Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Thinking about ethics

Questions regarding all areas of research ethics have been central to our recent knowledge exchange seminars and have percolated nearly every discussion network members have had at events or during our twitter chats. Clearly, there are many issues at every stage, from research design, to sampling and recruiting, collecting or generating data, analysing data and reporting results. Yet there is not a set of respected guidelines for good ethical practice to which e-researchers, research supervisors, reviewers, commisioners or editors can turn.

We would like to make a contribution in this area, beginning with an assessment of existing e-research guidelines and resources to identify common themes, divergent views, gaps, and unanswered questions. NSMNSS network member Janet Salmons is taking the lead on this initial stage, and you can contact her to share any thoughts and resources: jesalmons@gmail.com. We hope this preliminary step will serve as a foundation for possible further development of materials, webinars, and/or training.

You can help the NSMNSS ethics project identify and address new and emerging e-research dilemmas! Please share your perspectives, priorities and recommendations in this quick questionnaire: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/e-ethics. You can take it anonymously or add your name and contact information, so we can share resources and reports as they are developed.

We're looking forwward to hearing from you. Please feel free to share the link with other researchers, you don't have to be a registered network member to participate.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Tweet On! - Twitter chat Monday 11 March

Join us as we kick up a twitter storm on Monday 11th March from 4-5pm BST.

We hope you'll be able to join us to discuss the issues related to data and analysis quality arising from social media research. Some of the questions we'll be discussing include:

  • What are the main quality issues associated with social media research? 
  • How confident are you that social media research is replicable? 
  • Can appropriate meta-data be assigned to social media data, given privacy concerns? What would the meta-data be? 
  • How valid is social media data – is it only telling us about online personas 

Join in the debate by following #nsmnss. You can read more about how to join the chat in our earlier post: http://nsmnss.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/how-to-join-in-nsmnss-tweetchat.html

Do join us and please spread the word!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Reserve your spot now! Final Knowledge Exchange Seminar on 15 March

Dear NSMNSS members,

We're delighted to invite you to the next set of free NSMNSS network activities:

  We will be holding our final Knowledge Exchange Seminar, hosted at NatCen Social Research on 15 March at 35 Northampton Square, London, EC1V 0AX.

This half day session (12.30-4.30pm) will focus exclusively on the issues related to data and analysis quality arising from social media research, please see the programme copied below for more details. We have very limited spaces for this event so places will be allocated on a first come first served basis and preference will be given to participants willing to contribute a case study or example from their own experience to one of the sessions.  If you would like to attend the seminar please contact us (see below) confirming your contact details (email and phone number). We would hope attendees are able to share their experiences throughout the day of quality issues they have faced using social media.

  Although the Seminar is free, space is limited; if you do not attend after reserving a place we will make an administrative charge to cover the costs of catering and administration. Please only reserve a space if you intend to attend.

  In the next couple of weeks we will host the latest in out series of hour long NSMNSS tweetchats related to the issues for discussion in the seminar (follow the hashtag #NSMNSS to participate).

Our Knowledge Exchange Seminars provide an opportunity for researchers, practitioners and policy-makers to share ideas. Each of the four sessions will be interactive, with lots of opportunity for open discussion. We are asking for network volunteers to help deliver the day. You can volunteer to:

  Tell us about your experiences by providing a descriptive case study– a short 2-3 minute description of an ethical issue or concern that you have encountered in your 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, in advance via a blog or on the day with a video blog.

If you would like to contribute to the event on 15th March please reply to Kelsey Beninger on kelsey.beninger@natcen.ac.uk by 1st March giving details also of whether and how you would like to contribute. If you would like to contribute a blog or case study, please also include what session your experience relates to.

A live stream of the event will be available, if you are unable to join us please share your thoughts and insights with tweets and comments on our Methodspace forum before and after the event. Remember you can join in network activities here at any time: http://www.natcen.ac.uk/nsmnss/

For a map to NatCen Social Research, please click here.

With thanks from the NSMNSS network team.

Blurring the Boundaries - new social media, new social science?

Knowledge Exchange Seminar 4 |
Quality in Social Media Research

15th March 2013, NatCen Social Research
35 Northampton Square, London, EC1V 0AX

Arrival and lunch
Session 1

Augmenting curated data with twitter feeds

     Dr. Luke Sloan, COSMOS, Cardiff University
Session 2

Practical and epistemological challenges of online research
     Antonio Casilli, Telecom ParisTech
Session 3

Depth or disinhibition? What is social media data telling us?
     Stephen Webster, NatCen Social Research
Session 4

Draw together key messages for quality
     Led by NSMNSS
Close and next steps

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Knowledge Exchange Seminar 3

The third Knowledge Exchange Seminar of the New Social Media, New Social Science (NSMNSS) network was held on the 28th of January. The topic for this event was 'Qualitative Research and Social Media' and it brought together specialist speakers to discuss a range of topics, including opportunities and challenges of 'Deep Data', understanding behaviors and networks through the lens of netnography, and the changing role of the qualitative researcher online. We asked a range of contributors to share case studies illustrating their experiences of using qualitative methods in social media research and these were really useful starting points for highlighting the challenges today’s researchers face.

Our first speaker of the day was Janet Salmons, from the Capella University School of Business and Technology, on the opportunities and challenges of ‘Deep Data’. In an era where increasing focus is laid on social media’s potential to provide quantitative researchers with ‘big data’, Janet argues that the challenge for qualitative researchers is still to see data in context and to make meaning from this. Data collection online often blurs the lines between methods such as online interviews, observations and documentary analysis, and this has practical and ethical implications for researchers. Ethics was the topic of our first knowledge exchange seminar and has probably been the strongest thread running through the whole of the network’s activities so far. You can read more about some of the issues raised in previous discussions here: http://www.methodspace.com/group/nsmnss/forum/topics/nsmnss-workshop-3-ethics

A reoccurring question in the discussion following Janet’s presentation was ‘how new and different are the issues and challenges facing social media researchers from those which qualitative (and quantitative researchers) have always faced?’ Informed consent, for example, is not new and revisiting the parameters of informed consent throughout the course of your research is just as important if you’re doing research online or offline. Some of the new challenges lie in questions around the non-neutrality of social media platforms and the increasingly ‘connected’ nature of our digital selves. With just a few clicks, you may be able to access someone’s profile on Facebook which might link you to their LinkedIn profile, which may in turn take you to their Twitter feed. Whether this data is considered public or private is only one of the questions – often we are able to find out more about a person than we’d imagined when using online data sources. For example, harvesting tweets can also tell you what kind of phone someone is tweeting from! We have to keep remembering that these platforms have been set up for a commercial purpose and are collecting data which is valuable for commercial interests- very little is actually known about what users of these platforms think about how this data is used in social research.

The second presentation of the day came from Gachoucha Kretz, from the ISC PARIS School of Management, on netnography and understanding behaviour and networks. Netnography is a method developed by Robert V Kozinets (http://www.uk.sagepub.com/books/Book233748) and it provides a framework for studying cultures and communities online. Some of the issues Gachoucha raised were around the challenges of identifying your sample online – she talked about her PhD work on fashion blogs and the difficulty of identifying which blogs were worth studying. You either need to do a search using Google’s ranking and trust an algorithm, or rely on a list of blogs someone else thinks is influential. Other challenges you face when studying online communities is the overwhelming archive of material, the multi –media nature of online data, and the offline relationships and networks which influence the online space but may not be visible online.

Kandy Woodfield of NatCen kicked off the final session on the changing role of the qualitative researcher online. Many of the issues raised in the previous sessions around ethics came up again and there was a strong sense that researchers of today need some new literacies to effectively research in online spaces. For example, how deep does your knowledge of debates around whether distinctions between online and offline are passé need to be? Richard Rogers calls it ‘the end of the virtual’, but you could spend a lifetime just reading about this before embarking on your own online research! What about our knowledge of each individual platform we might study – do you need to be on Twitter to study Twitter? And what new skills are required if we are to take into account multi-media data, given that most online platforms involve words, pictures, video and sound? One of the benefits of online research is the ability it gives us to research globally without physically travelling to each location, but what do researchers need to know about cultural codes of conduct and the varying uses of platforms by different populations?

There were probably more questions raised than answered, but it was a great chance to discuss common challenges and to try to determine ways forward. The network is currently working considering ways to develop and influence ethical guidelines for social media research – we’ll be in touch about this in more detail soon. Please join the conversation, share ideas and potential solutions through the network’s methodspace group (http://www.methodspace.com/profile/NSMNSS). You can also visit the NSMNSS Blog (http://nsmnss.blogspot.co.uk/) to read the latest discussions on social media in the social sciences and to view past videos.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Update from our webinar

We ran a very succesful webinar this week exploring the challenges facing researchers who use social media platforms for qualitative research. You can view the webinar by following this link:


Please be aware the audio quality was poor for the first 6 minutes but is fine after that.

We'd like to open up the discussion to people who couldn't attend the session, so please do consider the questions below and share your thoughts on the issues raised over on our Methodspace forum.
  1. What issues are raised by researchers going 'undercover' in online communities to research online behaviour?
  2. How can we ensure that the person we observe/interact with online fits our sample profile, how can we verify/trust profiles?
  3. How can you guarantee confidentiality if the platform owns the data created/shared on it?
  4. When we interact with people online what impact does that interaction have on people's behaviours, is there a 'hawthorne effect' with online research via a vis observational studies more generally?
  5. How can we equip researchers and supervisers with adequate digitial skills and literacies
  6. How would you do online Facebook research with young adolescents keeping in minds ethics and youth protection?
  7. What are the practicalities and ethics of research into political extremist groups online?
We look forward to hearing from you,


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Two research associate jobs

The Digital Brain Switch project is a RCUK Digital Economy and EPSRC funded project, led by the University of Lancaster Computing Science Department, in collaboration with the School of Management at Royal Holloway, University of London; the Open University Business School; and the School of Engineering and Digital Arts, University of Kent. The project explores how the rise in the use of digital technologies challenges work life boundaries, particularly as individuals increasingly work from a range of locations, experience frequent interruptions and feel required to 'stay connected' through multiple communication channels. We are interested in exploring how modern communication technologies affect our ability to manage transitions across work life boundaries. Does technology support us to manage transitions more flexibly, creating more permeable boundaries and a less segmented persona, or does it encourage leakage across boundaries and a difficult identity management task? 

The project will use an innovative combination of behavioural sensing, qualitative research, and digital-prototype-as-provocation methods to achieve an in-depth understanding of how individuals manage switches between role identities in both the corporeal and digital worlds. Digital prototypes will be developed as design interventions that will allow us to explore potential solutions to transition issues.

The project begins in May 2013 and will run for 22 months. There are four postdoctoral RA jobs linked to the project, two associated with the computing science aspects of the project and two with the social science aspects, although all four RAs will be expected to work in an inter-disciplinary manner. Details of the posts at Lancaster and Kent universities are below:



Details of the two positions available at RHUL and OU are here: