Experts look at 'Friending Facebook' in American culture

March 17, 2011

ASU will conduct a half-day symposium March 25 titled “Friending Facebook: Social Media and the (Re)Construction of Self and Other” to focus on social media and its intersections with all aspects of American culture. 

Organized by a research cluster on social media sponsored by the Institute for Humanities Research, the symposium will consist of a panel discussion led by ASU scholars and a keynote address from leading social media scholar Joshua Green, visiting from University of California, Santa Barbara.

“Social media” is the hottest buzzword in business, politics and popular culture, but what is behind all that buzz?  Facebook has reached 500 million registered users incredibly quickly, and even turned itself into a verb in the common vernacular: “Just ‘facebook’ me, and I’ll send you directions to the party.” Twitter captivates headlines as the primary method by which celebrities and would-be politicians communicate to the public. Broadcast media executives scramble to figure out how to leverage the YouTube audience, while fending off the threat of freely accessible content. 

But is YouTube’s content really free?  Is Facebook a great way to stay in touch with friends, or is it a marketing juggernaut collecting detailed personal data and injecting targeted advertising into our semi-private communications?  Are these incompatible? These are some of the questions this event will attempt to answer.  To do so, the event will bring together scholars from across the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences including Film Media Studies, English and Communication.

An expert on YouTube, networked media and cultural studies, Green will talk on “Cultural Participation in Networked Culture” and will focus on a key characteristic of network culture: the destabilization of categories of participation. Participatory culture has highlighted the slipperiness of the identities forged within what were once taken to be fixed categories, such as professional and amateur, official and unofficial, permitted and transgressive, or producer and audience. Thinking about social media and the new public connections of participatory culture serves as an entry point for a broader discussion. Download Full Image

This presentation will draw on case studies from advertising, fan fiction, YouTube, videogames and Hollywood to explore tensions resulting as various agents wrestle over the limits of acceptable participation. Green's address will combine elements from his previous work on YouTube and his current project on “spreadable media” which emphasizes the role of participation and sharing by individuals in the process of cultural production. Green is the project manager for the Media Industries Project at the Carsey-Wolf Center at UCSB, and was previously on faculty with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Comparative Media Studies Program.

The IHR Social Media Research Cluster is an initiative sponsored by the Institute for Humanities Research to assist research and communication among scholars and to enrich the intellectual climate of the university. Research clusters serve as an entry point for faculty to engage with the IHR’s goals of fostering innovative interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research. The Social Media Research Cluster examines one of today’s most important phenomena, and does so from humanistic perspectives such as cultural studies, political economy, and literacy and learning. 

The Social Media Research Cluster is led by Bambi Haggins from Film Media Studies and Alice Daer of the Department of English, and participants include Aaron Baker (FMS), Scott Ruston (Hugh Downs School of Human Communication) and Michael Green (FMS).

The “Friending Facebook” symposium is open to the public and will take place on ASU’s main campus (Tempe) in West Hall, Room 185, March 25. The event is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m., concluding approximately at 4:30 p.m. The event is free, but RSVPs to IHR">"> are requested to ensure ample seating.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

SkySong hosts cleantech, energy experts at forums

March 17, 2011

Edward Fox, vice president and chief sustainability officer for APS, came to SkySong recently to speak to faculty about the lengthy process of commercializing research in the cleantech industry.

“At the end of the day, we’re not in the electron business – we’re in the cold beer and hot showers business,” said Fox. “We’re not buying stuff that isn’t proven. In big corporations, if you have to pull the plug on something, it won’t ever be forgiven. ” Download Full Image

Fox spoke as part of a panel assembled by Venture">">Venture Catalyst, ASU’s entrepreneurial assistance initiative designed to help faculty, students, alumni and ASU-linked companies launch new startups or accelerate existing ventures.

Dennis Merens of Dow Venture Capital and Tom Cain from Sail Venture Partners were also on the panel and talked about what it takes to get investors interested in a faculty member’s technology. Both Merens and Cain serve on the Venture Catalyst advisory board.

“I’m looking for game-changers,” said Cain. “I don’t care if you’re the best in the Southwest, or even the best in the United States, because my investment horizon is so long that someone else will emerge if we can’t keep you out in front.”

Cain also described his vision of the coming 10-year battle between legacy energy technologies and cleantech. As new technologies emerge and improve, Cain believes we will see matching efficiency gains in, for example, internal combustion engines.

“You’re competing against all the other technologies out there,” said Cain. “It’s not enough just to have the best biomass.”

Charlie Lewis, vice president of venture development for Arizona">">Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE), followed Cain’s remarks by describing the ways ASU is working with entrepreneurial faculty to help commercialize appropriate inventions.

“With Venture Catalyst, we have made a concerted effort to provide the critical services ASU faculty need to take the work they’re doing from the lab to the marketplace,” said Lewis.

SkySong also recently hosted Roger N. Anderson, the Con Edison senior scholar at the Center for Computational Learning Systems at Columbia University. Anderson’s team studies the root causes of electric grid failures and has helped lower the electric component failure rates of the distribution grid in New York City by 30 to 40 percent.

“Most of the cost of electricity is two things, putting copper in the ground and fixing things that break,” said Anderson. “Electricity is really cheap if you can keep things from breaking.”

Anderson explained the difference in the utility model when it comes to maintenance.

“With almost all utilities, the plane crashes first, then you go fix it. All the trucks you see out there on the streets are fixing things that are already broken. This is an old model, and it’s not how modern machines should work.”

Anderson spoke as part of the ASU">">ASU Lightworks CEO Forum. LightWorks pulls light-inspired research at ASU under one strategic framework. It is a multidisciplinary effort to leverage ASU’s unique strengths, particularly in renewable energy fields including artificial photosynthesis, biofuels, and next-generation photovoltaics.