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 summer 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!
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 vary, 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.
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.
Last 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.
Note: This post was originally shared on my personal blog. So please forgive me if it’s a bit more touchy-feeling than you would expect. But, as I am researching online information and personal reputation, I suppose it’s a good example of how information is shared differently for different audiences for the building and protection of personal reputation!
That’s it folks: the buck stops here. Actually, I suppose I should say the pound stops here. Why? Because my last PhD stipend payment was today, and that means I have no more money coming into my bank accounts—bucks, bobs, quids, or otherwise—until I am finished with my PhD and I get a job.
Am I worried about not having an income? Yes, I am. A little bit, anyhow. After all, I am looking at another 8–12 months before I graduate. Which means it will be about 8–12 months before I am in a position to get a job (and therefore, and income!).
But I knew this day was coming and so I have planned for it. I have saved back a little bit of money from each of my monthly stipend payments over the past three years. And that means that I will have enough money to see me through to graduation.
I am also quite blessed in that I have a rent-free place to live for the duration of my studies. That’s because at the start of my studies a friend offered up the guest room in his home, knowing that a PhD would be unaffordable if I had to pay Edinburgh rents. Whilst I’ve given him a (small) chunk of money, I have not really paid towards my lodgings. Which is the main reason I was able to save enough of my stipend payment each month to cover me through the next few income-less months!
Or at least I will have enough money if there are not major catastrophes that require me spending my savings—or that mean it takes me more than 12 months to finish. But as long as I manage to buckle down and write, write, write, I should be OK. And I have a plan for how I will manage to get those 80,000 written up, so that should help to keep me on track.
If I have done the sums correctly (and if I find a job by the slightly extended time frame I gave myself) I should be able to manage without further financial help. And I should be able to do it all without too many financial sacrifices on my quality of life. Of course, this is largely because my lifestyle is already one of (voluntary) frugality: I find great pleasure in saving money and reducing my spending!
And despite my income ending today, I should have a bit of money left in savings by the time I get a job—if I get a job—which means I won’t go further into debt. (I still have a small personal loan that helped me to bridge the gap between starting my PhD and getting my first stipend payment. And then there are those pesky American student loans from my undergraduate days that will follow me to my deathbed! But I digress…)
Anyhow, this post isn’t a plea for help or a poor-me tale hoping for pity. Instead, it is another illustration to show that I am moving a little bit closer to achieving my PhD Dreams. After all, the end of the stipend means I am officially in writing up mode. And writing up is the key to completing the thesis and graduating!
So the buck stops here and it stops with me. And that means the responsibility for completing my PhD is mine and mine alone. (Though I know I will have the support of my PhD supervisors, family, and friends along the way, too!)
Like many people, I look forward to attending conferences because I am excited to hear presentations on papers and current research. However, this conference was more than that for me. This was an opportunity to meet with other academics to discuss my research, our common research interests, and potential collaborations. In fact, my overall goals for this conference were aimed at building my academic confidence and further my researcher networks.
In preparation for the conference, my PhD supervisor (Professor Hazel Hall) and I created a flyer detailing the Centre for Social Informatics (CSI) at Edinburgh Napier University. This way, I had something (other than a business card) to share with people who were interested in potential collaborations with me or others in the CSI. It was also a useful hand-out for the night of the University Reception, where Hazel and I (wo)manned an information table for the CSI that we shared with two other Scottish universities (University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow).
Dr Roued-Cunliffe met a couple of times over the course of the conference and she provided me with some great insights (leading to increased confidence!) for how to explain different aspects of my research. There are a few parallels to our academic journeys (which are quite different!) and it was refreshing to hear the views and opinions of someone who seems to have a good understanding of some of my concerns. I was so grateful for her input at the conference and am even more grateful that she has agreed to keep in touch, should I have any future questions or challenges that I want to run past her.
The rest of the colloquium session was quite useful in a “general” PhD manner. Whilst we didn’t speak directly about our individual research projects or thesis-related questions, we did engage in some useful round-table discussions about life as a researcher and academic life in general. In addition to the doctoral students, there was a good group of established academics with a range of experiences. The one-on-one meetings with Dr Roued-Cunliffe were probably more useful in the short-term, but the discussions (and, importantly) the connections with other academics and doctoral students will certainly prove to be invaluable in the longer term. (I’m too focused on the short-term right now, as I am preparing for my major write-up time!)
I attended a variety of paper sessions and talks over the course of the conference, too. Whilst they were all quite interesting, my favourite sessions were (1) Digital Sociology and Information Science Research and (2) New Takes on Information Behaviour. The first session was a great opportunity to talk about the changing climate of information studies, with inclusion of “digital” interests in other domains (in this case, sociology). It helped to remind me that there are many crossovers from information science into other disciplines—something I have long known, but I still struggle to fully appreciate. The second session was about information behaviour, but my main takeaway was new takes on methods of investigation for information behaviour studies. And when I think about the two sessions combined, I think that it would have been very interesting to have a round-table discussion about digital sociology’s role in information behaviour. (Just think about the interesting research methods you could come up with there!)
The conference was also a very social one. There were lunches and evening receptions each day, but as most people were staying at the conference hotel, even breakfast was an opportunity to meet with other conference-goers. In fact, some of my greatest networking moments happened whilst waiting in the queue at the omelette bar!
ASIST really was a great event for me, and I am so pleased to have been able to attend. I have come away from the conference feeling a bit more confident about my own place within the international Information Science family. I have also come away with some great ideas and insights for how best to explain some of my research in my thesis. And I owe it all to Cilip and the John Campbell Trust!
I won’t be attending any more conferences until next year now, but I do have a few lectures and one-day workshops and training sessions to look forward to. Of course, there’s also a question of that pesky PhD thesis that needs (a great deal of!) my attention. I am pleased to say that I am feeling very motivated at the moment though, so hopefully, I will manage a great deal of writing over the next few months.