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Mastodon: Research Symposium and Tool Exploration Workshop

Mastodon: Research Symposium and Tool Exploration Workshop

During 22nd and 23rd of June, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, in collaboration with the Centre for Digital Inquiry and the Sustainable Cities GRP will be holding the Mastodon: Research Symposium and Tool Exploration Workshop, a hybrid event featuring 18 talks from researchers and activists from +10 countries, and a guest lecture from Robert W. Gehl.

Key information:

Organizing Committee

Day 1: Talks

The Road to A critical genealogy

Robert W. Gehl

Just days after Elon Musk finalized his purchase of Twitter in 2022, the Association of Internet Researchers (AOIR) met in Dublin for their annual conference. One of the darlings of the conference was Mastodon, the Twitter alternative, which was attracting many new users in the wake of Musk's takeover of Twitter. The AOIR executives decided to take the plunge and host a Mastodon instance for members of the organization, and I was asked to be the admin of the new instance. Drawing on critical genealogical methods and interviews I'm conducting for a book about the fediverse, this presentation considers the historical events that made possible -- and that reveal the dangers this experiment faces. First, I will argue that was made possible by the struggles of queer, trans, and Black developers and admins, who developed hard-won knowledge about content moderation in covenantal federated systems. If does not learn from this history of struggle, it will erase the work of marginalized people and deny AOIR's
own stated goals of decolonizing the Internet. Second, also operates in the shadow of 20 years of corporate social media history. This includes 20 years of research methods developed in an often antagonistic relationship with corporate social media -- methods that may be inappropriate and unethical on the fediverse. In fact, many fediverse members are on the fediverse precisely because of concerns over research practices in corporate social media. Given that many of these methods were developed by AOIR members, if is seen as promoting unethical research on the fediverse, it runs the risk of being defederated from the rest of the fediverse and thus failing. Whether or not can succeed will depend upon our ability to learn from the fediverse's history.


Day 2: Tools and Methods

Equality Diversity and Inclusion

This workshop aims to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion. We are quite conscious that the programme is gender imbalanced and most of the speakers are from the global north. We invite everyone to reflect on this throughout the event, to be aware of their own positionality, and to ensure all speakers are given the opportunity to fully participate.


This event has been funded by University of Warwick's Research Development Fund (RD22009), the Centre for Digital Inquiry and the Sustainable Cities GRP

Guest Speaker: Robert W. Gehl

Robert W Geghl

Robert W. Gehl is the Ontario Research Chair of Digital Governance for Social Justice at York University, and an alumnus of the Fulbright Canada Research Chair program. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, Media, and Film at the University of Calgary.

His research is about network cultures and technologies, manipulative communication, alternative social media, and the Dark Web, and as such, he has been one of the first scholars researching the Fediverse.

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