Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Public Turn

Although I include it among my professional associations, I haven't always felt welcome at the Association of Internet Researchers, given their predilection for the social sciences and for papers that deliver a methods section rather than accepting organizational strategies for arguments driven by interpretive reflection and a desire for rhetorical interventions.

But this year's program for their annual conference already seems to display what I would call a "public turn" in the organization and perhaps in Internet studies more generally. Check out this year's offerings in Milwaukee, which include substantive panels on governance, health policy, ICTs, and political organizing. In the past, the focus has been on ethnographic studies of individual communities of practice, but this year it looks like the policy wonks have been made more than welcome.

Of course, choosing VP pal Siva Vaidhyanathan may have signaled this public turn months ago, but it is nice to see this engagement with institutions and policies will also be represented in smaller sessions. This week at the NEH Institute on Broadening the Digital Humanities I talked about how the nature of the public has changed with social computing and object-oriented ideologies and pointed to books like Networked Publics and Making Things Public as proof.

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