Monday, May 20

20-05-2013 - The Dilemma of Being a Researcher on Twitter

Along with all the other difficulties which come with researching a subject such as hacktivism (by which I mean a subject with heavily loaded interests and extremely digitally capable people on both sides of the arguement) is one which I had not quite anticipated.

Of course, managing an online persona is all about performance - what I choose to tweet, retweet and favourite builds a perception of me to all those who choose to view it. But when researching hacktivism I've got to be truly careful about how I build my online presence: as much as I might want to support or decry actions by certain individuals or organisations, for the most part I've got to hold off clicking that button in order to maintain a neutral stance in the argument. As a prolific tweeter, this is difficult for me - I'm not known for holding my tongue.

In times such as these  I believe that maintaining a credible research stance is becoming all the more difficult. If I can't be seen to uphold the objective stance, then I can't see how any participants (hacktivist or otherwise) should choose to trust in me.

Friday, February 8

08/02/2013 - Elevator Pitch

As a record of my time at the DTC, I think this blog is a good reflection of how the first few months have gone. All excitement and enthusiasm for the first few months, with a tonne of "holy crap I have free time" followed by mountains of coursework, revision, research proposals, presentation, studies and paperwork.

Thankfully, I believe I am SOMEWHAT on the other side of that mountain for now. Having just been informed (after 24hours of almost constant F5ing on the site) that I've passed all my courses from last semester, all I have now are my new courses, my practice led project and my PhD proposal. No mean feats, for sure, but perhaps more manageable than 6 pieces of coursework, tonnes of revision and a 5 thousand word essay.

Anyway, we had our "Elevator Pitch" yesterday afternoon. This was to take our basic level "area" ideas and transform them into something resembling a research project. Well, I think that's what it meant - it could have meant "if you were stuck in an elevator with someone for 90 seconds, how would you tell them what your research was?".

In our previous meeting I had whittled my interests down from the large and unwieldy topic of "digital identity" to "anonymity" (with a view to counterpoint identity by examining it's antonym) and finally settled on a case study of anonymity with "hacktivism".
My presentation went well, I presented the following slide:

In the end I was confident that when I stood up I could at least describe what I wanted to achieve and how I felt I might achieve it.
As it turns out the questions which the academics in the room threw at me almost played into my hands. "I see you've mentioned Goffman, he talks about Backstage and Frontstage behaviour - where do you think hacktivism lies?" - Frontstage! Hurrah, I learned things at undergrad! "How is the anonymity of Hacktivism any different to the anonymity afforded by working for a big corporation?" Because somewhere there will exist a list of amazon employees, but you won't find an Anonymous Membership List - at least not an "official" one. "Is hacktivism a political issue as well as a social one?" Yep! Hacktivism is where modern communication technology meets political and social action, it is certainly a response to certain levels of distrust and alienation - these are themes I want to touch on - but motivation is a different issue from composition, if it emerges that their identity is constructed around the causes they choose to follow, then my project will certainly have to address the political issues surrounding the movement, but that's something I will address when the time comes - and other such stuff.

I think it was good that the project at least encouraged a bit of discussion - I've always known I'll have to fight for my project. In a department (claiming to be multidisciplinary, though most of those disciplines are a variation on computer science) where the pervading message appears to be "if your PhD isn't BUILDING something, then it isn't worth the paper it is typed on", my basic research (basic research in terms of research for the advancement of understanding and knowledge, rather than practical problem solving) is always going to have to fight for existence.

Anyway, I'm confident about the next few months. I need to focus on my practical led project, which I'm hoping to have up and running by next week, and then move onto my PhD proposal in time for the "Writing Retreat" in April/May.