bingo wars!

Row 3, Column 2 from Kieran’s bingo card this year: “Eyeroll from Chronically Hip Grad Student.” But, let’s face it: eyerolling is such a meatspace maneuver anymore. If a speaker says something out-of-step with standpoint theory nowadays, are they really more likely to be met with an eyeroll, or met with younger scholars’ eyes darting down to their smartphone/tablet so they can tweet about it? Here is an alternative Bingo card that a couple Twitter users have made that better reflects their view about the social-media-augmented ASA.

Frankly, I don’t get the part in the authors’ post about how Kieran’s card “revealed much about the sociological discipline and the problems with the annual meetings.” Kieran’s cards seems to me to involve some gentle ribbing here and there, but overall don’t exactly provoke the possibility that there might be something basically wrong–or, at least, decreasingly viable–about the conference.

On the other hand, the Twitter card does seem to raise what may be a basic problem — which is that, for many-such-people much-of-the-time, sitting still and simply listening to somebody talk about their work for fifteen minutes is no longer enough on its own. I could deliver an avuncular tsk-tsk about that, but it would be completely hypocritical given my own lately-regrettable record of panel attendance and tendencies toward junkie-style surreptitious smartphone-checking if my attention has wandered and I have the opportunity. If folks are talking about reading a few tweets from a session as a substitute for attending it, you know, maybe we should start reconsidering the prolonged reciprocal captive-audience model on which conferences like ASA are based?

Anyway: I wonder if there is going to be intergenerational tension in the coming years about the etiquette of in-session tweeting. I don’t have any problem with it, and seems like something everybody will need to get used to regardless. But I can see where others might see it as being like passing notes during a talk, only if those notes were posted on a giant whiteboard behind the speaker so that everybody but her could read them. More broadly, though, I wonder if people will start to question the default model of organizing sessions as a series of people having the floor for 15-20 minute turns of talk.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

17 thoughts on “bingo wars!”

  1. “listening to somebody talk about their work for fifteen minutes is no longer enough on its own”

    Did it used to be enough on its own? I mean this question sincerely, as I’m a newbie to the discipline. I know there’s much discussion about whether people are more easily distracted now than they used to be, but your statement implies people (us!) are actually getting less out of presentations than we used to.

    Regarding twitter, I find that I can’t follow the live tweets and listen to a presentation at the same time, but during ASA I often enjoyed reading the tweets about a session I had just attended. And I do think there are others who really get more out of presentations by having twitter conversations than if they were only listening. Also, although the speaker may be unaware of the tweets during the presentation, the tweets are public and can usually be easily found via the conference hashtag, which is quite different from passing notes…


    1. Did it used to be enough on its own? …your statement implies people (us!) are actually getting less out of presentations than we used to.

      Yeah, fair point. Now I’m distracted by trying to think of what one might offer as evidence one way or another. I wonder if there has been a shift in the avg-number-of-sessions-attended-per-attendee. There has certainly been a shift in the extent to which people feel compelled to offer a visual component to their talk.

      That said, I will admit that I have trouble disentangling: (1) my perception of my own shrinking and increasingly persnickety attention span, (2) whatever the actuality has been re: changes in my attention span, (3) whatever this actuality has to do with aging versus What These Internets Have Done To Me. So, I could be projecting.


  2. “Frankly, I don’t get the part in the authors’ post about how Kieran’s card “revealed much about the sociological discipline and the problems with the annual meetings.”

    as the co-author (with jessie daniels) of the alternative twitter bingo card, i’d like to point you to me previous post on precisely what i think the original card revealed:

    second, it seems, and please correct me if i mis-read you, that you are equating tweeting with not paying attention or being disengaged? (hence, your note-passing metaphor) if that is what you are insinuating, i need to disagree. in a session on twitter, i am reporting interesting facts, cross-checking info and developing critiques collaboratively with others both in and outside of the room. that is not less engaged, but more.

    the real issue is whether we should be passive consumers of a conference or active contributors; i prefer the latter.


    1. please correct me if i mis-read you, that you are equating tweeting with not paying attention or being disengaged?

      Absolutely, I would not equate those. I also wouldn’t equate note-passing with not paying attention or being disengaged, if what we are talking about is tweeting or about passing notes about the content of the talk. I mean, if you are talking about a talk, pretty much by definition you are engaging with it.

      I am also sympathetic to your view that engaging in extra-online activity about a talk is a way of finding a talk more engaging rather than less. I enjoy fact-checking people while they talk, etc., so let’s just say it would be a pretty glassy house for me to be hurling stones in if I went that direction.

      I took several of your squares to suggest that Twitter can make a suicidally boring session much more interesting–perhaps I misread you. Either way, though, now that we’ve established that tweeting-during-talks is engaging with materials and in fact a quite compelling form of doing so, let’s turn it around. Imagine ASA Denver has no wireless or cell service in the hotels. Would the old level of engagement still work for you? Or would you find yourself thinking, Holy-crap-I-am-bored-out-of-my-mind-how-does-anyone-stand-this? In other words, what I’m wondering is whether the extent to sessions can be augmented by using social media should be prompting us to wonder whether the conventional session format is still the way we should be doing it.


      1. okay, cool – looks like we agree! and you do not misread me, i really do think twitter helps me through poor presentations. when they are bad, we can critique them. when they are boring, we can check out what else is happening in other sessions. i dont think it is a bad thing to call out boring presentations. we have all attended talks where the presenter basically berates you with a deluge of words formed with very little coherence. the audience’s eyes get heavy and glassy or, now, more likely towards a little glowing screen. i guess that is a slight improvement?

        to your hypothetical, yes, i am quite happy being around sociologists talking about sociology, with or without twitter. i just think twitter is an improvement. my ideal conference experience involves both physical and digital and see no use to disengage with the online sphere. it enhances the physical sphere. without wifi/mobile i would be frustrated not out of boredom, but the missed opportunity to document what is said and engage with the ideas with those both inside and outside the room.


    2. Let’s consider economists, who have a custom of interrupting presentations to ask questions that are often something which the author is obviously going to get to, like “what’s your dependent variable?” Would you say that these econ audiences are “not less engaged, but more” than an audience of sociologists, who by custom hold questions to the end? I’m of the opinion that the econ custom reflects a combination of institutional ADHD and a nasty status game of one-upsmanship where people are less interested in the speaker’s contribution than their own.

      A conference presentation is really just an extended abstract as live theater and after having seen it performed you still have much less knowledge about it than the author. Midway through a fifteen minute presentation you know basically nothing about it and so its a bit silly to think that piping your 140 character gloss into the hive mind contributes more than would passively watching the presenter (who has probably devoted at least a couple hundred person-hours to the project) and holding your questions and comments (whether live or technologically-mediated) to the end. Yeah, all bugs are shallow, but not that shallow.

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding you and you’re talking about using Twitter to give thoughts about a session after you saw it in its entirety, and if so more power to you, but from some of the rest of this thread I’m getting the idea that a lot of this is about tweeting as the LCD projector’s fan drones on.


      1. the vast majority of both critiques and praises made during the talk over twitter hold up just fine when the presentation is over. in the rare case that the presenter, say, rebuts the twitter-critique, the tweeter will almost always acknowledge that in a new tweet.


  3. Were the makers of the “alternative twitter bingo card” stripped of their sense of humour at some point? Did someone steal their delicious chocolate birthday cake and replace it with rhubarb pie?

    Because Kieran’s bingo card was hil-ar-i-ous.

    And this alternative one feels like rocks in my shoe.


    1. Amen.

      Though personally, I did find some inadvertent humor in their belief that Kieran’s “Smug remarks about dues increase” square was expressing his frustration at the anti-dues-increase people.


  4. Dude, really… ‘wars’?!? Unnecessarily incendiary hyperbole, much?
    About the attention / multitasking issue, I refer you to Cathy Davidson (Duke U) who writes in her new book (and a recent piece in the Chronicle):
    Multitasking is the ideal mode of the 21st century, not just because of information overload but also because our digital age was structured without anything like a central node broadcasting one stream of information that we pay attention to at a given moment. On the Internet, everything links to everything, and all of it is available all the time.
    Unfortunately, current practices of our educational institutions—and workplaces—are a mismatch between the age we live in and the institutions we have built over the last 100-plus years. The 20th century taught us that completing one task before starting another one was the route to success. Everything about 20th-century education, like the 20th-century workplace, has been designed to reinforce our attention to regular, systematic tasks that we take to completion. Attention to task is at the heart of industrial labor management, from the assembly line to the modern office, and of educational philosophy, from grade school to graduate school.

    The point of the alternative bingo card was to ever-so-gently suggest to my ASA colleagues that there are different ways to do a conference that might be more fun than the old way. I do think that much of the way we conduct ASA is stuck in the 20th century model that Davidson describes.
    Beyond that, there are other benefits to a 21st century model of conferencing. For me, the fun of Twitter is actually connecting with people – meeting people in person by matching actual faces to avatar pics (this also has the added bonus of undermining the dreadful face/badge scan signifying practice of the conference). To me, meeting people in person I’ve known through Twitter has the effect of extending the conversations we’ve already been having online, to the conference, and then back again online after the conference is over. As Cabell posted: “If conferences are supposed to create spaces for conversations, it’s hard to imagine a better tool.”
    And, to the criticism that *really* stings – @brokengoalie – I agree that Kiernan’s card was funnier, but funny is much easier to do while being snarky. I would say I’ll try to do a funnier bingo card next time, but I wouldn’t want to start a “bingo war.” That would just be silly.


    1. Dude, really… ‘wars’?!? Unnecessarily incendiary hyperbole, much?

      My hope would be that my use of the exclamation point along with an extreme term, i.e., “bingo wars!” would be a tip-off that I was being whimsical. However–If clarity would be improved by my dropping into a completely serious voice and speaking plainly, I will: no, I do not believe that the alternative bingo card offered by the folks of cyberology constitutes an act of war, literally or metaphorically, against Kieran.

      BTW, my alternative idea of a title for the post was “the bingo card deathmatch is on!” Again, I will make clear that I do not actually believe the Cyberology folks desire to engage Kieran/Orgtheory in any activity that could be characterized as a “deathmatch”; that everyone actually recognizes that bingo cards are really not a big deal; and to my knowledge all parties involved seem like pleasant, gentle souls upon the Earth. That said, if there does end up being a deathmatch, I suppose now I feel like I would be obliged to live-tweet it.


      1. Bingo card deathmatch would make for great television. Weapon of choice would be killer robots, of course, controlled by ipads sending bingo deathtweets (i.e. “B4 – Activate Laser!”). .. or not.


  5. I find that I get better feedback when presenting at, and enjoy attending, roundtables much more than traditional paper sessions. Sitting down with 4-10 colleagues, talking about projects (w/out power point)and engaging in a rich conversation eliminates a lot of the issues in paper sessions. It is so easy to be engaged with handouts, eye contact and where everyone is expected to participate.

    We need to address the issues (the boredom) with our traditional paper sessions moving forward. Until then twitter allows observers (audience members) to be more active than passive.

    Our traditional paper sessions have several issues, including:
    1. In a 15 minute presentation more time will be spent on setting up the front end than discussing the interesting findings and nuanced arguments related to those findings.
    2. There is generally very little time for an engaged discussion at the end.
    3. The presenters exist in a vacuum, rarely conversing even during the discussion.
    5. While the discussants do their best to create the dialog, they end up doing mini-reviews for the authors (which they do not have enough time to do).


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