I Have a Little Theory About That.

Earlier this month, I received the go ahead to start writing my literature review. Hooray! It’s been fun taking all the research about cyberbullying I’ve been accumulating in my head and putting it on paper where it can do some work. I have my outline for the review all neatly organized, but I’m still lacking something. That something is my theory. Very little theory has been used in the cyberbullying literature. This will be my first “real” (non-assignment related) attempt at applying theory to my own research. It’s both mildly terrifying and thrilling.

I’ve run into a roadblock with my first stab at theorizing cyberbullying. I worked with Elfreda Chatman’s theory of information poverty, trying to see how it could be used in cyberbullying. After a meeting with a faculty member who knows far more about information poverty and Chatman than I could ever hope, it seems the theory doesn’t fit as well as I hoped it would. Now I’m scouring my trusty copy of Theories of Information Behavior and other literature to find a theory that could be useful to cyberbullying research. Although I had a doctoral seminar in theory last spring, theory continues to intimidates me (to a lesser degree than before but still). Whenever I hear people discussing theory, I have this vague feeling that I’m too slow to keep up. Smiling and nodding sometimes suffices as a response. Maybe more people are intimidated by theory. They’re just better at putting on a cool front than I am. I’m confident that I’ll get through this and find the right theory (or right-ish?). Being a beginning researcher, I’m a mixture of conflicting feelings – inadequacy, fear, confusion, and excitement. Or maybe you always experience these feeling as a researcher? Maybe the intensity just changes.

Anyone have words of wisdom for a novice theorist? What experiences have you had at applying theory to research? Triumphs or horror stories to share? How useful do you see theory in research?

Theory can be funny?

Theory can be funny?

How Social Media Responds…..

I found out about the Zimmerman trial verdict through Twitter. I’ve learned a good chunk of my news from social media recently. There was an explosion of emotional tweets last night after the announcement of the not guilty verdict. The majority of the tweets were of outrage, expressing intense disappointment with the verdict. I don’t really want to comment on the trial (that’s been done quite a bit already). Personally, I’ve always been reluctant to post my political/religious/emotional thoughts on social media. What I am fascinated by is the way people have taken to social media to express so many intense emotions like anger, happiness, or sadness. Recently, tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing, the Newtown shooting, and the disaster of Hurricane Sandy have inspired tweets and Facebook posts that have raised money, served as first-hand accounts, pushed forward legislation, and offered comfort to survivors. Yet, with the Zimmerman trial the response is very angry and sometimes hostile. Two popular hashtags about the trial demonstrates the strength of these responses: #justicefortrayvon and #ifieverseezimmerman.

The outrage or joy people feel and express after highly publicized trials is nothing new.Recall the trials of O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson. However, what is new is the speed of the news, the quickness that emotional responses can be shared, and the collective passion that social media seems to propel. How much of this is the citizen journalism described by Bruns (2007)? Looking at the Zimmerman trial, Twitter and Facebook users are serving as commenters, recalling (for me) the op-ed sections of newspapers. As Bruns notes, citizen journalism “better resembles a conversation rather than a lecture.” (p. 2). This is particularly true in cases like the Zimmerman Trial. Major news organization have less control over how information is shared and interpreted, less ability to lecture. Social media users are sometimes play the journalist role first hand, One example is the minute by minute social updates during the Boston Marathon bombing. Users of social media have the technology capabilities to report events and experiences in an intensely powerful, emotional, and moving manner. These reports are not always accurate, but for the most part they are heartfelt. I’m not sure how traditional media can compete with the honesty and purity of the social media response.

Some readings of interest:

Bruns, A. (2007). Prousage: Towards a broader framework for user-led content creation. In Proceedings of the 6th ACM SIGCHI conference on Creativity & cognition, 99-106.

Social Media Played Critical Role in Boston Marathon Response

Twitter Reactions to Zimmerman Run Hot and Cold

Zimmerman Not Guilt VerdictFuels #JusticeforTrayvon on Twitter


*originally posted in my blog for EME 6414 Web 2.0 Learning

An Overworked Woman? *

Recently, as I’ve been dating more, I received the following comments from men: “You work way too much. Enjoy Life!”, “Wow. I really need to get you out of the house more.”, “You spend a lot of time doing schoolwork.”. I know women working outside of academia hear something similar to this, but I’ve really started noticing it since I began the doctoral program. It’s frustrating because I’m relatively certain that men aren’t getting these types of critiques from other men or women. Why do some men feel they can criticize someone they barely know (on a date no less)? The real questions these men should be asking a woman putting in long(ish) hours is “do you enjoy it?” and “what are you getting out of it?”.

I think there is a difference in working a lot and being overworked. I work quite a but, but I knew I would be. My expectations of the doctoral program when I applied have been pretty close to reality. I don’t feel “overworked”. Well… maybe I do towards the end of the semester when everything is due and public speaking is involved. Yet, I love what I’m doing. It doesn’t always even feel like work. I’m willing to put in the time and effort because my work is meaningful to me. I am enjoying life!

I’m not sure that it is sexism prompting these types of comments from some men. Maybe they aren’t happy in their own jobs and have trouble understanding why anyone would want to work a lot. Maybe it is the difference in education. As a woman, once you reach a certain level of education you realize that dating men with less education is a strong possibility. It can be difficult for some men to accept this difference. I may be encouraging these comments myself. I can a bit blunt sometimes. But I believe I need to be honest to friends, family, and dates about how much of my life the doc program takes up.

Thank you for listening to my blatherings. It’s something I’ve been thinking about and writing always helps me put things into perspective. And I just really love blogging!

* I’m really not generalizing to all men or trying to offend. I know there are plenty of men who wouldn’t think of saying this kind of stuff. My dad and other doc students chief among them! : )

The Educated Woman in book form!

The Educated Woman in book form!

The Information Researcher and The Librarian

While I was at ALA earlier this week, these questions appeared in my mind frequently whenever I tried to explain my research to librarians: How useful do practitioners see the work of information researchers? What impact do they perceive scholarly research as having on everyday librarianship? Are information researchers even thought of as librarians struggle with budget cuts, library closures, and other demands on their resources and time? I’m a relatively new academic, and I come from a public library background. I find myself trying to answer these questions drawing from my experiences on both sides: academia and library.

I hear myself saying this often (at least inside my head) that there isn’t enough scholarly research into public libraries. When I started the doctoral program I wanted to have more of a focus on public libraries, but I ran into a wall when trying to find literature I could work with. Mainly what I’ve found have been manuals, how-to guides, and marketing articles on library services, assessment, and design. I’m not entirely sure why this is so. From what I’ve heard (or made up/misheard/misunderstood), it’s difficult to find funding for research that isn’t focused on information systems, information management, knowledge management, and the like. The STEM fields seem to be getting the bulk of the research funding. More quantitative, less qualitative. I have leanings towards qualitative research so…..An example, I’m fascinated by library history research, but I wonder how difficult it would be to find a faculty position as a library historian and how worthwhile would others see my work. Is this why public library research is so difficult to find? Because funding and few potential faculty jobs discourage LIS researchers?

But would librarians see the value of research with the public library as the focus? Would professional librarians, who have been educated in LIS literature, relate what they are doing in their libraries to data-driven library research? To be honest, when I worked as a public librarian the concept of “scholarly literature” on information theory, information behavior, information access, and librarianship rarely crossed mind. Yet, if public libraries want to be taken seriously and seen as more than just book loaners by the public, libraries should engage in more research partnerships with iSchool or L-Schools. Am I on the right track here, completely clueless, or overly idealistic?

Random picture of Chicago

Random picture of Chicago. Because why not.