My final (?) RD6 review

My last (hopefully, my last!) RD6 review meeting was this afternoon. I say my last because I am hoping (praying!!) that I will have submitted my PhD thesis before the next round of these 6-monthly review meetings take place. So… let’s all hope together that this was my last!

Unfortunately, I was not as far along in my thesis writing as I had hoped to be when I met with my full supervision team today. But I am feeling mostly confident that I have things under control.

I felt a bit frustrated admitting to my panel chair that I have not delivered any completed thesis chapters to my PhD supervisors. And I felt even more frustrated because I don’t have an honest idea of when I will be able to do so. I mean, I’m working on things, but I have been struggling to find a way forward!

Still, I was left feeling confident enough to know (to think, at least) that I will be able to submit my thesis before summer gets into full swing. I was also left feeling confident that I am ready to submit my RD12 form, which is the determination of my viva examiners.

Over the next several weeks, I will be writing, writing, and writing. And when I have time, I will do a bit of writing, too. After all, as much as I like my supervision team, I don’t really fancy meeting them for another RD6 review!

A grant for a grant

In November, I submitted a grant application to an internal funding competition at Edinburgh Napier University. The application was made along with my PhD supervisor, Professor Hazel Hall and I am pleased to say that the bid was successful.

The grant will support two separate, but related, activities. The first is a one-day networking symposium that will take place in June 2017. The theme of the symposium is research priorities in Information Science as related to Everyday Life Information Seeking (ELIS) and Human Information Behaviour (HIB) in online environments.

By the end of the day, participants will have prioritised themes for future research. Their ideas will have been prompted by the keynote speaker, and by the other delegates in group sessions. The participants will also have established relationships which can subsequently lead to future research collaborations.

The second activity is writing a larger grant proposal. This will be for an external grant to support a postdoctoral research position within the Centre for Social Informatics at Napier. The postdoctoral work will build upon (1) the outputs of my PhD work (anticipated submission spring 2017) and (2) ideas generated at the symposium.

I will begin work to plan the symposium later this month and will increase my time spent on the project over the next few months. That will be even easier after I submit my thesis in the spring. Then, in June and July, I should be working full time on the symposium and the grant proposal. As the grant spending needs to be completed by the end of July, I may be finishing up the grant proposal on my own time, but that’s the life of an academic!

I will share more details about the symposium as planning gets underway in the spring. In the meantime, it’s back to that thesis I’m meant to be writing!

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.

sIREN workshop: Designing interdisciplinary research projects

siren-bannerLast month, I attended a seminar on interdisciplinary research projects at the University of Edinburgh. The seminar, Designing Interdisciplinary Research Projects, was the first in a series of six interdisciplinary themed seminars being organised by sIREN (student-led Interdisciplinary Research Network).

There were four talks during the half-day event, covering various aspects and attitudes towards interdisciplinary research. The first of these was given by Professor Richard Coyne, who spoke about the “reckless researcher” and the idea that there can be challenges to interdisciplinary work, including levels of credibility across a number or domains and an over-broadening of research themes and focus.

The second speaker, Professor Ewan Klein, talked about the “X-T-C of data”. Here, he presented the idea that there are many unknowns (X) when working in a cross(x)-disciplinary manner and cross(x)ing information forms such as words, tables, and figures. The T represents the challenge of finding both breadth and depth in an interdisciplinary project—which can be especially challenging if you are trying to cross disciplines without a well-formed research team. The C then represent the culture of communication in interdisciplinary work with three stages: (1) not understanding, (2) kind of understanding, and (3) realising that what you thought you understood was wrong and that you don’t actually understand.

Professor John Lee then spoke about “Pervasive Interdisciplinarity”, asking the question “why should we be interdisciplinary?” His reply was simple: “Why not?” Lee argued that the idea of different disciplines is merely an illusion with overlapping and blurring edges everywhere. He also suggested that we might be more at risk if we try to overly distance ourselves from other disciplines. However, he did recognise (quite rightly, for the audience) that this might be a difficult hurdle for those working on a PhD, as finding the appropriate supervision team (and later, PhD examiners) might make some cross-overs improbable.

The final talk of the day was given by Dr Stefan Bilbao, who shared a real-life interdisciplinary scenario by speaking about The NESS Project. Dr Bilbao urged the audience to remember that the differences in both the training and administration practices can be quite different between disciplines, creating challenges along the way. He also spoke of the dangers of “discipline hopping” and how a lack of singular focus could mean risking a shallow understanding of the field. However, he acknowledged a potential payoff through the potential for gaining new knowledge based on merged disciplines.

I found all the talks interesting, as my PhD relies on a wide range of disciplines to create a (rather loose) theoretical framework. And though my PhD itself isn’t interdisciplinary, I can really appreciate the challenges and dangers of an interdisciplinary project. In fact, my research project has been long-designed (and all my data collected and coded!) so the seminar will not have impacted that part of my PhD. However, as I enter the vital part of actually writing up my thesis, I feel it is beneficial for me to have conversations with others about the pros and cons of interdisciplinary projects as this may play a role when I discuss the next steps of my research in my thesis.

The seminar was also a great way for me to start thinking more about my post-doctoral career, as it is possible that my future will include a lot of interdisciplinary work. And with my pre-PhD work all being done outside of the Information Science discipline—both professionally and academically—I am already well-versed in bringing non-IS views to the discipline.

There are five more seminars in the series. The next instalment is “Challenges and limitations of existing research methodology: Inventing new methods of interdisciplinary research” on 7 December 2016. I am especially looking forward to this one as I am keen to shake things up a bit with fun and quirky research methods in my post-doctoral life. (My PhD is already branching out in a small way from standard Information Science methods.)

As of this writing, there are still spaces available, so be sure to register today… before this sentence it out of date!