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?

So much drama!!

Not long after I started researching cyberbullying I came across the concept of ‘drama’ in a conference paper by Alice Marwick and danah boyd. Unfortunately, I can’t find much more on drama in scholarly literature. Nuts. I’m familiar with drama from my own teen and undergrad years (and even as an adult. Sigh.). But that was before social media really exploded. Drama seems so closely tied to cyberbullying to adults, but also something else altogether to teens.

Marwick and boyd (2011) describe drama as “the language that teens—most notably girls—use to describe a host of activities and practices ranging from gossip, flirting, arguing, and joking to more serious issues of jealousy, ostracization, and name-calling.” (p. 2).

In a recent report from Pew Teens, Social Media, and Privacy, drama was cited as one of the main reasons teens are less enthusiastic users of Facebook than they once were. Reading this report and a New York Times op-ed by boyd and Marwick (2011) interested me even more in how teens define ‘drama’ and ‘cyberbullying’. What terminology should be used as a researcher? I feel that I’m missing something important by not using the words that teens use to define their experiences.

Now I have some questions to think about:

  • How can I incorporate theory into cyberbullying research? There is a definite lack of it in cyberbullying literature.
  • How can public  librarians empower teens through digital citizenship and encourage empathy in teens? We don’t have access to teens the same way that school media specialist, teachers, administrators, or parents do.
  • How much of cyberbullying is really anonymous? the perceived  anonymity/non-anonymity of cyberbullying is fascinating to me. On one hand, most of the cyberbullying takes place within a social circle. These teens know one another. On the other hand, its hard to know how far the bullying or drama has spread. How many people? How far outside that circle?

What to Read:

~Obviously I’m really into danah boyd’s work at the moment.~

boyd, d., & Marwick, A. (2011, September 22). Bullying as true drama. New York Times, pp. A35. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/23/opinion/why-cyberbullying-rhetoric-misses-the-mark.html/?_r=0.

Marwick, A., & boyd, d. (2011). The drama! Teen conflict, gossip, and bullying in networked places. Presented at A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society. Retrieved from http://ssrn.com/abstract=1926349.

I'm starting my lit review. Old school.

I’m starting my lit review. Old school.

Some research ramblings…

A few things I’ve been I’m about as I work through all these readings for the lit review. These may seem a bit random:

  • Several of the articles I’ve read point out the bully/victim phenomenon that is a part of cyberbullying, but so unlike traditional bullying. Bully/victims are those individuals who have both experienced being bullied and being a bully. If my current interest to develop resources public librarians can use to support victims of cyberbullying, it seems that librarians would need resources for bully/victims. Cyberbullying seems like such a give and take, very reciprocal, while traditional bullying has (for the most part) a clear victim and a clear bully. But this bully/victim concept is part of the nature of social networking sites. Anonymity gives even the shyest, most non-violent users an open field in which to express themselves (for good or bad). On social networking sites it’s all too easy to strike out at someone who you feel has struck you first.
  • After reading the recently released Pew Research Center’s report, “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy” I find it curious that while teens commented on all the drama and parental inference occurring on Facebook, they are not abandoning the site. It seems like a site that teens feel required to use even though they have so many issues with it. Obviously, they are reaching out to other social networking sites to satisfy whatever need they have that Facebook is not fulfilling (creative, emotional, ?).
  • I recently read a paper by Marwick and boyd (2011) The Drama! Teen Conflict, Gossip, and Bullying, which has made me very curious about drama and how it relates to cyberbullying. The author described teens identifying certain behaviors as drama. Behaviors that adults would quickly label as bullying. Drama seems so ambiguous a label. Like cyberbullying, it seem hard to find a definition that will suit everyone. I look forward to read more about drama in general and how it relates to cyberbullying.

Any suggestions would be most appreciated! (Not that anyone is following this blog at the moment but there’s hope for the future!)

This is the beginning….

In an effort to create more of a online presence for myself, I have started this blog. I’ve never thought much about “branding” myself, but it is seems necessary to make yourself as marketable as possible. At the moment I am doing quite a bit of reading for my research collaboration with Dr. Marcia Mardis. Cyberbullying is a research area which needs more attention from the library and information studies world. One interesting aspect of cyberbullying and traditional bullying is the lack of agreed upon definition for both. It seems a bit like the unsolvable definition of ‘information’ within the LIS profession. It is my intention that my research in this area will be of use to school media specialist and public librarians serving young adults, particularly those who are victims of cyberbullying. I am aiming for producing research that is relevant to both the academic and professional librarian worlds.