Two plus years ago I started with the idea that I would like to do my PhD in Social Media. It was a vague idea and resulted in a vague title “Emerging patterns in social media.”
The best that could be said about this was, “It was a start.” But not a particularly helpful one. One of the areas I really battled with was how to make sense of the data that I would be collected. And after many sessions … I finally decided that activity theory could provide the lens. I could not have been more wrong. Activity theory is an education focused lens and not what I needed at all.
The title became more complex but no clearer. “Emerging patterns in social media: A case study on mmmmm.com.” The advantage of this title was that it presented a context. The context was the online publication mmmmm.com. This round was heavily influenced by the work of Paul du Gay and the production of identity (Organising Identity, 2007) and the circuit of culture, as presented in the Story of the Sony Walkman (Paul du Gay et al, 1997).
And further readings and ponderings this title morphed into “Content creation in online media: mmmmm.com – a case study of neo journalism.” A change motivated by the shift away from general emerging patterns to a focus on ‘content creation’ or ‘news production’ in the traditional print world. However the idea of a case study, together with a content analysis, discourse analysis and interviews, was quite rightly dismissed as most likely to produce “a description which would not add to the body of knowledge.”
Further readings were required and, as is often the case, confused matters. The honeycomb model of Kietzmann et al (2012, 2011) presented seven functional blocks of social media as the investigative lens to look at social media. I failed to notice that I was not investigating social media, but investigating content creation. So once again the title was adapted to “Individualisation of content creation in a networked society: A case study of neo journalism at mmmmm.com.” And in addition to the other methods mentioned above the term ‘analytics’ was introduced into the methodology. The title was edited into “Content creation in network society.”
The saddest thing about lacking knowledge is that one has no idea of one’s ignorance. Despair and despondency began to take hold. Further readings, further thinking and a not so gentle nudge into looking to social network analysis as a method of investigation for this research led to a revised title “A social network analysis of mmmmm.com.” Further readings and the title shifted again “Online media ideology: Representational or Performative?” In essence I was back to the beginning looking at the construction of identity. However I was not to remain here long.
More reading … and now I am finally where I think I should be “Journalist or netwoker?” An analytic approach to online publishing.” It might take a while to decide to remain here, but finally I feel more positive.
As Homer said in Iliad “Even a fool learns something once it hits him.”
Extract from Fourteen August: A journey of 500 days