January 2010 Issue • Volume 38 • Issue 1

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From the Executive Officer

ASA's Electronic Persona: Expanding Interactive Communications in Sociology

This January 2010 Footnotes issue is the first to be delivered directly to members in electronic-only format since we began print publication 39 years ago in 1971. (Members will still be able to "opt in" to have a print copy delivered in 2010.) The ASA has come a long way since we first began using electronic e-mail in the late 1980s and established our first online web presence as an association in 1995. No one knows where electronic communications will be 10 years from now—there may be no USPS to deliver Footnotes (or the 2020 census, for that matter) and the Internet may be (and likely will be) something entirely different from the current www!

sally hillsman
Sally T. Hillsman,
ASA Executive

Over time, ASA's public identity as the national scholarly association for sociology and the scholarly communication center for members and sociologists worldwide has become increasingly personified by ASA's online presence. Our services to the discipline, the scholarly community, and the media have become more dependent on electronic communications paralleling most other organizations in the late 20th century.

ASA published its first computer-derived index of ASA journal articles in 1984. Since 1997, we have made back issues of all ASA journals available online through JSTOR. In 2003 our current journal content went online, and in 2009, we introduced our first entirely online ASA ballot. ASA non-journal publications are sold in an electronic bookstore, and submitting and reviewing papers for the Annual Meeting is entirely online. While ASA and sociologists have a powerful physical presence at our Annual Meetings, in DC science and science policy settings, and at the International Sociological Association (ISA), day-to-day communications with members and the many individuals and organizations we work with worldwide are largely conducted in cyberspace.

Website 2.0: Interactive and ADA Compliant

Steadily and progressively, the persona of ASA as a social scientific society is portrayed and our services delivered through our website (www.asanet.org), which we completely overhauled in December 2009. The new ASA website makes major strides toward full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It has significant 2.0 interactive capacity, which ASA will exploit more fully over time. New ASA listserv technology for sections introduced in 2009 has improved communications within these important ASA groups. The listservs and other e-communications (e.g., Member News & Notes, ChairLink, Minority Fellowship Program Newsletter) significantly define our association within the membership as the ASA website does across the public audiences (media and non-member students and sociologists). ASA is a central part of the electronic sociological culture of the current age, and we continually seek ways to leverage technology to expand and deepen the national and international presence of our discipline, association, and members.

Dynamic Digital Library of Teaching Tools

This month ASA will launch our innovative digital library through our website. This effort builds on our long-standing print-based Teaching Resources Center for sociology and pushes current state-of-the-art digital library concepts forward into the Web 2.0 era (see the December 2008 Footnotes, p. 1). This online resource is designed as a wiki-like interactive website that will offer many types of teaching resources that can be easily downloaded in flexible formats; they include: syllabi, class activities, assignments, tests, essays, lectures, PowerPoint presentations, film lists, video clips, bibliographies, and website lists. It is also dynamic: you can comment on the current content, modify it, or upload new teaching tools that will be peer reviewed before inclusion in the library, receive notifications of new materials by topic, and keep your own personal directory of interesting digital content.

Journal Publishing in Web 2.0

Sage Publications, ASA's new journals publishing partner (see July/August 2009 Footnotes, p. 1), begins its work to bring Web 2.0 platform innovations to the ASA scientific communications program. Authors and readers will be able to communicate more easily with one another about published articles. Authors, editors, and peer reviewers, as well as editorial offices and production partners, will be able to interact entirely electronically. Other enhancements will follow.

Contexts magazine, ASA's general readership science-based publication, has developed noteworthy Web 2.0 innovations through podcasts, blogs, web crawlers, and other newfangled developments (see contexts.org). RSS (Real Simple Syndication) and social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, have been a very successful part of the magazine's offerings. They have also contributed significantly to the strategic successes of the ASA Public Information/Media Relations staff to attract reporters, editors, and producers to the vast scholarly content at the Annual Meeting.

Funding Applications Online

Most ASA funding opportunities (see www.asanet.org/funding/index.cfm) will now encourage complete applications submitted online. The convenience to members of our growing electronic submission system has already expanded their access to ASA programs such as the Community Action Research Initiative (CARI), Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD), ASA Congressional Fellowships, Minority Fellowships, student travel, and Carla B. Howery Teaching Enhancement Grants. ASA's website will soon post the entirely electronic applications for ASA/National Science Foundation-funded travel grants to the ISA 2010 Congress in Gothenburg, Sweden.

It's About Interactive Communication

ASA has moved into the 21st century, facilitating members' electronic interaction with the association and increasing interaction among our members, and we will continue our efforts to augment scholarly communication. We will also continue to increase the connectivity of our members, their scholarly work, and relevant sociology to the many and varied worlds of policy, media, curious students, casual web visitors, and the public at large. The ASA website and listservs will provide an electronic grassroots infrastructure not only to promote the value of sociological science but to defend it, as needed, against the periodic political or ideological attacks that arise in the public square.

ASA welcomes your ideas on how to make our association's sociology communications hub more effective for the discipline in the coming years. Contact us at executive.office@asanet.org.

Sally T. Hillsman is the Executive Officer of ASA. She can be reached by email at executive.office@asanet.org.

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