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2008 in Columbus!

In case you missed it, the 2008 Annual Meeting of ASIS&T international just took place in Columbus, OH, and a good time was had by all. In some ways this was the best-run professional conference I have experienced. ASIS&T did an excellent job bringing first-timers into the swing of things, and the hierarchy of the society seemed quite open about greeting and welcoming newcomers. They put together some excellent plenary sessions, as well as the healthy tongue-in-cheek SIG-CON Tuesday evening (any society willing to laugh at its own conference rituals is a healthy one!). I was a bit disappointed how few people attended the business meeting. OCLC Research gave a Saturday reception at the Columbus Museum of Art which boasted an elegant setting, fantastic food (lobster in phyllo dough, bbq wasabi shrimp…!), and the chance to see the museum. Someone from New York even told me what a great museum it is.

Interesting tidbits from specific sessions:

  • Sunday’s plenary was excellent in both scope and quality (if a bit polemical at times). Both Genevieve Bell (ethnographer working for Intel Research) and Andrew Keen gave this (highly international) crowd a lot to think about how the Internet needs to consider becoming less Anglo-centric.
  • The e-research crossing the pond session was a little less informative than I hoped, though the panelists did reach some common ground on 1) the differences that public funding agencies (JISC, Councils) make in the UK and 2) the incredible difficulties in dealing with different data collection and curation practices between scientific disciplines.
  • Monday’s poster session included adjacent papers (serendipity lives!) on aspects of FRBR by Allen Renear, Allyson Carlyle, and a consultant to NASA who was attempting to apply the FRBR entities to astronomical observation data. The discussion among us and other passers-by was quite lively, and lasted over two hours…
  • Connie Yowell (director of education grants for MacArthur), in the second plenary, gave a polished overview of several research projects into young people’s use of digital media. Perhaps her most interesting points were the nuanced views on the CONVERGENCE of old and new media, rather than the most popular approaches to only focus on what is new (“school is one node on young people’s learning network”), and on how digital media offer young people support for both good and bad behaviors (suicide, anorexia). In other words, she sees Millennial behaviors as both new and old, and value-neutral.
  • Later in the day, I went to the single session concerning info technologies in the arts and humanities, a SIG which has been moribund for the past couple of years. It was extremely interesting to me to see the difficulties these researchers were facing, many of the challenges dealing with the very nature of the humanities: how do we craft quantitative and thus machine-readable measures for works usually read in qualitative terms?

Big public thanks are due to all the CO-ASIST members who helped welcome the society to Columbus!