Research Methods for Social Media -seminar organized by the VISCI research project together with the SOMUS research group took place on the 31st of August in the Aalto University campus in Otaniemi, Espoo. The seminar consisted of three keynote speeches, a discussion session and five parallel afternoon workshops.
Lisbeth Klastrup, an associate professor at the IT University of Copenhagen: ”Users are Useless – Some Reflections by a Social Media Researcher”
Lisbeth Klastrup hightlighted the need to acknowledge the scope of online audiences and avoid the bias towards active users in social media research. The non-interactive, more passive users seem to form the majority of online audiences but social media research doesn't yet really address this user group. There is also a need for a more nuanced vocabulary of user behaviours. ”Following” in social media is as important user activity as contributing is and one needs to note that not all user activity is public (e.g. exchanging private messages in Facebook's Inbox). In addition, social media can not be studied in isolation of its context and without considering the synergy it has with traditional media.
Jaakko Suominen, a professor of digital culture at the University of Turku: ”How do you do, Social Media? On triangulation matrixes and everyday research practices”
Jaakko Suominen brought up the need for triangulation of several different research methods in order to grasp the new research area since no special research methods yet exist for social media. He also presented three different roles of social media for research: 1) social media as the subject of the study 2) social media as a resource for data and material for the study3) social media as a tool for the researchers.
Minna Isomursu, a research professor at VTT: ”Social Media in User Research: Immersion, Privacy and Contribution”
Minna Isomursu presented example cases on how she has used social media in her research and her presentation brought up discussion especially on the ethics of social media research which seems to be lacking guidelines. Her research that included the study subjects rating their Facebook friends' status updates raised the question of informed consent: study participants had given their consent for the research but not their Facebook friends whose status updates were evaluated. Another interesting question was about the changing role of the study subjects when they become co-creaters and co-researchers: should their input be acknowledged for example in publications?