On the 20th of July, I was invited to host a workshop at theBirmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD) Research Summer School about using Social Media to promote research. As promised, I’m sticking the presentation online so that those who were there can get a little bit more information based on the discussions that were had during and after the session.
The workshop’s abstract was as follows:
This 90 minute session will explore the use of social media tools for promoting creative practice. It will track the ongoing history of social online technologies, unpick the common myths associated with web 2.0 platforms and discuss the cycle of activity required in order to maintain a creative profile online. This workshop will provide you with an opportunity to brainstorm strategies surrounding the use of social media for promoting independent and group creative work.
My PhD colleague Ana Adi, a PR and new media specialist, has many detailed resources about web 2.0 promoting, social media tools for research and data collection tools for social sciences and humanities research. These range from social timeline software for arranging historical texts to using social media in music promotion. A rich resource for exploring ways to integrate social media into your research practise.
Some visuals which explains different tools and different statistics which relate to the growth of the social web. A nice way to look at some of the emerging discussions and challenges relating to social media.
http://www.citizenseye.org (A Leicester citizen media hub – an excellent example of how local, citizen journalism has been taken up in my local area of Leicestershire – I will be working closely with them during the run up and during Games time)
On the 19th of July, Birmingham City University hosted a seminar on “Measuring the Unmeasurable” – a discussion led event to explore the meaning and the measurement of digital participation, focusing on the areas of reach, breadth and depth set out by the Digital Britain report. The event was targeted towards academics from broad “digital” media and cultural studies and policy makers, activists, community media workers and social media advisers.
Alongside presentations from Paul Watson (Director, Digital Economy Hub for Inclusion through the Digital Economy), Catherine Bunting (Director of Research, Arts Council England), Alison Preston (Senior Research Associate, Ofcom) there was also a panel discussion including Nick Booth (PodNosh) and Vishalakshi Roy (Senior Business Develop Manager, Audiences Central).
The afternoon session included a workshop breakout session which allowed participants to discuss the measurement of reach, breadth and depth further. This was a broad and open-ended session – which is reflected in the terminology around the digital participation plan itself. I was asked to facilitate the workshop on Depth, which is defined in the Digital Participation Plan were as follows:
Depth of use refers to using social networks and content creation and sharing, including user-generated content and self-publishing.
Depth of use will be monitored through levels of confidence, understanding of types of content, perceptions of personal benefits both economic and social, and knowledge of risks and how to mitigate them.
The Depth workshop turned out to be the most popular of the three terms (which makes for interesting discussion within its own right) – and as the session was so busy, it was quite difficult in the time allowed to have a focused discussion with larger numbers. Instead, the group of 30+ was split into smaller groups to discuss the group proposed issues of motivation, accessibility, funding and attendance.
After 20-30 minutes of discussion, groups were asked to then write down on post it notes measurement of successes and measurement of challenges relating to their chosen topic. Unsurprisingly, there were few measurements of successes – with much of the focus being made towards the challenges of measuring the depth of digital participation through solely looking at user generated content and social networking.
As there was so much to be discussed, in a rather short period of time, what can be said is that there is a definite pull towards “depth” research. I’d associated this particular type of research as being majorly qualitative (or as one speaker referred to as being “informal” research) where much of the questions and challenges posed were incapable of being answered using statistics or survey data. We were referring to case studies relating to our own separate industries, with many cross overs between personal reflections and conversations with those who are affected with the issues suggested. From this, I personally enjoyed seeing the indirect request for more qualitative research (but I am interested in ethnographic practice (;) – and the links between being innovative with funds and resources to avoid being sucked in the box ticking trap. The larger goal of getting different sectors to talk and work together was reinforced across the group.
What I did promise was to share the notes and scribbles from the session so that those who attended the depth session could unpick my handwriting and use it within their own reflections. I’ve added them below as part of a flickr slideshow for this purpose:
So last night we (me and Tom) joined the cast of Interactive Cultures and Amplified to take part in the social meejaising of UB40′s Rainbow Roof fundraiser in Birmingham. The event itself was great fun and we managed to get a real feel for what the Brummie live music “movement” was about – despite having to head home not much longer after UB40 took the stage (either survive on Red Bull or miss work in the morning..) With the choice of Rhubarb Radio’s immaculate live stream of the gig, and the post-mortem collection of photos, videos, audio boos and tweets from the band – we didn’t need to worry too much about not being able to catch up with it later on.
For me, Two things struck me about last night:
1) In the pub before, we were chatting about the Music as Culture theme with Jez – and it got me thinking about my own experiences with gigs and the like. I’ve rarely went to a gig in Leicester (lived here 2.5 years)- and certainly haven’t been to nearly the same amount of gigs that I used to when I lived in/near Glasgow. It’s just not in my focus anymore – when even just a few years ago I would spend quite a bit of money on cds and gig tickets – and at a peak, it would be 2-3 gigs a week (at least one a month). I’m aware that Leicester has some what of a music scene (Summer Sundae, few little venues and more recently Twesta promotions) – but with the demise of the Charlotte (which I found out today has had plans filed for its demolish in favour of new student flats (meh), less than 3 months after it reopened again) – it’s another knock to a city with a rather confusing social scene. It’s not as if people don’t want it, it just doesn’t smack you in the face when you arrive.
@brian_condon, me and @discombob (via @benjaminellis)
I’m no expert here – but I was a consumer, a fan, someone who was genuinely interested in a local music scene and Glasgow was my city, gigs were something to do, something to look forward to and bring friends together- and now I’m not and I don’t even know where to begin in Leicestershire. I wonder what happened there and after last night, I would like to, at least, try and rectify that. Certainly, community drives the involvement – and for the first time in ages, I actually left feeling like I wanted more. So, in this case, Birmingham is certainly doing something right – and to mess with the smaller city centre venues – in favour of yet more empty carcasses of new build flats, occupied by people who knew what they were getting when they decided to live in the centre of the 2nd biggest city in the UK – would be a bad thing.
The audience members I interviewed were saying the same thing. Can watch them here and here.
Turning the camera back on to the media (from Benjamin Ellis)
2) The second point probably relates more to my research interests – and perhaps reinstalled my original enjoyment for using new media to subvert traditions. Alongside coverage from national and local news channels – there was also journalists from the Independent, the BBC and a man with a rather large tv camera – all hanging around, looking for a story. I was approached, twice, by journalists – and both times wasn’t allowed to be interviewed because I was there for meeja stuff myself. Of course, Tom wasn’t – he was coming along for the gig, so poor Tom got asked a bunch of questions about stuff he didn’t really know nor care about – to which he answered “yes” “no” “it’s a good thing” “uh hum” – taken down in short-hand and had this picture taken for a voxpop. Riveting. (sorry Tom ;-))
Of course, the real interesting story is the fact that the community media (the band, the university, the radio station and gig venue) were all working together to increase the visibility of the cause (the purpose of the gig) and to help give the audience a voice – and on top of that, if they liked it or not – the audience were watching the gig through the screens of digital cameras, mobile phones and some even had their own techy-looking kit to capture the event- to share with their network, be it online or off.
A couple of crafted voxpops were trumped by a room full of people, doing their own thing. That’s pretty damn awesome. Birmingham, bring it on!
I thought I would write a quick blog post as I’ve had a few people ask me if I’m moving back to Scotland (or given up the PhD) and I think it is about time I clarify what is going on (plus, I lost my voice over the weekend after chatting loads about this stuff at the Birmingham Social Media Cafe on Friday).
Yes, the rumours are true. I have left the University of Leicester (both as a phd student and as a tutor) – it just wasn’t working out and it hadn’t been for a long time. As much as people say that PhDs can be done part time, it’s another thing where you are struggling to either a) find time to dedicate to the work, because you are working loads to support the rest of your life and/or b)you take time off to study and you end up to spending most your time looking for small jobs to tide you over. It wasn’t fun- and I don’t think since Uses and Abuses (in June) I’ve been able to seriously dedicate time to the topic I was guided to work on. There are clear, conflicting distinctions in the topics and the methods of research in the department, with what I’m interested in and wanting to achieve, and I think for my own sanity, I would be better placed somewhere else. I’ve learnt a lot in the last 10 months – and most of it is probably how NOT to do a PhD.
But it ain’t all bleak. In July, I was offered to the chance to apply for funding for phd studentship at my old University (was Paisley, now the University of the West of Scotland) – and thanks to Andy Miah’s encouragement (and persistence) – I found out last week that I got it!
So finally, I can work on my PhD full time (with Andy as my supervisor) – which I am so looking forward to. The chance to finally get cracking with a topic of my choosing, and be able to visit Scotland more is fantastic opportunity. In fact, I’m heading to Scotland after work tonight to spend a few days at the University, sorting my stuff out.
Speaking of work, a few weeks ago, I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to be in Birmingham to meet my sister off the train, and asked if anyone fancied a coffee in the morning. Jon Hickman, from Birmingham Media School at BCU (who we’d been chatting bob about social media for a while) said he was free, and after an awesome face to face chat about a number of geeky things, he got back to me about a job going at the University.
And today is my first day as a Visiting Lecturer, teaching the first years media theory workshop and working on a preparing a research project for the department. I visited the department last Monday (nice to be in a place where you feel you aren’t a distraction), and by Friday I was a two social media events in Birmingham (BSMC, mentioned previously and BCCDIY – a hack day for a community generated council website, down at the Moseley Exchange – fantastic idea!) – and I got to meet a good fair few of the new MA Social Media and MA Online Journalism guys in the process.
So there you go, still living in Leicestershire, PhD is based in Scotland (which I’ll write more about the topic and scope later) and I work in Birmingham. Can I just say that the last two weeks have been nuts – and I’m quite happy to let that continue. Thank goodness I like trains!
Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Although, ironically, today’s research methods seminar that I was teaching on SPSS was probably the smoothest session I’ve held in the last 6 weeks.
I have an intrinsic fear of SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Scientists) after my near failure of the exam we had during our masters last year. At the time of the exam, I wasn’t scared – in fact, I was scarily confident that anything involving computer software and formulae wouldn’t be too stressful (I got an A for my higher maths yah de yah de yah and this was social sciences la de da! </ignorance>) When we had our stats seminar session, I battered through the coursework in record time and spend the rest of the session helping out the others.
Sods law, I completely mucked up the exam assessment (didn’t pay as much detail to the procedure write up and did percentages in my head instead of using SPSS) and by not showing how I got the answers, I got a lovely mark of 53% – enough for me to delete it from my university computer account and swear blind that I would never touch quantitative analysis again.
Of course, when I was offer the teaching assistant contract for the research methods class, I knew the format of the classes would be similar to the MA research methods module. Throughout the last six weeks we’ve covered literature reviews, content analysis, discourse analysis, semiotic analysis and surveys and questionnaires – I knowing full well that I was approaching the dreaded SPSS session.
The department prepared me a set of exercises to hand out with the SPSS instruction booklets – which meant that I didn’t need to worry too much about preparing the exercises – however, I still had to guide the students through the process. To begin with I handed out the exercises and got them to all work on their own. It was interesting because as the session progressed, we all ended up helping each other out. There were some obvious characters that took to SPSS almost immediately and had completed everything in under an hour (a bit like myself when I did it the first time around) – I checked their results and let them head off to work on their group research project.
The rest worked through the sheets systematically; when things didn’t work they asked each other and worked with the results that others had got. There were familiar cries of “OMG I HATE SPSS” beginning to surface – it was nice to see that we were all on the same page – however, many were asking about getting a copy for their own machine so they can get used to it before their dissertation and to complete the exercises in their own time(result!)
So, overall, teaching SPSS is better than “doing” SPSS – but more importantly, despite generating a lot of angst, it isn’t as scary as I thought it would be. There isn’t much class work time dedicated to SPSS – so the fact that some were keen to practise it at home was a good outcome.
But I still wouldn’t use it! Yuk, hiss, spit, etc!
The one I got: Got sent a copy of an essay in a strange file format, accompanied with, “This essay is due next week. Can you read it, make corrections and have it back to me next week?”
When I explained in class today that I wouldn’t be able to do that – but I would be able to help people out with any questions, read over tricky paragraphs or advise on essay structure (In fact, I even offered to meet them outside class time to look at their essays over coffee – mmm, coffee!) – said student packed their stuff up, huffed and walked out.