Persistent Conversation Minitrack

A significant consequence of communication technologies is that conversations are no longer ephemeral and volatile. Most conversations mediated by technology leave a persistent record and become persistent conversations. This persistence transforms the essence of conversation, and it is the focus of extensive academic and applied research. The persistent conversation minitrack is the home of this research at HICSS.

Persistent conversations are being created using text, audio, images, and video, and they are a part of every aspect of life: From the Cluetrain Manifesto's "markets are conversations", through Robin Dunbar's conversations as devices for social grooming, conversations are at the heart of every human activity. Accordingly, the minitrack is open to research on persistent conversation from a variety of disciplinary perspectives including communication, management, education, computer science, sociology, political science, psychology, linguistics, law, and the like.

As noted by Tom Erickson and Susan Herring, who established the Persistent Conversation minitrack at HICSS in 1999, the persistent trace frees conversations from the lock-step synchrony of face-to-face talk. It allows to dramatically scale the number of participants within a single discussion and to distribute an interaction over geographies, time zones, and cultures. Human and machine access to those digital traces enables a wide set of prisms and analyses, leading to novel insights into the numerous forms of human activity.

At the same time, the persistence of human communication imposes a new set of challenges. For example, what mechanisms perform the role of the ephemeral social cues of face-to-face conversation? What are the ethical consequences of the creation of potentially permanent records in terms of privacy, accountability, and the right to be forgotten? In addition, claims have been made about the loss of intimacy, depth, and quality of human communication when it is carried out digitally, especially in the case of massive open communication.

The aim of this minitrack is to bring together researchers and innovators to explore digitally persistent conversation and its implications for learning, commercial transactions, entertainment, news, politics, and other forms of human interaction; to raise new socio-technical, ethical, pedagogical, linguistic and social questions; and to suggest new methods, perspectives, and design approaches.

Examples of appropriate topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Innovation in digital conversational practice: turn-taking, threading, and other structural features of CMC
  • The dynamics and analysis of large scale conversation systems (e.g., MOOCs and big data applications)
  • Methods for analyzing persistent conversation
  • Studies of virtual communities or other sites of digital conversation
  • The role of persistent conversation in knowledge management
  • The role of persistent conversation in organizational dynamics
  • Domain specific applications, opportunities and challenges of persistent conversations (e.g., in education, healthcare, social movements, government, citizen participation)
  • Conversation visualization, and visual cues
  • The role of listeners, lurkers, and silent interactions
  • Social presence and the persistence of an attributed user's identity

Minitrack Co-Chairs:

Sheizaf Rafaeli (Primary Contact)
University of Haifa
Email: sheizaf@rafaeli.net

Yoram M Kalman
The Open University of Israel
Email: yoramka@openu.ac.il

Carmel Kent
University of Haifa
Email: kent.carmel@gmail.com

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