Online anonymity: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

An article came out today by J. Nathan Matias (find it here, it’s really interesting) calling for a re-examination of online anonymity, which for so long has been painted as a pantomime villain that automatically leads to abuse and problematic behaviour.

In the article J. Nathan Matias argues in essence for a reversal of the approach to anonymity and abuse, calling for a re-evaluation of online abuse that acknowledges the fact that it is and obviously is not solely an online phenomenon, but that it emerges from pre-existing social structures and resources. This is really interesting, especially in the wake of a re-emergence of anonymous platforms such as Yik Yak (before the update) and ask.fm.

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What social media data should I use in my research? A response to Choi et al (2016).

Firstly, apologies for not blogging in quite a while; I’ve been finishing off my PhD which I’m super happy to announce I passed, with no corrections B-). It’s been a long process but I’m really proud of the finished product and I’m working on getting publications and a book out from it ASAP. Stay tuned for more news!

Secondly, and to get to the point of this post, a great article has just been published entitled “What social media data should I use in my research?: a comparative analysis of Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, and the New York Times comments”.

It’s been put out by a group of researchers from the State University of New Jersey. Namely Dongho Choi, Ziad Matni, and Chirag Shah. It was presented at the 79th ASIS&T Annual Meeting in Copenhagen a few months ago (October 2016). The full link to the article can be found here.

It’s a really great article, and it is truly truly great to see people moving towards a broader definition of social media. For far too long, Facebook and Twitter have held a relatively unchallenged monopoly over social media research. It’s easy to understand why; they are currently the most popular platforms by some distance in the western world. They also put out a staggering wealth of content to analyse and utilize. In many ways, they present perfect spaces through which to understand a range of issues, and they produce rich and detailed data.

However, thanks to the pioneering work of researchers such as Paul Hodkinson, Deborah Lupton, Sonja Utz, Rachel Kowert, Nicole Ellison, Xuan Zhao, Caleb T. Carr, and many others, digital research is again spreading out and looking at the social internet in its messy and overlapping entirety. That means embracing multiple platforms and exploring a range of spaces that contain various social elements. This should be encouraged, especially as recent statistical research from PEW (Lenhart, 2015) shows that young people are increasingly present on multiple platforms. Users are not using one platform alone; they exist in and across multiple spaces, and are increasingly using a broad array of platforms beyond Facebook and Twitter alone. As such, in order to understand the experiences of users online, a broader focus is needed, lest digital research gets left a decade behind the progressing reality of social media for many users.

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Picturing the Social Conference

 

This sounds like such a great event. Below the break is the details of a one-day conference on June 20th in Manchester with some really awesome people talking about image sharing and online visual culture. Thanks to the always awesome Mark Carrigan for the heads-up about this one! If you’re not following him I thoroughly recommend that you do!

As the internet becomes increasingly multi-modal, and as an increasingly diverse range of Social Media sites are becoming purposefully heterogeneous, understanding visual culture is so important.

What’s so great about this event, and what I love about Digital Sociology at the moment is it’s really broad in scope. So many fields with so many epistemological stances all want to try and understand the increasingly ubiquitous role of Social Media. We need this diverse input in the field, we need to throw open the doors and try and come at this from a range of perspectives.

I cannot make the day so I’m going to follow along online, but I thought I’d flag it up for all those up north interested in Visual Culture and wanting to look at it from a purposefully broad perspective. More of this sort of thing please!

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Curating identity online. Why do we insist that this is a unique feature of online social interaction?

I’ve been noticing a trend in the discussion of Social Media

In digital research there has been a move towards accepting that the internet is now a mundane and routine part of life, and as such an equal move away from distancing social media and the internet writ large from the rest of everyday life. Most researchers accept that the internet has quickly become routine. Rather than being a sparkly wonder for which we had to schedule time in our day to sit down and literally plug in, it has become accepted, ubiquitous, and demystified.

We have lifted the curtain and found that Oz is just some old white guy.

Research is now accepting that the internet is not a space to escape everyday life but a space in which we continue to project and live everyday life via new modes and new mediums.

However, researchers still seem to want to put some of the sparkle back into the internet; they still want to see it as something special and unique in some way. And in part this is true. The internet offers new possibilities, new ideas, new opportunities, new methods… BUT not everything that happens on the internet is unique and solely found online.

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#IStillFacebookBecause …

This week, a fascinating hashtag started up on Twitter asking users why they still used Facebook. According to Twitter (when I last checked) 40000 odd tweets had been sent by users asking them why they still used Facebook, and the replies were fascinating, funny, and provided a really interesting insight into what’s happening on and with Facebook.

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Call For Papers: Eastern Sociological Society Digital Sociology Mini-Conference

I had the pleasure and privilege of attending and presenting at the Eastern Sociological Society’s conference in New York in February this year, and it was a fascinating, invigorating, and thoroughly useful and challenging event.

There was a wide range of speakers and attendees from a wide range of backgrounds, all with useful thoughts and ideas on the present and future of Digital Sociology. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anybody and am hoping to go again in 2016.

The 2016 event is to be held in Boston, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers, March 17-20, and the Call For Papers is below. I’m submitting a paper on digital identity, and hope to see you all there!


Digital Sociology Mini-Conference

In keeping with the Eastern Sociological Society’s theme of “My Day Job: Politics and Pedagogy in Academia,” the Digital Sociology Mini-Conference seeks papers that address the many digital ways of knowing, particularly as those impinge on the work we do as scholars, both within and outside the academy. We seek abstracts, and wholly constituted panels, on a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to, the following themes:

·       Public Scholarship, Digital Media and the Neoliberal University: How is the participation of scholars on public, digital media platforms regarded within the neoliberal university?

·       Digital Sociologists, Legacy Institutions: What does it mean to do digital sociology within institutions that are steeped in legacy modes of rewarding scholarship? How are scholars navigating the landscape of getting hired, tenured and promoted with a strong digital presence, or without one?

·       Digital Sociological Methods: How do traditional, analog sociological methods become digital? Are there new, “born digital” sociological methods? Is knowledge production different now? Will big data replace survey methodology?

·       Critical Theories of the Digital Itself: How have we theorized the digital? What challenges does the digital pose to epistemologies underlying sociological methods?

·       Digital Structures, Digital Institutions: The datafication of everyday life is posing unique challenges to the composition of social institutions and giving rise to new instantiations of education, finance, labor, and governance. How do we theorize, study, and conceptualize the recomposition of these institutions?

·       Identity, Community, and Networks: How do sociological concepts of micro and macro, personal and public, “front stage” and “back stage,” evolve as digital and mobile technologies increasingly blur these boundaries? How do digital environments shape identities of race, gender, sexuality and queerness? And how do the identities of those who create the platforms we use shape the platforms? How do race, gender, sexuality and queerness shape the communities and networks in which we participate?

·       Digital Pedagogies, Digital Sociology: How are digital technologies changing the sociological classroom? Beyond simply a recitation of ‘what I did in my class,’ we’re interested in theoretical and empirical explorations of how to think about digitally-informed pedagogies in the sociology classroom.

We encourage submissions from scholars at all levels, and are particularly enthusiastic to support the work of graduate students and early career researchers. We welcome submissions for individual papers and for entirely constituted sessions. The organizers share a commitment to creating a field that honors diverse voices, and as such are excited to see scholars from groups that are typically underrepresented in sociology. When proposing entirely constituted panels, please keep this commitment to diverse voices in mind.

If you have any questions about proposals, topics, or session ideas please contact one of the organizers: Leslie Jones (lesjones@sas.upenn.edu), Tressie McMillan Cottom or Jessie Daniels (jdaniels@hunter.cuny.edu).

For individual presentations, please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words, as well as the title of the paper, name of presenter, institutional affiliation and contact details.   For wholly constituted sessions, please include a short description of the concept behind your session, and then include all of the abstracts (along with names and affiliations of presenters) in one document. Deadline: October 19, 2015.  Please email your submissions to: ESSDigitalSociology@gmail.com.   Those whose proposals are not accepted for the Mini-Conference will be alerted in time to submit to the ESS general call for submissions.