Some Quick Thoughts on iConference 2014

Now that I’m back in the states and have had a bit of time to settle in, I wanted to jot down some of the stuff that stood out to me during my time at the iConference.

Standing next to our poster. Photo credit to my co-presenter, Gary Burnett

Standing next to our poster. Photo credit to my co-presenter, Gary Burnett

Creativity and Arts-Based Work

As academics, we (myself included) often get stuck in the accepted modes of production and thinking in order to produce work that is taken seriously by our colleagues and that hopefully helps us advance in our careers. There is obviously a lot of value in the work that we do and the rigorous approaches we employ, but I’m happy to see the same rigor and critical thinking being encouraged in arts-based work that acknowledges the value of play, creativity, and multiple approaches to engagement with a topic. This is something I’ve seen and talked about with folks at ASIST, ALISE, and the iConference this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing more arts-based work being shared in our field. I’m also very interested in pursuing this kind of work and open to conversations and research collaborations for those also doing this kind of work!

At the iConference in particular, I was very excited to see a conference stream centered on creativity (organized by the inspirational Dr. Theresa Anderson). This included the Researchers as Makers conference workshop I was a part of (we made zines!) as well as the iPause space, which encouraged attendees to take a break from the usual conference activities to pause and play. That space offered a much-needed break, and made it ok to engage in play or to sit quietly and reflect. As a supporter of creative play and of having a healthy balance of work and play, this space really spoke to me. I was very pleased that the iConference is open to this kind of engagement, and it definitely makes me more likely to want to attend more conferences in the future!

Social Media

At both poster sessions, there were some amazing social media projects being shared. One of my favorites was a poster on political tweets by the students at the i3 iSchool Inclusion Institute, who were all undergrads  but who blew a lot of their more experienced colleagues out of the water with their work. There were many, many other amazing projects too, and as always I learned so much from everyone I talked to at the conference. I also learned a lot sharing my poster too (which is my favorite part of presenting). I was anticipating more questions about the theory we used, but we ended up getting a lot of questions about how we defined the contexts surrounding the groups we studied. I also enjoyed having the chance to talk about US political movements to an international audience–here, most people know the role of the Tea Party and Occupy movements within our political discourse, but it was fun to get to articulate those roles for people who operate in a variety of political structures.

There are so many things I learned, and so many wonderful people I got to meet, but those two themes were ones that I really wanted to talk about (and they are themes that I’ve noticed at other recent conferences too). The iConference left me energized, encouraged, and inspired, and I hope to attend again next year!

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