This is going to one of those blog posts that won’t make sense to anyone avoiding social network sites or have no relevance. And this doesn’t sit well with me at all but I suppose I will have to get used to it because it is related to my Masters thesis. I haven’t mentioned much about my life as a university student this year so here’s an update and a mention of what my thesis is about.
My Masters project is examining science communication in social network sites and the factors that influence this. I am currently collecting data at the moment while barely keeping up with the mountain of reading I’ve got to do. Yes, I’m studying social network sites and getting a research higher degree in it. I can tell you that I do a lot more than sit on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and various blogs all day. If only it was that easy.
It sounds like a waste of time and money. It really does. However, like other researchers I do think that what I find will help with the communication of not just scientific ideas but other complex ideas as well whether on social network sites or offline in the real world At a stretch I could say that I’m working towards world peace.
The most fascinating thing about social network sites that I find is the speed and reach of the information being disseminated. This really does come to the fore in times of emergencies, most notably the Christchurch earthquakes, floods in Queensland and close to home for me summer fires in Perth, to the unfolding radiation disaster at Fukushima in Japan. People rapidly form a community to help with updates on the situation and offers of assistance.
A lot of people try to harness this sense of community and thirst for information for all sorts of reasons. It could be to sell a product or a service, to educate, research, crowd source ideas or funds to name a few. In between all these agendas are people that use the social network site to keep in touch with one another. In my opinion, these are the users that are the lynchpin of a social network site because without them it just becomes a sea of advertising.
In amongst my academic pursuit I’ve been looking in at Media140 events happening around the place. What the heck is Media140? It’s an organisation that started off in 2009 focussing on the potential of existing and emerging social technologies being used as a tool for communication between consumers and business to increase engagement. All sorts of people have attended these events. In addition to the usual suspects of journalists, business owners, CEOs have been academics, researchers and the curious. Everyone meets to discuss the effect of real-time technology on their communication strategies and needs.
In April came the Media140 event I would have loved to have attended but couldn’t. It was dedicated to science communication. I did the next best thing I could think of. I lobbied on Twitter for a livestream and others around the country joined in and it happened. For an entire day on the 27th of April, my Twitter feed was filled with #media140 related updates. I was able to speak with others on science communication and how they were or were not using social network sites. It was brilliant.
Tomorrow, Media140 comes to Perth again. It doesn’t have a science communication focus but I am heading along because the themes that the business community will be discussing in search for better engagement I feel are related to what I am focussing on in my Masters project. It is also a wonderful opportunity to see what how another section of the community uses social network sites to foster a sense of community. I wonder if there are any differences or whether we’re all running around looking for the same answer before the other guy does.
So there it is. My Masters project is on social network sites, the bane of managers striving to meet KPIs and the frustration of school principals and I’m heading off to a social technologies conference for two days.