Online identity at #NapRes17

Yesterday was the Edinburgh Napier University’s Research Conference. Based at our Craiglockhart campus, the conference was designed to bring together research active staff and research degree students from across the university. (Read up about the event on the Twitter hashtag #NapRes17.)

My contribution to the conference was an academic poster (full-size version). The poster was part of my larger doctoral study that investigates how online information is used in the management and evaluation of personal reputations. This work follows the tradition of research into everyday life information seeking (ELIS). My doctoral investigation considers four research questions (below). This poster addressed the first of these questions “How do individuals use information to build identities for themselves online?”.

Research Questions:

RQ1: How do individuals use information to build identities for themselves online?

RQ2: How do individuals use online information to build and manage their reputations?

RQ3: How do individuals evaluate the identities and reputations of others based on the information available to them online?

RQ4: To what extent do individuals actively practise identity and reputation building and evaluation online?

The findings consider three areas of identity building. The first is related to the creation and use of online personas and identities. This includes an examination of three broad information behaviours that participants use for the portrayal of online identities. The second area investigates the use of anonymity and pseudonyms through information sharing – or concealment – practices, as well as some of the motivations behind these behaviours. The third and final area presents the ways in which the blurring or merging together of participants’ private and professional selves, as well as their online and offline environments, are used for building identity online.

I provided handouts to the people who engaged with me during the poster session. I was also very pleased that even more people approached me after the session to speak about my research. (They were provided with a copy of the handout, too.)

Whilst my poster was only showcasing a small snapshot of a small part of my thesis, the conversations the poster prompted were wide-reaching. I spoke with other conference-goers about my larger doctoral investigation, online reputation and management practices in general terms, and the idea of altmetrics—which I’ve given two talks about in recent weeks. My poster also served as a conversation starter about my post-PhD plans (still in flux), potential public engagement activities, and even possible grant opportunities.

Personally, I feel that these wider conversations are one of the best reasons to present an academic poster. Yes, it’s about the actual research presented in the visual artefact. But it is also about the conversations and connections that visual artefact creates in a wider sense. And for me, this one little poster made the conference a huge success—because I connected with others.

The rest of the conference was very interesting, too. It included a selection of staff and student presentations, breakout working groups, networking, and a research showcase at the end of the day. Sadly, I didn’t win any amazing prizes (as I did last year) but I did win a bit of confidence about my PhD research and my academic future.

I’ll end there as I have just finished delivering a research symposium and I’m a bit tired after the excitement of the day. But I’ll share a post about that shortly… followed by tales from next week’s conference in Aberdeen.

But if you would like to ask any questions about my poster or my larger doctoral investigation, please feel free to comment below or contact me privately.

Determining examiners: A happy milestone

One of the vital elements of a PhD in the UK is the Viva, or “viva voce”. (Or, if you’re an American, the thesis defense!) It is an oral examination of the PhD research. It is an opportunity to discuss your research with an expert in your field. And, importantly, it is an opportunity to prove your worth in the Academy.

Before you get to the viva, you have to make sure that you have a qualified, knowledgeable examination team. The structure of that team might vary from one institution to the next, and even between disciplines. But one thing they’ll have in common is that the examiners will know their stuff!

At my university, the viva includes both an external and internal examiner with your panel chair acting as the chair and moderator. Supervisors are only allowed if the student says it’s OK, but they are not allowed to speak during the examination. (I am inviting my supervisors. They’re a wonderful support to me and I would be happy to have them there… if they dare!)

The examiners are generally identified by the supervision team (with potential input from the student) and are confirmed by the Research Degrees Committee. That confirmation is based on the relevant experience of the team and is determined based on a thesis abstract and the examiners’ CVs, relevant publications, and previous examination experience.

And confirming your examiners is a big deal! It means you’re getting a bit closer to your viva, which means you’re getting pretty darn near to submitting your thesis.

As for me, I submitted the relevant form (RD12) and accompanying information for approval today. Which means I’m close to being ready for my viva. Or, at least, it means I should be close! I still have a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, of writing to do. But I’m getting there. Slowly. Very slowly.

I don’t know if I’m able to share my abstract or the names of my chosen examiners yet. And I don’t know when the committee will formally accept my suggested people. So… I won’t share that information here today. But I did want to share this important milestone.

But for now… it’s back to that thesis writing thing that I should be working on…

Published: A Gen-X perspective of online information and reputation management

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My paper, ‘Managing and evaluating personal reputations on the basis of information shared on social media: a Generation X perspective’, has been published in Information Research. The paper is co-authored with my PhD supervisors, Peter Cruickshank, Professor Hazel Hall, and Alistair Lawson and shares some early findings from my PhD research, specific to my Generation X data subset.

The paper was presented at the Information Seeking in Context (ISIC) 2016 conference in Zadar, Croatia, this past September. (Slides are available here and can also be found below.)

Some of the results shared in the paper indicate that:

  • Participants view their online identity (or identities) as representations of their offline personas. In some cases, personal and professional personas are kept separate by using different online platforms for different aspects of an individual’s offline life.
  • Self-censorship is a key tool in the management of reputation, with censorship activities varying based on the platform and perceived audience.
  • It can be difficult to identify information behaviours that elicit positive evaluations of others, yet negative evaluations can be made in an instant if someone shares information (for example, a tweet or Facebook post) that is in stark contrast to their own views and opinions.
  • The levels of intentional reputation management varies, and is more often concerned with how the information will be received by others, rather than the impact on their own reputation.

The full study is expected to be completed in spring 2017. The full results will combine the Generation X subset with data gathered from an equal number of Generation Y and Baby Boomer participants. At that time, the three datasets will (most likely) be combined to discuss information behaviours based on the four research questions as a whole, rather than as generation groups. However, I hope to be able to pull at least some generational-based data for future small reports, papers, or posters.

The full text of the paper is available in Information Research, along with other papers from the ISIC conference. Below is an abstract and the presentation slides. Please do get in touch if you have any questions about this paper or my research as a whole.

Managing and evaluating personal reputations on the basis of information shared on social media: a Generation X perspective

Ryan, F., Cruickshank, P., Hall, H., Lawson, A. (2016). Managing and evaluating personal reputations on the basis of information shared on social media: a Generation X perspective. Information Research.

Abstract
Introduction. The means by which individuals evaluate the personal reputations of others, and manage their own personal reputations, as determined by information shared on social media platforms, is investigated from an information science perspective. The paper is concerned with findings from a doctoral study that takes into account prior work on the building and assessment of reputations through citation practice, as explored in the domain of scientometrics.

Method. Following the practice of studies of everyday life information seeking (ELIS), a multi-step data collection process was implemented. In total forty-five participants kept diaries and took part in semi-structured interviews. In this paper fifteen of these participants are represented.

Analysis. A qualitative analysis of the data was undertaken using NVivo10 to consider the information practices of one of three age group cohort generations: Generation X.

Results. Results generated from this initial analysis show some clear alignments with established knowledge in the domain, as well as new themes to be explored further. Of particular note is that social media users are more interested in the content of the information that is shared on social media platforms than they are in the signals that this information might convey about the sharer(s). It is also rare for these users to consider the impact of information sharing on personal reputation building and evaluation.

Conclusion. The analysis of the full dataset will provide further insight on the specific theme of the role of online information in personal reputation management, and contribute to theory development related to the study of information seeking behaviour and use.

Accepted: Managing and evaluating personal reputations on the basis of information shared on social media: a Generation X perspective

2016.07.12.isic-acceptanceMy paper, Managing and evaluating personal reputations on the basis of information shared on social media: a Generation X perspective, has been accepted for ISIC: The Information Behaviour Conference in Zadar, Croatia. The paper is co-authored by my PhD supervisors, and is based on preliminary findings from one of my generation groups (Generation X) being investigated for my doctoral thesis.

The conference will take place 20-23 September at the University of Zadar and I will present my paper the morning of the 22nd (full programme here). I have 30 minutes (including time for questions) to discuss my paper and share some of the key findings presented in the full paper. The challenge will be to share enough of the highlights to motivate people to read (and cite!) the full paper, but not so much to where I bore my audience to tears.

The full paper will be available in Information Research in 2017, after which I will happily share a link to the publication. In the meantime, you can read the paper’s abstract below. (I will share my presentation slides in September.)

Managing and evaluating personal reputations on the basis of information shared on social media: a Generation X perspective

Ryan, F.Cruickshank, P.Hall, H.Lawson, A. (2016). Managing and evaluating personal reputations on the basis of information shared on social media: a Generation X perspective. Information Research.

Abstract
Introduction. The means by which individuals evaluate the personal reputations of others, and manage their own personal reputations, as determined by information shared on social media platforms, is investigated from an information science perspective. The paper is concerned with findings from a doctoral study that takes into account prior work on the building and assessment of reputations through citation practice, as explored in the domain of scientometrics.

Method. Following the practice of studies of everyday life information seeking (ELIS), a multi-step data collection process was implemented. In total forty-five participants kept diaries and took part in semi-structured interviews. In this paper fifteen of these participants are represented.

Analysis. A qualitative analysis of the data was undertaken using NVivo10 to consider the information practices of one of three age group cohort generations: Generation X.

Results. Results generated from this initial analysis show some clear alignments with established knowledge in the domain, as well as new themes to be explored further. Of particular note is that social media users are more interested in the content of the information that is shared on social media platforms than they are in the signals that this information might convey about the sharer(s). It is also rare for these users to consider the impact of information sharing on personal reputation building and evaluation.

Conclusion. The analysis of the full dataset will provide further insight on the specific theme of the role of online information in personal reputation management, and contribute to theory development related to the study of information seeking behaviour and use.

In addition to delivering my paper, I will be attending a doctoral workshop prior to the official start of the conference. I attended the conference and doctoral workshop two years ago when it was in Leeds, England. At that time (in addition to presenting a poster), I was given some great input that helped me in the development of my research methods. This time, I am hoping for some great insight into the finishing touches of my thesis and maybe the next steps after graduation.

There will also be time to do some non-academic sightseeing whilst I’m in Zadar. I have a short list of “can’t miss” churches and geocaches, but I’m more than happy to take tips on other great places to visit!

Provisional wins: Abstracts, bursaries, and conferences

2015.03.17.yayI received an email today that gave me a bit of a confidence boost, so I thought it was time I (finally!) share a couple of happy PhD accomplishments. I should have shared some of this earlier, but I was feeling very unsure of myself and I was worried about sharing good news too soon. But I’m ready now. (Even though I’m still bracing for the bad news.)

So, here goes!

John Campbell Trust Bursary
The first bit of news is that I applied for a grant to the John Campbell Trust in November 2014 to allow me to travel to the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) in St Louis, MO, in November 2015. I received notification of my acceptance just before Christmas, but I wasn’t confident enough to share the news. After all, attendance at the conference also hinges on the acceptance of my abstract.

Over the next few weeks, I will be giving thought to my abstract for the conference. It will be based on a poster that will discuss early findings from my empirical work (possibly my pilot study). That means that I need to start making some solid headway into the design of my study!

If my abstract is accepted, I will plan to attend the conference in the autumn. After the conference, I hope to travel to Washington State to meet with a couple researchers from the University of Washington’s iSchool.

Assuming all of this happens, my parents are thinking that they will “meet me in St Louis” and we’ll all drive back to the great Pacific Northwest together. (And once the academic stuff is out of the way, I’ll stick around for Thanksgiving with my family.)

Information: Interactions and impact (i3) Conference
The second bit of news is that I submitted my first-ever paper abstract in January for the Information: Interactions and impact (i3) conference at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen*. The abstract was based on a literature review looking at the role of online information in the determination and management of personal reputations. I admit that it was a bit of a challenge to write because I needed to find a balance between summarising the literature review and selling the idea, but I managed. Mostly.

And that brings me to the third bit of news, which is that my abstract has been provisionally accepted for presentation at the conference!

When the email came in this morning, I was afraid to open it because I was sure it would be a straight knock-back. But instead, I was asked to make some revisions to the abstract. After that, my acceptance will be re-evaluated.

I know that doesn’t mean I’m a shoo-in, but I really was pleased to learn that I wasn’t rejected flat-out. Plus, even if I don’t end up getting accepted, I am being given an additional chance to improve my academic communications skills.

Hopefully, it won’t be long before I’m telling you that my re-submitted i3 abstract is accepted. So stay tuned for that. (And feel free to send positive thoughts and such my way, too!)

It’s a little frustrating because these wins are all still provisional, but they’re positive things so it’s worth shouting about them a bit. After all, I’ve not been told I’m rubbish, so that might mean that I’m actually not too bad. (Yeah, I must work on this low self esteem a bit more.)

* That’s Aberdeen, Scotland, not the Aberdeen in my home state of Washington. Just in case anyone thought I’d be home for a visit this summer. Sorry; I won’t be. (But I hope to be there for Thanksgiving!)