New book ‘Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries’

Today is the day. It’s the launch of the book ‘Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries’, to which I contributed a chapter on using social media for qualitative research.

The book was curated by Kandy Woodfield and is original in that she invited a broad range of social research experts to contribute a blog post each on various methodological issues of using social media for research. What started with a tweet is now a book with 53 chapters, considering issues as broad as scoping your study, to the dark side of using social media in social research. The chapters are short and written in a conversational style… just like a blog post.

I contributed a chapter on ‘Issues to consider when using social media to collect qualitative data’. In this chapter, I identify how the characteristics of social media platforms impact on research design, the type and quality of the data collected, and the approach to data analysis and reporting.

Book of Blogs Canhoto


UPDATE: And on the same day that it was published, the book was #1 methodology book bestseller :-)

Post for my UCM students – the remaining slides

We had a fantastic session today, starting with Mark W Schaefer calling in from NY, and sharing fabulous insight with us about influence in the current business environment.


We also had a lively discussion about social networks (actual ones, as well as online ones) and how they influence our behaviour.

The downside is that we ran out of time and were unable to cover all materials. After the end of the session, I created a film for the class about the remaining topics. Unfortunately, the file is too big to post in our virtual learning environment and, so, I decided to share it here, instead. For those not associated with the UCM module, this will not make sense to you – apologies. For the UCM students: please leave your questions and comments here or on Moodle, including your summary of the session.

Advice for creating short video presentations?

I was searching for some materials for my lecture, and came across the video below, summarising an academic journal article that I use in my teaching, and which I blogged about here.

I really, really liked this video. The camera follows a woman walking in a busy high street, while a female voice-over talks about how bloggers influence her shopping decisions. Now and then, text appears on the screen to define a technical term (e.g., para-social interaction) or to capture the implication of what is being said (e.g., that the impact of a blogger’s message on the reader’s shopping behaviour is moderated by credibility).

It is a relatively simple video, but it is such an effective way of communicating research. On the one hand, they video is richer and more engaging than a slide presentation, or even videos based on slide presentations, which is all that I have managed to produce so far. On the other hand, it looks easier to create than an animated movie (like this one about Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion).

I wonder how difficult (and expensive!) it is to create a short video like this one. Do you have experience of creating short videos? What is your advice?

Counting the days until January

I am not one to wish away time but, boy, I am sooo looking forward to January!!!

The reason I am looking forward to 2015 is that I have some study leave scheduled for the first part of the year. A sabbatical.

According to this dictionary, sabbatical is an “extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.”

Contrary to what is suggested by this definition, however, for me (and others in academia) the sabbatical will not be a period of rest. On the contrary, it will be a period to focus on tasks that require a prolonged intellectual effort. Professor Les Back’s recent series of podcasts entitled “Postcards from a sabbatical”, available here, provide a really interesting insight into the practical and psychological aspects of the academic sabbatical.

In my case, I was granted the leave so that I can conclude a number of writing projects that I have been working on. In addition, during this period, I will work on bid for a research grant, I will get training in quantitative data analysis, and I will rethink the role of technology in (my) teaching. It’s very far from a rest, wouldn’t you agree?

And this is all T-66 days away, but who is counting?!

If you could take some time away from your daily routine, what would you work on? What skills would you develop?

Not even TED can compete with digital

Recently, I witnessed a really curious behaviour. It’s two modern trends in one: ‘I share therefore I am‘ meets ‘digital distraction’.

It happened at the TEDxTeen event, in London, on 11th October 2014. It was, by all accounts, a great event – inspirational stories, and great speakers and performances.


Some in the audience were, mostly, experiencing the event through their screens. They recorded key moments and promptly shared them with the world outside, via social media. A clear example of the ‘I share therefore I am’ phenomenon, described by Sherry Turkle here.

In turn, others were, occasionally, distracted by the world outside. Even the great speakers and the fantastic content in that room could not compete with the constant stimulation and validation of the digital world. Digital distraction is not new, of course – for instance, it has been documented in classrooms.

But these kids, here, managed to do both: the kid on the right is recording the moment (look at the top right hand corner), yet his attention is completely absorbed by what is happening on the screen of the kid next to him (look at the bottom left part of the picture).


There was so much going on in that stage and, yet, for these kids it was all about the screens.

I wonder what will happen when this generation gets to university.

When I was in college, the only thing I might share from a class was the handout, if the teacher provided one. And the only outside distractions were those happening immediately outside of the window. This generation, though, experiences the world, and acquires information, in a completely different way. If I am still in academia by the time they reach university, I will need to dramatically change how I communicate with them. Tips???

The writing group

It’s the ultimate irony: as an academic, you need to write to get promoted (or to even keep your job). Yet, doing the job leaves you no time for writing. So, you just agonise in silence, thinking that everybody else is managing this whole thing better than you.

An effective counter-measure to these feelings and the associated lack of productivity is, according to Wendy Laura Belcher, to ‘make writing social’ (see her book here – no affiliated link).

And so we did.

A small number of colleagues decided to get together and sit down for around two hours to simply do that. Just write. We did not check e-mails, answer the phone or even go to the toilet.

And… it was brilliant.

First, it felt great to have those two hours of peace and quiet, in between meetings and teaching. I tend to write at home with my noise cancelling headphones on. So, it was great to see that I could work in an environment that I traditionally associate with being super busy.

Second, hearing my colleagues type away was really… comforting! Yes, it was inspiring, and it was motivating. But I was expecting that. What was rather unexpected, and brilliant, was to feel part of this group – all with the same goal, all going through the same process, and no one adding to the other person’s workload.

Third, because I knew that we were meeting, I prepared for it. I thought about what I might be working on, and I made decisions about what to prioritise. Then, I blocked the time and, as a bonus, I even spent less time (30 minutes, as opposed to the usual 1 hour) at a meeting because I had this commitment.

writing group
I suspect that this type of arrangement would be relevant for other contexts, too. Maybe finding time to write a bid, to develop a business plan, to review progress… Not just the time, but also the mental space to engage with a task, deeply and creatively. Time and mental space to work on those activities that really matter in the long run, but that get squeezed out of your diary by the ‘busyness’ of everyday life. Loved it.

How do you create time in your busy life for the very important but not urgent creative tasks?

A marketing take on payment technologies

Last month, the Bank of England published a very interesting article about payment technologies and, in particular, the evolution of digital currencies like Bitcoin. You can access it here, and I warmly recommend that you read it: it’s an easy read, it provides a useful overview of the evolution of payment systems, and is a really great introduction to the principles and mechanics of digital currency. There is also an associated video here.

As I was reading this report, I couldn’t help visualising payment systems as a market where the various products on offer could be compared and contrasted along a number of dimensions. And, which, because of this, appealed to different customer segments. Just like sun lotion.

Sun lotion solves a problem: allowing us to be outdoors protected from harmful sun rays. There are various products on offer in this market, which may be classified along a number of dimensions such as the extent to which it blocks harmful sun rays. Buyers in this market opt for one product or the other depending on a number of factors such as the benefit sought (e.g., maximum protection vs. convenience) or attitudes (e.g., whether they like to stay in the sun or in the shade).

sun lotion

With regards to payment systems, the problem is the ability to acquire goods (e.g., medicines) and services (e.g., an appointment with a medical expert). Just like sun lotion, these systems can be classified along a number of dimensions. For instance:

  1. The medium of exchange
  2. The existence of intermediaries

Medium of exchange

At one end of the spectrum, the system may rely on the exchange of a physical token, such as cotton, salt, gold, coins or notes.

At the other end, no physical tokens are exchanged, only records – for instance, on paper (such as record of debits and credits on an account), or electronic.


Existence of intermediaries

On the one hand, users may carry the medium of exchange with them and make payments, directly – e.g., someone carrying gold coins in a purse, which they give to another person in exchange for a good.

Alternatively, they use an intermediary to make that payment – be it depositing money in a bank, which will be withdrawn by the other person, or paying with a debit or credit card.


If we juxtapose these two dimensions we get the following positioning map for the market of payment systems:


My interpretation of the Bank of England’s report is that digital and mobile technologies have impacted this market in two ways:

  • They created new types of intermediaries (top-left quadrant) which are in competition with banks to mediate payments
  • They opened a new strategic window by allowing users to exchange ‘electronic’ money directly (bottom left quadrant), without the need for a central intermediary.

Just like sun lotions, buyers in this market prefer some solutions to others; and some manufacturers will perform better than others along each of these dimensions. But, overall, I think that we are seeing a change in the market of ‘payment systems’ similar to that witnessed in the publishing industry or, more recently, manufacturing (because of 3D printing).

What do you think of this interpretation? Does it make sense to you? How can it be improved?