Making the Most of Conferences via Social Networking
Social computing has ushered in a new way for people to interact on the World Wide Web. Rather thanhaving to adapt to corporate or institutional views of the world, the opportunities facilitated by socialcomputing software have permitted people to organize information and themselves according to theirown worldviews, thus facilitating organized human endeavour in fundamentally newways (Parameswaran & Whinston, 2007). One example of a social computing utility is Facebook whichhas seen phenomenal growth since its launch by Mark Zuckerman in February 2004, when it wasavailable only to Harvard students, to today (January 18, 2008) when there are over 60 million activeusers (Facebook statistics). The widespread acceptance of this means of interacting on the websuggests a significant impact on how people conduct their social lives. Nevertheless, little empiricalresearch has been conducted to understand how these interactions have affected social behaviour(Bumgarner, 2007).
The purpose of this panel is to create a live experiment that will investigate how attendees at the ASIST2008 annual meeting interact on a specially created Facebook site and how this affects their experienceof the conference and their face-to-face interactions. It will be a fun and interactive information sharingsession involving people who have built relationships at the conference and in the online community.
A Facebook social group will be developed prior to the conference where ASIS&T members will beinvited to share their experiences of attending conferences and getting to know others. Some peopledevelop strong and lasting friendships, others have terrible experiences, and many have simple, ratherpragmatic social interactions. How do social experiences transpire at a conference? Do hotel barsrepresent a rich environment central for making connections at conferences? What traditional andevolving roles do conference sessions play as places for establishing social connections? What cliquesexist? Do some participants feel socially excluded at conferences? Why or why not?
Panelists will analyze the interactions that take place on Facebook during the conference, including therate and manner in which membership grows, the kinds of information that are shared with the onlinegroup and the events that are organized or emerge out of the interactions among group members. Asample of group members will also be interviewed by the panelists during the conference to elicit theirreactions to the experience and how membership in Facebook affected face to face relationships at theconference. We propose that the panel be scheduled near the end of the conference where preliminaryresults of the experiment will be presented. This conference session offers an exciting opportunity forASIS&T Facebook community members to meet and chat face-to-face to enhance conferencerelationships and to exchange online community experiences.
Based on the information shared in Facebook and during the panel session, participants will take away arange of strategies for networking at conferences to build not only valuable and formal relationships, butalso pleasant informal relationships. Finally, panel members will analyze the data resulting from theexperiment and present the results in a paper to be submitted for inclusion at the 2009 ASIS&T meeting.