Last weekend was #ir16), and it really was the last of its kind, given the name change for the conference next year. It also spelled the end of my time on the Executive Committee. At IR5, Steve Jones took me aside in Chicago (I thought I was in trouble!) to ask if I would take over for Jeremy Hunsinger as the “web guy” on the executive committee. That means that my stretch on the exec ran just over a decade, including a stint as president and–most recently–as both the local and program chair of the Association’s Phoenix conference. So, while others may be suffering Post-Con Depression (PCD), I’m feeling a set of intense feelings of separation that extend beyond hosting the conference here in Phoenix.
After all, I’ve been involved in both the day-to-day work of the organization and helping to chart its course for many years. Taking on organizing a conference after having already served as president suggests how little eagerness I had for letting go of the organization. Many people talk about AoIR being kind of their “academic family,” but that is often tied to the annual conference. For me, there wasn’t a week that went by that I wasn’t working on one or another project to help AoIR, and there were more weeks than I can count when that was all I was able to work on. Given that kind of investment, it’s really hard to let go. I am still a member (through next June–I just checked!), and I am vaguely a part of the “jedi ghosts” of previous AoIR presidents (Steve Jones, Nancy Baym, Matthew Allen, Charles Ess, Mia Consalvo, and–as of last week–Lori Kendall). But it’s strange to be coming out of the back end of that experience.
On the other hand, it provides a profound sense of relief. I’m passionate about networking people together to do great things, and that’s one of the reasons I jumped on board for AoIR (as well as helping out with DML and helping get three graduate programs off the ground), but that has ended up being a large part of what I’ve done as an academic. It’s meant far less time than I would like to pursue my research. And my tenure on the committee has been an adventure–what may seem like a fairly placid affair from the outside often includes contentious decisions (e.g., moving the conference from Thailand to Korea), and a whole lot of ongoing work. As I look back on my more recent tenure, I think I was on the dissenting side of quite a few votes, and sometimes alone there. (No doubt, several of the continuing Exec members are breathing a sigh of relief in seeing me leave!) Finally, I’m confident that the Association is in great hands. I don’t know that it has ever had such a vibrant group of dedicated and bright faculty and students, and I expect that few would be able to do as good a job at navigating the organization through its difficult teenage years.
So, yes, I’m sad that I get to watch this only from the sidelines. But, as I mentioned to some folks on the committee, forgetting is sometimes healthy. AoIR is no longer the only game in town when it comes to scholarly organizations and conferences dedicated to understanding the social and cultural implications of networked technologies–it needs to find its place in that ecosystem. And some of its decisions have been based on a strong culture that too easily does things because it’s the way they’ve always been done. But AoIR is a unique organization with a special place in my heart. I will, along with my fellow AoIR members, be eagerly watching to see where its next chapter takes it.