Monday, October 13, 2008

Part of the Gang

It's all well and good to get to know people within your own college and university. But what about making connections around the nation and the globe? Success today is largely defined not only by what you know, but who you know. Undergrads and grad students alike constantly are reminded of the importance of building their social networks -- networks that include people from a variety of places, backgrounds, and interests. Becoming a member of various academic communities is a great way to start building such networks. Not only can you increase your chances of success by establishing more contacts and making a "name" for yourself, but you can meet some fascinating people and broaden your knowledge and understanding.

Three academic communities that I can see myself being a part of someday are ASIS&T, CHI, and CSCW. Here's why:

1) ASIS&T, or the American Society for Information Science and Technology, mirrors the composition of the IST College by combining the efforts and ideas of scholars from computer science, linguistics, management, librarianship, engineering, law, medicine, chemistry, and education. According to the ASIS&T website,
ASIS&T increases the influence of information professionals among decision-makers by focusing attention on the importance of information as a vital resource in a high-technology age and promotes informed policy on national and international information issues by contributing to the formation of those policies. It supports the advancement of the state-of-the art and practice by taking a leadership position in the advocacy of research and development in basic and applied information science.
This Society caught my eye because it is so closely related to IST itself. Many of the academic communities and scholarly venues that IST researchers belong to are not nearly as diverse as IST is. This is fine -- we certainly need narrowly defined communities and venues -- but it's also great to be able to experience the interdisciplinarity of IST. I am presenting a short paper with Jamika Burge, the post-doc with whom I am so blessed to work on the wireless project, at the ASIS&T Annual Meeting this month in Columbus, Ohio. (And I'm thrilled to have the chance to visit my home state's lovely capital!)

2) CHI, ACM's special interest group for Computer-Human Interaction (generally called human-computer interaction or HCI, but "CHI" is a nice monosyllabic name), is the premiere conference for HCI researchers. It is heavily focused on design research and empirical studies. As CHI (among many venues) attempts to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology, it has changed its format a bit, instituting subcommittees and contribution types to encourage more cutting-edge and diverse submissions. I've read more CHI papers than papers from any single other venue during my tenure in IST; you simply can't be one of Jack's or Mary Beth's graduate students and not be intimately familiar with CHI! I was among the authors on two papers submitted to CHI this year. The acceptance rate for CHI is very low (about 15%), but I'm still hopeful. :)

3) CSCW, ACM's conference for Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, began as an offshoot of CHI and is now a primary venue for CSCW researchers. Unlike CHI, which is held annually, CSCW is held every two years. Computer-mediated communication is one of the main reasons I am interested in IST, so CSCW's focus on interaction and collaboration makes it a top contender among possible academic communities for me. Although the title suggests that CSCW is only interested in collaboration in the workplace, this is not the case. CSCW is interested in all sorts of computer-mediated interactions, including gaming, instant messaging, and mobile communications.

So there you have it. Although all of these communities are also publication venues, their value goes far beyond that of publishing. Attending conferences, reading the work of other scholars, learning about what research others are pursuing, and networking so that other researchers can learn about me and my work are all ways of building community within academia. I picked these communities -- one IST-esque and broad, two more focused upon my own research interests -- because they reflect who I am and who I want to be as a scholar.

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