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.

Why am I still writing?

I am still writing my thesis. Still. Yes, still. I am still writing my thesis. Oh my goodness, I am still writing my thesis!

When I began my PhD more than three years ago, I was confident that I would be one of those irritating students who submitted their work spot on time. And then, I hit a bump or two in the road. One of those bumps was more of a mountain than a bump, which didn’t help. But that was fine; I would survive!

After I recovered from that pretty miserable first year (a year that led me to reconsider if a PhD was for me), I got back on my PhD Pony and began to ride again.

I was picking up speed and making up for some of the time I’d lost in the first year’s Pity Party. The way I saw it was that I could still submit within three months of my three years. Yeah, that would be good. I could be happy with that.

And then, I hit a bump or two in the road. I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed. And then I got sick. And then there were more social stresses. And then I broke my ankle. And then, and then, and then… And let’s not forget about the second bout of extreme self-doubt that led me to reconsider if a PhD was for me…

[Enter more excuses, rationalisations, and justifications here… Then enter a few more for good measure…]

But it was all fine. I was starting to feel confident again and, even though I would definitely miss my three-year [impossible] goal, I was going to submit within three months after the three years. Well, maybe four months. Five? Six…? OK, seven. Seven months. Definitely no more than seven months. Three years and seven months. And that’s it. Really. That. Is. It.

So here I am, three and a half years into my PhD and I am still writing.

Because I can’t do it. The work has been so very overwhelming and I have struggled to find a way through my massive mountain of data. And it doesn’t help that my own physical health has been less-than-brilliant which has added to my stress, creating a crazy cycle of, well, crazy. (You can read about my May madness on my personal blog.)

However, I have been working some new approaches to my writing, and to my entire work-life balance system. And I think I am finally starting to gain some traction. Some of those changes mean that I am spending less time in front of a computer but, happily, I am a more productive when I am working on a computer.

Over the next week or two, I will be busily (and manically!) working on completing my findings chapters which has been a massive, ugly, furry beast of a task. But if my new approach to work (and data analysis) continues to go smoothly, I should be able to succeed in this goal.

I am hoping (desperately!) that I will not face as many challenges when I start putting together the rest of my thesis. Because let’s be honest, my supervisors (as wonderful as they are) are probably getting really fed up with my ongoing delays!

And that, in a rambling nutshell, is why I am still writing. (But hopefully not for long!)