journal, they work harder to make articles conform to the field or subfield standards of excellence. As we move down and across the journal hierarchy, these forces still operate but to lesser degrees. Thus, lower-ranked journals or journals perceived as being “easier to get into” provide less symbolic capital. 
  2. Defining standards of excellence. Another way of saying this is that journals produce, reproduce, and transform genre expectations for the style and content of scholarly work. What appears in leading journals sets standards for what should appear in leading journals; even if scholars don’t necessarily buy those standards, those attempting to publish in such journals will seek to replicate “the formula” in the hopes that it improves their chances of success. The same is true of less prestigious and more specialized journals, but those on the top of the hierarchy inflect as example (whether positive or cautionary) genre expectations associated with many of their less famous relatives. 
  3. Vetting work. Regardless of what one thinks of the state of peer review, it does provide a gauntlet that often improves–by some measure or other–the quality of the product. So does the attention of dedicated editors. At the very least, we believe this to be the case, which is all that matters for the role of journals in vetting scholarly pieces.
  4. Publicizing work. Scholars read journals–or at least tables of contents–that “matter” (i.e., have currency) in their subfield and in the broader field. So getting an article into a journal increases– subject to the breadth and depth of that journal’s reach–the chances that it will be read by a targeted audience. 
  5. Constituting a scholarly community. Much of the above comes down to shaping the parameters of, and interactions within, scholarly communities. These “purposes” of journals do so in the basic sense of allocating prestige, generating expectations, and so on. But they also contribute to a scholarly sphere of intellectual exchange–they help to define what we talk about and argue over. 

My claim is as follows: every one of these purposes is better met by embedding scholarly journals in Web 2.0 architectures and technologies, whether open-access or not, peer-reviewed or not. The particular advantage of these hybrids lies in vetting, publicizing, and constituting a scholarly community.

Digital environments promote post-publication peer review both by allowing comments on articles and by facilitating the publication of traditional “response” pieces. There’s no reason to believe that they undermine the traditional vetting mechanisms, as they handle core articles the same way as non-embedded academic journals.

Traditional journals, on the other hand, do a poor job of publicizing work; particularly older articles that disappear into the ether (or the bowels of the library). That’s why blogs such as The Monkey Cage have occupied such an important position in the landscape. A journal embedded in shifting content — blogs, blog aggregation, web-only features, promotion of timely articles and articles that speak to recent debates in other journals — keeps people coming back to the site and, in doing so, exposes them to journal content.

The advantages in terms of constituting and maintaining a scholarly community should be obvious. Web 2.0 integration promises to transform “inputs into community” into ongoing intellectual transactions among not only scholars, but also the broader interested community.

As alluded to above, this transformation is already occurring. But I worry about two aspects of its trajectory.

  1. The most “important” general journals in the field are way behind. 
  2. A number of the current experiments are operating in isolation from the online academic IR community, e.g., they produce “blog posts” that read like op-eds intended for the New York Times, and the only evidence of being in conversation with that community is in the form of desultory blogrolls.



Facebook Back in the Hot Seat

A few weeks ago Facebook unleashed its new Terms of Use on the unsuspecting user community. As anyone with a FB site knows, though the changes were touted as enabling greater user control over personal information, FB’s new default settings enabled “Everyone” to view users’ information unless users were savvy enough to update their settings – a change that caused the Electronic Privacy Information Center to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Even worse, FB initially included profile pictures and friend lists as “public” information that could not be made private even by savvy users – a move so blatantly in violation of privacy rights that it quickly resulted in an outcry on web-pages like “Facebook Restore My Privacy Rights.” (Facebook quickly “tweaked” the options to make it possible to hide one’s friend lists, though it is unclear to me whether this would protect people whose friends have their lists visible to the world.)

Not all agree that these changes are worth the uproar. A joke going around on Facebook belittles the concern: “If you don’t know, as of today, Facebook will automatically start plunging the Earth into the Sun. To change this option, go to Settings –> Planetary Settings –> Trajectory then UN-CLICK the box that says ‘Apocalypse.’ Facebook kept this one quiet. Copy and paste onto your status for all to see, if we survive.”

I’m with those who see the civil liberties implications of these changes as troubling and significant. My concern is not so much with the changes themselves but the inability of users to opt out of them. I fear the genuine real-world conflicts between online expression and physical security – the young student stalked by an angry ex-lover, the dissident persecuted by her government.

But the row over Facebook’s privacy rules is not just about civil liberties. It’s also about the very constitutive rules governing the construction and presentation online social identities. People really do see their pages as online versions of themselves – avatars if you will – not necessarily reflections of their whole real-space being, but an online representation constructed in relation to a particular community of friends that simply becomes socially dysfunctional when forcibly shared with everyone.

And the evidence of this is emerging in online practice. Consider the growing popularity of Facebook “Suicide” websites like Seppukoo.com, which offer Facebook users a ritual means by which to exercise “exit” under the rubric of “reclaiming your offline identity.” According to Kaliya of Identity Woman.net:

The Web 2.0 Suicide Machine offers “suicide” for Facebook, Myspace and Linkedin. It highlights its time saving nature taking just under one hour vs. over nine hours to go through the process manually with 1,000 Facebook friends. Their FAQs are great:

“If I start killing my 2.0-self, can I stop the process? No!

If I start killing my 2.0-self, can YOU stop the process? No!

What shall I do after I’ve killed myself with the Web 2.0 suicide machine? Try calling some friends, talk a walk in a park or buy a bottle of wine and start enjoying your real life again. Some Social Suiciders reported that their life has improved by an approximate average of 25%. Don’t worry, if you feel empty right after you committed suicide. This is a normal reaction which will slowly fade away within the first 24-72 hours.

Why do we think the Web 2.0 suicide machine is not unethical? Everyone should have the right to disconnect. Seamless connectivity and rich social experience offered by web2.0 companies are the very antithesis of human freedom. Users are entraped in a high resolution panoptic prison without walls, accessible from anywhere in the world.”

Whatever you think about the bleak humor of a Facebook “suicide, those who’ve left – or are thinking about leaving – are talking about their decision in terms of freedom.

Facebook has responded to Seppuko.com with a cease and desist message – interestingly, in the name of the privacy rights of its users. Seppukoo.com issued a reply shortly before Christmas.

The suicide metaphor suggests this is not simply the civil liberties of users at stake, but people’s entire sense of whether an online “life” separate from their physical lives remains “worth living.” I don’t know about this narrative of inherent dysfunction between one’s online and offline representations. I like both. We all have different masks we wear in different contexts; a networked expression of ourselves online is no different and is a uniquely functional means of remaining connected in a world where social distance has shrunk while geographic and physical barriers remain wide.

Without user choice over what can be shared with whom, however, and without clear-cut rules intelligible to a reasonably literate user community, those identities will become as bland as people’s professional websites. Who will post interesting personal pictures, or even their faces at all, on their profiles if anyone in the world can view them? Who will say anything funny, if everyone in the world must be counted on not to get offended at the joke? Friend lists take on a completely different meaning if in order to avoid awkward conversations with visibly excluded peers they get constructed not based on a user’s preference, but based on one’s estimate of people’s perception of those preferences as a visible part of their public profile. This not only constrains choice but the very social structure in which online identity construction occurs. It demands, indeed, the death and remaking of existing identities to conform with new rules.

No wonder users are up in arms. I hope users keep the heat turned up on the architects of Facebook and other social networking utilities, rather than pointing the gun at their online selves. EPIC is continuing to press the FTC not only to restore user choice but to make the default settings err on the side of privacy rather than openness.

And as of they this week they can do so by keeping close tabs on Facebook’s job search for an “Advertising and Privacy Counsel,” the job description for which is to “ensure compliance with advertising and privacy laws.” Readers interested in applying can read the job requirements here, which include not only a JD, state bar experience, and experience in privacy issues, but also “a sense of humor.”


Web 2.0 and “Politics”

The Journal of Information Technology and Politics is offering free online access to its current Special Issue of Politics and Web 2.0, put together by Andrew Chadwick, just for the week of APSA. Here’s the table of contents:

“Guest Editor’s Introduction
“The Internet and Politics in Flux”
Andrew Chadwick

Research Papers
“Realizing the Social Internet? Online Social Networking Meets Offline Civic Engagement”
– Josh Pasek; eian more; Daniel Romer

“Typing Together? Clustering of Ideological Types in Online Social Networks”
– Brian J. Gaines; Jeffery J. Mondak

“Building an Architecture of Participation? Political Parties and Web 2.0 in Britain”
– Nigel A. Jackson; Darren G. Lilleker

“Norwegian Parties and Web 2.0”
– Øyvind Kalnes

“The Labors of Internet-Assisted Activism: Overcommunication, Miscommunication, and Communicative Overload”
– Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

“Developing the “Good Citizen”: Digital Artifacts, Peer Networks, and Formal Organization During the 2003–2004 Howard Dean Campaign”
– Daniel Kreiss

“Lost in Technology? Political Parties and the Online Campaigns of Constituency Candidates in Germany’s Mixed Member Electoral System”
– Thomas Zittel

“Internet Election 2.0? Culture, Institutions, and Technology in the Korean Presidential Elections of 2002 and 2007”
– Yeon-Ok Lee

“The Internet and Mobile Technologies in Election Campaigns: The GABRIELA Women’s Party During the 2007 Philippine Elections”
– Kavita Karan; Jacques D. M. Gimeno; Edson Tandoc Jr.

I notice two things about this line-up. One is that it’s great to see political scientists taking seriously the empirical study of social media. There is a dearth of articles like these in mainstream poli-sci journals.

Second the papers the ended up in the special issue represent a broad definition of Web 2.0 but a narrow definition of “politics”: looks like a lot of comparative electoral studies. That’s important of course, but I think there’s a lot of work to do examining the relationship of Web 2.0 to other aspects of politics: movements, understandings of copyright, framing processes, the law, international diplomacy. Also citizen-government interface, the boomerang effect, representation in politics, political satire and politics, to say nothing about the politics of everyday life.

Perhaps a Special Issue of Perspectives on Politics will take up some of these broader concerns down the line? Hint, hint.


Web Architecture Strikes Back

Twitter was down for two hours yesterday, assumed to have been the target of a cyberattack. BBC now reports that the target of the attack, which also affected Facebook and Google, was a single individual, Georgian blogger Cyxymu.

“”[The] attack appears to be directed at an individual who has a presence on a number of sites, rather than the sites themselves,” a Facebook spokesman told BBC News. “Specifically, the person is an activist blogger and a botnet was directed to request his pages at such a rate that it impacted service for other users.”

It is still not known who perpetrated the attack or why they may have targeted Cyxymu and his accounts. However, in an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the blogger blamed Russia. “Maybe it was carried out by ordinary hackers but I’m certain the order came from the Russian government,” he said.

The blogger has previously criticised Russia over its conduct in the war over the disputed South Ossetia region, which began one year ago. A previous statement by Facebook said that the attack on the websites where he held accounts was “to keep his voice from being heard”.
Other sites such as Live Journal, where Cyxymu has his blog, were also targeted in the attack on Thursday.

I don’t know much about the nuts and bolts of orchestrating such an attack. But assume for a moment that speculation is correct – that the act was perpetrated by a government to silence its opposition. The event would have seemed to have precisely the opposite effect, as Cyxymu’s dissident blogging has now made world headlines and increased, rather than decreased, his exposure.

Actually, one can hardly imagine that any government’s tactical thinking could be so flawed, as any reasonably informed follower of the relationship between Web 2.0 and transnational politics could surely have predicted this outcome. On the contrary, if we adopt the police investigator’s modus operandi of asking who stands to benefit from the act, one might actually suspect the dissident blogger himself, or one of his sympathists, or even a random hacker aimed at sending a strong message to governments that it’s ineffective to attempt to shut down online political discourse. What better way to pre-empt and turn the tables on government efforts at repression than to stage a repressive act impacting a wide community of users, whose source cannot easily be tracked, and then go finger-pointing?

If it was a government, hopefully all governments will have learned a lesson: web 2.0 is much more useful as a tool of global civil society than as a tool to silence it.

Other theories on whodunnit? Comment away.


“The Week in Facebook”

More bric-a-brac in lieu of genuine posts of a quasi-analytical nature. This shall continue until the NSF Political Science Division’s target date for research proposals passes. At least now I’m posting bric-a-brac. (Don’t worry, before long I’ll be back with an onslaught of political insights from my wild roadtrip west, and by the start of the semester, back to blogging as usual.)

Today’s throwaway post is inspired by my current immersion in questions about how Web 2.0 is affecting the study, teaching and production of international affairs. Radio Free Europe obliges me (left) with a handy visual to either prove or poke fun at my point. For their full and very funny Facebook-ization of last week’s current events, click here.


YouTube and Politics

As some of you may recall, I began my blogging career on the Duck by commenting on the political impact and appropriation of YouTube. Back then it was citizens using YouTube to ask questions of the Presidential candidates. Now President Obama is doing with YouTube what FDR did with radio.

Good thing my colleagues up here in the Pioneer Valley have organized a conference on the way YouTube is impacting US politics, so that I don’t have to divert attention from my real research agenda to follow up on the kinds of questions I asked in that long-ago post. The “YouTube and the 2008 Election Cycle in the United States” conference kicks off tomorrow at University of Massaschusetts-Amherst, and I urge you to check it out.

Reasons why I’m excited about this event, though I’m not an Americanist:

1) The 2008 Presidential campaign was historic not just because of the outcome, but because of the process: the breadth of re-engagement by both American voters and global civil society, largely through the netroots. Speakers include Max Harper, who ran Obama’s Change.gov media campaign last year; and the Communications Director for the House Judiciary Committee. I’m bound to learn a lot about how IT is reshaping political culture.

2) Political scientists are paying much too little attention to Web 2.0 – not just YouTube but also other technologies that are revolutionizing the relationship between producers and users of information. This interdisciplinary crowd seeks to actively and rigorously study the politics of this transformation in the US context. How might IR scholars follow suit?

3) The conference is an organizational marvel, actively integrating Web 2.0 into the activities in novel ways. Like requiring presenters to create YouTube video versions of their research, which will be broadcast during the reception; and allowing audience members to post feedback and commentary directly onto the web-versions of the slides using Diigo (boy, ISA could take some pointers from these folks).

4) Also, the presentations will also be webcast live using Panopto for those not able to attend, which means we could discuss some of it here. Check out the program and online papers (each of which comes with its own YouTube video) and consider tuning in to some of this over the later part of the week.


Some of What I Picked Up at ISA This Year

A series of short posts will follow with targeted reflections on what I learned at panels and dinners this past week, and how it ties into my take on world events. For now however, let me share a few random things I learned while attending this year’s International Studies Association Annual Meeting in Manhattan:

1) “Lead pencil shavings” is, according to some but not others, apparently a coveted flavor for modestly expensive Italian wine. Who would have thought.

2)…Edward James Olmos is licensed to perform marriages in the state of California; a triplicate chant of “so say we all” is apparently quite a good substitute for the traditional wedding march.

3) The View Restaurant on the roof of the Marriott Marquis is “the only revolving roof top restaurant in New York.” And the Marriott Marquis proudly advertises this on a big sign by the elevators.

4) I am now in the market for an IPhone. This became glaringly obvious to me when, while drinking with my former doctoral students in a wireless cold-spot (that is, pretty much the entire Marriott if you weren’t one of those independently wealthy IR scholars), I noticed on the television across the bar that two nuclear submarines had “collided”, and only by appealing to a nearby colleague’s IPhone could I determine whether or not to stay put or ditch the Dogfish Head and start immediately blogging. (My lack of posting during ISA should make it obvious what I decided. However, see Sam Leith’s sardonic take on the whole “nuclear submarine fender-bender.”)

5) I will not be acquiring many of the available IPhone applications. Any tool designed to convince me that I have a 27.9 percent chance of being killed by “wildlife” in the Harmony View pub in Times Square is… well.

6) The impact of Web 2.0 on the actual profession of IR is unmatched by the impact of Web 2.0 on our professional association’s logistical planning. For more, see Peter’s post. Perhaps I should reconsider the article I was about to start cooking up with Dan Drezner about how Blogger and Facebook are changing everything in the discipline. It starts to seem a little silly throwing that idea out at a professional conference where you can barely obtain a Powerpoint projector.

7) A number of graduate students I met this year are apparently of the view that if they critique an established scholar’s writing, they need to apologize in advance, at least as long as they expect to be able to carry on a civil conversation with that scholar (me) over a drink. Let me disillusion all of this: engagement is flattery in academia, and part of our job is to include in our work a few targets for the next generation. Besides, if we can’t knock glasses at the end of the day with our epistemological adversaries, what fun is it to be surrounded by 4,000 political scientists?

8) In case this post leads any one to think that all I did at ISA is drink alcohol and geek out over gadgets and science fiction shows, let me assure you I imbibed a fair amount of coffee as well, and just to prove it check out this quote by Po Bronson, fresh off a $6 Starbucks cup:

“Failure is hard but success is harder. If you’re successful @ the wrong thing, the combination of money, praise and opportunity can lock you in forever.”

As I looked around at grad students hob-nobbing and junior professors like myself lurching from panel to lunch to coffee to workshop peddling our modest proposals, I began to hope that we’re all trying to succeed at the right thing, and wondering how we would know.


CNN Suppresses Diversity, Polar Bears

Greetings, all. Though I think Daniel hoped my early posts would concern mass killing (or, perhaps, the conquest of the Alpha Quadrant), I couldn’t help but comment on CNN’s Republican YouTube debate for my inaugural post.

Mainly, I wonder how different the debate would have been if the 35 questions aired had been chosen based on YouTube page views and comments, rather than selected by the media elite to fit the issues the candidates were prepared to discuss.

Demographics, for example. Out of the 35 videos selected for the debate, I counted only 6 featuring women. Only 2 featured people of color. And the debate of the “family values” party features no questions from minors, although many of the nearly 5,000 entries were from youth.

Too, the subject matter seemed peculiarly out of touch with the concerns of many voters. Few questions about foreign policy (Darfur, anyone?). Nothing about climate change (maybe because kids were under-represented as stakeholders – ever since polar bears became the poster children for global warming I know mine have been up in arms). And not a word about how the candidates would differentiate themselves from the policies of the Bush Administration.

But then again, perhaps I assume too much about the total population of entries. Could the digital divide simply result in a massive over-representation of gun-toting white males among the population of those submitting YouTube videos?

A fascinating qualitative analysis could and should be done on the total dataset of video entries to measure the gap between the population of entries and the sample that was used tonight to represent “the public agenda.” The findings would have important implications for our assessment of the YouTube debates as a genuine populist shift in electoral politics, rather than an attempt of the media barons to co-opt the emerging power of Web 2.0.


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