Friday, 23 November 2012

Knowledge Exchange Seminar 3: Programme

Arrival and lunch
Session 1

Opportunities and challenges of ‘Deep Data’
■   Janet Salmons
Session 2

Netnography: understanding behaviour and networks
■   Gachoucha Kretz
Session 3

The changing role of the qualitative researcher online
■   Kandy Woodfield & Dr Sarah Quinnell
Session 4

Key messages for qualitative methods in relation to:
■  Opportunities and challenges of ‘deep data’
■  Methodological challenges of netnography
■  Developing appropriate relationships and engagement with participants

■   Led by NSMNSS: break out groups to consider one each of the three sessions, plus where there are skills gaps, or further development projects needed.
Close and next steps

Our next KE Seminar

We are delighted to announce that the third Knowledge Exchange Seminar of the New Social Media, New Social Science (NSMNSS) network will now take place in January 2013.

The 'Qualitative Research and Social Media' seminar will bring together specialist speakers to discuss a range of topics, including opportunities and challenges of 'Deep Data', understanding behaviours and networks through the lens of netnography, and the changing role of the qualitative researcher online. Please find attached a detailed programme.

When? Monday, 28th January. Arrival and lunch from 12:30, sessions from 13:00-16:30.
Where? Etc. Venues, The Hatton, 51-53 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8HN
For a map to the venue, please visit The Hatton.

R.S.V.P. Please contact Claire Ashby at NatCen Learning, to  confirm your attendance by Friday, 14 December. Please include in  your email whether you require any special considerations to attend the event.

First-come, first-served. We have very limited spaces for this event so places will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis, preference will be given to participants willing to contribute a case study or example from their own experience to one of the sessions, and provide their thoughts in a blog piece or through a short video which can be shared with the wider network.

We’ll ask contributors to share their experiences at the event by providing a descriptive case study - a short 2-3 minute description of your experience using qualitative methods in social media research. Please identify which of the suggested themes in the programme you think your example would fit under and we will ask you to share this during the relevant session.

Visit Methodspace ( or the
NSMNSS  Blog ( to read the latest discussions on social media in the social  sciences, and to view past videos capturing case studies for inspiration on preparing your own descriptive case study.

We look forward to seeing you on January 28th!

If you can’t join us at the event then we will be holding a webinar looking at the same range of issues on February 5th at 16:00 GMT/UTC, 17:00 CET, please reply with this message: ‘I would like to reserve a seat at the webinar on 5/02/13’ and we will send you details of your login for that session in the New Year.

Best wishes,
the NSMNSS network team

Friday, 16 November 2012

Deep Data: Digging into Social Media with Qualitative Methods

The ever-growing use of social media -- and the resultant Big Data-- excites quantitative researchers.  The potential to use social media to collect rich data that can generate new insights excites qualitative researchers.  Quantitative methods allow researchers to reveal and follow patterns of posts and responses by users of social media sites. But at some point we need to ask “why?” in order to discern users’ motivation, understand the significance of behaviours and learn how the experience is significant to their personal or professional lives.  Qualitative researchers have the ability to do so. Qualitative research approaches allow us to dig below the surface to explore how, why or what, and to explore relationships and connections not readily evident in Big Data—which is why I’ve taken to describing it as Deep Data.
While quantitative researchers typically collect data or track movements posted at a previous time, qualitative researchers can use asynchronous, synchronous and near-synchronous approaches. Social media sites allow researchers to develop new interpretations of classic qualitative data collection approaches: observations, interview and document analysis. (For more on social media communications and qualitative data collection, see my video blog here.)
We have a lot of options when it comes to the type of study to be conducted with qualitative research on, about or with social media. We can look at the online behavior as the research phenomenon itself, or we may look at the online behavior in relation to other thoughts, experiences or attitudes related to life on- or offline.
For example, as researchers we may be interested in how cancer survivors cope, and decide to conduct interviews with a text or video chat function in a social media platform because it allows us to select a more geographically dispersed sample.  Or, we may be interested in how cancer survivors use social media to build networks that help them cope. In this case, to understand participants’ choices, communications and patterns of usage on that platform, we may use observations of community events, such as a webinar with a guest speaker, analysis of posts, and/or interviews with community members to collect data. In the first example the social media platform is a means for communication that allows us to understand a research phenomenon. In the second example, the social media platform itself is part of the phenomenon being investigated. This fundamental choice about the research purpose and researcher’s motivation for using social media influences the entire research design, sampling and mode of data collection: what data to collect from whom, how, using what synchronous or asynchronous communications (Salmons, 2012). 
Clearly, varied combinations of social media tools and qualitative methods offer a wide range of options for social science researchers. There are many opportunities in the yet unexplored ways to think about qualitative research and social media—as well, there are many unanswered questions and challenges. A few intriguing areas for consideration are:
  • Ethical dilemmas. Qualitative researchers will always need informed consent for interviews and direct exchanges with research participants. But the situation is fuzzier when the researcher is conducting observations or drawing content from posted materials in online settings where it may be hard to distinguish public from private. 
  • Diverse data types. Communication in social media settings may involve a mix of visual, verbal and text-based exchanges. Qualitative researchers need to decide which types to use, and how to analyze them. As well, they need to consider intellectual property rights of images, or pictures that include other people who have not given permission for their use by the researcher.
  • Non-neutral platforms:  Most social media sites are commercially owned. They are designed to generate revenue, not simply for a social good. Features are designed to encourage users to navigate and participate in certain ways. This means participants—unless they program their own online sites or interactive spaces—are not functioning online independent of  technical and other constraints.
What opportunities and obstacles do you see for qualitative researchers in the digital age? Please join NSMNSS in Methodspace, Twitter chats, virtual seminars and a coming Knowledge Exchange Seminar to share ideas and strategies.
 Janet Salmons, PhD

Kozinets, Robert V. (2010). Netnography: Doing ethnographic research online. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Lindgren, Simon. (2012). Introducing Connected Concept Analysis: Confronting the challenge of large online texts through a qualitative approach to quantity. Paper presented at the IPP2012: Big Data, Big Challenges, University of Oxford.
Salmons, Janet E. (Ed.). (2012). Cases in online interview research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. (For more on the E-Interview Research Framework, see here)

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Network news for November

Sadly we have had to postpone our 20th November knowledge exchange session due to be held in London because of low uptake.  We are re-scheduling this session for early in the New Year and hope more of you will be able to join us at that session. In the meantime we are keen to keep the conversation going and we will be running another twitter chat on 20th November from 5-6pm GMT where we will be discussing the issues facing qualitative researchers using social media in their research projects.

These are the three key questions we will be discussing next week, do join us and share your experiences:

  • What are the biggest methodological challenges when using qualitative methods in social media research?
  • Are social media affecting the way we go about qualitative research, if so how? 
  • Does qualitative research using online social platforms change the relationships we have as researchers with our participants? In what ways? 

You can read more about how to participate in our twitter chats here. Taking part is really simple, just log onto your Twitter account and follow @NSMNSS for reminders running up to the start of the session. You can follow the discussion by following the hashtag # NSMNSS.

COMING SOON - we'll shortly be letting you know how you can sign up to take part in  virtual seminars online which will pick up the key themes arising from our recent knowledge exchange events which we hope will give our network members from outside of the UK another way to share your views and experiences.

Looking forward to hearing from you all soon

Kandy Woodfield
NatCen Social Research