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How do you use social media in your research?


/shiftsaboutnervously

So…. This blog thing… Um… Wow, has it really been four months since I last updated? Eek. That’s eh… that’s not so good. Wow.

I know I keep on saying that I should get back on the wagon with the blog, and I have had a few bits and pieces I’ve wanted to write about, but it’s been hard finding time, especially during the semester. Beyond teaching (oh, and a recent promotion!), there’s also been lots of upheaval outside of university (getting engaged, buying a house, having knee surgery etc etc), all of which has been a bit of a major distraction from regular updates.

In any event, I do actually have something I wanted to write about today and I figured that while I’m laid up at home recovering from my op (nothing serious; a torn meniscus and chrodroplasty, taken care of in day surgery), I could use the time productively in my research. Hurrah!

I think I’ve said before on the blog that I’m currently working on a volume (with Dave Sayers, Sheffield Hallam University) about the application of sociolinguistic research outside of academia. We think it’s a pretty big area of research that’s not really been talked about too much over the years, and with the importance of ‘impact’ ever rising within funding councils, we’re looking to show how sociolinguistics can be leveraged and applied beyond the immediate university context.

My chapter focuses on the use of social and traditional media in the reporting of sociolinguistic research and the advantages and disadvantaged each method has. But I’m also interested in finding out about how sociolinguists have used social media in their research. So if you’re a (ir)regular user of Facebook, Twitter, forums, personal research blogs, research blogs you’ve made for a funder, or any other form of social media, I’m hoping you might be able to take the time to answer a few questions:

  1. What forms of social media do you use in your research (Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc)?
  2. How useful has social media been to you?
  3. What have been the primary functions you’ve used social media for (research findings, general language discussion etc)?
  4. How have funders responded to your use of social media?
  5. How effective has social media been in facilitating knowledge dissemination?
  6. How effective has social media been in developing stakeholder/end user/general public engagement?
  7. Anything else you’d like to add about social media?

Ideally, I’d like to examine in my chapter not only the pros and cons of traditional/social media, but also how it’s actually been used by sociolinguists, as a kind of ‘how to’. Feel free to put your comments down below, or alternatively, fire off an email to robert.lawson AT bcu.ac.uk

The Social Linguist

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  1. April 29, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    I’m happy to answer your questions, and if you want more depth, I’m happy to chat about it. I’ve really made use of social media for both networking and finding related researchers and research works.

    What forms of social media do you use in your research (Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc)?: I use primarily Twitter for dissemination, Facebook for keeping in touch with contacts, and I have a whole blog roll on Feedly that I read for inspiration / ideas.

    How useful has social media been to you?: I don’t think I could have completed my research work or graduate school career without it.

    What have been the primary functions you’ve used social media for (research findings, general language discussion etc)?: I used Facebook to keep in touch with subjects from my ethnographic study long after they left the field site, and I used our Facebook connections to set up interviews with them through messaging and event invitations. I used Twitter to share a survey link for a project I was doing, using hashtags to get to the appropriate audiences. I also use Twitter to network and connect with folks in all of my fields of study; through knowing me on Twitter I got invited to do two talks at other Universities while still a graduate student, and have since managed to get in on two major projects in my new position. I also use Twitter at conferences to catalogue my impressions of the talks I’m attending, and now I use Storify to collect those thoughts afterwards like a notebook and share that with others who attended. Finally, through both Twitter and blog networks, I’ve discovered scholars and others doing studies that have informed my own research and whose work I’ve included in my literature review. One of the blogs I read actually inspired me to embark on a collaborative project with one of the writers (this is my project on game theory in World of Warcraft raids).

    How have funders responded to your use of social media?: As I haven’t gotten any funding related to social media, I can’t say. But I did connect with a conference organizer through Twitter and managed to secure a grant to travel to a conference.

    How effective has social media been in facilitating knowledge dissemination?: It’s been great. You have to be following the right people and be savvy in how to do it — you can’t just put a link out there and expect it to work wonders. But you can see how social media pick up on these things. (Actually I’m doing a project on this right now at work, investigating the use of ‘altmetrics’ for visualizing the impact of scholarly work. We can talk more about that if you want.)

    How effective has social media been in developing stakeholder/end user/general public engagement?: I think this is a largely untapped realm of use here. Some people do this really well, and others don’t. I’m thinking about things like the PLoS twitter feed, where they post kind of “layperson friendly” summaries of their articles with links (all open access of course). And when a research study gets a lot of traction, it can really spread quickly on social media (but I also think a lot of people forget about it easily).

    Anything else you’d like to add about social media?: I think it’s really important to be open about the work that you do, and social media is an amazing way to do that. Whether it’s blogging the research process or sharing links to (publicly accessible versions of) your papers, it’s really a great way to open and democratize science.

    If you want to know more, you know how to find me. 🙂

  2. Fawn
    April 30, 2014 at 1:32 am

    What forms of social media do you use in your research (Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc)? My research itself was all based on Twitter (i.e. finding communities to research on Twitter, getting my data from Twitter, etc.). I also met a lot of other researchers on Twitter through conference hashtags and other such discussions. I don’t really blog myself, but I occasionally read others’ blogs when I come across topics of interest. Facebook for me was more a means of socially and casually talking about my research with friends and close colleagues (e.g. “Hey guys, I noticed this thing in my data, isn’t that neat? React with your own thoughts that might help me later on!!”) I’ve also recently become interested in the use of more personal/direct means of communication for brands/organizations to reach out to consumers (e.g. a lot of NBA and college sports teams are apparently now sending followers snapchats), but I haven’t actually done any research in this area yet.

    How useful has social media been to you? Very. It would be even more useful if it was easier to get permissions to do research on different mediums or collections. (For example, I would like to have included Facebook data in my dissertation research, but because you have to sign in to see a lot of stuff, it is a bit more protected and harder to get access to, research-wise.)

    What have been the primary functions you’ve used social media for (research findings, general language discussion etc)? Collecting data. That has definitely been the big one for me. Also just a general understanding of user conventions and practices, even if it hasn’t come from my specific data pool. Being an active user of Twitter myself has been important to understanding what I did find in my data. Twitter is also great for use at conferences, where you can connect with people that you might not already know in a more open forum. Facebook, again, is good for discussion with closer connections.

    How have funders responded to your use of social media? I haven’t really had much of an opportunity to deal specifically with funders, but I have found a decent amount of resistance to social media research in more “traditional” linguistics circles. (I’ve unfortunately heard something along the lines of “that’s not really language use” on more than one occasion!)

    How effective has social media been in facilitating knowledge dissemination? I haven’t used it much to spread my own research (bad, I know), but I love reading about and sharing other studies or discussions in linguistics or social media research. I think social media can be particularly great for sharing shorter pieces (e.g. a blog post or web article) as opposed to more traditional academic materials (e.g. journal articles, dissertations, etc.). There are also a lot of great social tools like SlideShare to help get your conference presentations out there.

    How effective has social media been in developing stakeholder/end user/general public engagement? I think there are people out there doing a really great job of getting language issues out to the general public (one example that jumps to mind is Ben Zimmer from ADS, who is fairly popular on Twitter @bgzimmer). I haven’t really done much of the legwork in this area myself, but I think social media is an untapped resource that could have a lot of potential in reaching new audiences for linguistic work. I’m sure everyone has seen dialect map posts fly around Facebook at some point!

    Anything else you’d like to add about social media? It is soooo important to use the media that you want to research! That seems pretty obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of research out there that can’t really seem to get a handle on what users in their studies are doing, and it often turns out to be the case that the researcher signed up for an account on that medium and then barely ever used it!

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