Sometimes when you’re speculatively panning the stream …

It’s becoming increasingly clear that in addition to the conventional literature, other sources of information are proving fruitful as I familiarise myself with those aspects of my study that are new to me. Whilst searching for materials related to Social Network Analysis (SNA), it became clear that there were a number of videos, often available through YouTube, which might assist my studies. In some cases these were produced by students, perhaps in fulfilling the requirements of an assignment they had been set, whilst others were recordings of lectures and seminars, often by lecturers noted in the field, or by other researchers employing SNA within their study. This range and variety proved particularly helpful, often providing a snapshot or an insight which would have taken much longer for me to tease out through reading the conventional literature. Does that make me lazy, or am I simply making effective use of my time during these initial exploratory forays?

Here I just wanted to leave a notional bookmark to which I can refer back should it prove appropriate to incorporate SNA into my study. This video shows a workshop from a conference in which the facilitator, Michael Bauer takes the audience through the stages of identifying, gathering, tidying, processing and analysing data from Twitter.

It’s one particular technique using a specific set of (open) tools (Gephi, Refine), but Michael generously provided all the instructions necessary for those of us not present to subsequently follow the same procedures. From that brief video (OK, it was an hour and a half), I gained:

  • awareness of two powerful (and open) tools for exploring networks
  • instructions on how to deploy them
  • insights into the kinds of information they might yield
  • awareness of the ‘School of Data,’ which teaches “… data wrangling skills by doing. Work with real data, real people, real world issues.” It provides a series of free online courses, for people new to and experienced with managing and analysing large amounts of data.

In a few short minutes then, not only had I been made aware of fresh, exciting possibilities, but I also had the means to develop the capability to use them.

Observation – It was interesting to note the temporal and spatial displacement of my learning compared with that of the workshop participants and to reflect on the efficacy of the experiences we shared. Since Michael responded to requests from the floor, the workshop was imbued with a rather stuttering flow, one which my learning also reflected, since I was able to determine my own pace. Perhaps then time/place-shifted learning (and professional development brings certain advantages?

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