Choosing to approach my research with a sociomaterial sensibility requires me to challenge the division between the human and material elements I encounter and with which I work. Since Twitter and the online world is highly mediated, it would be remiss, I’d argue, to fail to adequately account for the material actors. Bringing actor-network theory (ANT) to bear does not, however, mean that I should consider the social and thenthe material. Instead they are completely entangled and mutually constitutive (Fenwick, 2014), so what they are and what they do is not in isolation, but co-constituted. Herein lies somewhat of a dilemma, since at some points it might be necessary to talk about the effect of particular practice on a teacher or what a specific aspect of materiality (like a hashtag) achieves. What’s important though is not to forget that both of these are themselves actor-networks, or assemblages, and are also part of other actor-networks. For the purposes of analysis, it is sometimes necessary to narrow the focus to a single entity, provided we don’t forget the assemblage that is also being performed.
In the methods section of my thesis I’ve discussed the semi-structured in depth interviews, participant observation (as it is manifest in this context), the blog posts I read and the exchanges with their authors. In reviewing this section and how it fits into the thesis as a whole, it’s clear how anthropocentric my writing was. The transcripts, blogs and even tweets were the words of the human participants … but where was the materiality? To be fair, I hope I’ve managed to surface some of that as a result of my observations and ‘following the actors,’ but once more it’s the (my) human voice that is privileged. How then to do justice to the nonhumans? How to give them a voice?Read More »
The problem I faced was that Twitter changed the name from ‘Favourite’ to ‘Like.’
One of the things that prompted the focus of my study was the number of people who tweeted how important Twitter was in supporting their professional learning. So even before I began the PhD, I started ‘collecting’ tweets which illustrated this by ‘Favouriting’ them; favouriting rather than bookmarking them or archiving them elsewhere, simply because of the ease with which the ‘Favourite’ button could be clicked, whichever interface was being used to view the tweets. The idea of bookmarking tweets by favouriting is common practice and was found to be the dominant functional use of this feature (Meier et al, 2014). I was also aware that there was an IFTTT recipe which could automatically record your favourited tweets directly to a Google sheet; this meant that should I need to, I would have access to those tweets outside of Twitter. Then in late 2015, Twitter changed the Favourite to ‘Like’ and its icon, the star, to a heart.Read More »
If you’re going to undertake a research study, you have to become adept at recognising when you’ve gone down a dead-end. You then need to be prepared to retrace your steps and consider alternative pathways. This happens in your thinking, your writing and sometimes even your speaking. On this occasion, it was after completing a map/chart which supposedly summarised the discussion in the previous post. I needed a single-page summary for my supervisors; they’re not in a position to read through my 2000+ word rambles. In any case, I suspect I can’t afford to spare (waste?) 2000 words of my thesis for what ought to be a much more brief section.Read More »
In following up my previous post, I now need to outline what the actual steps are which constitute my ethnographic approach on Twitter. My supervisor suggested I might produce it in the form of a summary which another researcher could use to conduct a similar study, however, I feel the need to set things out long-form in the first instance.Read More »
Another outcome from the last supervisory meeting was that it would be useful for me to produce a summary of what I actually do when I’m on Twitter – how does my activity generate data? In a conventional ethnographic approach, one would be attempting to answer the broad question “What’s going on here?”, doubtless supplemented by who, how, where, when and why. If the setting is the digital realm, those questions could be the same, but what one would attend to might be rather different.Read More »
Oh dear! It looks like I got burned on Anchor, shortly after getting things under way. It’s only a few days since one of my interviewees remarked that those who take up new technologies are often marked by being able to take the hits when things go awry. Resilience I guess. So in the spirit of sucking it up …
It seemed that Anchor would be a good way to enable participants to join in a conversation, at times convenient for them, and without having to commit more than a minute or so at once. So I got things started … and then v2 of Anchor was released (without a warning that I noticed) and everything went pear-shaped when in the new release, the architecture and workflow changed completely. Instead of one in which contributions were threaded together, could be published through a web browser and subsequently downloaded, the new workflow seems to be more about transience. Each contribution you make to your ‘station’ and any responses it attracts are only broadcast for 24 hours, during which you can archive them so they don’t disappear for ever. Unfortunately that’s not very helpful when, like me, you want to post a question which people can discuss over a period of months.Read More »
CPDin140 – Kristian Still Kristian (@KristianStill) provides here a very balanced set of insights and observations of both the bright and darker sides of Twitter. What I do need to add though is that during the brief chat we had after the ‘stop’ button had been pressed, Kristian recalled times past and other activities which…
I have to confess to some frustration with this post; not, I should quickly say, with Kristian’s contribution at all. No it was with my ability to ‘clean up’ the audio in post-production to get it to the point where it was acceptable for podcasting. I tried my best in Audacity, but I wasn’t up to the job. Or perhaps the fact that we conducted our chat over the phone, coupled with the equipment I used, meant that the original audio quality didn’t provide much to work with?
I’ve had a few audio blunders during the course of my interviews, although fortunately, few which rendered the contributions of my kind participants unusable for my research. For the most part, I could hear well enough to transcribe the audio, and being able to capture people’s insights is what really matters. Although one might consider publishing the podcast is a bonus, it was for me a fundamental part of trying to bring something new to the research and problematising the notion that participant anonymity is always the most appropriate route. By not providing a crystal clear rendering of my participants’ contributions, I feel I have let them down somewhat.
Hang on! The app update seems to have created a few problems. You might not be able to find the waves from within the app. Apologies for the interruption to service, but am looking into it…
When Joe Dale mentioned Anchor to me during an interview, I knew that it might offer some potential. Having thought about it some more and done a little preliminary testing, this is where I now find myself.
It’s almost a truism that the more you find out, the more questions you raise. As I’ve been interviewing folks, reading blog posts and reviewing the literature, there are themes beginning to emerge that warrant further exploration. But how to cover a range of topics in the diminishing time available? Here’s where Anchor might help, with it’s short, audio message format channeling the spirit of Twitter.
Each week over the next couple of months, I intend posting a single question asking about teachers’ use of Twitter and I’d love it if you could find the minute needed to respond. It will probably take no longer than writing a tweet (once you have the app), but in one minute’s audio, you can shoehorn in far more information. If you’re up for the challenge, the questions will accumulate below; have a listen, then dip into the app if you feel in a position to contribute, either to the prompt question, or to someone else’s wave.Read More »
Whilst out for a run this week, I was catching up my podcast listening. On my playlist was Episode 91 of Data Stories in which the creators of RAW were sharing what is, what it does and how it came into being. RAW claims to be ‘The missing link between spreadsheets and data visualization.’ Back when I wrote my research proposal, I thought that social network analysis (SNA) would be one technique I might use to learn more about teacher learning on Twitter. There are a raft of tools that can help with this, which exist on a spectrum from those which rely on having expertise in coding, to those (like TAGS and NodeXL) which are usable by novice like me. In addition to gathering tweets, they often allow you to produce visualisations of the connections between those tweets:
During the last couple of weeks, I’ve been involved in quite a number of exchanges on Twitter, as part of my participant observation. There have been a number of occasions when I was moved to consider the ethics of a particular situation, as indeed a researcher should always do. Developing your ethical sensibility doesn’t end the moment a Research Ethics Committee has signed off your submission. Instead it should be an ongoing critical process of reflection and renegotiation (Fileborn, 2015), a fluid dialogue interwoven with the fabric of your research endeavours (Madge, 2007). Whilst that sounds rather grand, for me it means being continually alert to the ways that you conduct exchanges and being sensitive to situations which unfold which you may have originally never have anticipated. Let’s take a look at some of the issues which arose.Read More »