Hat tossing

I had no serious designs on becoming a part of the executive board of the Association of Internet Researchers, until someone–and I really wish I knew who!–nominated me for treasurer. It was good timing, since I had decided I wanted to turn my focus outward a bit from the UB and get more involved in the field rather than just the U. And I have more experience than the average academic, I suspect, in financial matters, so treasurer is a pretty good fit. But now I have to write a position statement.

These always seem a bit cheesy when I read them. I want to keep it short and to the point. At the very least, this gives me a way of talking about some directions I would like to see AIR go. My initial brainstorming had me thinking along the lines of “Rock Superstar,” but after looking at some of the questions I need to answer, I quickly dismissed this as a pretty unlikely campaign strategy. Instead, I came up with the following:

I would, naturally, be very thankful for any feedback, before I send it off…

Brief biographical sketch:

Alexander Campbell Halavais is an assistant professor in the School of Informatics. He received a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Washington in 2001, where he also acted as the research director for the New Media Research Lab. His research centers on the role of information and communication technologies in supporting collaboration and creativity in large, disperse organizations. Recent work has examined networked communication among activists, webloggers, researchers, and citizens of global cities.

Position statement:

I have grown up as an internet researcher along with the Association of Internet Researchers. As a student, I found that while there were scholarly venues in which to examine the relationship between society and information technologies, too often the interdisciplinarity was tolerated rather than celebrated. AIR has remained a bridge for me to scholars whom I might otherwise never have had a chance to meet. It has also grown over the last four years, both increasing in size and evolving an increasingly strong sense of purpose. I think that as an organization, we are on the right trajectory. As treasurer, I would support continued progress along this path. I would also hope to maintain what is good about being a small organization as we grow, and I think that the social technology we study can help us to do this.

We have already worked hard to draw from an increasingly wider group of researchers and practitioners. We need to continue to actively make connections with scholars and institutions that represent cultural, methodological, and disciplinary diversity. It is not enough to provide a welcoming environment; we must actively seek out influential members of existing communities and enlist their aid in bringing the best research to our conferences and other discussions. The membership of AIR seems already to represent an invisible college within many cognate organizations. I would like to see these connections made stronger and more visible.

I think it is important that we maintain the conferences as an index of the best research in our field(s). The objective indicated above–interdisciplinary–makes this especially difficult. I have little doubt that we have turned down excellent proposals in the past, some from colleagues who have expressed to me their resulting frustration. Nonetheless, it is important that as the conferences become bigger we maintain high standards of peer review. The AIR conferences, for me, have been unusual in the degree to which I want to attend most of the simultaneous panels, and the panels have been uniformly of high quality. I think that the move to extended abstracts for IR 4.0 was a good step in ensuring continuing quality, and we should continue to formalize a review process that draws heavily from the most appropriate communities. Along with increasing opportunities for publication related to the conference, this will make certain that AIR maintains a reputation for quality along with diversity.

Finally, AIR is an organ of scholarly communication, and this should not be limited to the annual conferences and AIR-L. Those involved in creating and maintaining the website and creating the “list of lists” deserve our thanks. Over the next two years, I hope to explore other ways to make use us of the website to filter relevant news, share data and early findings, link researchers with similar interests, and provide both resources and mentoring to students who are often engaging in internet research in departments where they may not have much intellectual support.

AIR has provided a touchstone for research and support for my own work. The conferences and AIR-L have both sent me in new research directions and given me chances to meet people who have provided inspiration and support. Iíve reciprocated in a very small way, delivering papers at the conferences, acting as a referee, and organizing a panel. Acting as treasurer would provide me with an opportunity to contribute to this community in a more meaningful and substantial way.

It is (perhaps unfortunately) rare that my financial experience is applied in an academic setting. While doing my graduate work, I also worked as a budget analyst for the City of Bellevue in Washington State. This followed a stint as an interdepartmental liaison for Security Pacific, a Bank of America subsidiary. A part of this work required me to coordinate the exchange and flow of financial documentation within a complex international organization. I have also served on university-wide committees overseeing budgets as small as twenty thousand dollars annually, and as large as four million dollars annually. I would be happy to apply this experience to the operations of the Association, and would also enjoy the opportunity to learn and grow within the position.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted 6/10/2003 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Alex,

    will you help me balance my check book? =)

    speaking as david, i’m jazzed you are running and think you would make a great addition to the exec. air continues to grow at a fast rate and the next board will have their hands full of important decisions and responsibilities. i’m glad you’re running!

    i dig the statement. i agree with you about the value and importance of air’s interdisciplinarity and about the benefits of being (for the time being) a small organization. i think you are right to highlight your SHAMEFUL, IMPECCABLE AND JEALOUSY-INDUCING background in finances. you are right to thank those involved in maintaining the tech (thanks jeremy! thanks charlie!) and and the list of lists, and it would be cool if you were to expand it, the tech and the social tech, in new directions. i would suggest that you flex your digital skills (maybe this is where you can drop some cypress hill): you are interested in building more resources for the community and you *can* build them. cool. also, under your list of reciprocations to air, i’d mention posting to air-l. for a list for scholars studying the net, it sure is pretty quiet; every post counts.

    finally, i’m not sure if this is a question for your statement or one in general, but what do you mean by seeking out “influential members”? what does influential mean? is that senior scholars, the ones who have and continue to help shape the field or younger scholars, the ones who do and will for years to come shape the field? either way (and i find myself leaning one way over the other), it has to be done on an INTERNATIONAL level. air is international in some ways but it’s got to continue, proactively and creatively. my opinion.

    ok, good luck!

  2. Posted 6/10/2003 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    David: Thanks for the (quick!) comments. I know I’ll throw “international” in there–I meant to say this with the “cultural” part, but I should make it explicit.

    Good question: I don’t who “influentials” are. I was thinking the kind of people who bring other people. In all honesty, I was thinking people who would bring toys and demos. I’m jealous of some of the toys that show up at CHI and CSCW, and would love to be able to draw some technologist-artists–in part because I think the interaction with non-techies would benefit both. The best way to do that is to enlist people with lots of friends. I guess I meant “gregarious people,” but that doesn’t ring quite right…

    As for AIR-L, that was a strategic omission. I think if you look over the archives, you’ll find I’ve mostly lurked. I’ve probably posted a half-dozen times over the last few years. A part of that is that, until a couple of days ago, I was registered with my u.washington.edu address, so posting meant digging up Webpine, and by the time that much effort was involved I usually responded directly to the authors instead.

    I’ll try to hint at being able to actually *do* some of the things I’m suggesting, rather than just wish for them, though I’m always a little uneasy pushing my technical skills. I’m not, e.g., on Jeremy’s level by far.

    OK, so thanks very much for both for the encouragement and for some solid tweaks.

  3. Posted 6/12/2003 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    ooh, i actually *like* the cultural part — i assumed that meant a diverse perspective with respect to things like race, gender, sexuality, class, and disability. what about adding something about international in addition to the cultural bit?

  4. Posted 6/12/2003 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    All that stuff :). Yes, though, I’ll add in the international bit. I’ll be curious to see what effect Maastricht had on our international participation this year…

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