Tag Archives: social media

Inequality: research and web sources

22 Nov

Relevant to Sociology (the UvA Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research AISSR has both a Programme Group, Institutions, Inequalities and Life courses IIL, and an interdisciplinary Research centre, the Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies AMCIS, working on the topic) and of everlasting interest for us all, inequality makes it to the headlines worldwide almost on a daily basis under the present financial/economical crisis.

Here follows some of my recent random encounters with the topic.

Growing Inequalities Impacts GINI is an international (Australia, EU, Japan and North America) and interdisciplinary (economics, political science, sociology) project which focuses on «inequalities in income/wealth and education and their social, political and cultural impacts […] the implications for policy and institutions […] potential effects of individual distributional positions and increasing inequality for a host of ‘bad outcomes’ (both societal and individual)». Country Reports are full-text available on the GINI-website. The above mentioned AMCIS and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced labour Studies AIAS belong to GINI’s core research teams.

Wealth inequality in America

“Wealth inequality in America” is a Youtube video that went viral after its publication in November 2012, and that represents a textbook case of evaluating web sources, no matter how alarming the video contents might be. Whereas the video provides some references (see screenshot above), its author’s identity remains mysterious: all we seem to know about Youtube user Politizane is that he is a Texas freelance filmmaker, as reported in an article at MotherJones, «a nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political, and social justice reporting». As you might have noticed, MotherJones belongs also to the sources mentioned in the video, together with:
– a 2011 peer reviewed article by Michael I. Norton (Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School) and Dan Ariely (Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University), Building a Better America—One Wealth Quintile at a Time;
– a 2011 post at ThinkProgress, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which is «an independent nonpartisan education and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action».
– a 2012 post at CNNMoney, the CNN business website.

MotherJones, ThinkProgress and CNNMoney all belong to the category of news, and as such they will make suitable information sources depending on what our research question is. Let’s focus on Mother Jones and ThinkProgress: their respective ‘About’ pages, ThinkProgress’ affiliation to the Center for American Progress Action Fund (whose President is a member of the Democratic Party) and the way they address news topics all indicate a liberal to left-wing political agenda. A likely candidate for a research question requiring the use of both websites could therefore be how progressive online media and/or “think tanks” report on inequality, both in the US and abroad (see The Rules for a worldwide take on the topic).

Who rules AmericaCredit Suisse Research Institute

– as far as inequality and evaluating web sources are concerned, two other interesting test cases are the following: Distinguished Professor Emeritus (University of California Santa Cruz) William Domhoff’s website Who Rules America, and the Global Wealth Report 2013, released in october by the Credit Suisse Research Institute. The two sources agree in reporting high levels of inequality (in the US and worldwide alike), yet how to assess the value of research methodologies as different as those likely to be expected from an academic and a financial setting? What sort of bias, if any, could possibly be present in each of the sources?

Peter Nicholson InterestingAustralian cartoonist Peter Nicolson‘s “gap tween rich and poor” may be twelve years old but is still just as topical today as it was back then.


Twitter and photography

25 Mar

Being myself only an occasional twitterer, yet one interested both in art and in social media’s impact on (scholarly) communication, I was utterly fascinated when hearing about Geolocation, a project developed by American photographers and university lecturers Marni Shindelman (University of Georgia) and Nate Larson (Maryland Institute College of Art).

Motivated by their interest in «the cultural understanding of distance as perceived in modern life and networked culture», Larson and Shindelman first searched the daily 340 million tweets for those that were geo-tagged, and then travelled to the sites where the tweets had originated from and took a photo of them «to mark the virtual information in the real world».

More than 250 photos were taken (in the USA, Canada, England) and paired to the original tweets. Larson and Shindelman’s collaborative site presents a selection of Geolocation’s works, further mentioning scholars’ use of such terms as ambient awareness and online oversharing as a likely frame of reference for research (Kaplan & Haenlein’s The early bird catches the news: nine things you should know about micro-blogging, Business Horizons 2011, retrieved via Web of Science, might prove a useful starting point for a literature search on the topic).

My own tiny selection from Larson and Shindelman’s pairs follows below. In two cases I have based my choice on the self-reflective (i.e. twitter-centered) character of the work: being the self-reflection intrinsic to the tweet, such as in the deserted street, or ironically added by the photographers, in the flock’s case. As for the motel’s picture, my very personal motivation for choosing the work has been the poetic quality of the text/photo juxtaposition, whose intimate loneliness both reminded me of Edward Hopper’s silent paintings and of how Phaidon newsletter’s january issue, where I first read about Geolocation, described the project as one highlighting «again how people are prepared to share their innermost thoughts with billions of people – even when they feel they are alone».




Italian elections 2013: social media and political participation

19 Feb

Italy’s general election has been called for on next 24-25 February. If you are Italian and living in a foreign Country without being registered with the AIRE (Anagrafe Italiana Residenti Estero, Register of Italian citizens abroad: applies only for stays longer than twelve months), the only way to participate elections held during your stay abroad is to travel back home.

This means that all Italians – from (exchange) students to (voluntary) workers – temporarily living in a foreign Country will have to consider whether they want their participation to the approaching elections easily to become their most expensive vote so far.


Motivated by their will to vote and by the inequality of rights between Italian citizens themselves, and between Italians and other EU-citizens (the parliament in Rome has so far been unable to provide any legal framework for voting abroad such as those available, amongst others, to Dutch, British and French citizens, no matter how long their stay abroad is), a number of students took in January different initiatives meant both to stigmatize the problem and to call for symbolic (online) polls to be organized at the same time of the election in different foreign cities.

Here they are on a row:
Studenti italiani che non potranno votare alle prossime elezioni (Facebook page; Italian students that will not be able to vote in the next election);
Vogliovotare (I want to vote) and Iovotofuorisede (I vote ‘fuori sede’), for students enrolled at Italian Universities elsewhere than in their own hometown (‘fuori sede’);
Iovogliovotare (I want to vote), for all Italian citizens temporarily living abroad.

Waiting for next week-end to see how many people will take part in these symbolic polls (let alone what the results of the general elections themselves will be), the students’ initiative seems to me already one more example of the potential of social media to facilitate political participation, if not always on such a (dramatic) scale as from 2010 in Egypt (see amongst others Mark Lynch’s After Egypt: the limits and promise of online challenges to the authoritarian Arab State, access restrictions possible), certainly in a fashion that proves how an even enthousiastic will to participate the electoral process still exists amid the disheartenment about the value of political commitment which seems at times to typify the attitude of a majority of (not only) the Italian people.

Picture comes from www.vogliovotare.org.

Researching social media: twitter and homophobia

11 Dec

It’s some time now since I last posted about twitter and therefore, when reading about Nohomophobes last friday in the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, I thought it would be a suitable choice for a post addressing both a Communication topic (twitter) and a Sociological one (homophobia).

nohomophobes alltimeAn initiative of the ISMSS Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, Nohomophobes keeps track of how often Tweets include the words ‘faggot’, ‘dyke’, ‘so gay’ and ‘no homo’, and is therefore «designed as a social mirror to show the prevalence of casual homophobia in our society. Words and phrases like “faggot,” “dyke,” “no homo,” and “so gay” are used casually in everyday language, despite promoting the continued alienation, isolation and — in some tragic cases — suicide of sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ) youth. We no longer tolerate racist language, we’re getting better at dealing with sexist language, but sadly we’re still not actively addressing homophobic and transphobic language in our society».

Whether we truly are getting better at dealing with racist and sexist language, I dare not say (and I’m not exclusively thinking of my native country), and yet it’s just such academic initiatives as Nohomophobes that, even if ‘only’ by making us conscious of our casual discriminatory language, can help individuals and societies getting better.

As far as (discriminatory) language is concerned: should you want to know more about the origins, meanings and use of such terms as dyke, faggot and gay, take a look at the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, freely accessible at Berlin Humboldt-University‘s site.

Wiley Museum of Social Media

8 May

Drawing on its huge journal collections – which includes such titles as Communication Theory, Human Communication Research and the Journal of Communication – the Wiley Online Library has recently launched the Museum of Social Media.

The Museum gives access to over 200 free articles on a variety of topics dealing with the rise and influence of social media, whether it’s business or pleasure, politics or education. Despite the obvious limits imposed by a one man’s initiative (=only one publisher’s titles), the museum can be an interesting additional source when looking for scholarly literature. Separate tabs for references and citations count are given for most articles, making it easier to look for other publications relevant to your topic.

Here follows a selection of articles I found at the museum when browsing by topics which can be related to the research lines of the three program groups at ASCoR (Amsterdam School of Communication Research):

Persuasive communication (The intertwining of media content and persuasion; Interactivity and customization; Empowerment of individuals).
Consumers’ Rules of Engagement in Online Information Exchanges and Toward an Understanding of the Online Consumer’s Risky Behavior and Protection Practices, both published in 2009 in the Journal of Consumer Affairs, and Online Customer Experience: A Review of the Business-to-Consumer Online Purchase Context, appeared in 2010 in the International Journal of Management Reviews.

Political communication & Journalism (Contents and effects of political communication; Changes in journalism).
You cannot run or hide from social media—ask a politician (Journal of Public Affairs, 2011) and Presidential Communication in the Internet Era (Presidential Studies Quarterly, 2008).

Youth & Media Entertainment (Experiencing media entertainment; The entertainization of childhood; The sexual entertainment environment of youth).
Navigating iScapes: Australian Youth Constructing Identities and Social Relations in a Network Society (Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 2010); The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites (Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 2007); Qualities of Peer Relations on Social Networking Websites: Predictions From Negative Mother–Teen Interactions (Journal of Research on Adolescence, 2011)

Twitter en politiek: zoeken naar literatuur (2)

17 May

De Digitale Bibliotheek van de UBA biedt de mogelijkheid om tegelijk in meerdere databases te zoeken. Van deze mogelijkheid heb ik gebruik gemaakt in de eerste blogpost over zoeken naar literatuur over twitter en politiek.

Een zoekactie op ‘titelwoord’ twitter AND ‘alle woorden’ politi* leverde 16 titels uit de zes geselecteerde databases: Communication & Mass Media Complete, JStor, PsycINFO, Sociological abstracts, Web of Science en Worldwide political science abstracts.

Wat als ik in een afzonderlijke database ga zoeken, bijvoorbeeld Communication & Mass Media Complete van Ebsco? Let wel op: volledige toegang tot de database, en de bijbehorende full-text publicaties, is mogelijk alleen binnen het UvA-domein.

Allereerst ben ik gaan kijken in de Thesaurus (= lijst woorden die de database heeft voorgeselecteerd als zoektermen): twitter komt niet voor, wel een aantal politieke termen die gerelateerd kunnen worden aan mijn zoekopdracht:

communication in politics – political attitudes – political campaigns – political debates & debating – political participation – political parties – political slogans

Deze termen heb ik met ‘OR’ (= zoeken naar publicaties waar ten minste één van de termen aanwezig is) gecombineerd in één zoekactie. Op deze manier krijg ik ruim 4.500 resultaten. Vervolgens ben ik gaan zoeken op twitter in ‘All text’ en heb meer dan 2.200 titels gevonden.

Als ik vervolgens de twee zoekacties met elkaar combineer met ‘AND’, krijg ik 37 publicaties, waarvan 14 peer-reviewed (= scholarly, wetenschappelijk) zijn. Waar deze (peer-reviewed) artikelen over gaan, is in ieder geval politiek, nl. politieke communicatie of attitudes of campagnes of debatten of participatie of partijen of slogans.

Of twitter uitgebreid of juist kort besproken wordt in deze artikelen, kan ik zien door de abstracts (= samenvattingen) van de publicaties door te kijken. Géén ‘echte’ twitter-en-politiek artikel? Toch heb ik zeker iets aan:

de artikelen over de relatie tussen social media in het algemeen en politiek, bv.: Metzgar, A. & Marucci, A. (2009). Social Media and the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election. Journal of New Communications Research, 4, 141-165.

de literatuurverwijzingen (‘notes’, ‘references’, ‘bibliography’) van de meest recente artikelen: ze vormen een relevante aanvulling op de resultaten van mijn zoekacties, want het gaat in ieder geval om publicaties die wetenschappers hebben gebruikt voor hun eigen onderzoek, en verder kan het zijn dat er juist naar twitter-specifiekere teksten verwezen wordt. Voorbeeld: Chadwick, A. (2011). The political information cycle in a hybrid news system: the British Prime Minister and the “Bullygate” Affair. International Journal of Press/Politics, 16, 3-29.

de eventuele publicaties van UvA-medewerkers van wie ik (nog) niet wist dat zij met social media bezig zijn, en met wie ik contact kan opnemen voor hun kennis van het onderwerp. Voorbeeld: Hoffmann, J. & Kornweitz, A. (2011). New media revolution? Media Development, 58(1), 7-11.

het feit dat ik, dankzij de beperking tot peer-reviewed, bezig ben met wetenschappelijke publicaties. Ook als ik géén relevant (twitter-specifiek) artikel of literatuurverwijzing vind, maak ik in ieder geval kennis met bepaalde conventies van wetenschappelijk schrijven: artikelopbouw, terminologie, schrijfstijl inclusief referenties (bv. volgens de 6e editie van het Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, ook bekend als APA Style: ik heb deze gebruikt voor de literatuurverwijzingen in deze post).

RSS, twitter, LinkedIn…

11 May

… meer weten over deze en andere online toepassingen die nuttig kunnen zijn voor studie en onderzoek? Kijk voor de serie instructies die de Bibliotheek van de UvA biedt over:

Google Alerts
Google Docs

Codename: OTOO Online toepassingen voor onderzoek en onderwijs. Vindbaar op: homepage van de UvA-Bibliotheek > tab Hulp > Uitgelicht. Work in progress: meer online toepassingen zullen volgen.