Summary of the SRA Conference on Digital Research 2012

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  • #1897
    Katie Metzler
    Participant

    The Annual SRA Conference on Social Research in the Digital Age was held at the British Library on Monday the 10th of December 2012. SAGE and NatCen shared a stand at the conference to promote the NCRM network Blurring The Boundaries: New Social Media, New Social Science? (NSMNSS) jointly run alongside the Oxford Internet Institute. http://www.natcen.ac.uk/nsmnss/ 

     

    The day kicked off with a SRA members meeting – as I’m not a member, I kicked off with a cup of coffee at the stand! We were then welcomed by Patten Smith, the Chair of the first panel and Jude England from the British Library, who told us about the exciting digital products the library has been investing in, many of which are aimed at social science researchers.

     

    The first presentation of the day was jointly offered by Grant Blank from the OII (a NSMNSS network member) and Yvette Morey from UWE who is involved in the related NCRM network on Digital Methodologies (http://www.ncrm.ac.uk/research/NMI/2012/digitalmethods.php). Grant discussed the NSMNSS network’s activities, focussing mostly on what we discussed in our second knowledge exchange seminar on quantitative methods. For more information about that event, see my previous methodspace posts:

    Session 1 on Big Data: http://www.methodspace.com/group/nsmnss/forum/topics/kes-2-quantitative-methods-session-1-big-data

    Session 2 on Sampling: http://www.methodspace.com/group/nsmnss/forum/topics/kes-2-quantitative-methods-sampling

    Session 3 on Visualisation: http://www.methodspace.com/group/nsmnss/forum/topics/kes-2-quantitative-methods-session-3-visualisation

     

    The second presentation was from Nick Leon and Annie Crowley on ‘Making it Matter – Using Video Ethnography’ which used video with young homeless people.  You can find more about their research here: http://nakedeyeresearch.co.uk/team/ and here: http://www.depauluk.org/_uploads/documents/research-publications-and-reports/making-it-matter.pdf

     

    The afternoon sessions contained a number of very interesting streams and presentations, including NSMNSS members such as Janet Salmons from Capella University School of Business and Technology on Deep Data. A great taster of her presentation can be found on the network blog: http://nsmnss.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/deep-data-digging-into-social-media_16.html 

     

    Carol MacNaughton Nicholls from NatCen, along with colleagues, also presented on ‘Trails and Visualisations’ (great title!!). I’ve been working with Carol on the new edition of Qualitative Research Practice (due out next November) and I urge you to check out her amazing and varied work.http://www.natcen.ac.uk/people/carol-mcnaughton-nicholls

     

    In one of the best presentations, Alan Smith from ONS showed off the amazing visualisations they’ve done with the 2011 census data. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/interactive/vp2-2011-census-comparator/index.html How did I not know this existed? He made some really good points about how important it is which channels you choose for disseminating your data – apparently BBC was the place everyone went to use this, to the extent they thought the BBC had actually produced the tools! He joked that the URL uk.stats.gov just contained too many unpalatable words to attract users!

     

    For me, the one thing missing from the event was any discussion of the political and methodological implications of the Big Data/Open Data movement. In some sessions, we seemed to still be having the same conversations about Big Data as if it is magic wand that will fix everything or have the potential to answer all types of questions. As I wrote in a previous blog post, Big Data is only good for certain types of questions! http://www.methodspace.com/group/nsmnss/forum/topics/big-data-conference-at-the-oii  And though the potential for open data to be used for the ‘public good’ is real, it’s not self-evident to me that this is what is currently happening or necessarily will happen. Yes, the potential for businesses to make more money seems obvious… but this post is probably not the place to even get started on that one…

     

    All in all, an enjoyable and well-organised conference. You can see the twitter stream of events here: http://the-sra.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/SRA-Annual-Conference-2012-Twitterstream.pdf

     

    If the topics of social media and digital research interest you, please join the Blurring the Boundaries: New Social Media, New Social Science network! http://www.natcen.ac.uk/nsmnss/  And if you have any writing plans in this area you’d like to discuss, drop me a line Katie Metzler, Commissioning Editor for Research Methods. (katie.metzler@sagepub.co.uk)

    #1898
    Katie Metzler
    Participant

    Wow, shameful number of typos in version 1 for an Editor!! Hopefully fixed now and I promise I’m better usually – rushing things before the holidays!

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