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#SMWglasgow Social media, research, academia and industry

A week ago, while Edinburgh was enjoying one of its local holidays, I took the express train to Glasgow – partly for an Apple Store pilgrimage, partly to attend Jillian Ney's (@jillneyblog here) session as part of Social Media Week. Glasgow was one of twelve cities to host events as part of this annual global project, the other European cities were Berlin, Milan and Moscow. As is the way of many events these days you can register your own event and join the official programme: part Fringe festival model, part unconference.

Jillian's official blurb reads...

This event is designed to discuss the opportunities and issues in academically researching social media, and to provide a platform for fostering new research partnerships. The event is aimed at industry practitioners and final year, masters, PhD students, and researchers who are interested in driving forward valuable social media research.

That link between academia and industry is important in some of the arguments put forward:
  • Research based on social media is gaining credibility in the academic community.
  • Bringing academic rigour together with industry data and expertise can foster this.
  • There is currently a lack of academic literature which explores and develops these themes.
  • Also, there are a range of terms with competing and overlapping meanings: social media, Web 2.0, social content and so on.
  • There are opportunities and risks associated with borrowing theory from other fields, leaving ideas relatively untested for your purposes.
  • 'The industry' is often keen to get involved in academic research, but will come with its own agenda(s) and can quickly lose interest.

We were also joined by Prof Alan Wilson of University of Strathclyde Business School, who Jillian is working with. He focused on:
  • Establishing your perspective, for the purposes of your research: the user/consumer, or the corporate/organisation/industry side. What is it that each side is looking for? Do they really know what they're doing?
  • Conference topics are increasingly focusing on:
    • trust – in the relationship between user and provider, between users and so on.
    • motivation – of all parties to get involved, share ideas and content, etc.
    • ethics – what sort of ethical considerations should we be having when researching social media content, using it in ways that weren't intended by the creator?

The discussion developed from there, reflecting on the risk of researchers being exploited by industry partners, or taken off track by competing demands on their time. Likewise as the range of tools grows to extract social media content how to separate the 'wheat from the chaff' (or even identify which is which). The usual mantra applies that researchers need to justify just about every decision they make.

The event was held at the KILTR HUB, a space down a lane, opposite Stereo (and I believe managed by them and their partners). One result of my trip was signing up to KILTR, Scotland's own social network. It's all about the connections after all.

(I have pinched the image below from a Facebook event and I hope I don't get into trouble for this. Also below is the reference list from my PhD proposal.)


Lecturer as shoemaker.

Leaving The Shire.