Research Seminar

Presentation (w @kierandhamilton): Morally High, Is Twitter being used as an online space to challenge dominant socio-political discourse around drug-use?

In my last post about writing goals, I said my February goal was to work on a paper with Kieran (who has just started a PhD in Alcohol and Drug Studies at UWS). Last Thursday, we were invited to present the work-in-progress at the UWS School of Education/Creative and Cultural Industries Research Showcase at the CCA in Glasgow. We are working towards a completed paper that has been accepted at the Leisure Studies conference that is hosted at UWS Paisley in July. I’m also on the organising committee for that.

This was a piece of research we had been discussing in the gap between me decided the future plans of my PhD and restarting, so it was nice to actually produce an outcome from that time away from my own research – and get to focus on some of the larger questions regarding social media ethics and public data using a subject such as perceptions of drug users and how people use social media as a socio-political device. We should have the full paper completed by July to be included in the proceeds. Slides and Abstracts are below.

Hamilton, K. & Jones, J. (2014) Morally high: Is Twitter being used as an online space to challenge dominant socio-political discourse around drug-use? 

Background: Current socio-political discourse around drug use delineates illegal drugs as “malevolent forces”, which “pathological” individuals succumb to as a result of moral or mental weakness (Tupper 2012). Drug users are designated as “outsiders” (Cohen 1956) with the result being that drug users are stigmatised as “disgusting” and “dirty” individuals (Tupper 2012) who pose a threat to the dominant normative values of society (Taylor2008). Although there is current debate around the “normalisation” of drug use within society, where it is argued that drug use has become an accepted leisure activity for “ordinary” people (Blackman 2004), the utilisation of simplistic and sensationalist portrayals of drug users by the news media elite has acted to reinforce negative stereotypes of drug users (Critcher 2003), contributing to issues of stigmatisation and consequently social exclusion and health-related problems (Taylor 2008, Butt, Paterson & McGuinness 2008). Emerging participatory transformations in digital communications, such as the ability to self publish through social media, blogs and virtual communities developed through online discussion forums, provide potential for the public to challenge existing socio-political discourse (Hands 2011), particularly around drug use and drug policy (Wax 2002).

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to assess the extent to which Twitter users utilised Twitter as an online space to either challenge or reproduce dominant socio-political discourse in response to the channel 4 documentary “Legally High”, which featured several individuals who use novel “legal” substances, as well as illegal substances.

Method: An algorithm was used to capture tweets which were published in response to the documentary “Legally High”, identified through the use of the hashtag “#LegallyHigh”. Discourse analysis will then performed on these tweets to assess the extent to which dominant discourse around drug use and users is either reproduced or challenged.

References:

Blackman, S. (2004) Chilling Out: The Cultural Politics of Substance Consumption, Youth and Drug Policy. Berkshire: Open University Press.
Butt, G. Paterson, B, L. Mcguinness, L, K. (2008) Living with the Stigma of Hepatitis C. Western Journal of Nursing Research, Vol: 30 (2), pp. 204-221.
Cohen, A. (1956) Delinquent Boys: The Subculture of the Gang. London: Collier-Macmillan.
Critcher, C. (2003) Moral Panics and the Media. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Haas, T. (2005) From ‘‘Public Journalism’’ to the ‘‘Public’s Journalism’’? Rhetoric and Reality in the Discourse on Weblogs.  Journalism Studies, Vol: 6 (3), pp. 387-396.
Hands, J. (2011) @ is for Activism: Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture. London: Pluto Press.
Taylor, S. (2008) Outside the Outsiders: Media Representations of Drug Use. Probation Journal, Vol: 55 (4), pp. 369-388.
Tupper, K, W. (2012) Psychoactive Substances and the English Language: “Drugs”, Discourse and Public Policy. Contemporary Drug Problems, Vol: 39, pp. 461-492.
Wax, P, M. (2002) Just a Click Away: Recreational Drug Websites on the Internet. Paediatrics, Vol: 109 (6), pp. 1-4.

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#DigitalAngus – Citizen Journalism and the Commonwealth Games

Last Saturday, I awoke at a time where most of Glasgow was going to sleep (5am!) to catch the first train to Dundee to meet my lift to Forfar for the Digital Angus conference being organised by Third Sector Lab and Angus Council around the themes of social media for community engagement.

As Angus was one of our areas where we were missing a cluster application for the Digital Commonwealth Schools’ programme, this was also an opportunity to come up and actually speak to people face to face to try and see if we could find a set of schools who would be up for joining the process.

Although the Commonwealth Games are based in Glasgow this year, there are also sporting events happening across Scotland; for instance the diving is in Edinburgh at the Commonwealth pool and the shooting is in Carnoustie (which is part of Angus) and has a lot of activity planned for around Games time – from sporting, volunteering, baton relay and educational perspective. Following on from my talk at Digital Agile CLD in Stirling earlier in the week, the fact that Angus was going to be teaming with events and activity on the run up to and during the Commonwealth Games, this would be a great opportunity to catalyse on the power of major events to encourage people to try citizen journalism or digital storytelling for the first time.

Just to change the direction of this post slightly – when I started to write it this morning, I got a tweet from Andy Dickinson about my previous blog post and we had a wee chat about the differences between citizen journalism and digital storytelling in this event context – so I pulled in a few of the tweets below as they got me thinking as I finish editing this post.


Anyway, these tweets plus writing about #digitalangus got me thinking more about the distinctions between citizen journalism (so how we defined Citizen Relay as a project, how we recruited and the type of training that we offered prior to the torch relay) and Digital Storytelling – something is used frequently that can cover quite a lot but we’ve had to nail down quite quickly in terms of producing materials, resources and recruiting volunteers for the project – Blogging, Video, Audio and Social Media as the 4 technical areas, with thematic areas and the ability to embed a community of practice within the process.

The notion of moving from formally training people to become a ‘citizen journalist’ to capture and report on what you see and/or already understand to be -so a major event is great for this as there is a lot of activity and people to capture – to actually developing a course of learning that will provide a set of skills where somebody can not only report on and be a citizen journalist during a particularly that can be used critically and ask questions about things beyond the major event itself – it is a catalyst for signing up and getting involved but what and how they learn will differ in the sense that it should last longer than the major event itself & encourage them to join a ever evolving and growing community of practice online. Building capacity in this way is an attempt to help people connect digitally using a context beyond instrumental function of say, changing to welfare system or using library computers to make a CV.

Anyway, I got a little distracted there – and it is getting late.

My session was a very quick introduction to the Digital Commonwealth project, what we have done so far and what we intend to do into the next 6 months (way!). I then did some simple introduction to making audio and video on your smartphone, focussing on some of the learning we’ve had with working with the Media Trust’s Local 360 project, Citizen’s Eye and  my own involvement with the Wester Hailes Digital Sentinel.

I even got my lovely lift Alison to volunteer to be an interviewee :-)

I managed to stay for the rest of the event, which was great – there is a Storify from the day here and there is an excellent blog post from the final speaker Kenny McDonald that summarises the day. My slides are available here.

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Presentation: Digital Storytelling & Major Events at Digitally Agile CLD Working Group

Last week I was invited by Martin Dewar from Youthlink Scotland to deliver the opening presentation at the Digitally Agile working group who were developing a set of standards for considering social media and digital literacies in a community learning development (CLD) setting in Scotland.

The talk argued that we should look to major events as something beyond the sport, culture and tourism opportunities and instead use them as paradigmatic  benchmark for how (mobile/digital) technology evolves and how community settings can be catalyzed for looking at alternative reporting, narratives and storytelling. It discussed some of the key learning from Citizen Relay in 2012 as a pilot for delivering a national citizen journalism initiative around a major event and moves towards the activity we have planned for the Digital Commonwealth project across the schools, community media and creative voices programmes towards the 6 week (much longer than a 7 day) baton relay across Scotland.
Thanks to the support of the rest of the project team (David, Alison and Gayle) this was also a good opportunity to talk about some of the great projects that have already been submitted and agreed on, a real move from a project that we have been pitching to actual reality that we are going to have schools on Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna researching into other Commonwealth islands and exploring the challenges of training for sporting contests on small islands or producing an online radio documentary about the John Muir trail in Kirkintilloch.
With a particular focus on discussing and critiquing the draft set of National Standards in this area of digital, the event provided the  opportunity to explore how we deliver resources, training and follow up around the 4 areas of digital storytelling that we are looking at (blogging, video, audio and social media), as well as how we motive and accredit these forms of learning through strategies such as Mozilla’s Webmaker and Open Badges.
I got to stay for the rest of the event where we got to discuss the 10 proposed standards (which include practice, policy, inclusion, literacy, evaluation, professional development, co-production, investment, ethics, resources ) in depth, looking at language, approach and how they might sit within our own practice, how they might suit future changes and what might be missing from the descriptions. It was useful from both a perspective of somebody who is part of a team producing educational resources (a handbook of digital storytelling if you may) but also to get an idea where the sector would *like* to head, that across different organisations and authority areas that we suffer from similar challenges (IT governing access for instance!) and what we could do collectively to try and influence change in this area.
For more information about the consultation, the CLD Standards people have pulled together a Storify of the content produced on the #DACLD hashtag
Community Media Cafe - audio

On Speaking to folk, Community Media Cafes, Challenges and Reflections

It’s been a busy two weeks.

Last week, I gave 2 presentations at 2 events, a workshop on Citizen Journalism and Major Events (introduction to the Digital Commonwealth project) for the Social Media for Social Good conference on the 3rd of December and a workshop on Social Media as a Consultation Tool on the Annual General Meeting for Glasgow Society for the Voluntary Sector.

This week, I have attended (or hosted) four community media cafes for Digital Commonwealth across Scotland (Easterhouse, Govan, Central Aberdeen and North Edinburgh) – I have two more to go before Christmas (Craigmillar and central Edinburgh) next week and a further 3 to arrange across Ayrshire at the start of January (Irvine, Ardrossan and East Ayrshire). That’s a grand total of 16 cafes in 3 months, about 4 subject areas and across four regions of Scotland.

By the end of January (24th to be precise), we will be arranging a community media meet up/symposium for practitioners at the Big Lottery Fund headquarters in Glasgow to address the key issues associated with digital storytelling, managing community media projects and response to ethical community based media. I will be updating the Digital Commonwealth website with more details of this in the coming weeks.

I have spoke about and to a lot of people about Digital Commonwealth over the last few weeks which include those who represent agencies, those who are deeply embedded in the activity of their local community and those who live and breath community media as the livelihood and their existence.

It has been roller coaster of emotion, ranging from sheer hyper inspiration when you discover and dig into the media that has been produced by individuals and organisations, to the (sometimes successful, sometimes difficult) tension that comes with explaining and pitching the project to groups involved.

The community media cafe model was a device to try and open up and speak to as many people as possible in an informal way, where they can also learn something along the way about 1 of the 4 media tools we are using (audio, video, blogging and social media). As we are working with a number of different partners & groups in the project areas, the form in they have take have been very different. Some have been workshop based, some have been in cafes, some have felt like a sit down lecture and others have been hands on. We wanted to experiment in this space – so in terms of controlling the format, it was balancing act.

Juggling the finding the people, with the right location, with the right venue, with the right approach with the expectations of each set of people you encounter – from the trainer, to the volunteers to those who have discovered the sessions on the train, – and keeping it within the tight timeframe we have – has been a real eye opener.

The project its is a national, multi-faceted project that aims to generate a citizens’ creative response to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games – but it was never intended to just be about the Games. It’s about providing access digital literacies. It’s about connecting the dots between existing organisations. It’s about providing, generating an archiving a digital space for stories that would not be heard otherwise and for networking stories from existing social media users and community media organisations.

The Games are a catalyst for developing digital storytelling skills, its a massive media event – and will produce a mass of media about Glasgow and Scotland  - it (as a context) is a safe place to learn digital skills because you can be descriptive  or you can be thematic.

The digital skill demands, the learning resources and the workshop processes that we are currently developed to deliver these skills to schools and community groups who decide to participate will be paramount – as will how we communicate the process and encourage people to use and develop those in their own personal contexts, as well as connecting to the wider project.

So learnings? Next steps?

I’ve learned that it is impossible to meet all expectations of everybody that you meet. There are going to be people who understand the vision, contribute and see opportunity in a project of this scale – and they’ll be others who don’t see any value at all, even after you spend more time focussing down on the reasons and the purpose of using the resources of major events at a catalyst.

This can feel pretty deflating, especially as it can be impossible to judge the experience and understanding of the audience in the 2 hours that you have with them- but I also understanding (mainly from my PhD research) that the tension of ‘alternative’ narratives and media forms are difficult to communicate without practice because they are not the established ‘mainstream’ understanding of major events are mediated. This can be broken down further into finding appropriate ways in which to advertise the project successful, to deliver content whilst also working towards the next stages of opportunities for formal training for those who wish to commit.

It perhaps might be easier for me to just concentrate of those who specifically have a commonwealth related or funded project already, and exclusively offer training to them as the buy-in is already present – but that would be the same as offering social media training to people who found the event through twitter or facebook already. If we are to genuinely focus on digital literacy and widening access and awareness to digital storytelling tools, then it needs to reach beyond pre-existing and obvious channels and networks.

Painful and messy, especially for my own mental health which is taking an absolute beating at the moment – I am not a target driven sales person with a hardened skin, I struggle saying no when it comes to wanting to help out-width the project scope –  but I hope such challenge will be it will be worth it as we move into the next stages, recruiting a core group of people who will become trainers, who will become participants and will be given the opportunity to learn how to use the Internet for digital storytelling purposes, that contribute to the Digital Commonwealth archive but can be transferred into whatever context they desire.

The team are currently working on a loosely titled ‘Handbook of Digital Storytelling’ that we can use to prepare our training resources from – and to situate our desire for Open Badges around. It is an exercise in pulling together what people need to know to participate in the project (as a trainer, a teacher, a participant) but also putting to words the best practice of delivering digital storytelling and social media training which isn’t just reinventing the technical handbook for whatever branded service is popular at the moment. Platforms change, but a confident user of the Internet adapts.

One more week to go!

#rsmconf13

Conference, Researching Social Media (Keynote): Curating a Digital Commonwealth

As part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, this one-day conference on Researching Social Media was aimed at policy makers, the business community, third sector and academic researchers and paid specific attention to methods and analytical approaches.

The conference was held on Monday 4 November 2013 at The Workstation in Sheffield and hosted by the University of Sheffield.

The conference included a keynote panel of leading social science, policy and industry researchers:

  • Francesco D’Orazio (Face Research)
  • Jennifer Jones (University of the West of Scotland, freelance creative practitioner)
  • Gareth Morrell (NatCen, lead on New Social Media, New Social Science? (NSMNSS) Network)
  • Katrin Weller (Information Scientist, GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)

The conference also included three skills labs:

  1. A comprehensive review of different tools available for social media research (led by Farida Vis, University of Sheffield);
  2. Overview of quantitative approaches (led by Mike Thelwall, University of Wolverhampton);
  3. An overview of qualitative approaches (led by Gareth Morrell and Eve Stirling, University of Sheffield).

The conference offers a timely and important overview of different critical methodological and analytical approaches for dealing with social media data in social scientific, reliable ways.

Slides from  my keynote:


Abstract:

This paper focuses on the use of social, citizen and community media as a means of opening up channels of debate and discussion and offering new spaces for critique around major sporting and cultural events.  The paper draws on a case study of a participatory arts and media project #citizenrelay, which formed a strong community of local reporters and utilised everyday digital tools and techniques to cover the arrival of the Olympic Torch Relay in Scotland in the summer of 2012. Over recent years, citizen media movements have used ubiquitous mobile devices, freely available and shareable web platforms and a do-it-yourself ethos to subvert established representations in the mainstream media. Though disparate at times, individuals and collectives are now using hybrid media environments to mobilise, organise and discuss issues pertaining to restricted media frames around mega events, and beyond into other spheres of civic importance. They have, with varying degree of success, exploited the fact that “digital infrastructures offer citizens new channels for speaking and acting together and thus lower the threshold for involvement” (Bakardjieva et al, 2012. pi). The paper will explore how these abstract ambitions and aspirations were translated into practice in the #citizenrelay project. They emphasise the importance of immediacy (of content generation and upload), connectedness (physically and virtually), locality (the origin of stories), empowerment (to become media makers) and participation (the ethos of accessibility) as features of successful citizen journalism initiatives. The paper will conclude with an introduction to the Big Lottery funded Digital Commonwealth project  that focuses on using the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games as a catalyst for enhancing digital literacies and explores the challenges of visualising, amplifying and archiving a project/dataset of this scale.

The Digital Commonwealth Vision:

The ambition of the Digital Commonwealth project is to enhance the capacity of individuals and groups to use freely available mobile digital (and social) media tools and techniques to ensure their voice(s) is heard in a saturated (and often commercially) motivated media landscape.  The Digital Commonwealth project focuses on lowering the threshold for involvement for individuals and groups so that they can be empowered to exploit creative tools and technologies to tell their stories, digitally. The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games provides a unique opportunity to enable (and support) individuals and communities to explore and articulate their own stories. The Games bring attention to issues of global citizenship and identity as a focal point at this important point in Scotland’s history and the project provides a space for a conversation to take place (and be recorded) that includes individuals and communities less well represented in mainstream media narratives. The project activities delivered will develop the foundational skills, capabilities and confidence in the ‘unvoiced’ to ensure they can make a digital media contribution in the lead up to, during, and after the Games.

Research Themes in Event

New Publication: Events and Resistance

Research Themes in Event

Just a quick update to say that I’ve had an article that I co-wrote with Prof. David McGillivray published in a new book called “Research Themes for Events”  which was released a few weeks ago.

Reference: McGillivray, D. & Jones, J. (2013) Events and Resistance in: Finkel, R., McGillivray, D., McPherson, G. & Robinson, P. (eds) Research Themes for Events. CABI Publishing.