September/October 2014 Issue • Volume 42 • Issue 7

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2014 ASA Annual Meeting Sets Attendance Records

Daniel Fowler,
ASA Public Information Office

Sociologists flocked to San Francisco for the 2014 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, which had the highest attendance ever for a meeting held outside of New York City and the third-highest attendance overall.

With a total attendance 5,950, the 109th Annual Meeting was just short of the record-breaking 6,184 attendance of last year’s meeting in New York City and the 6,025 who attended the 2007 conference also in the Big Apple.

“We could not have been more pleased with the turnout,” said ASA Executive Officer Sally T. Hillsman. “We believe that the great attendance was a combination of two key factors. First, 2014 ASA President Annette Lareau and the Program Committee created a fantastic program centered around the theme, ‘Hard Times: The Impact of Economic Inequality on Families and Individuals’. Second, San Francisco is a wonderful city with many cultural opportunities that our members and their families were able to enjoy.”

ASA President Annette Lareau

Program Details

The theme, which Lareau addressed in her Presidential Address, brought attention to the many ways in which inequality reverberates throughout American society and the world.

“In recent decades, the United States has experienced dramatic increases in the growth of inequality,” Lareau said. “In addition, the Great Recession has an important lingering influence on the life chances of young adults. Since younger sociologists, as well as more senior scholars, have important insights on these issues, I wanted to spotlight them.”

The conference featured 600 sessions and 3,772 papers on such subjects as family, education, sex, health, religion, work, same-sex marriage, immigration, bullying, race, social media, crime, relationships, gender, technology, socioeconomics, children, disability, neighborhood life, substance abuse, and climate change. By comparison, the 2013 meeting featured 578 sessions and 3,738 papers.

Honors program students with ASA Executive Officer Sally Hillsman

Among three of the meeting’s most highly anticipated sessions, two featured speakers were from outside of academia. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, headlined a thematic session titled “Lean In.” Famed journalist and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell delivered the keynote address in a plenary session titled “An Evening with Malcolm Gladwell.” Gladwell is the author of numerous books, including The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California-Berkeley, headlined a Saturday plenary, titled “The Impact of Inequality.”

“It was a great opportunity for our members to hear from these supremely accomplished people who have generated such interesting dialogue among the general public as well as among scholars and students,” Hillsman said.

Technology

For the third year in a row, any individual with Internet access was able to watch a live webcast of the meeting’s five plenary sessions as well as the Awards Ceremony and Presidential Address. Live transcripts accompanied the webcasts, which were (and still are) accessible on mobile devices, tablets, and computers.

The 2014 ASA Major Award Winners.

For the 2014 meeting, ASA encouraged the use of its web-based mobile app, which featured the condensed meeting program, a chat function, an interactive floor plan, and recent program updates. On August 16, the first official day of the meeting, the app received 652 unique visitors, with 2695 sessions favorited by app users.

In addition, ASA once again offered free WiFi in all meeting rooms, which contributed to active discussions on social media during the meeting; live tweeting kept people (in attendance or not) apprised of the latest research, current debates, and high-profile speakers. According to Neal Caren, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, there were about 12,800 Tweets using the meeting hashtag, #ASA14. This is roughly 2,000 more than in 2013.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that meeting attendees were so active on social media given the social media preconference workshops on August 15, sponsored by Just Publics @ 365, where attendees learned the ins and outs of social media including blogging, op-ed pitches, Twitter, and podcasts.

Media Coverage

Sociologists were not the only ones who took an interest in the meeting. Thirteen journalists—including reporters from LiveScience, Inside Higher Ed, and Pacific Standard as well as the host of “Against the Grain” on KPFA—attended the meeting. More impressive was the amount of media coverage that research presented at the meeting received.

The Associaion and research presented at the ASA meeting were mentioned in hundreds of articles. According to Meltwater, a media coverage tracking service, the U.S. press mentioned the American Sociological Asociation in 1,233 articles in the month of August. As part of that coverage, the U.S. press mentioned the ASA in 452 articles on August 19, the final day of the Annual Meeting. Not limited to the print media, the Annual Meeting generated both radio and television coverage as well.

Princeton University’s Angelina Grigoryeva’s study, which found that daughters provide much greater elderly parent care than sons do, was particularly popular with the media. Research was covered in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, The Huffington Post, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Detroit Free Press, National Journal, U.S. News and World Report, Scientific American, CBSNews.com, TIME.com, The Telegraph in England, and many others.

“I was excited about the media attention that my study on the gender division of elder care by adult children received,” Grigoryeva said. “To me, it means that my academic research could be of interest to a broad audience.”

Furman University’s Christin Munsch’s study also received significant media coverage. She found that men are viewed more favorably than women when seeking work-life balance. Media outlets including NBC’s Today show, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, New Republic, Al Jazeera America, Elle, the Huffington Post, Salon, CBSNews.com, Yahoo!News, the Atlantic, The Guardian in England, and many others covered the research.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the media coverage,” Munsch said. “I became a sociologist, not to speak solely to the academic community, but rather to understand social injustices and incite social change. The ASA press release gave me the opportunity to speak to a much broader audience about the mechanisms that perpetuate gender inequality and concrete ways supervisors and organizations can help alleviate gender inequality in the workplace.”

Before and during the meeting, the ASA Public Information Office distributed more than 30 press releases on research presented at the Annual Meeting, which was an all-time high and an increase from 22 in 2013 and 14 in 2012. During the meeting, the office responded to scores of media inquiries.

Additional U.S. media outlets that reported on research or presentations from the Annual Meeting included: the New York Times, Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, Slate.com, the New York Post, the Tennessean, the New York Daily News, FoxNews.com, the Salt Lake Tribune, New York magazine, the Week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Newsday, Inside Higher Ed, LiveScience, Pacific Standard, CNN.com, and many others. Research also received coverage in international media outlets such as Times of India, the Hindustan Times in India, the Daily Mail in England, La Stampa in Italy, Gazet van Antwerpen in Belgium, Sun News in Canada, and many others.

Looking Ahead

Planning for the 2015 meeting, which will take place in Chicago on August 22-25, has already begun. Paula England, who succeeded Annette Lareau as ASA president at the end of the 2014 meeting, and the 2015 Program Committee are hard at work developing an exciting program centered around the theme, “Sexualities in the Social World.” 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 5. See you in Chicago!

 

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