Internet research

Development Policy12 Oct 2009Janelle Ward

I’m back from the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) conference, which was held last week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This annual conference presents the latest research in Internet studies, which according to Wikipedia can be defined as “the interaction between the Internet and modern society, and the sociological and technological implications on one another.” The full program can be found online, and a number of papers stand out that may be particularly interesting for The Broker readers.

Activist in 140 words: Twitter and International Organizations” by Maria Isabel Garrido and Alex Halavais looked at the use of Twitter and particularly the use of the “hash tag” #g20, which was used to keep activists and other interested parties up to date on the G20 protests in Pittsburgh (held in September 2009). The authors are interested in examining how people used Twitter and whether it was effective. Alex Halavais presented some interesting findings and demonstrated the centrality of a number of international organizations (e.g., Greenpeace) to how Twitter works in such a context. The research is in-progress and the authors have made their data available online for those interested in exploring the archive. The second paper of interest was called “Alternative Mobile Handsets and Grassroots Innovation in the Global South: A Critical Examination” (by Cara Wallis, Jack Linchuan Qiu, and Rich Ling). The paper provided an overview of mobile phone use in the developing world. According to the abstract they focused on “financial constraints, flexible manufacturing techniques, and cultures of tinkering” and used this framework to explain innovative uses of mobile phones. This research is particularly interesting for those in development organizations who want to increase their knowledge of how populations use this technology.