AM08 2008 START Conference Manager    

Making the Most of Conferences Via Social Networking

Crystal Fulton, Julia A. Hersberger, Kate Johnson, Ophelia T. Morey and Ruth Vondracek

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


Panel Summary:

Social computing has ushered in a new way for people to interact on the World Wide Web. Rather than having to adapt to corporate or institutional views of the world, the opportunities facilitated by social computing software have permitted people to organize information and themselves according to their own worldviews, thus “facilitating organized human endeavour in fundamentally new ways” (Parameswaran & Whinston, 2007). One example of a social computing utility is Facebook which has seen phenomenal growth since its launch by Mark Zuckerman in February 2004, when it was available only to Harvard students, to today (January 18, 2008) when there are over 60 million active users (Facebook statistics). The widespread acceptance of this means of interacting on the web suggests a significant impact on how people conduct their social lives. Nevertheless, little empirical research has been conducted to understand how these interactions have affected social behaviour (Bumgarner, 2007).

The purpose of this panel is to create a live experiment that will investigate how attendees at the ASIST 2008 annual meeting interact on a specially created Facebook site and how this affects their experience of the conference and their face-to-face interactions. It will be a fun and interactive information sharing session involving people who have built relationships at the conference and in the online community.

A Facebook social group will be developed prior to the conference where ASIS&T members will be invited to share their experiences of attending conferences and getting to know others. Some people develop strong and lasting friendships, others have terrible experiences, and many have simple, rather pragmatic social interactions. How do social experiences transpire at a conference? Do hotel bars represent a rich environment central for making connections at conferences? What traditional and evolving roles do conference sessions play as places for establishing social connections? What cliques exist? Do some participants feel socially excluded at conferences? Why or why not?

Panelists will analyze the interactions that take place on Facebook during the conference, including the rate and manner in which membership grows, the kinds of information that are shared with the online group and the events that are organized or emerge out of the interactions among group members. A sample of group members will also be interviewed by the panelists during the conference to elicit their reactions to the experience and how membership in Facebook affected face to face relationships at the conference. We propose that the panel be scheduled near the end of the conference where preliminary results of the experiment will be presented. This conference session offers an exciting opportunity for ASIS&T Facebook community members to meet and chat face-to-face to enhance conference relationships and to exchange online community experiences.

Based on the information shared in Facebook and during the panel session, participants will take away a range of strategies for networking at conferences to build not only valuable and formal relationships, but also pleasant informal relationships. Finally, panel members will analyze the data resulting from the experiment and present the results in a paper to be submitted for inclusion at the 2009 ASIS&T meeting.


Parameswaran, M and Whinston, A. B. (2007). Research issues in social computing. Journal of the Association for Information Systems 8 (6): 336-350.

Bumgarner, B. (2007). You have been poked: Exploring the uses and gratifications of Facebook among emerging adults. First Monday 12 (11). Available at

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