ICA19 @ Washington, D.C.



The 69th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) is over – which means that I had an exciting week of hearing great presentations, visiting an amazing city, and spending lots of time with my academic family. As always, ICA seems to be the place where one meets everyone in one place, and sometimes even too many people to talk to them all. No surprise here – over 3,600 people attended the conference!

For me, the five-day conference (24 – 28 May 2019) began with a pre-conference on Human-Machine Communication, where I presented a paper on the “Reception of automated news: A critical review and recommendations for future research” with Neil Thurman. We got great comments on our work, and we look forward to upcoming studies on the audience reception of automated news that might include some of the recommendations we made. The pre-conference was tightly packed with many other topics besides automation in journalism, including robots in the household and what AI might add to education as a learning tool (check out Sima!).

And then there was the main conference – with panels starting at eight in the morning, going on until the evening, and still there was never enough time to visit all the panels I wanted. There was too much going on the at the same time, but I managed to attend a panels on data journalism and sports journalism, for instance. There, I found new inspiration on what to do in my own research, and bounced around ideas with my academic family – and here we go: there is always a new paper you want to write together. And another one, and another one…


I also had a lot of fun beyond the conference – Washington is full of things to see. I peeked into the National Museum of African American History and Culture to get a good look at the sports exhibition “Leveling the Playing Field”, and I will definitely incorporate some of what I have learned about the journeys of these athletes into my course on sports communication next semester. I also went to the National Museum of American History, which is just next door, mainly to get a picture with Captain America’s shield (I mean, of course!) in the “Superheroes” exhibit. Moreover, thanks to ICA, conference participants could visit the Newseum for free – which, by the way, would definitely have been worth the quite steep entry fee they charge. The Newseum, which shows everything on journalism and its conditions, is the kind of museum I would love to visit with my students. It’s full of information without making your head explode, and it gets to the core of what it means to be a journalist. The exhibition that impressed me most was on Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs – the museum had many of the pictures on display, many with the accompanying stories. Impressive and depressing at the same time, as most of the photographs showed human tragedy. But there were also more light-hearted exhibits in the Newseum, such as the one on the “First Dogs” of the American presidents, which was probably the most crowded section of the whole museum. All in all, Washington is a great place to learn new things, and I wish I could come back more often.

Overall, ICA19 was a great conference in a great location – a dream combination! And now I’m looking forward to getting those papers on track which I promised during the numerous evening receptions…



Why football doesn’t play moneyball (yet) – Sports, Data, and Journalism conference in Zurich

robby_klein(This is one corner of my poster!)


What’s better than going to Zurich? Going to Zurich for a conference! On the 25th of October, I attended the “Sports, Data, and Journalism” conference at the University of Zurich, hosted by the Center for Research in Sports Administration (CRSA). The conference had a unique makeup of attendees, not only because of the diversity of disciplines represented, ranging from economists to historians, but also because data journalists were invited to present their projects. This meant that one could not only listen to a scientific talk on, say, the impact of data on professional sports, but also learn how newspapers present their sports stories with data. One story for example showcased the career of tennis star Roger Federer, taking his matches apart, from the number of backhand shots to which floor he played on.

I presented a poster on automation in German sports newsrooms, an ongoing project of mine. I was glad that the topic was met with interest, not only from fellow academics, but also from national and international sports organisations. Let’s see whether they will think about introducing automation in their own press offices!

The conference programme was also unique in the way that also workshops on data analysis software could be attended. Thus, I listened to an introduction to Python, and I’m sure I will make use of this coding language a lot more in the future. I would wish for more conferences to offer such an opportunity; it’s an easy way to learn more about what is out there in data analysis, what might be more suitable to the treatment of data than the software we use now in the social sciences.

The keynote was a personal highlight for me, as it was by given by Chris Anderson, author, with Dave Stares, of “The Numbers Game –Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong”. I definitely recommend that book, to football fans as well as people interested in statistics. Where else would someone actually prove why the inferior teams win more often than they should? Chris Anderson told about his personal journey writing the book, and explained what is means to manage a lower league football club with no money. To make a long story short: don’t do it! The explanation lies in the following: football doesn’t play moneyball. What does that mean? Well, reading Michael Lewis‘ “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” is a good start (or the movie of the same name, starring Brad Pitt), as it tells how Billy Beane, a baseball general manager in the US, put together a team based on their individual statistics (and thus strengths) – and won many games with that strategy. That sound like the ultimate dream, but is unlikely to work for football yet; first of all, baseball has many more games in a season and thus many more chances to try things out, and second, there is no ghost of relegation…

All in all, it was a great conference, and I hope that there will be more that mix academia and practice in such an intriguing way.

Welcome to Zlatan’s home – European Sports Management Conference 2018 in Malmö

easm2018(That’s me!)


Presentations, discussion, and drinks – this is (or almost was) my September. Conference season is the best time of the year, and from September 5th to 8th I found my way to Malmö, Sweden, to attend the European Sports Management Conference, lovingly called “EASM” (which sounds a lot like ‘Eeee-sum’). This was my first time attending a conference with solely sports management folks, for whom the effects of the media only play a small role in their overall discipline.

Anyway, I’ve heard many interesting talks, and also gave my own, called “The Footy Girls of Tumblr – How Women Communicate in the Online Football Fandom. Insights from The US, The UK, and Germany”. I talked about how the social network platform Tumblr is a “safe space” for young female football fans [to my American friends: of course, I’m talking about real football], who talk among themselves, without men or boys interfering. “Interfering” sounds harsh, but as research found, the discourse of sports being a male domain is replicated online, and women find themselves marginalised in it (see what Hardin, Zhong and Corrigan 2011 have to say). So, Tumblr is a space to live the football fandom in more than one way, e.g. by liveblogging during matches, by creating art featuring football players and team, or by discussing information that the media picks up on late or never. Of course, the Tumblr football fandom also has its challenges, like over the top rivalries between teams and their fans, but, all in all, it has proven to be a valuable place to hang out for my interviewees. Oh, and I had to change my subtitle – in the end, I interviewed Tumblr users from ten countries, and not three… I’m happy that my presentation was received well, and that I could show people that there is indeed a very active female football fandom – it simply likes to stay out of the spotlight.

As the conference was quite big, with almost 500 attendees, I heard so many different talks that’s it’s hard to remember them all. Especially since the management people are quite efficient – there was scheduled time between individual presentations in a session to switch rooms! I’ve never seen this before, as I am only familiar with the ‘you choose your session, you stick with all presentations in it’ rule. So, I moved quite often between presentations, meaning I could this get a very wide view of what research in sports management deals with. And a few works could definitely benefit from a media perspective…!

Malmö was nice, too, and it was good to know that one could book the ‘Zlatan suite’ at the conference hotel, with big pictures of him on the walls and everything. Why not! In sum, I met many great people, and I’m sure to work with some of them for one project or the other.

#GOR15 – Internet researchers unite!

gor15Klein(Photo by me)


Last week I went to a great conference – the General Online Research Conference (GOR) in Cologne. This has already been my 3rd GOR (in 2012 I won the thesis competition for the best master’s thesis, of which I’m still quite proud), and it has always been great – this GOR was no exception. Well-organised, and a lot of panels I wanted (and did) attend. For everyone who has never heard of this conference; the GOR is a yearly event which brings together theory and practice, mostly via companies presenting how they use the internet for their products. However, science does not play second fiddle to all these marketing and survey companies, and nicely frames all the practical applications.  Four streams made up the programme, namely “Online Research Methodology and Internet Surveys”, “Internet and Society”, “Social Media Research”, and “Applied Online Research”.

I mainly attended the panels in the stream “Internet and Society”, in which mostly social scientists presented their research. I heard about World of Warcraft and addiction to the internet, internet skills of the elderly (thank you, Eszter Hargittai!), citizen science in which citizens add to science with their own data collections, and eye-tracking systems for assessing online preferences – and this is only a fraction of everything. As implied in the name of the conference, all kinds of internet research are welcome, and the programme showed how diverse this field is. Internet research is not just social science, or information science, but finds entry in many disciplines. Not only the presentations showed interesting approaches and results, but there was also a poster session, which is always a nice opportunity to talk about research in depth. I learned something about conference tweets (thanks, Isabella Peters!) and using YouGov panels for getting to know opinions on new topics like the perception of Ebola.

Moreover, there were two excellent keynotes. First, Jon Puleston from Lightspeed GMI talked about how a ‘good’ survey should look like, meaning a survey which is completed by a high percentage of people and yields valuable results. He suggested inserting playful elements, and a kind of ‘gamification’ of the whole process – by using pictures instead of mere text, sliders instead of 1-to-5 scales for measuring preferences like “I fully agree”, and telling a story instead of just asking questions. I think that this advice is mostly interesting for marketing efforts, however, social scientists can learn a lot from this. The second keynote was given by Suzy Moat from the University of Warwick, and she was telling the audience about the possibilities of using “big data” for predicting the stock market, and how FlickR metadata from the photographs uploaded can tell things about a region or country.

Of course, I also gave a presentation. I told my audience about my research, and how parliamentarians use information and transparency measures on their personal websites. I was not only happy about how well the presentation went (phew!), but also about the great questions (especially thanks to Dominic Nyhuis, who also gave a very interesting presentation on using vote advice applications for assessing political preferences)– it’s always good to hear what can be done next, and there is definitely a lot to do in my post-doc phase… well, all in all, I attended as many sessions as possible, met great people, and already wait for the call for GOR16!

gor15-2klein(Photo by me)


Conference Report: Back from the USA!

eusa_schild(My own photograph)


Well, I went to the United States of America to attend a conference. It was a great experience, and I would like to share a few impressions.

I went to the 13th Biennial European Union Studies Association Conference (short: EUSA) in Baltimore, Maryland, a nice city just an hour away from Washington, D.C.. EUSA is quite a big conference which is solely dedicated to European Studies, and everything in that area may presented here, from papers on defence policies to European directives on wine regulation (I’m not kidding here! Check out panel 1J in the program!). Around 500 people were there, and a plethora of panel sessions were on at the same time over the three conference days.

First of all, having to decide on a single panel (out of approximately eleven on at the same time) every time was not easy. Many topics were interesting to me, however, I often attended panels which discussed the European Parliament or representation – topics which are very close to my own research. So I listened to talks on the “The Implications of the European Parliament’s Budgetary for Democracy in the EU” (Asli Baysal, University of Florida) and “The Role of EP Administrators in the EU Policy Process” (Christine Neuhold, Maastricht University), for example, but also to many, many more. All panel sessions were not only highly interesting, but also gave my insight when deciding on what to do next in my own project – after all, EU Studies often suffer from the same problems, e.g. from not being theoretically relevant (enough) outside of the sub-discipline.

I was on panel 10E „Inside the European Parliament and the Commission“, which was chaired and discussed by Wilhelm Lehmann (European Parliament). There were four presentations, including my own. Bjørn Høyland (University of Oslo) and Sara Hobolt (London School of Economics) (the third, but absentee author was Simon Hix, also from the London School of Economics) started the panel with their paper on „Career Paths in Legislative Activities of Members of the European Parliament“ and gave great insights on what the Members of the EP do after their time in parliament is over. The next presentation was given by Jessica Fortin-Rittberger (GESIS) and Berthold Rittberger (University of Munich) and concerned „Electoral Rules or Weak Diffusion of Gender Equality Norms? Explaining National Differences in Women’s Representation in the European Parliament“. They researched what determines why women are much more represented in the European Parliament than in national parliaments. The last presentation, apart from my own, was called „A Man’s World? Gender, Networking and Careers in the European Commission“ and given by Hussein Kassim (and co-written by Sara Conolly, both University of East Anglia). They studied very similar topic as the presentation before, but with a focus on the European Commission.
My own presentation went well, was well attended, and I am glad I got many useful comments on how to proceed with my PhD thesis. Of course, I was excited and nervous when I went on to the speaker’s desk, but everything, from handling the technology to the delivery of the actual speech, went well. I guess one really does grow with the challenge!

Apart from getting comments on my work, I also met many interesting people who I hope to see again in the future. I recognised quite a few names in the program, authors I read during my university studies – seeing them in person was quite the experience, too! Speaking of that, Andrew Moravcsik gave a talk on one of the evenings – and even though I did not agree with quite a few of his points (to cut a long story short: some of his opinions were just too strong for my taste), his speech was compelling.

All in all, EUSA was a great conference, and I hope I will be able to attend again in two years.

eusa_panel(Photograph by me – my panel from left to right:
Hussein Kassim, Jessica Fortin-Rittberger, Berthold Rittberger, me,
Bjørn Høyland, Wilhelm Lehmann, Sara Hobolt)