About Me

I lectured on contemporary developments in media and communications with an emphasis on the social understanding and analysis of digital media; social media platforms and the public sphere; the politics and philosophy of digital media; and media and communications research methodologies in London.

I previously lectured on public relations, persuasion and propaganda, political campaign strategies, and communication and global change to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Leeds and Sheffield Hallam.

As well as  PhD in Communications Studies (Leeds) I have a B.A. (Hons.) in Philosophy and Sociology from The Queen’s University of Belfast, an M.A. in Philosophy and Social Theory from the University of Warwick and a Master of Research in Social Research from the University of Aberdeen. My research explores the socio-political dimensions of the Internet and other technologies, using Social Network Analysis, Semantic Network Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis. I was awarded a Research Student Scholarship in 2008 to 2012.   I was commissioned in 2009 by the Home Office to conduct a literature review for the report on the Sexualisation of Young People with Dr Linda Papadopoulos.

Previous Roles

Steven joined Leeds Institute of Health Sciences in 2012 (until March 2013) as a research assistant within the Academic Unit of Primary Care. Previously he held two posts at the University of Leeds – Teaching Assistant on a number of modules within the Institute of Communications Studies and Research Assistant on the ‘Leeds Media Ecology Project’ and on the ‘Socialisation of the Sexually Explicit Imagery: Challenges to Regulation and on the Research, Porn Cultures and Policy Network‘. He was also an Independent Research Assistant on The Sexualisation of Young People, commissioned by the Violent Crimes Unit within the UK Home Office. Previous to this Steven lectured on Sociology, Research Methods and Methodology in colleges in Singapore before returning to the UK to begin his MRes at Aberdeen.

Current Research Interests

Steven’s research focuses on a mixed methods approach to studying contemporary society, politics and policies with a number of different streams running concurrently. He combines sociology, communication theory, political theory, social network analysis, semantic network analysis, visualisations, network ethnography and linguistic analysis of large data sets.

Current and Recent Research

  • The role of informal networks in spreading knowledge between healthcare managers, Ward, V., Keen, J., Pawson, R., West, R., House, A. NIHR Service Delivery & Organisation Programme (SDO). 2010-2012; £298,917.
  • Webometrics mapping consultant and co-author with Blumler, J., Coleman, S., Stamper, J., Thumim, N., and Moss, G., researching the Leeds Media Ecology. 2011 – 2012.
  • Independent Research Assistant on ‘The Sexualisation of Young People’, commissioned by the Violent Crimes Unit within the UK Home Office with Dr Linda Papadopoulos. 2009 – 2010.
  • The ‘Socialisation of the Sexually Explicit Imagery: Challenges to Regulation and Research, Porn Cultures and Policy Network’ with Sarikakis, K., and Tsaliki, L.,. 2009 – 2010.

PhD Supervision

I am interested in the social network analysis of large scale communications technologies and data mining from an ethnographic perspective.

Doctoral Thesis: Countering the Social Ignorance of ‘Social’ Network Analysis and Data Mining: with the Singapore Blogosphere as a Case Study

This thesis questions on one level the assertion that the Internet is a force for democratisation in authoritarian regimes (Habermas, 2006), and at the same time another means for disseminating propaganda, fear and intimidation (Rodan, 1998). It overcomes the limitations of using automated data collection and analysis of blogs by supplementing these techniques with a prolonged period of participant observation and a detailed reading of the textual extracts in order to allow for meaning to emerge. It analyses the discourses and styles of discourse of the Singapore political blogosphere. The same blogosphere was described by Hurst (2006) and Lin and Sundaram et al., (2007) as isolated from the global blogosphere and clearly demarcated with no central topic. Countering the social ignorance of such automated data collection and analysis techniques this study assigns meaning to data gathered from January 2009 to February 2010. This case study will help highlight the analytic framework, benefits and limitations of using social network analysis and an anthropological approach to networks.  It has targeted blogs using hyperlink network analysis and measured ‘importance’ with ‘betweenness centrality’ (de Nooy & Mrvar et al., 2005) in order to demarcate the boundaries of the sample of blogs that are archived for semantic and discourse analysis. Beyond a brief introduction to betweenness centrality, it does not engage in the merits or otherwise, of combining various ranking of blogs such as Google’s PageRank, Hits and Blogrank algorithms. Thereby, avoiding the algorithm fetishism within hyperlink data collection and linguistic analysis of corpus collected from blogs; allowing for culture, identity and agency. It assesses which of White’s (2009) three disciplines and relative valuation orders the Singapore blogosphere adheres to. The contention raised here is that social network analysis, or rather those elements within it that are fixated on algorithms, are in danger of co-option by states and multinational corporations (Wolfe, 2010: 3) unless they acknowledge sociocultural forces. The tools of social network analysis and data mining can be moved beyond mere description, while avoiding prescription – and at the same time advancing its contribution to “substantive theoretical questions” (Scott, 2010). Ensuring space for agency in a field dominated by sociograms, statistics and algorithms. Theory that places persons lacking recognition at its centre can enable a people’s recognition. Focusing only on the relational aspects of the interaction and in the individual persons linked (Wolfe, 2010: 3) creates a limited representation of the wider phenomena under study and a narrow awareness of the context in which these networks exist. A people governed by one political party since 1963 (The People’s Action Party) with the government of Singapore is the focus of this case study. This paper also highlights the use of various software technology; blogs, IssueCrawler, HTTrack, NetDraw, and Leximancer while using an ethnographic approach to counter the social ignorance of automated electronic software.  The analysis of the Singaporean blogosphere from 2009 to 2010 provides a descriptive analysis of the argument that the non-democratic nature of Singapore society shapes the development of online public spheres.


On the BA (Hons) Public Relations and Media ‘Persuasion, Promotion and Propaganda’ – Sheffield Hallam University

Masters module -‘Communications & Global Change’  COMM5210M @COMM5210M

Masters module – ‘Political Campaigns & PR’ COMM5620M @COMM5620M

Teaching Assistant

‘Power, Politics and the Media’ COMM1950 with Dr Robin Brown

‘Communications Research Methods’ COMM2910 with Dr Nancy Numim

‘Communication and Public Opinion’ COMM5630M with Dr Katrin Voltmer

‘Communication Arts’ COMM2120 with ICS with Dr Bethany Klein

‘Communications Sciences & Technologies’ COMM2140 with Dr Stephen Lax

Consultant/Research Assistant

Independent Research Assistant on The Sexualisation of Young People, commissioned by the Violent Crimes Unit within the UK Home Office with Dr Linda Papadopulus.

Research Assistant on the Socialisation of the Global Sexually Explicit Imagery: Challenges to Policy and Research Project. 2009 – 2010


(2014) Ward V, West R, Smith S, McDermott S, Keen J, Pawson R, et al. The role of informal networks in creating knowledge among health-care managers: a prospective case studyHealth Serv Deliv Res 2014;2(12)

(2010) “White’s Three Disciplines and Relative Valuation Order: Countering the Social Ignorance of Automated Data Collection and Analysis,” asonam, pp.72-79, 2010 International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining, 2010

(2008) Arbitrarily Combining the Social Network Approach with the Ethnographic Approach, Paper presented at the Communication Networks on the Web Conference, Dec 2008, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, sponsored by the European Science Foundation.

(2008) A Hyperlink Analysis of the UK Porn Industry’, Paper presented at the Globalisation, Media and Adult/Sexual Content: Challenges to Regulation and Research Conference, Athens, 2008.

(2008) ‘The Singapore Blogosphere: What form of Habermasian Public Sphere?, Paper presented as thePolitics: Web 2.0: An International Conference, April 2008, Royal Holloway, University of London, April 17-18, 2008.

(2007) ‘Singapore Blogosphere and Political Participation: An Ethnographic Approach’, Conference Proceedings of ICS PhD Conference “Communication Technologies of Empowerment”, Institute of Communications Studies, May 2007, Leeds, UK. .


Price, S., (2009) Discourse Power Address: The Politics of Public Communication. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing for Sociology 43(6), Sage Publications.

Julio Faundez, (editor) (2007) ‘On the State of Democracy’, Routledge, for the International Journal for Radical Mass Media Criticism.


E-mail: stevenmcdermott@gmail.com