JustPublics@365 Hosted Conference in NY Observer

National Day of Unplugging lasted from sunset on Friday, March 1 to sunset on Saturday, March 2. But judging from the smartphones, Macbooks, and tablets at the third annual Theorizing the Web conference, no attendees took them up on the challenge.

This past weekend was the first time the conference has been held in New York City, at the CUNY Graduate Center near Herald Square.

Gatherings of this sort are typically insular, academic affairs, but organizers Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey, both sociology grad students at the University of Maryland-College Park, have attempted to broaden the tent to include bloggers, writers, and journalists of all stripes. “We wanted to create the sort of conference we would want to attend,” said Mr. Rey.

In the opening remarks on Saturday, Mr. Jurgenson elaborated, “We would go to theory conferences, and nobody wanted to talk about the Internet.” What ties the two worlds together, he added, is a concern with social justice—public intellectualism rather than institutional prestige.

Friday’s panel, “Free Speech For Whom?” was a good example of that hybrid approach.

Panelists included social media scholar Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research better known as @zephoria; Gawker staff writer Adrian Chen, an editor at The New Inquiry; and University of North Carolina professor Zeynep Tufekci, a fellow at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy. CUNY Professor Jessie Daniels, author of Cyber Racism, moderated.

You can read more of Brendan O’Connor’s article in the NY Observer here.