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Handbook of social media for researchers and supervisors

"Social media such as wikis, blogs, social bookmarking tools, social networking websites (e.g. Facebook), or photo– and video–sharing websites (e.g. Flickr, YouTube) facilitate gathering and sharing of information and resources and enable collaboration. Social media is a new form of communication that is changing behaviours and expectations of researchers, employers and funding bodies.

The goal of this handbook is to assist researchers and their supervisors to adopt and use social media tools in the service of their research, and, in particular, in engaging in the discourse of research. The handbook presents an innovative suite of resources for developing and maintaining a social media strategy for research dialogues."

(Careers Research and Advisory Centre Limited)


Simon Perkins
14 JULY 2012

Student experiences of disability social networks, in and around higher education

"For many young people social networks such as Facebook are an essential part of their student experience. Other web–based, interactive services like Wikipedia and YouTube are also an important facet of everyday student life. New technologies have always been scrutinized for their capacity to support education and, as social technologies become more pervasive, universities are under increasing pressure to appropriate them for teaching and learning. However, the educational impact of applying these Web 2.0 technologies is uncertain.

Using a Foucauldian perspective, my qualitative study explores the networked experiences of disabled students to examine how dis/ability difference is ascribed and negotiated within social networks. Data comprises 34 internet–enabled interviews with 18 participants from three English universities. Interviews incorporate the internet to expand opportunities for discussion, observation and analysis. Mobile broadband, a remote desktop viewer and screen capture have been flexibly applied together to ensure an accessible interview situation and recognise students' preferences and circumstances. Data is analysed using discourse analysis, with an attention to context framed by activity theory.

Disabled students' networked experiences are found to be complex and diverse. For a proportion, the network shifts the boundaries of disability, creating non–disabled subjectivities. For these students, the network represents the opportunity to mobilise new ways of being, building social capital and mitigating impairment.

Other participants experience the network as punitive and disabling. Disability is socio–technically ascribed by the social networking site and the networked public. Each inducts norms that constitute disability as a visible, deviant and deficit identity. In the highly normative conditions of the network, where every action is open to scrutiny, impairment is subjected to an unequal gaze that produces disabled subjectivities. For some students with unseen impairments, a social experience of disability is inducted for the first time.

As a result, students deploy diverse strategies to retain control and resist deviant status. Self–surveillance, self–discipline and self–advocacy are evoked, each involving numerous social, cognitive and technological tactics for self–determination, including disconnection. I conclude that networks function both as Technologies of the Self and as Technologies of Power. For some disabled students, the network supports 'normal' status. For others, it must be resisted as a form of social domination.

Importantly, in each instance, the network propels students towards disciplinary techniques that mask diversity, rendering disability and the possibility of disability invisible. Consequently, disability is both produced and suppressed by the network."

(Sarah Lewthwaite, Slewth Press)


2011 • accessible interviews • Activity Theoryboundaries • building social capital • capacity to support education • cognitive tacticscontrol • deficit identity • deviance • deviant • deviant statusdifference • dis/ability • dis/ability difference • disabilitydisability and social networks • disability as a visible • disability studies • disability studies researcher • disabled students • disabled subjectivities • disabling • disconnection • discourse analysisdiversity • education researcher • educational impact • everyday student lifeFacebook • Foucauldian perspective • higher educationidentityidentity constructionidentity performance • impairment • interactive services • internet-enabled interviews • invisiblelearning and teaching • LSRI • mediated environmentsMichel Foucaultmitigating impairment • mobile broadband • networked experiences • networked publicsnew technologiesnew ways of being • non-disabled subjectivities • normal status • normative conditions • open to scrutiny • PhDPhD thesis • produced by the network • punitive • qualitative study • remote desktop • Sarah Lewthwaite • screen capture • self-advocacy • self-discipline • self-surveillance • social experience of disability • social interactionsocial media researchersocial networking servicesocial networking sitessocial networkssocial norms • social tactics • social technologies • socio-technically ascribed • student circumstancesstudent experience • student experiences of disability • student preference • students • suppressed by the network • tactictactics • technological tactics • technologies of powerthesis • unequal gaze • University of Nottingham • unseen impairments • Web 2.0 technologies • web-basedWikipediayoung peopleYouTube


Simon Perkins
03 MAY 2012

Aleks Krotoski's The Digital Human

"Aleks Krotoski asks not just what technology can do for us but also what is it doing to us and the world we're creating? Each week she takes us on a journey to where people are living their digital lives to explore how technology touches everything we do both on and offline.

Taking broad themes of modern living as a starting point she charts the experiences of homo digitas; both the remarkable and the mundane, to understand how we are changing just as quickly as the advances in our technology.

What does the deluge of images from digital photography mean for our memory when every second is being recorded, edited and posted online for posterity? Are the identities we create in social media no more than exercises in personal branding, to be managed and protected like any other product? And as traditional churches struggle to leverage technology to spread their faith do the behaviours we all display online have more in common with religion than rationality?

The time for wonder at the digital world is over, we live with it in every day. The question really is who are we now because of it?"

(BBC Radio 4)

Fig.1 "Mack on a summer morning", 30 March 2011 [–memories.html].



2012advances in technology • Aleks Krotoski • BBC Radio 4 • being edited • constructed identitiescultural identitycyberpsychology • deluge of images • digital photography • digital world is over • display online • every second is being recorded • everydayfaith • homo digitas • human behaviouridentityidentity performanceimpression management • leverage technology • living digital livesmediated environmentsmemorymodern livingnew technologyonline and offlineour digital livespersonal branding • posted online • posterityrationalityreligionself-monitoringself-reflexivitysocial changesocial mediasocial media identitiestechnology touches everythingvirtual presence


Simon Perkins
18 JANUARY 2011

The Art of the Email Interview

"Our first iteration of the email interview was something like an open–ended survey. It explained the project and supplied the appropriate participant information and consent forms. Then, it listed the questions. It was in many ways a participant friendly version of the interview guide.

While the turnaround on the email interview surveys was really good from a time perspective, we felt that the answers we were getting were very short, to the point, and formal. This is in contrast to our in–person interviews, where answers to one question would often meander through several equally interesting subjects in the process of their completion.

So I thought a lot about how the in–person interviews were different from the email interviews, and I realized it was that with in–person interviews, the participant doesn't know all of the questions you will be asking up front. Usually we tell them what kind of questions we will be asking, or what kind of information we are looking for, but the specific questions are unknown. As a result, the participant will often include a lot more information in the answer to each question. There was something about seeing all of the questions all at once that was cutting off this meandering; something about having all of the questions in front of the participant at once made the answers short and to the point.

So our solution was to send email interview questions one at a time.

This was a tremendous success. When we sent the questions one at a time, the answers were long, rich, and varied. ...

We have tried out the second iteration of email interviewing on several participants, and have been blown away with their responses.

There are probably restrictions that come with this method. It is probably not appropriate for people who do not normally communicate via text–based mediums. (Our participants are very comfortable with the written communication of the internet, so in our case this has not been an issue.) It might also be less appealing to very busy executives–our coursemate Cora is doing a project with such folks, and she feels that her participants would become irritated with the process after three questions."

(Rachel Shadoan, 31 July 2010)


consent forms • email interview • email interviewingemail interviewsethnographic methodsethnographic researchethnography • Facebook interview • in-person • in-person interviews • information gatheringinterview (research method) • interview guide • interview questions • meander • meandering • mediated environments • open-ended survey • participant • participant information • research dialoguesresearch methodsocial mediasocial media researchersurvey • text-based mediums • written communication


Simon Perkins

Mediated environments: we must learn to write themselves into being

"In everyday interactions, the body serves as a critical site of identity performance. In conveying who we are to other people, we use our bodies to project information about ourselves.[32] This is done through movement, clothes, speech, and facial expressions. What we put forward is our best effort at what we want to say about who we are. Yet while we intend to convey one impression, our performance is not always interpreted as we might expect. Through learning to make sense of others' responses to our behavior, we can assess how well we have conveyed what we intended. We can then alter our performance accordingly. This process of performance, interpretation, and adjustment is what Erving Goffman calls impression management,[33] and is briefly discussed in the introduction to this volume. Impression management is a part of a larger process where people seek to define a situation[34] through their behavior. People seek to define social situations by using contextual cues from the environment around them. Social norms emerge out of situational definitions, as people learn to read cues from the environment and the people present to understand what is appropriate behavior.

Learning how to manage impressions is a critical social skill that is honed through experience. Over time, we learn how to make meaning out of a situation, others' reactions, and what we are projecting of ourselves. As children, we learn that actions on our part prompt reactions by adults; as we grow older, we learn to interpret these reactions and adjust our behavior. Diverse social environments help people develop these skills because they force individuals to reevaluate the signals they take for granted.

The process of learning to read social cues and react accordingly is core to being socialized into a society. While the process itself begins at home for young children, it is critical for young people to engage in broader social settings to develop these skills. Of course, how children are taught about situations and impression management varies greatly by culture,[35] but these processes are regularly seen as part of coming of age. While no one is ever a true master of impression management, the teenage years are ripe with opportunities to develop these skills.

In mediated environments, bodies are not immediately visible and the skills people need to interpret situations and manage impressions are different. As Jenny Sundén argues, people must learn to write themselves into being.[36] Doing so makes visible how much we take the body for granted. While text, images, audio, and video all provide valuable means for developing a virtual presence, the act of articulation differs from how we convey meaningful information through our bodies. This process also makes explicit the self–reflexivity that Giddens argues is necessary for identity formation, but the choices individuals make in crafting a digital body highlight the self–monitoring that Foucault describes.[37]

In some sense, people have more control online–they are able to carefully choose what information to put forward, thereby eliminating visceral reactions that might have seeped out in everyday communication. At the same time, these digital bodies are fundamentally coarser, making it far easier to misinterpret what someone is expressing. Furthermore, as Amy Bruckman shows, key information about a person's body is often present online, even when that person is trying to act deceptively; for example, people are relatively good at detecting when someone is a man even when they profess to be a woman online.[38] Yet because mediated environments reveal different signals, the mechanisms of deception differ.[39] "

(Danah Boyd 2008, p.128–129)

[32] Fred Davis, Fashion, Culture and Identity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

[33] Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, 1956).

[34] Erving Goffman, Behavior in Public Places (New York: The Free Press, 1963).

[35] Jean Briggs, Inuit Morality Play: The Emotional Education of a Three–Year–Old (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999).

[36] Jenny Sundén, Material Virtualities (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2003).

[37] See David Buckingham's introduction to this volume for a greater discussion of this.

[38] Joshua Berman and Amy Bruckman, The Turing Game: Exploring Identity in an Online Environment, Convergence 7, no. 3 (2001): 83–102.

[39] Judith Donath, Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community, Communities in Cyberspace, eds. Marc Smith and Peter Kollock (London: Routledge, 1999).

1). Boyd, D. (2008). Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life. Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. D. Buckingham. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press: 119–142.



Simon Perkins

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