Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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31 December 2013

Wordle of Sharing Our Lives Online: Risks and Exposure in Social Media

Just as the old year passes I have finished off the last substantive chapter to my upcoming book. Now all I have to do is:

  • Add a concluding chapter
  • Go through and fill in all the [some more clever stuff here] bits
  • Check the structure and ensure I haven’t repeated myself too often
  • Incorporate comments from my academic colleagues and friends
  • Submit to publisher
  • Incorporate comments from my editor and their reviewers
  • Index everything
  • Deal with inevitable proofing fiddly bits
  • Pace for months while physical printing processes happen… then…
  • I Haz Book!

Doesn’t seem like too much further, does it?

Update Jan 2, 2014 –  I have finished my draft concluding chapter, which ends, “[some form of ringing final summing-up here!]”

10 November 2013

Tracking my paper's readership using academia.edu

Just as we are all finding out how much the government has been tracking our meta-data, a whole ecosystem of public-facing meta-data tracking services is arising, giving us the chance to measure our own activity and track the diffusion of our messages across the web. This is particularly noticeable when looking at Twitter but other social media also increasingly offer sophisticated analytics tools.

Thus it was that as my latest open access paper “Are We All Online Content Creators Now? Web 2.0 and Digital Divides” went live two days ago I found myself not just mentioning it to colleagues but feeling obliged to update multiple profiles and services across the web – FacebookTwitteracademia.edu, Mendeley and Linkedin. I found to my surprise that (by tracking my announcetweet using Buffer) only 1% of the thousands I have ‘reached’ so far seem to have checked my abstract. On the other hand, my academia.edu announcement has brought me twice as many readers. More proof that it’s not how many but what kind of followers you have that matters most.

Pleasingly, from Academia.edu I can also see that my paper has already been read in Canada, the US, Guyana, South Africa, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and of course the UK.

The biggest surprise? Google can find my paper already on academia.edu but has not yet indexed the original journal page!

I will share more data as I get it if my fellow scholars are interested. Anyone else have any data to share?

4 February 2011

1) I started my new job as Senior Lecturer in the Division of Journalism and Communication at the University of Bedfordshire this week and have enjoyed meeting my new colleagues (and collecting my new Macbook Pro).
2) I just met my editor at Palgrave and agreed to write a book (my first full-length academic one) provisionally titled “Sharing Our Lives Online: Risks and Exposure in Social Media” – likely to be delivered in 2013. I plan to blog about it as I write using the “Sharing Our Lives Online” category, so keep an eye on that…
3) On my way back from that meeting I discovered that my wife has also just found a position for when her current one finishes, which given the turbulent situation in the NHS where she works is a big relief.

Of course I would be open to receiving further good news but these three bits of news are certainly enough to be starting with!

28 October 2010

From Local Literacies I found Amateur Arts in the UK which quoted some stats from (Research Surveys of Great Britain & Arts Council of Great Britain, 1991) – see earlier post – and there I assumed the trail would go cold. What chance I could find an obscure 19 year old survey with no Google Scholar entry and a couple of mentions around the web? Yet hurrah! U of Leicester Library had it – a spiral bound report with lots of cross-tabulations in the back that were not discussed in the main text including exactly the stats I wanted! So without further ado, for the year 1991 some stats on proportions of UK adults (16+) and their propensity to write articles or stories but not as a profession.

Overall, 4% were writing stories/articles.

Education was, unsurprisingly, the factor that made the biggest difference. This chart shows percentages of writers by the age at which they finished education:

varies from 2% to 12%

Age seemed to play an important role as well, and not in the way I would have thought.

Varies between 8% and 2%

I would have expected an “up-tick” post retirement as people had time to write memoirs etc – though perhaps this is an effect of lower overall education levels of older people.

The last important factor was social class.
AB (Middle class) = 8%, C1 (lower middle class) = 6%, C2DE (working class) 2%

Region, gender, and disability status don’t seem to have been a factor – nor does being unemployed (though the overall proportion of people writing was low enough that it’s hard to be sure.

Now that I have a baseline for social composition of writers I hope that my future research will be able to see whether the availability of online outlets has changed any of this.

Research Surveys of Great Britain & Arts Council of Great Britain. (1991). RSGB Omnibus Arts Survey : report on a survey on arts and cultural activities in G.B. London: Arts Council of Great Britain.

25 October 2010

For a while now I have been looking for information on what proportion of people write “amateur” poetry or prose (outside of a school setting) and whether there is any evidence of change now that people can ‘publish’ themselves online rather than just having to stick the results in a drawer or struggle to get published professionally. Here at last is some data:

In the UK in 1991, people who practiced activity but not as a full-time profession:
2% were writing poetry, 4% making videos, 4% writing stories

Research Surveys of Great Britain & Arts Council of Great Britain. (1991). RSGB Omnibus Arts Survey : report on a survey on arts and cultural activities in G.B. London: Arts Council of Great Britain.

In 2007 14% of people who created a web page in the UK did so (at least in part) “to publish my own writing or music”.

De Rosa, C., Cantrell, J., Havens, A., Hawk, J., & Jenkins, L. (2007). Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World.

15% of UK internet users (c. 10% of population) maintained a personal website in 2007. Ergo, perhaps 1.5% of people in the UK in 2007 were publishing their own writing or music online.

Dutton, W. H., & Helsper, E. (2007). The Internet in Britain: 2007.
Social networking is an even more interesting case because it is more widespread.

No figures are available from the OCLC report for the UK alone on social networking site use like Myspace but 22% of users from 6 countries said they used it at least somewhat “to express myself creatively with self-published materials” – and at least some of the 24% who “document my personal experiences and share with others” may be doing so more or less creatively. This was at an early stage in the diffusion of SNS use though – in 2007 only 17% of UK internet users had created an SNS profile. This has doubled since then according to Ofcom.

Ofcom. (2010). UK Adults’ Media Literacy.

So very roughly 7% of the UK adult population are using social networking sites to self-publish (though this presumably includes video and music as well as text).

I couldn’t finish without mentioning one more study about creative use of the internet – Hargittai, E., & Walejko, G. (2008). The Participation Divide: Content creation and sharing in the digital age. Information, Communication & Society, 11(2), 239 – 256. doi: 10.1080/13691180801946150

It has more detailed information about gender, SES and education and their relationship with creative activity online but is based on a survey of US undergraduates.

Pointers to further data (especially quantitative data) about creative writing on and offline would be gratefully received. This work is conducted as preparation for my next major research project on what I’m calling the “New Authorship” (more work on this will also be tagged “new authorship”).

If you like this sort of thing you will likely also like Gauntlett, D. (2011). Making is Connecting: The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. London: Polity Press. I am looking forward to reading more than just the samples available so far on the site!

8 October 2010

Storyful is a news agency based on an interesting idea that a lot of journalism scholars are talking up – journalists as curators, bringing together and highlighting the best news from social media. It is still in beta, so it’s perhaps premature to criticize the product but when I registered and went to take a look at the first story which interested me it had some flaws which indicate some of the potential problems with this kind of service.

Having recently visited Cambodia, the story on Cambodian child prostitution caught my eye. So what do I get? A prominent photo and trailer from a documentary on the subject which is (as far as I can tell) a product of the mainstream media. An introductory paragraph of information and claims, some of them quite controversial but without sourcing of any kind. A tweet from a Chicago-based comedian pointing to a related story – from the mainstream media. “Some informed opinion on the Cambodian sex industry” is two comments selected out of 84 youtube comments found on a two year old Al Jazeera news item. And lastly there are links to and excerpts from the Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation and Human Rights Watch.

Leaving aside problems of design and implementation (which can be fixed) this suggests two linked problems. First, that because of digital divide and linguistic difficulties, it can be hard to find social media sources for news from outside the industrialized world and that as a result a lot of what one can find eventually links back to the work of (more or less) mainstream journalists rather than citizen journalists. Also see Gonzalez-Bailon (2009) on how the mainstream news organizations and those they link to get most online buzz and Paterson (2007) on how the online news environment is still dominated by output from two major news agencies.

This is not in any way to denigrate the work of those behind storyful and other projects – it’s just to point out that social media does not (yet?) provide would-be news providers easy-to-process rich seams of raw news material unless such material is on subjects that appeal to social media users (see Thelwall 2010) and in countries where social media use is widespread. What’s needed first is more citizen journalistic capacity building in developing countries by organizations like the World Service Trust, OneWorld and Global Voices and more and cheaper internet there (eg you can’t get decent citizen journalism out of the Central African Republic if broadband costs 40 times the average salary there).

PS UK readers may be interested that there is an (as far as I know unrelated) BBC Three programme about sex trafficking in Cambodia coming up next Thursday at 21:00.

19 March 2010

Realtime UK train timetables have been around for a while but I have long wished the same were available for buses. Turns out that it has been for a while – Traveline NextBuses either gives you the next scheduled time or the next estimated time of arrival for buses near you across much of the UK. Excellent!

15 March 2010

This article, “What is the Good of the ‘Examined Life’? Some Thoughts on the Apology and Liberal Education” is to my mind the essence of an academic article. It’s thought-provoking, on an important subject (perhaps, the author argues, the most important – the need for each of us not just to live ethically but to reflect on what it means to live ethically), it’s written clearly and concisely and it’s open access so anyone can read it. I wish there were some way to make it a required reading for what I teach…

Thanks to the ever excellent Book Forum blog for bringing it to my attention.

17 December 2009

If you get a lot of email (and who doesn’t?) may I suggest my book, Dealing with Email? It was recently re-released in epub ebook form and for the Kindle via Amazon US (you can preview pages from it from Amazon’s page.

For the academics among you, how about a copy of Digital Storytelling, Mediatized Stories: Self-representations in New Media (also previewable on Amazon) featuring a chapter by yours truly about MySpace users? The paperbook is $30 – cheap for an academic work…

15 December 2009

10th birthday cake

I looked back and found that my earliest blog post was ten years ago today. Readers will note that it has been used steadily less and less over the years because it falls between two stools – most of my recent blogging has been academic and hosted on the Media@LSE group weblog which I set up. Since I am no longer there I plan to phase that out. This blog is therefore primarily for more personal blog entries, but I find that for the most part things that are personal I only wish to share with my friends and acquaintances and I am therefore using Facebook more – particularly now that the latest update allows item by item privacy controls. This blog may therefore end up being my ‘public-facing’ blog again, mainly about academic-related things. Stay tuned for further announcements…

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