Category Archives: Social Research

Application to Transfer Interview

Yesterday I had my application to transfer interview. The interview as one would expect was quite tough and a couple of the questions were difficult to answer. The interview started with a review of the parts of my research that worked well but as this was more concerned with critical aspects of the research these were not discussed.

Much was made of a need to be more explicit with my conceptual framework with my regards to my use of motivation within the research. However, the theory and concepts relating to creativity, generations and literacy were judged to be more clearly argued. About half an hour after the interview I was called to be told that the panel had recommended that I transfer to PhD status. This was more of a relief than an celebration.

However I did go out last night. I’d  already got tickets to see my favourite band, The Fall, (left) at the indigO2, a few months back.  This helped take my mind off the events of the interview, although I have slightly wooly head this morning!

Anyway now I can get back to progressing forward with my research without the worry of having to re-apply in the summer.

Content is the Fuel of the Social Web

I’ve finished re-writing and updating my literature review which is now around 20,000 words. It covers a wide range of subjects including digital content creation and user-generated content, new technology and user agency, generations and technology, virtual/online communities, computer-mediated identity and digital literacy.

Just as I was finishing I found this slide show which gives some data from December 2010 concerned with the widespread use of content on the web (although I’ve not included any of this data in my lit. review). It’s orientated towards marketing, as much of social media is nowadays, but gives some useful quantitative research findings.

There’s also a web page called ‘State of the Internet Now’ which shows data from social network sites.

State of the Internet 2011
Created by:

Re-starting the interviews 13 – 15

A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to an artist, Adam Justice-Mills, at an open-day in East Finchley. He told me about a project he was organising involving two Artists’ Open House Weekends in the first two weeks of July. This consisted of 50 artists from around the area opening up their houses so the public can view their art. This saves on renting space and gives the viewer the chance to see the art in a natural environment.

On Saturday I intended on visiting five houses but stayed at the first due to the willingness of two artists to let me interview them about how they use the web to create and share content. On the Sunday I managed to walk to five venues and arranged an interview for the following day.

What are really excellent idea this is. It’s community based and just a really relaxing and enjoyable activity for a summer’s weekend.

November Symposium

Monday saw Charles Brown deliver a well researched and constructed lecture titled Platforms, Convergence & Transmedia Content on the Network Society and the media module. It outlined the current issues concerning media industries, the constantly changing technological landscape along with the desire for large media companies to acquire content.

Friday I gave my symposium presentation at UoW Marylebone campus. This was the second symposium I’d presented therefore I wanted to show that I’d progressed considerably since last March. I’d spent quite while developing my 15 minute talk over the last week. However on arriving in the room was told that all the presentations would have to cut to 10 minutes. This severely diminished the flow, message and understanding of my proposal and although I managed to skip parts without to much confusion it was far from ideal. The full presentation is viewable below.

The feedback was pretty good but I was not happy at having to lose a third content. That’s  life, I suppose and I’ll need to get used to this happening.

Mustn’t forget to mention that I had my regular fix of The Fall, my favourite band, at the Electric Ballroom in Camden on Tuesday. What a wonderful and frightening racket!

Here’s my symposium presentation.


“Kill Your Theoretical Darlings”

Over the last few weeks I’ve been grappling with issues that have risen over the summer. These need resolving before I can move on to the empirical research of my project. They are namely  the use of the words ‘creativity’ and ‘collaboration’ in the title of my research. I’m also finding that my reading in the area of ‘generational theory’ is posing many contradictory issues.

The title of this post paraphrases one of Nico Carpentier common expressions describing the need for radical revision. After careful thought and with consultation with my supervisors I have ‘killed’ the use of ‘creativity’ and replaced it with ‘digital content creation’. I’ve also lost the element of ‘collaboration’ and replaced the use of the word ‘generation’ with the phrase ‘3 age groups of…’. I’ve made an overhaul of my methodology by simplifying the stages to reflect the theoretical changes.

This changes the emphasis of my project but I think it gets closer to my original idea and definition. I think the three main ideas and themes in this are the use of (3) different life-stage, creating and sharing digital content and digital literacy. I’m hoping this refinement gives a bit more clarity.

I met with both my supervisors separately this week and my changes were met with a positive response. I met David Gauntlett at Policy Studies Institute where he was giving a talk on his new book Making is Connecting. He’s very kindly given me a pre-publication copy to read. I’m about half way through and enjoying it immensely. He argues that “through making things, online or offline, we make connections with others and increase our engagement with the world”. It’ll be published in spring 2011.

Reflecting on the Summer and Preparing for year two

It’s been a long, varied and hard working Summer. I spent the first couple of months writing my literature review. That was a long and slow process which involved lots of reading and, or course, writing. As a result it developed in fits and starts. Some days I’d get lots written and others virtually nothing. I also had to finish a chapter of a book I was writing for my previous University on Social Media. I’d asked a friend and colleague to help with the case study as he had written the module we’d both worked on and had lots of student data to add. This took quite a bit of time of leasing with him and the editor.

The Summer School in Slovenia, as documented in this diary, was very useful although it meant I lost just over three weeks on the literature review due needing a mental an physical break afterwards. But overall it was definitely worth the trip. It now leaves me a little short of having the lit review finished by the end of September.

This week I’ve being trying to get back in the swing of things again. I have now registered for year two and on Monday met with a Fellow PhD student to compare notes at the British Library. She was concerned about the amount of the theoretical knowledge needed for her research work. But that’s what it’s all about.

I met both my supervisors independently of one another on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss their thoughts about my literature review which I had sent them a month previously. The response was fairly positive although one thought that I was spending too much time trying to address the big questions of my research and not getting into specific subjects relating to my research questions.

I’m going to be taking seminars every Monday for the module Network society and the Media this semester and had an initial meeting about it yesterday. I’m really looking forward to it as it’s a really good chance to engage with students about their media use as well as listen to some in-depth lectures.

Summer School Day 8

After the one and only day off it’s back to the programme again. This morning starts with a workshop on Action Research in Journalism by Ebba Sundin which references the work of Jean McNiff. It’s the second time that action research has been discussed in this programme so we’re able to connect with the subject.

Tobias Olsson is next up with a lecture that is closely related to my research project What’s so ‘social’ about social media?: Critical reflections on the emerging media ecology of participation. I’d been looking forward to hearing his take on Social Media. In the lecture he discusses the ‘media ecology of participation’ and the notion of a ‘convergence culture’ as described by Henry Jenkins and the ‘co-creative environments’ of  Burgess and Green. But then at this point Tobias asks us to remain critically aware of these ideas.

He asks us to reflect on three points. Firstly that what appears to be genuinely ‘social’ can in fact be produced by professional organisations as part of their marketing. Secondly, that here are in essence social and participatory features to most media. And finally that all media use is social.

After an expansive and clear explanation of these points he concludes that it is a long step from technological possibilities to social realities.

The afternoon lecture begins with a stimulating lecture by Bart Cammaerts from the LSE entitled Having a Laugh? Activism, Mediation and Protest Tactics. Annette Hill‘s Made to Measure: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Media Audiences workshop continues throughout the afternoon. This involves discussion and a workshop that explores the advantages of communicating with researchers from outside of your own discipline to help identify problems and develop new strategies.

Summer School Day 5 & the weekend

The Summer School has continued throughout the weekend with officially only half-a-day off, this morning (Sun). The European Union funding rules stipulate that students should be engaged in study for the whole 12 days. Slave drivers!

Many people, myself included, were rather fragile on Friday due to our first night exploring the bars in the city. Thankfully we went on a visit to an NGO in the centre of Ljubljana in the morning and then to the Slovene Ethnographic Museum in the afternoon where the  lectures took place. Michael Bruun Andersen gave the first on The Meaning of Form in Journalism: The case of television news. It was a hot day and the museum had no air conditioning so along with the after effects of last night’s alcohol many people didn’t make the afternoon sessions. Indeed, I left after Michael’s lecture and spent what was left of the afternoon meandering around the city.

Saturday is an early start again with a abstract writing workshop for the whole morning given by Nico Carpentier.  Nico gives us lots of advice and gives us a picture of what academic research entails.

Saturday was also the day when the first group of lecturers leave and new ones arrive. So we went down the student discount bar in the city centre and gave them a good send off (left) then back down to the bohemian Metelkova district again. This time the bar was playing some rather dated punk music.

Sunday morning and early afternoon was officially a rest period. Most people too the whole day off although there was an optional lecture in the afternoon. I sent the day going round the Sunday flea market and then a walk up the hill to Ljubljana Castle with Virpi and Julia. The castle has a fabulous 360 degree view of the city

Summer School Day 3

The morning session was taken up with Student Workshops. Today’s lecturer respondent and afternoon lecturer is Andreas Hepp (left in picture) and with the moderator Nico (right). The sessions are rigidly  monitored for timings. Many of the early presentations are too long and are therefore truncated. This is a little frustrating from an observers point of view but necessary with issues of fairness and keeping to schedule. No amount of pleading from the presenter will get Nico to give them more time. All the sessions are being recorded for uploading to the web and revisiting later. My presentation is first thing tomorrow so I’m going to get an early night tonight in preparation.

The afternoon session begins with Andreas’ lecture on the Mediatized worlds and media research: Non-mediacentric media studies as a challenge and followed by Kees Brants workshop on the Potentials and Pitfalls of Comparative Research.

There is an evening Roundtable session too on the Future of Communication Studies with Denis McQuail and Hanno Hardt. Its already been a long day and most of us are fairly tired. The mood of the panel is sombre and delivery is muted however Denis McQuail always has something worthwhile to say. This can not said of  Hanno Hardt who grows increasingly negative about the future of communication studies and seems intent on harking back to what he perceived as better times. His very long winded and dismal outlook added a wave of despondency through an already weary and frustrated audience. At this point, as though by telepathy, Kees shouted out that he thought he was wrong and that he should buck his ideas up which prompted a low level argument between the two. This was an event that was desperately needed and brought a bit of life to an otherwise rather dull session. I wish it’d happened half-an-hour earlier.

Had a chinese meal and one beer in a local restaurant and then went back and completed the final preparation for my presentation in the morning.

Clay Shirky – Cognitive Surplus

Clay Shirky has just published his new book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in the Connected Age and he’s been doing the rounds of interviews. It’s his follow-up to the much cited Here Comes Everybody.
The new book deals with peoples ‘free time’ which Shirky describes as ‘cognitive surplus’. TV used to soak large amounts of everyones free time. But now many people, especially the young, are turning from passive TV consumption towards active web participation. I’ve just ordered my copy from Amazon.

His book is reviewed here in The Guardian

Determining or determined? In my literature review I’ve been looking at how technology is perceived as affecting society through technological determinism, social construction of technology or social shaping. There’s also an interview with Shirky in today’s Guardian in which he remarks that there are “techno-deterministic” discussions currently occurring on the web. Both internet utopians and sceptics have reached a point of agreement. They both believe that the web has fundamentally changed human behaviour. On this issue Shirky disagrees arguing that:

“Techies were making the syllogism, if you put new technology into an existing situation, and new behaviour happens, then that technology caused the behaviour. But I’m saying if the new technology creates a new behaviour, it’s because it was allowing motivations that were previously locked out. These tools we now have allow for new behaviours – but they don’t cause them.”

Shirky frames the “determined or determining” debate firmly from the perspective of the web arguing that new technologies are enablers that unlock suppressed (new) behaviour and appears to concur with the theory of  “social shaping”.

Ted talks – Clay Shirky: How cognitive surplus will change the world

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