I have finally finished my Ph.D. Yay. I graduated from the School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University, Bloomington at the end of July, 2015.
After seven years of contemplating social structures, norms, behaviors, communication, and the ways in which people use the affordances of social media, I was able to successfully defend my thesis in front of four of my peers and a handful of students in May, 2015 and make the required minor revisions and formatting changes to submit the final version of the document to the graduate school at the beginning of July, 2015.
It has been a long, rewarding journey and I am happy that I completed it. I have been able to travel around the world, move to two countries, and meet some extraordinary scholars, travelers, and neighbors. It’s been quite an adventure, one which I hope continues as I progress in my career as an academic. Thank you to everyone for the support and love throughout this process.
I’m now in Finland working with great scholars and looking to improve my abilities as a scholar, researcher, teacher, and coworker.
In a recent book chapter (that is currently under review), my colleagues and I discuss the application of citation theories and social theories to popular media and social media metrics (so-called altmetrics) being collected by sites like Altmetric.com, ImpactStory.org, and Plum Analytics. These metrics are being used by organizations such as libraries, publishers, universities, and others to measure scholarly impact. It is an interesting area of research in that it helps us understand how scholarly work is being consumed and disseminated in social media (and thus presumably to an audience outside of the academy).
I come to this research having dabbled in many different areas of studies beginning with neuropsychology (as an undergraduate), human-computer interaction, information architecture, and web design (as a master’s student), and finally social informatics (at the beginning of my Ph.D.), digital humanities (middle of Ph.D.), and scholarly communication and sociology (thesis work). I believe this indirect path has allowed me to consider research questions from different perspectives and allows me to apply various theoretical and methodological lenses to the same problem (as is the case for many Information Science graduates). It’s also a path that has allowed me to contribute to the data collection aspect of this work, as I’ve written several programs that have assisted in the collection and storage of huge amounts of data (hundreds of millions of tweets, publication records, etc.) on scholarly (and other) activities. These experiences have allowed me to contribute to the book chapter mentioned above, several articles and presentations, and continues to allow me to contribute to understanding scholarly communication in social and popular media venues.
I’m looking forward to finalizing my thesis and to continue to examine these social and scholarly communication issues in my current research position at UdeM and in a permanent faculty position with future colleagues.
I’ve started the 2012 fall semester with a new G.A. position working for Dr. Cassidy Sugmioto on a grant titled Cascades, Islands, or Streams? Time, Topic, and Scholarly Activities in Humanities and Social Science Research. The grant was awarded through the NEH and the Office of Digital Humanities and was part of the Digging Into Data challenge. The official grant description reads:
This project will examine topic lifecycles across heterogeneous corpora, including not only scholarly and scientific literature, but also social networks, blogs, and other materials. While the growth of large-scale datasets has enabled examination within scientific datasets, there is little research that looks across datasets. The team will analyze the importance of various scholarly activities for creating, sustaining, and propelling new knowledge; compare and triangulate the results of topic analysis methods; and develop transparent and accessible tools. This work should identify which scholarly activities are indicative of emerging areas and identify datasets that should no longer be marginalized, but built into understandings and measurements of scholarship.
I’m extremely excited about this G.A. position! It will allow me to study, record, and understand communication, connections, and behavior in social network sites (SNS) using a different set of tools and theories and it will allow me to make use of my semester AI’ing with Dr. John Walsh on his S657 Digital Humanities course and my past five years of experience working in the digital humanities (DH) realm and developing/designing DH websites and tools for the Chymistry of Isaac Newton project, TILE, and other projects.
It’s an ideal opportunity and I’m so lucky that I asked to audit Dr. Sugimoto’s Ph.D. version of her Scholarly Communication course. I was interested in the scholarly communication beforehand after examining how Erving Goffman was cited in a subset of information science (IS) literature (a large portion of the discourse simply cited him ceremoniously). I became quite involved with and interested in the subject of scholarly communication as the course progressed. The course and discussion opened my eyes to vast possibilities outside the simple “citation count” and I became quite interested in the discourse. Later Dr. Sugimoto approached me with the possibility of working together and I jumped at the opportunity.
I came to the project with both excitement and fear, fear primarily because I felt a bit out of my comfort zone as the scholarly communication discourse was still relatively new to me. The other faculty and students working on the project have been fantastic and I’m positive I’ll benefit in a variety of ways from the experience. The fist part of my assistantship will include working with a small group of Ph.D. and masters students set with the task of examining network characteristics of the DH community across a variety of sources including various social network tools/sites, journals, books, and listservs, to name just a few. Some in the DH community have visualized and discussed characteristics of the DH populace (Cleo, Melissa Terras, and Alex Reid, to list just a few) and our group hopes to add to this picture by examining other sources for characteristics common to the DH community.
At this time, my dissertation looks to involve the integration of theories and frameworks related to social capital, impression management, and privacy. Impression management is the easiest theory for me to deal with because I have a strong attraction to Goffman’s dramaturgical framework. While I know that his is not the only framework or theory relating to impression management, at this point in time, it is the framework to which I’m attracted. The big three of the social capital world, based on my own readings, include Bourdieu, Coleman, and Putnam. I tend to lean toward Coleman’s definition of social capital only because it is less egocentric; Bourdieu’s definition and explanation is extremely egocentric and Putnam’s views are at a macro level and include large organizations and groups. Privacy research is a grab bag of ideas and theories composed of a variety of definitions and understandings.
I’m attempting to integrate these theories to explain behaviors in the domain of social networking sites (SNS). SNSs are an extremely hot topic in academia and in the popular press. Facebook is pushing 700 million users and Google is now entering the realm with Google+. The SNS environment is an extremely interesting domain to investigate because
SNS such as Facebook have so may users
The computer-mediated environment presents us with different challenges during interactions than face-to-face interaction
It is a relatively new domain of study and has continued to show growth over the past 7+ years
Popular media has made blanket statements regarding interaction, privacy, and safety within the SNS environment that academicians have set out to examine
Web 2.0 technologies have allowed for a variety of media to be transmitted through the SNS frameworks that affect self-presentation, social capital maintenance, and privacy
While the SNS domain is ripe for investigation, I also feel that a successful integration of these theories will be allow us to examine a variety of computer-mediated environments.
So far I’ve explained that I want to integrate impression management, social capital, and privacy theories and frameworks to investigate computer-mediated environments such as SNS. I’ve left out a crucial component… WHAT will I be investigating? This is the ultimate question and what is giving me the hardest time at the moment.