3 things I remember from ICWSM (4th-7th June)

Three weeks after the conference, here is what is still clear in my mind and left from my notes. These are my three big take-aways:

1.     Robin Dunbar’s Invited Talk

A much anticipated talk by Dunbar (the Dunbar number http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number), full of fun yet important research. I am not sure how much of it was done by Dunbar himself but this is more or less what the talk was about:
Social grooming online (interesting analogy with ape grooming behaviour here); As little as “liking” someone’s photo online can help sustain a relationship over distance. This online “grooming” can also increase social capital. This is more easily done by women, who can sustain a friendship with another female entirely based on distance communication e.g. phone conversations (thus the higher social media usage for females too), on the other hand male friends need to engage in activities with one another to sustain the relationship e.g., go to the pub and watch a game.  As male and female call times and patterns were compared, there was laughter in the audience due to the sharp contrast (you can imagine which was higher). This has obvious implications for how male and female social networks change over distance.

Robin Dunbar Presentation

Robin Dunbar taking questions from the audience

Social investment in romantic relationships is higher from women at the beginning and shifts later in the relationship (possibly after childbirth). Evidence shows that males are much more passive when it comes to choosing a mate, whereas females do most of the work associated with finding and keeping a partner. Entering in a romantic relationship also costs you two friends. Human capacity for giving attention in sustaining relationships is limited and a lot of investment is required for “securing a mate”, at an

estimated cost of two friends (one friend and one family member usually). This is also where the Dunbar number comes in. It was pointed out that you can’t tattoo more than 150 Facebook profile pictures on a standard arm, another validation of the number (see http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-tattoo-hoax-video-woman-friends-pictures-tattooed/story?id=13795834 to get this).

Extra Dunbar wisdom: 1) If you want to be the next Nobel prize winner, invent “the virtual touch” 2) Change academic fields every seven years 3) Laughter turns strangers into friends, sense of humour is the strongest homophilic bond

2.     Igor Perisic (LinkedIn), keynote talk

Despite being the only person in the audience not familiar with LinkedIn, I really enjoyed this talk because LinkedIn seems to be a transparent and data-rich platform.

It was pointed out that recommender sites (e.g. dating sites) give you 2nd or 3rd best match to keep you happy yet coming back for more (not sure if LinkedIn does this with jobs?);
If one of your colleagues leaves, you are at high risk of leaving in the next six months;
A gravity model was presented – where you are likely to go/stay for work using LinkedIn recommendations;
The length of your name/your name could determine how successful you are/what business you might go in (to consider when picking baby names)

3.   The state we’re in.

I haven’t been long in this trade but

some things that stood out to me as “novel” were:

1) The idea of “social web” promoted by Google (or Google’s Andrew Tomkins to be politically correct). This means that everything from banking to retail will be embedded in a social network that is task-oriented, so all those hours spent on social media will be more productive (It wasn’t stated specifically how). Question-asking online and bringing bots into social media was  also demonstrated in SearchBuddies: Bringing Search Engines into the Conversation, and the effects of this method were evaluated. The whole concept of “social web” emerged as the future of social media during the conference.
2) We often look at one platform and reach global conclusions, in Crossing Media Streams with Sentiment an important reminder of cross-platform analysis was given. Twitter, Blogs and Reviews were explored to demonstrate these differences. Attention needs to be given when giving titles to papers, not to overstate the impact of findings e.g. “Social Media Sentiments”, when only Twitter is analysed in the work.
3) Is privacy virtually dead? If even our privacy settings can reveal who we are, is there any way to remain private online? This is something that came to mind during Daniele’s talk and later in discussion of the digital divide and browsing behaviour in Who Does What on the Web. Not only gender but also ethnicity, education (and much more) can be derived from browsing behaviour.  In Grief Stricken in a Crowd, the grieving process goes online and language can be analysed to detect those in need of counselling or help. I suppose social media analysis will soon be able to tell us more about ourselves than we know.
And the rest was as ordered…

Bar view at the top of the Guinness Storehouse

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