I just got news that my paper “Search Engines: From Social Science Objects to Academic Inquiry Tools” was accepted for publication in the Internet studies journal First Monday. In this article I argue that, although so far most academic work on search engines has focused on their role in contemporary information gathering practices and their implications for democracy, social science scholars have much to gain in approaching these platforms as useful research tools too. In particular, I discuss the challenges involved in integrating accessory search engine applications such as Google Trends into social science research, including analyzing data obtained through these media in conjunction with the outputs generated by more traditional methods such as content analysis. Watch this space for a link to the article once that is available online (November/December 2014).
The College of Social Sciences at Glasgow University has put together a free one-day conference on Social Media Analysis, Methods and Ethics. I will be talking about the ethical challenges involved in researching sensitive issues online and the need to ‘de-bunk’ some established methodological conventions in order to enable the development of ethically effective research designs that are fit to archive and analyse social media content. You can find a complete list of speakers and download the abstracts here. The conference will take place on Friday 25th April from 9:15am to 5pm at the Adam Smith Building, Gilmorehill Campus and anyone wishing to attend can register for free here.
I recently started work on a new project as part of the University of Glasgow’s MRC/Scottish Public Health and Sciences Unit. As the name suggests, this is a new place and a new and exciting area for me. I will be carrying out qualitative research on the effects of the recession, welfare reform and rising costs of living as part of the 10-year GoWell research project. This links to my PhD research, which focused on online disability rights networks that campaigned against welfare reforms and public expenditure cuts in the UK and the United States. In the meantime, I also continue to be involved in the VoterEcology project, which has now approached the writing-up phase.