September/October 2013 Issue • Volume 41 • Issue 6

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2013 ASA Annual Meeting
Breaks Attendance Record

Daniel Fowler, ASA Public Information Office

The 2013 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting was the most successful ever in terms of attendance.

A record-breaking total of 6,184 people attended the conference in New York City, topping the previous best of 6,025 established six years ago, the last time ASA visited the Big Apple. Attendance also increased by 16 percent compared with 2012, when 5,330 convened in Denver, Colorado, for the Annual Meeting. 

“New York City has historically been a popular destination for our members, so we certainly anticipated a good turnout,” said Kareem D. Jenkins, ASA’s Director of Meeting Services. “But, it’s safe to say that attendance far exceeded our expectations.”

2013 Major ASA Award Winners

2013 ASA Major Award Winners

So why was 2013 a banner year?

“The record-breaking numbers speak to the location of the meeting—people love New York City, but also to the exciting program 2013 ASA President Cecilia Ridgeway and the Program Committee designed,” Jenkins explained.

Jenkins also saw this year’s theme, “Interrogating Inequality: Linking Micro and Macro,” as perfect for New York City because inequality manifests itself in finance, government, culture, and the arts, all of which are synonymous with the city.

Social Order and Inequality

The theme, which Ridgeway discussed in her Presidential Address, challenged sociologists to consider how inequality, in its multi-dimensional complexity, is produced in contemporary societies.

“No set of questions is more fundamental to sociology than those about inequality—what is it, why is it, how does it come about, and what can we do to change it?” Ridgeway said. “Indeed, my own sense of our discipline is that it has two foundational problems—the problem of social order and the problem of inequality—and we can rarely talk about one without talking about the other.”

The conference featured 578 sessions and 3,738 papers covering such subjects as, immigration, mass shootings, same-sex marriage, social media, sex, climate change, family, work, health and health care, relationships, education, bullying, technology, religion, race, socioeconomics, children, politics, disability, substance abuse, animals, gender, and many others. The 2012 meeting, by comparison, featured 569 sessions and 3,235 papers.

For the second year in a row, any individual with Internet access was able to watch a live webcast with captions of the meeting’s three plenary sessions—Inequality and Contemporary Social Protest, Micro Processes as Mechanisms of Inequality, and How Is Equality in the United States Changing?—as well as the ASA Awards Ceremony and Presidential Address. Live transcripts accompanied the webcasts, which were accessible on mobile devices, tablets, and computers. The webcasts and transcripts are still available at  videoarchive.asanet.org/.

New Innovations

New York dancers perform a “flash mob”-style routine at the Welcoming Reception

New York dancers perform a “flash mob”-style routine at the Welcoming Reception

For the 2013 meeting, ASA expanded its web-based mobile app, which built on the beta version ASA tested in 2012. The new version was continuously updated and featured a more accessible, condensed version of the meeting program as well as a chat function. As it did in 2012, the app also included access to an interactive floor plan; the full program; and live streaming of the plenaries, the Awards Ceremony, and the Presidential Address.

Last year, ASA offered free WiFi in all meeting rooms for the first time—a decision meeting attendees greeted with much enthusiasm. In 2013, ASA once again provided free WiFi and staffed a booth in the Exhibit Hall, which featured “social media 101” tutorials. The complementary WiFi helped contribute to a great deal of live tweeting during the meeting. Thanks to the more than 10,700 tweets (according to @alexhanna) using hashtags #asa13 or #asa2013, individuals not in attendance could almost feel like they were also listening to Ira Glass speak or feel the excitement at a teaching and learning session.

This year, ASA also began providing the full complement of AV equipment in paper session rooms. This equipment included an LCD projector, a laptop, and a projection screen. Presenters at the 2013 meeting only needed to bring their presentations on a flash drive.

Of course it wasn’t all business in New York City. The Welcoming Reception featured a celebration of New York in the 1980s with a flash mob performance and music from Madonna, Run-DMC, and other stars from the period. At the Honorary Reception, ASA celebrated Broadway as a pianist played show tunes from Annie, Phantom of the Opera, and others.

Media Coverage

Sociologists weren’t the only ones who flocked to New York City in impressive numbers. More than 30 reporters—including journalists from Agence France-Presse, CNN Films, LiveScience.com, Inside Higher Ed, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, attended the conference, an increase from nine reporters in 2012. Even more notable was the amount of media coverage research presented at the Annual Meeting received in the United States and abroad.

Media outlets published hundreds of articles about research from the meeting, and media coverage was not limited to print either. Studies from the meeting, including one examining men’s and women’s beliefs about who should pay for dates during courtship, were also featured on television and radio.

The dating study by David Frederick (Chapman University), Janet Lever (California State University-Los Angeles), and Rosanna Hertz (Wellesley College), was covered in dozens of media outlets, including Slate, TIME.com, Cosmopolitan, the New York Daily News, Brazil’s Veja, and Canada’s Toronto Star, according to a Google news search. Even Conan O’Brien mentioned the study in the opening monologue of his show on Aug. 14.

“My co-authors and I were very pleased, actually overwhelmed, by the attention our study received,” Lever said. “Media coverage came from near and far, but nothing signaled the relevance of the question we posed—are women paying their fair share on dates?—like the 2,500 plus comments in a single day in response to the story Slate published about our study.”

Another study, which also received significant media coverage, found that strong grandparent-adult grandchild relationships reduce depression for both. Authored by Boston College’s Sara M. Moorman and Jeffrey E. Stokes, the study was the subject of articles in dozens of publications, including the New York Times, CBSNews.com, Yahoo!News, FoxNews.com, and Canada’s Winnipeg Free Press, and was also featured on NBC’s Today show. 

Before doing interviews about her study, Moorman said she had never worked with the media before. “It was fun to learn a bit about how that world works—it’s so different from what I usually do,” she said. “All the resulting pieces were informative and enthusiastic about the research, and my mom got a real kick out of my temporary fame!”

Including press releases on the dating and grandparent-adult grandchild studies, the ASA Public Affairs and Public Information Department oversaw the production and distribution of 22 press releases—up from 14 in 2012—about a wide range of research that sociologists presented at the Annual Meeting. During the meeting, the Department also responded to dozens of media inquiries.

Additional U.S. media outlets that reported on Annual Meeting research included: the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, NBCNews.com, NPR’s All Things Considered, The New Republic, the New York Post, Politico, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, Scientific American, Men’s Health, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Week, the San Jose Mercury News, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, U.S. News and World Report, Newsday, Education Week, Science News, National Journal, Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, LiveScience.com, and many others.

Other examples of international media outlets that reported on research from the Annual Meeting included England’s Daily Mail, The Guardian, Daily Express, and The Independent; India’s The Indian Express, Hindustan Times, and The Times of India; Canada’s The Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, and CTV News; Australia’s The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald, France’s Agence France-Presse; and many more.

Looking Ahead

While the 2013 Annual Meeting wrapped up only a few weeks ago, planning for the 2014 meeting, August 16-19 in San Francisco, is already well under way. Annette Lareau, who officially succeeded Cecilia Ridgeway as ASA President at the end of the 2013 meeting, and the 2014 Program Committee are in the process of developing a dynamic program centered around the theme, “Hard Times: The Impact of Economic Inequality on Families and Individuals.” ASA will post the call for papers on its website (www.asanet.org) on October 30 and will launch the online paper submission tool on December 6. See you in San Francisco!

 

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