I’m very excited that the Digital Social Science Forum’s workshop has been accepted at Social Media & Society in London this year. Susan Halford, Les Carr, Emma Uprichard and Evelyn Ruppert will be speaking at the workshop & I will be facilitating. It will take place on Monday July 11th and you’ll have to register for the (excellent) conference to take part.

Many, if not all, affirm the value of interdisciplinary collaboration in social media research, as different disciplinary backgrounds contribute different skills to the analysis of complex socio-technical objects. However such collaborations also entail conceptual challenges, encountered at the level of substantive theoretical commitments but also in terms of taken-for-granted assumptions that inform everyday practice.  

The workshop as a whole will aim both to familiarise participants with common conceptual challenges confronted in interdisciplinary social media research, as well as drawing upon their own experience and understanding to unpack these challenges and explore potential routes beyond them. In doing so, we hope to develop new perspectives on these issues, including the disciplinary origins of these conceptual challenges, which can constitute the basis for further work and the production of practical toolkits to inform interdisciplinary working.

CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT AND CALL FOR PAPERS

Social Media & Social Science Research Ethics

Location: 33 Finsbury Square, London. EC2A 1AG

Date: Monday 21st of March, 2016

The Research Ethics Group of the Academy of Social Sciences and the NSMNSS network invite abstracts and poster/video submissions for a one-day conference that aims to further develop and explore the ethics of social science research using social media. Our purpose is to move the debate forward and provide examples of good practice. Two Keynote speakers will be confirmed shortly.

As Social Media plays an increasing role in Social Science research, the practicalities, benefits and challenges of making legitimate use of it constitute an important arena for ethical reflection and dialogue. This event builds on earlier conferences, workshops and discussions, organised by the Research Ethics Group of the Academy of Social Sciences and, in particular, the common principles of social science research ethics.

We invite abstracts for full papers or posters/videos* from those whose research makes use of social media. The following 4 themes may offer some guidance:

Ethics & Practicalities: Consent in social media research.
Privacy, ownership and legal dimensions: The use of social media data for research.
Blurred lines: Relationships between researchers and participants in social media research.
Critical ethical reflections: Improving ethical practice.
A copy of our CfA can be found here [.pdf]. 250 word abstracts should be submitted on this form [.docx] and sent to acss.ethics@gmail.com by Friday the 8th of January 2016. There will be a £100 prize for the best poster/ video as well as a number of discounted places and travel bursaries for postgraduate students. Following the conference we aim to produce an e-book of the presented papers. Any inquiries should be directed to: nsmnss@natcen.ac.uk

Decisions will be made by the end of January 2016.

*We envisage that videos will be the equivalent of posters and should, therefore, not be longer than 2 mins (approx).

There’s a great post by Kandy Woodfield on the NSMNSS blog. Do read the full post – it’s a panoramic yet concise overview of the current terrain. I’ve listed the challenges below for my own notes rather than as a substitute for reading the original post.

  1. The methodological challenge: “we have yet to fully address the fact that a high proportion of social media traffic consists of pictures not text”
  2. The collaborative challenge: “most powerful insight from social media research will come from transdisciplinary efforts drawing on the varied insights and skills of for example statisticians, qualitative researchers, digital curators, information scientists, machine learning experts and human geographers.” 
  3. The ethical and legal challenge: “the critical moments which will shape and define the ethical and legal frameworks for the use of social media data will probably not come from social research but from the use of social media data in the commercial world or media realm, these industries practices may shape our future access to research data. Are we engaging enough with these sectors and issues?” 
  4. The capability challenge: How many of us are really au fait with the worlds we are researching on social media platforms?”
  5. The contextual challenge:many methods lecturers, research supervisors, research commissioners, and research ethics board members do not feel adequately equipped to make rounded, informed decisions about the quality, ethics or value of social media research projects and proposals.”
  6. The synthesis challenge: “how if at all can new forms of research and findings map onto, elaborate or further inform conventional social research data?”