Thursday, 7 November 2013

Introducing the PhD Blogger: Amy Aisha Brown

I was lucky enough to be chosen as the PhD blogger for #NSMNSS, but before I start posting more about the perks and pitfalls of using social media in my research, I will give a little bit of an introduction to me, my research, and how it all fits under the #NSMNSS umbrella.

To start off, I think I should point out that I wouldn't really class myself as a social media researcher. Rather, I am one of those researchers who has been swayed by the possibilities of what the digital trails of social interaction that social media users leave in their path can tell us about aspects of their daily lives.

My research interest could be described broadly as the English language in Japan. I come to looking at this from the background of applied linguistics, a wide-ranging field of research looking at understanding language related issues in the real world, and I am influenced by work in world Englishes, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, and discourse studies.

I am not so interested in the kind of English you can find in Japan (i.e., the grammar people use, their pronunciation, or the effectiveness of their communication), rather I look at the discourses of the English language. In other words, the way that English is talked about and conceptualized.

So, where does social media fit in? Well, I am using Twitter as my source of data. I collect tweets in Japanese that include the word 英語, which means ‘English (language)’. I then use techniques from corpus linguistics to find patterns in how people talk about the language.

I am conducting my research within the Open University’s Faculty of Education and Language Studies under the supervision of Ann Hewings and Philip Seargeant. The various aspects of my study are well supported: Ann brings a knowledge of English language studies and corpus linguistics, and Philip has written extensively on English in Japan and has an interest in language and social media (he is part of the SocialMedia Language research group, which looks at language and communication in social media). However, the lack of precedent in using social media for socially oriented research (especially within applied linguistics) and the ever-changing nature of the field, means that there are a number of theoretical, methodological, and ethical bridges that need to be crossed.

In my time as PhD Blogger I want to illuminate issues that have arisen but also the steps I have taken (or more likely am in the process of taking) to navigate those murky waters. Hopefully, this will give an insight into how the issues associated with research using social media pan out, at least in this my context.


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