Reciprocity ... certainly a concept that comes up frequently in discussions of networks. It came up again in a recent article by Huberman, Romero, and Wu (2008) regarding Twitter in which the authors' found that 90 percent of a users' friends reciprocate attention by being friends of the user which they suggest plays a role in defining the hidden networks within Twitter. Interestingly, they also found that that pattern of reciprocity is consistent regardless of the number of friends. So, what does that degree of reciprocity mean with regard to the hidden network? Does it signal a hidden network of strong-tie network relationships or point to the existence of a slew of weak-tie bridges? Probably a good bit of both. Maybe the answer to that is in the number of direct messages and @replies between those with reciprocal relationships. Looking at my own Twitter account, I don't know a good number of the 600 or so followers, but I generally follow them back if their profiles suggest a common interest. Maybe that would make a good sub-questions to ask during an interview ... What prompts you to follow those who follow you? Describe the relationship you perceive with those who follow you and who you follow back.
TechCrunch had an interesting article from a few weeks back about why teens don't (or do) tweet. As usual, it is important to try to find the story behind the numbers. The "story" (as summarized by TechCrunch) tells us that some studies suggest only 11% of Twitter users are teen which seems like a tiny number given how much we hear about the Internet usage of "digital natives" vs "digital immigrants" (barf). However, 11% is higher than the 9% of Facebook users who are teens and as everyone knows ... teens love Facebook :) Also, as a percentage of their age group, teens do tweet more than other age groups.
I'm trying to get my head around "case study research". While I have read countless case studies, I tend not to put them in the category of research. Too often they read like "what I did last summer" reports where (again) I question the value to anyone but the souls associated directly with the situation at hand. However, I'll plow forward knowing this is all about giving it the old college try this semester :)
So, the readings describe cases as bounded systems and apparently some view case study research less about a methodology as the subject of the study ... however, for the purpose of class we are considering a case study the subject, method, and means to report ... clear as mud. Right away the issue of coming up with representative case(s) comes up. I can get my head around a "unique" situation case better than I can a representative case. Again, the generalizability bug keeps biting, but I must learn not to scratch that itch (for now).
I've had just enough exposure to "research" to be dangerous. I have read a ba-zillion journal articles and have taken all of the required research courses in the program ... with the exception of this last one involving qualitative research. At the outset of this class, I have read several introductory chapters in the required textbook and reviewed my proposed qualitative research topic with my professor. However, at this very early stage in the semester, I am struggling with what is gained by qualitative research? For the setting being examined, probably (potentially) a lot. However, what about for everyone else? In my study (a case study, I guess), I am planning to observe, interview, and analyze the profiles of a sub-set of Twitter users (those 1,000 or so folks followed by user "edtechtalk"). While I think it will be very interesting to see what is going on within that loosely clustered network of Twitteristas who care a lot about education and technology, I wonder the boundaries of what will be gained by the analysis. I keep thinking, "... but what if I turn my head slightly and analyze a different sub-set of Twitter users?" Clearly, I'm hitting on the "generalizability" issue which for me right now is a pragmatic issue. What is the relevance if what you are looking at only is relevant to what you are looking at? Interesting to see how my perceptions will (or won't) change over the course of this process ...
As an early adopter of Twitter, I was also early to depart ... as least as a frequent user. While I check in a few times a week to lurk within my "hidden network" (more on that in future posts), I now only make the occasional tweet ... usually when I am out and about at some event of interest (to me). However, I have always had the itch to look into Twitter, specifically the nature of the communication within a sub-network, such as the loosely joined cluster of folks interested in edtech matters. I now have the opportunity this semester in a Qualitative Research course to do just that. Therefore, I will be dusting off my trusty blog to post my reflections on the process here ... largely due to a journaling requirement in the course, but also to openly (not a requirement) share the research processes I will be undertaking.
Summer classes are over and my summer "to-do" list includes completing revisions to two conference papers which were accepted for the fall 2009 AECT conference. Both are currently in the gobbled (not saying what I want them to say) stage, but I am hopeful that will change as I devote the needed attention to both ... attached are both drafts ...
As part of summer housekeeping, I updated Drupal and the modules / themes I have installed. I also did a quick search of the latest and greatest WYSIWYG editors for Drupal. Here is a nice roundup, but most still suggest pointing folks to browser text-box editor plug-ins to get the job done, such as Write Area or Xinha. I tried using Write Area to make this post, but it looked awful when done. [Update: sorry ... user error ... Write Area actually worked quite well when I submitted the post.]
The purpose of this concurrent mixed methods study is to examine the effect of competing parallel synchronous computer-mediated communication on learners' perceptions of social presence.
For the geeks out there ... I was playing around on Google and found both a Kindle and Adobe ebook option of the required text for an upcoming class. I don't have a Kindle, so I downloaded the Adobe edition of the book. No warranties from me on this as it is my first time experimenting with this e-book format, but here is a play by play of my initial experience.
... summary of my post buried in BB ...
Here is a bit of "cut and paste" from a post I made on this topic in a class. I think it would be a fun to run a survey of how students store and read digital material in our courses. Some time ago, I decided I would never again print out my digital material. I travel a fair amount and it became impossible to lug around my hard copy binders ... So, I went "big" and made a commitment to all digital / all the time ... here is how I am attempting to manage my digital data:
... summary of my post buried in BB ...
I have been thinking about "the participatory web" for a long time and my quick advice is proceed with common sense and transparency, but for goodness sake PROCEED! If I stumble on a new blog, wiki, or most any other site for that matter, I usually head to the "about page". If a site doesn't have one, I usually move right along ... no openness, no transparency ... not worth my time. If it does have one, I read it and make a personal evaluation of the level of expertise of the author ... here is where common sense comes in to play to assess credibility. It is important to consider that even non-experts can offer incredible perspective on a topic ... maybe a unique reflection ... a point to further reading.
More BB cut & paste ...
So are you considering as part of your research (and maybe I missed this point in your posting) whether the instructor uses the back channel as a way to modify the instructional methods/mannerisms to address issues found in the back channel?
One of my original research questions was whether the instructor could / should use the backchannel to modify his / her presentation? The term backchannel is used in the communication field to refer to what is termed acknowledgment or response tokens ... they are the "ums", "aahs", "ohs" ... that listeners utter when listening to a speaker. It has been found that, based on these common backchannel utterances and other non-verbal behaviors, the listener greatly impacts how a conversation progresses. I wonder if, as you note, the parallel text chat can offer a response token of sorts to the instructor which ultimately changes the tone / flow / content of the presentation.
The following is my response (plucked out of context) from a locked-down conversation in Blackboard ... placed here to serve as my rough notes when the powers that be delete my reflections in BB:
I have been intrigued with the parallel communication going on in the
text chat since I took my first distance ed class many years ago and from my experiences on EdTechTalk. My
perception as a student is that the backchannel is more than a virtual note passing
that is rarely facilitated (or even consistently observed) by the lecturer, but can take on a life of its own. As a student, I have
felt it offers both good and bad ... sometimes the conversation digresses to
off-topic personal chatter, but many times it is a sort of life-line
for the distance learner, "When did she say the assignment is due?" ...
"I lost your audio and can't hear you?" ... also, there is a lot of
informal banter among students that develops as the semester goes on
... "How did your presentation go at work last week?"
I have a
million angles I would love to study on this from simply an analysis of
what is being said (humor, social construction of knowledge, questions,
support / help), who is talking (all / some / just a few) of the
students, do all / some / few like the ability to use the text chat,
should the instructor attempt to merge the conversation into the main
channel, what about private chats between students that the teacher
can't see, what about private chats between teacher / student that
others can't see?
I swear to God, I will be royally pissed if I get scooped on this proposal, but here is the first seed of what I have been kicking around ... this is the first time I have felt nervous for sharing an idea for fear I will be scooped. Maybe my good buddy Dave C will start the Backchannel Project :)