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Webshop 2011 review: 4 days, 20 talks, 45 students, an earthquake, a hurricane and many new connections



Summer Social Webshop
echnology-Mediated Social Participation
University of Maryland, College Park
August 23-26, 2011

Eventful.  The 2011 Webshop at the University of Maryland was certainly that with both an earthquake and a hurricane to mark the start and end of the event.  We really moved heaven and earth at this workshop.

In 4  days, 20 talks, 45 students, an earthquake, a hurricane and many new connections – the Webshop touched on a set of related concepts, methods, and findings about ways to use communication and computation technology to help groups, neighborhoods, cities, states, and nations work collectively towards common goals.

Several years ago a program at the University of Maryland called “Webshop” (Web Workshop) was organized by Professor John Robinson and held for three consecutive Summers.  I visited and spoke at two of these events and know many people who attended or spoke at one or more and remember the event enthusiastically.   The students who attended include some of the now leading researchers in the field of social science studies of the internet.  There is an impressive alumni list.

The last Webshop was held in 2003 and many years and significant changes have occurred in the time since. TwitterFacebookStreetViewiPad,FourSquareAndroidKinectEC2Mechanical TurkArduino, were all new or non-existent when the first Webshops were run.  Today we have more reason than ever to focus on the details and patterns of computer-mediated human association. Ever more people channel more of their communications with others through more digital media, often of the social kind.  A new data resource for the social sciences is growing in scale and promise: from billions of events it is possible to start to build a picture of an aggregate whole, and to start to grasp the terrain and landscape of social media.

After many years of inactivity, the Summer Social Webshop (@Webshop2011) happened again!  With the generous support of the National Science Foundation and additional assistance from Google Research, on August 23-26, 2011 at the University of MarylandCollege Park, a group of students heard and engaged with more than two dozen leading researchers exploring digital social landscapes from a variety of perspectives.  Organized by a collaboration between the University of Maryland’s Human Computer Interaction Laboratory (HCIL), the College of Information Studies, the Sociology and Computer Science Department, and the Social Media Research Foundation, the event gathered students from a wide range of disciplines to get a concentrated dose of advanced efforts to gather data from social media and people’s understanding and practices around digital technologies.   Doctoral students in computer science, iSchools, sociology, communications, political science, anthropology, psychology, journalism, and related disciplines applied to attend the 4-day intensive workshop on Technology-Mediated Social Participation (TMSP).  The workshop explored the many ways social media can be applied to national priorities such as health, energy, education, disaster response, political participation, environmental protection, business innovation, or community safety.  The workshop attracted graduate students at US universities studying social-networking tools, blogs and microblogs, user-generated content sites, discussion groups, problem reporting, recommendation systems, mobile and location aware media creation, and other social media.


Alan Neustadtl (@smilex3md) – SociologyUniversity of Maryland
Jennifer Preece (@jenpre) – iSchool, University of Maryland
Marc Smith(@Marc_Smith) – Social Media Research Foundation
Ben Shneiderman (@benbendc) – Computer ScienceUniversity of Maryland
PJ Rey (@pjrey) – SociologyUniversity of Maryland, Student Coordinator


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