Advanced Training Workshop: Platforms Entanglements

Platform Entanglements: Using Social Media Data, Design and Features in Social Research

In collaboration with Dr Stevie Docherty (The University of Glasgow)

This workshop was designed as part of the Advanced Training Programme of  the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science.


Digital social media platforms have become increasingly entangled with social research, in a multitude of ways. This has raised important questions in relation to how such platforms, together with the data that are generated by and through them, are affecting social research. At the same time, researchers also face specific practical and ethical challenges in dealing with social media platforms, arising both from the specificities of the platforms themselves and the rapidly evolving complexities of the broader media landscape.

This workshop drew on data from two doctoral research projects and from the practical and ethical challenges sparked by entanglements with social media platforms as data sources and tools for generating data. We explored key issues around temporality and technicalities, as well as questioned the ‘interference’ of features designed by third-party platforms to encourage connections or notions of community while capturing and mining large volumes of user data. Participants were invited to engage in practical discussions and activities around ethics, data collection and handling to help draw out the (often hidden) implications of research involving the use of social media.

This workshop was facilitated by Dr Justine Gangneux and Dr Stevie Docherty, who have both recently completed their PhDs at the University of Glasgow. Justine’s research involved making innovative use of Facebook user activity logs and search histories to examine young people’s everyday engagements with social network sites, and in particular how profile checking practices, were informed by the platform’s design and corporate interests. Stevie used Facebook community pages, Twitter and Tumblr to examine the media ecology in which the 2011 English riots took place and how this had persisted over time.


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