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    Were you at the event on Tuesday? In person or online? Over on our blog Gareth Morrell sums up what he thinks were the key messages coming out of the event.


    What do you think? Was there another key theme that you’d like to see highlighted and investigated by the network? Was there something that you think should have been mentioned but wasn’t?

    Katie Metzler

    Great summary! What really came out of the event for me was a feeling that we need a place and a way to share tools and experiences. People, like the speakers at the event, are already doing great work in this field, but much of their knowledge of what works and what doesn’t isn’t captured in journal articles. I hope people will use methodspace and the other network forums to share tips about tools and case studies of their research.


    Tim Graham

    Gareth’s summary is very informative and begs a variety of questions for further research and inquiry.

    An area that I’m particularly interested in is the application of critical theory to understanding social media and Web 2.0. Taking a slightly more conceptual approach, the application of Foucauldian perspectives on power and knowledge seem to be fertile ground.

    I am developing a paper at the moment that frames social media data as ‘subjugated knowledges’ that, once liberated, can be employed to further understand the complex discursive field of power relations that results in certain kinds of institutions, ideas and knowledges dominating and excluding others. In essence this is a kind of genealogical approach.

    Another implication for this is surveillance and the panopticon. When we look at Big Data generated by social media (e.g. Facebook / Twitter) who and what are we ‘peering into’? If governments formulate policy based on these data, in what ways are they, to use Foucault’s metaphor, making assumptions about the deep sea trajectory of a whale based on only its 2 second leap above the water?

    Food for thought!!




    Tim – really interesting idea. One of the comments at the seminar was that the whole area is under-theorised in terms of why we use the methods we do.

    But I think there’s an empirical question too. What we also don’t know enough about yet is what are people representing online – all of themselves, some of themsleves or something really quite different to themselves.

    All things the network can explore. What do others think about the place of theory?


    I agree that it’s a really important area for us to look at who holds the power with social media is an intriguing question. I think it was one of the COSMOS team who suggested that the panopticon might be slowly being replaced by the more subtle synopticon of social media, but who is accessing all our links, relationships and expressions of ourselves on social media platforms? And what are they reading into those? Fascinating stuff.

    Chareen Snelson

    Thanks for the fabulous summary of key points from the launch event. I had to attend online since I am located in Boise, Idaho, USA. (I’m an Associate Professor in Educational Technology at Boise State.) Thank you so much for streaming the sessions and posting recordings on the YouTube channel. I wasn’t able to catch all of the streams, but watched everything posted on YouTube. 

    Two of the points raised during the sessions and in the blog post were ethics and sampling. With respect to ethics, I appreciated the discussion about public versus semi-private data that was raised by Farida Vis. My own research is centered on YouTube, so her talk about YouTube APIs capturing data not visible on public channels was fascinating. My current study is on school-related vlogs and I am very hesitant to share YouTube user names or links to videos included in my study. It does not matter that these data are all public. It still feels wrong to share that information. 

    With respect to sampling, this has been a problem that I have not yet resolved. In qualitative research we might apply the idea of “saturation” to social media sampling, but how do we really know when we have enough data to ensure that nothing new will contribute further to the study? It would be grand to resolve this question. 

    Anyway, thanks for the great opportunity to collaborate. I am delighted to be able to participate at a distance. 

    Tim Graham

    Thanks for the heads up, Kandy. I haven’t come across the synopticon idea before so I’ll be sure to check it out. I vaguelly recall hearing about the ‘omniopticon’, which sounds like a similar concept.

    Questions regarding form, representation and meaning seem to be at the heart of social media data and the way they are used (or misused!?).

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