Web Science Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Colloquium

Symphonic social science and the future for big data research


Over recent years there has been a persistent tension between proponents of big data analytics on the one hand - using new forms of digital data to make computational and statistical claims about ‘the social’ - and, on the other hand, many social scientists who are skeptical about the value of big data, its associated methods and claims to knowledge. This talk seeks to move beyond this, taking inspiration from a mode of argumentation developed by some of the most successful social science books of all time: Bowling Alone (Putnam 2000). The Spirit Level (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009) and Capital (Piketty 2014). Taken together these works can be distinguishedas a new approach, that can be labelled as‘symphonic social science’. This bears both striking similarities and significant differences to the big data paradigm and – as such – offers the potential to do big data analytics differently. The talk will suggest that this offers value to those already working with big data – for whom the difficulties of making useful and sustainable claims about the social are increasingly apparent – and tosocial scientists, offering a mode of practice that might shape big data analytics for the future.

Susan Halford, Professor of Sociology

Professor Susan Halford is Director, Web Science Institute within Social Sciences at the University of Southampton. Her research interests range from the sociology of work and organization - with projects on the third sector, the ageing workforce and employee driven innovation - to the sociology of technology and specifically the World Wide Web. She has a particular interest in the politics of data and digital artefacts, information infrastructures and digital research methods.

Professor Halford has a background in Geography (she studied at the University of Sussex 1981-4) and Urban Studies (also at Sussex 1985-1990) and moved into Sociology when she joined the University of Southampton in 1992. Since this time she has developed a range of research around the themes of gender, work, and identity and - connected to this - exploring digital innovation in the workplace, and beyond particularly through Web Science in collaboration with colleagues in Health Sciences and Computer Sciences.

More here: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/socsci/about/staff/sjh3.page

Web Science Doctoral & Post-Doctoral Colloquium

Professor Susan Halford and Professor Katina Michael will be going off-site for a collaborative colloquium with key PhD and post-doctoral students who will be presenting on their research.

Lunch at 1.30 pm, Gerroa Fisherman's Club

Sightseeing 3pm-4.30pm, Seven Mile Beach

Presentations at 5pm: format (10-30 min presentations, followed by 10 min discussion for each participant)

 4 PhD students from the University of Southampton, UK

     - Participant 1: Jack WebsterWeb Science Centre for Doctoral Training

Title: Algorithmic Taste-Makers: How are Music Recommender Systems Performing as "Cultural Intermediaries" and Shaping Cultural Consumption Practices?

Abstract: The digital age has seen the rise of new cultural intermediaries in the music marketplace. Music streaming services have invested heavily in the development of recommendation systems, which are used to enhance the quality of their user experience by selecting and organising music in a personalised fashion. As they seek to shape what we consume and how we come to consume it, music recommender systems have the potential to impact on cultural consumption practices and taste formation processes. Indeed, the automated nature of these systems means they have the potential to intervene in these social processes at a rate and scale not previously encountered. Whilst existing social science literature has begun to speculate on the impact of their cultural intermediation, little attention has been given to what music recommender systems are, how they come to exist and operate in the field, or how interaction with these systems is shaping consumption practices. The aim of my PhD is to advance our understanding of how music recommender systems are performing as cultural intermediaries and shaping consumption practice. This presentation will offer a window into my research and provide a brief account of what I have learnt so far about the cultural intermediary work of music recommender systems.

Bio: Jack is a second-year Web Science PhD student at the University of Southampton, UK. His research focusses on how the music recommender systems used by music streaming services, such as Spotify, are operating as "cultural intermediaries," shaping how cultural goods and symbolic value are circulated in the field of cultural consumption. Jack is an interdisciplinary researcher, combining perspectives from the social and computer sciences to understand both how music recommender systems work, but also how they are experienced by consumers and the rationale behind their design and implementation. If you would like to find out more Jack and his research, please visit www.jwebster.net.

     - Participant 2: C.N. Tochia, Web Science Centre for Doctoral Training

Title: Does craving a digital detox make me a bad digital citizen?

Abstract: My PhD topic is looking at digital literacy and in particular joining the argument that busts the myth of the "digital native" concept. A lot of work has been done in this area already, but I believe there is a unique group of people born just before the digital / information age took over, however have a very good understanding and grasp of new digital technologies they come into contact with. Some of them are known already as the want-nots. This group therefore understands and sometimes craves the pre-digital era and I would like to understand what deters them from choosing some new technologies or wanting to access the Web less or not at all. I also have a general interest in online identities and behaviours, particularly how we present ourselves on and off the screen.

Bio: After completing a degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications from Bournemouth University I joined the advertising industry working at OMD, an Omnicom media agency. Beginning first in their Communications department then moving across to their Insight department I managed several projects across clients such as Boots, Vodafone, Hasbro, Pepsi Co and Disney. Then I moved back to a company I previously interned at, Substance Global, that specialises in PR and marketing films, TV and games. There I worked in the Social team managing over 100 + accounts for brands such as Warner Bros Interactive, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and HBO.

     - Participant 3: Robert D. Blair, Web Science Centre for Doctoral Training

Title: Social media, learning and risk

Abstract: Social media is much lauded as a powerful tool for use in support of non-formal learning, and a tool of choice for teenagers. With this in mind the aims of my research were to determine the position of, and the barriers to the use of social media in support of learning activities by school pupils. To achieve these aims an investigation of the perceptions and use of social media by primary stakeholders at the operational level was conducted.

Data was collected from pupils and teachers using both quantitative and qualitative methods. 384 pupils responded to an online survey and 96 pupils participated in semi-structured focus group interviews. As a ratio comparable to the average teacher to pupil ratio in English secondary schools 18 teachers participated in semi-structured, individual interviews. The findings suggest that the main reason social media does not appear to be having an impact is a perception of risk. Initial findings indicated that usage of social media for learning was dominated by logistical task support (for example, clarifying instructions) mostly focused on homework activities. On further investigation findings suggest that activities which support general school work and a deeper engagement through homework understanding are taking place with a not insubstantial number of pupils.

The research findings also indicate that though social media is being used by this age group to support their learning, generally in a dyadic fashion, factors other than pupil skill and imagination in the use of social media may be in play. Of these other factors a the primary factor suggested by the findings appears to be a perceived risk to social capital accrued in a time of life in which social capital is assuming increasing importance.The reluctance of teachers to promote social media as a tool to support learning support through knowledge sharing by pupils appears to stem primarily from the possibility of risk to pupil welfare followed by professional risk to the teacher then risk to institution. With a recognition and understanding of the perceptions of risk held by the primary stakeholder at the operational level the next stage of this work is to determine how to reconcile and overcome these barriers to access the power of networked to technologies to support socially constructed learning.

Bio: Robert Blair is a final year PhD candidate at the Web Science Centre for Doctoral Training, department of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. He holds an MSc Information Systems from the University of East Anglia and an MSc Web Science from the University of Southampton. For his PhD research Robert is investigating the driving factors affecting change in the use of digital technologies. In particular, he is interested in the apparent enthusiasm for the use of Social Media displayed by children and young adults and the possibility of how this may be leveraged to support formal and non-formal learning. Prior to commencing his research Robert gained over 20 years experience of teaching Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science in compulsory, further and higher education.

     - Participant 4: Faranak Hardcastle, Web Science Centre for Doctoral Training

Abstract: This talk will be loosely based on a draft submitted to TOIT's Special Section on Computational Ethics and Accountability that is currently under review. As part of it I will introduce a conceptual sociotechnical intervention called TATE (Targeted Advertising Tracking Extension) that - using semantic web technologies, W3C PROV model, and the concept of sociotechnical imaginary - aims to contribute to supporting accountability in the Online Behavioural Tracking and Advertising (OBTA) landscape. On-going work involves evaluating a hypothetical implementation and normalisation of this model informed by STS theories to identify overlapping interests, values, and incentives of various stakeholder groups to map its design to these spaces. 

Bio: Faranak is a PhD candidate at the Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Southampton. Studying Web Science has challenged her views about society and technology. She is currently interested in critically engaging with the Web and the Internet from the intersection of arts and design, technology, sociology, and STS, and continuously tries to avoid letting the disciplinary boundaries to discipline her "thinking”, “designing", and “making”.

2 students and 1 honorary from UOW's School of Computing and Information Technology

     - Honorary Fellow Dr Roba AbbasPersuasive Technology and Society

Title: Big (Geospatial) Data and Location Intelligence in Action: The Consumer Perspective

Abstract: The big data movement has, in recent years, promised to deliver a wide range of benefits to organisations, offering business insights generated through the analysis of vast and varied datasets. The potential to create an enhanced understanding of consumer and corporate opportunities, through the extraction of trends and patterns, is certainly appealing from a business perspective. Increased emphasis is now being placed on the use of geospatial datasets. This essentially refers to “geo-enriched” data; data that is supplemented with a geographic component, and when contextualised, layered with additional levels of detail, and analysed, provides some form of “location intelligence”. The proliferation of consumer location-based services (LBS) applications, in conjunction with the wealth of publicly accessible geospatial data and supporting applications, now signifies that location intelligence activities are not exclusive to geographic information systems (GIS) professionals, as was traditionally the case. Rather, advanced mapping and location capabilities are now accessible to the individual user or consumer. This presentation provides a practical demonstration of consumer-level location intelligence and the societal implications of “geo-enriched” data analysis more specifically.

Biography: Dr Roba Abbas is an Honorary Fellow with the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences at the University of Wollongong, Australia and is the Associate Editor (Administrator) for the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine. She completed her Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded Doctor of Philosophy on the topic of Location-Based Services Regulation in 2012, earning special commendations for her thesis titled “Location-Based Services Regulation in Australia: A Socio-Technical Approach”.

    - Mr Asslam Umar Ali, Doctoral Candidate, School of Computing and Information Technology

Title: Analysis Framework to Integrate Knowledge Derived from Social Media for Civic Co-Management during Extreme Climatic Events

Abstract: Information generated on social media during extreme climatic events has forever changed disaster relief and response. This information shared as private conversation on public social media platforms is reliant on citizens to share their personal information and knowledge. This type of content generated by individuals with geospatial information has been termed ‘Volunteered Geographical Information’. A large number of VGI have used social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to crowd-source disaster information in real-time for effective management of infrastructure systems and their population. Therefore, providing more eyes on the ground and a source of intelligence that serve to improve situational awareness. On the other hand, managing the disaster activities is challenging, complex and involves various stakeholders; agencies, organisation, managing individual with different roles, resources and goal. This also puts time constraints on the decision makers make information intensive activities. Therefore, it challenging to coordinate or obtain timely and right type information from the social media channels. More importantly the disaster management activities follow a standard set of disaster management plans with set goals. Whereas, currently crowdsourced applications do not generally interact to share knowledge with the existing disaster management activities. This presentation shows results of social media data analysis obtained during floods and provides some interesting insights to type information (text/photos) shared, their relationship and how this could used by emergency management teams. 

Bio: Asslam Umar Ali is a Business Intelligence professional at the Information Management Unit, University of Wollongong. His educational background connects the technology and business spectrum, with a bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering and a Master in International Business and a MBA specialisation in Engineering Management. Asslam is enthusiastic about data analytics, visualisation and data informed decision making.

   - Associate Research Fellow and PhD Candidate, Robert Ogie, SMART Infrastructure Facility*

Check-in at Park Ridge hotel at 4.45 pm

Seminars presented at the Gerringong Bowlo

Who would have thought that the Gerringong Bowlo had a full-blown conference facility? We discovered this, after we took up several tables for an informal kind of meeting, and we were directed to a facility with Projector, Screen, Digitally equipped room with excellent tables and chairs. "Thank you Bowlo"- we will come again! You were so hospitable to our needs and our visitors from the UK will never ever forget your generosity.

Dinner at 11.30 pm at Domino's Pizza :)

Well what does one do when Kiama, Gerringong and Gerroa go to sleep at 8.30pm? Go to trusted Domino's for the best vegetarian and meatlovers and non-cheese pizza on the planet... well, we don't know if that's really the case but after hunting for somewhere to eat for over 2 hours, that is what it felt like. We got in this predicament when our seminars went for DOUBLE the time they should have, as the affinity grew in the group. We then approached a local pub to allow us to eat our pizzas comfortably and were escorted to an open garden area under the stars which was just spectacular.

Close 12 am, Kiama Blowhole.

You simply cannot venture to Kiama, NSW, and NOT see the Kiama Blowhole. Just a magical ending, to a magical day. Thank you to our visitors from WSI SOTON and to our local students and PhDs from UOW for a brilliant synergistic day. A special thank you to the Persuasive Technology and Systems Group for sponsoring our breakfast and lunch meals.