McDermott, Steven Eunan (2013) Countering the social ignorance of ‘social’ network analysis and data mining with ethnography – a case study of the Singapore blogosphere. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.
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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. Hurst (2006) and Lin and Sundaram et al., (2007) described the same blogosphere 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, and the merits or otherwise, of combining various ranking of blogs such as Google’s PageRank, Hits and Blogrank algorithms it avoids 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. The contention raised here is that social network analysis, or rather those elements within it that are focused exclusively 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 are 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 with theory that places persons lacking recognition at its centre is important to this thesis. 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.
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications (Leeds) > Institute of Communication Studies (Leeds)
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2014 12:15
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2014 12:16
The role of informal networks in creating knowledge among health-care managers: a prospective case study [full paper pdf]
Authors: Ward V, West R, Smith S, McDermott S, Keen J, Pawson R, House A.
Journal: Health Services and Delivery Research Volume: 2 Issue: 12
Publication date: May 2014
The role of informal networks in creating knowledge among health-care managers: a prospective case study. Health Serv Deliv Res 2014;2(12)
Health and well-being services, in common with many public services, cannot be delivered by a single organisation and require co-ordination across several organisations in a locality. There is some evidence, mostly from other sectors, that middle managers play pivotal roles in this co-ordination by developing networks of relationships with colleagues in other organisations. These networks of relationships, established over time, provide contexts in which managers can, collectively, create the knowledge needed to address the challenges they encounter. Relatively little is known, however, about how these knowledge-creation processes work in a health-care context.
This study focuses on how health and well-being managers collectively create knowledge. Our objectives were to develop a better understanding of the way that knowledge is created within and between health-care organisations, across different managerial levels, and of the role played by informal networks in those processes.
The study was undertaken in health and well-being services in three sites in northern England, employing a case study design. The field methods used were landscape mapping, structured data collection for network analysis and latent position cluster analysis, and semi-structured interviews for narrative analysis. Our network modelling approach used the concepts of latent position network models and latent position cluster models. We used these models to identify clusters of people within networks, and people who acted as bridgers between clusters. We then interviewed middle managers who – on the evidence of our cluster models – occupied similar positions in our graphs. The latter were used to produce practice-based narratives of knowledge creation.
Our narrative results showed that middle managers were synthesisers, in three different senses. First, they draw on different types of information, from a range of sources – quantitative routine data about populations and services, reports on progress against contractual targets, research evidence, and intelligence from colleagues in other localities. Second, they are able to link national policies and local priorities, and reconcile them with local operational realities. They are not always successful, but can integrate the different approaches and working practices of NHS, local authority, private and voluntary organisations. Third, they are able to link ideas, negotiation and action. We found that the network results were most usefully represented as clusters, explaining relationships between actors. Actors within clusters had common attributes, and as a result we were able to interpret the broad purpose of each of the clusters in the graphs for each site. The most useful number of clusters was three or four for both network types, and for both sampling periods, at each of the three sites. The clusters at all three sites had a mix of organisations represented within them. There was a mix of seniorities of managers in all clusters. Relationships were simultaneously formal and informal: formal contracts were managed in a context of ongoing conversations and negotiations. Relationships were simultaneously stable and fluid, with stable ‘cores’ of managers but memberships that varied substantially between two periods of data collection.
Our theory about knowledge creation was broadly supported. Managers of health and well-being services develop and maintain knowledge collectively. Their collective efforts are typically manifested either in projects requiring multiorganisational inputs or in taking ideas from genesis to the delivery of a new service. The cluster modelling suggests that networks of managers are able to maintain relationships, and hence conserve technical and prudential knowledge, over months and years. Priorities for future work include establishing the value of latent cluster modelling in understanding the work of groups and teams in other health and social care settings, and studying knowledge creation in the context of the interorganisational co-ordination of services.
The National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research programme.
2010 International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining
Proceedings Paper Publication on IEEE Computer Society
August 09-August 11
This paper asks which of White’s (2009) three disciplines and relative valuation orders does the Singapore blogosphere adhere to. Analysing not just the hyperlink connections but the textual discourse; and in doing so attempts to highlight certain limitations of using automated data mining and analysis software. Using the Singapore blogosphere, described by Lin, Sundaram, Chi, Tatemura, and Tseng, (2006) and Hurst (2006), as an isolated and distinct network with no theme or focus, I have targeted blogs using social network analysis uncovering the key players, with higher levels of ‘betweenness centrality’ (de Nooy & Mrvar et al., 2005) and the themes and discipline of the Singapore blogosphere. This case study will help highlight the analytic framework, benefits and limitations of using social network analysis and an ethnographical approach to networks. 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.
social network analysis, semantic network analysis, social ignorance, data mining, disciplines
Steven McDermott, “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
Arbitrarily Combining the Social Network Approach with the Ethnographic Approach
Simply combining the ethnographic approach to the structural approach of network analysis is said to be fraught with, at the same time, dangers and potentiality (Knox et al., 2006). Using hyper link analysis and textual data gathered during a situation on the Singapore blogosphere as a case study I ask, can a combination of the two create a ‘better’ picture or will it result in the metaphor being mistaken for the ‘real’ social structure? Lin et al. (2006) using the structural social network analysis approach have defined the Singapore blogosphere as a “community with no obvious central topic”, and stated that it was a rather closed network, or rather closed off from the wider global network of bloggers. The ethnographic approach tends to take a very different position arguing that “It is rarely that we find a community that is absolutely isolated, having no outside contact. At the present moment of history, the network of social relations spreads over the whole world, without any absolute solution of continuity anywhere (Radcliffe-Brown, 1940:224).” This paper addresses the inadequacies of using hyper link analysis or the ethnographic approach alone when uncovering online networks. Arbitrarily combining the two approaches will highlight the theoretical problems, benefits and limitations. Using a situation in 2006 I extracted a corpus of 29 blog posts. Using the social network approach I ask which blogs are the keyplayers? Using the ethnographic approach I ask what discourses and styles of discourse appear in the Singapore blogosphere?
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Arbitrarily Combining the Social Network Approach with the Ethnographic Approach
A HyperLink Network Analysis of the UK Mobile Porn Industry
The Internet is optimistically regarded as a force for democracy and at the same time another mechanism by which the poor and weak become further disempowered (Calhoun, 1998). Computer mediated communication enhances the current power structures while reinforcing the exploitation of those who are most vulnerable. By recognising the dominance of online pornography, Internet Service Providers and the communications industry are willing to accept the profits generated in working with the porn industry while ignoring the price being paid by the most visible, and yet voiceless agents. In doing so the Internet is awash with easily accessible pornographic imagery with mobile phones viewed as an even bigger market. With the demand for such material being the driving force for broadband usage and with the expansion of the use of mobile phones for downloading videos, I will ask; ‘which United Kingdom companies are the keyplayers? Are there structural holes within the networks, ensuring ‘deniability’ for the larger industrial players?’ I target online websites of the ‘adult entertainment’ industry in the UK using HyperLink analysis in order to extract the social network. This then enables me to conduct social network analysis uncovering the keyplayers of the UK porn industry with higher levels of “closeness centrality” and “betweenness centrality” (de Nooy et al., 2005). Closeness centrality and betweenness centrality are regarded as measures of power within a given network. This paper is an exploratory analysis of the dominant players shaping the UK mobile porn industry, searching for tentative links between the providers and the industrial players that have enabled the distribution of the material via the Internet and mobile phones.
Institute of Communications Studies
University of Leeds
The Singapore Blogosphere: Is it a Habermasian Public Sphere?
For those very few out there who might be interested I thought it only polite to inform you of what I have been up to for the last few months. Well I have provided a summary below and at the end of the article you can get the address to email me if you want access to the entire document. You might have to wait a few days so please be patient.
This paper analyses the socio-political implications of blogs in Singapore. The study is situated within the wider framework of the internet being heralded as the greatest force for democratisation the world has ever seen (Pitrodi 1993), and at the same time another means of disseminating propaganda, fear and intimidation (Rodan 1997). Pitrodi’s claim that the internet will create democracy is founded on an increase in political participation that it allows. Here it is argued that the increase in political participation that the internet allows does not necessarily result in democratisation. The non-democratic nature of Singapore society inhibits the development of an online Habermasian public sphere. However, rather than acting as a tool for the dissemination of propaganda, fear and intimidation, the internet acts as a means of reinforcing the dominant ideology of social cohesion or survivalism. My specific research questions are: How involved in creating a counter public based on an alternative ideology is the Singapore socio-political blogosphere? Which blogs are central to this process? Which blogs are more interconnected? Are there cliques? What styles of discourse appear in the Singapore socio-political blogosphere?
The ‘authoritarian’ nature of the Singapore regime is outlined by applying non-democratic theory. The normative ideal of the Habermasian public sphere is applied to blogs in general and then to the Singapore socio-political blogosphere. It explores the extent to which the internet is being used by Singaporeans to construct a public sphere open to all.
This ethnography of the Singapore socio-political blogosphere looks in detail at how the social events are experienced and in turn shaped by social actors. As a researcher with extensive experience of living in Singapore and as a member of the Singapore socio-political blogosphere for over four years, I question how the Singapore socio-political blogosphere is developing in relation to the dominant ideology of ‘survivalism’ in Singapore.
The textual data that is analysed is collected using two overlapping approaches. The first is a list compiled by the bloggers within the network and the second approach utilised online software for creating maps of online social networks. The data, analysed using Fairclough’s (2003) critical discourse analysis approach is that of a corpus of twenty-nine articles written about an event that occurred within the Singapore socio-political blogosphere in July of 2006.
Hines (2000) argues that there is a place for an ethnographic approach “as a means to question assumptions inherent in the predictions of radically different futures”. The methodological considerations of doing an online ethnography are investigated including an attempt to overcome the technologically determined focus of previous research. The researcher is clearly visible within the network of bloggers being analysed and also appears in the textual data. The IP addresses and real names of those involved are not made known unless they appear in the textual data. The Singapore socio-political blogosphere in terms of the styles or characters being used by bloggers in their texts are wide and varied with bloggers shifting between styles, akin to a ‘citizen’ style.
Although Singapore socio-political blogosphere is close to the Habermasian ideal of the public sphere, it is a flawed one at present in that it does not provide an alternative to the dominant ideology of ‘survivalism’. I uncovered a total of eight different styles of discourse employed by the various bloggers within the corpus of data. A politician style of discourse occurred 49 times, personal 39, citizen 28, academic 22, journalist 19, activist 10, expert 9 and priest 1. The most dominant form of ideology was that of social cohesion which scored 127 occurrences followed by a discourse of globalism (48) and anti-globalisation (22).
Those blogs that do engage in creating a public based on an alternative ideology are Diary of a Singapore Mind, Heavenly Sword, MrBrown, Xenoboy, Singapore Election, A Writers Blog, i-Speak, Molly Meek, e pur si muove and Post Hoc Ergo. The frequency at which such discourse occurs is very limited. The blogs that are more interconnected with at least 10 or more incoming links from within the Singapore socio-political blogosphere are Singabloodypore, Singapore Angle, Yawning Bread, MrBrown and e pur si muove. Careful scrutiny of the map generated during the data collection period indicates that there are no cliques.
This study of a single event provides limited support to the position that the non-democratic nature of Singapore society inhibits the development of an online Habermasian public sphere. However, rather than acting as a tool for the dissemination of propaganda, fear and intimidation , the internet acts as a means of reinforcing the dominant ideology of social cohesion or survivalism.
PAPER PRESENTED IN 2006
I recently attended a Postgraduate Conference for the presentation of PhD research on the intersection of power and communication technologies organised by the Institute of Communications Studies (ICS) at the University of Leeds. I presented a paper titled –
The Singapore Blogosphere and Political Participation: An Ethnographic Approach.
This paper questions whether or not blogs can help create participatory forms of democracy in non-democratic societies which have suppressed political participation among their citizens. Drawing on an event in July 2006 within a group of websites related to Singapore, this paper asks to what extent do bloggers in Singapore use their blogs for purposes related to politics, and investigates whether the blogosphere facilitates political participation among Singaporean bloggers. The internet has been heralded as a force for democratisation in the world (Pitrodi 1993) and also simply another means of disseminating propaganda, fear and intimidation in Singapore (Rodan 1997). Such predictions of how technology will affect upon futures is not new. This paper accepts Hine’s (2000) position that there is a need for an ethnographic approach to question the assumptions inherent in these predictions of an increased public sphere and at the same time a loss of privacy associated with the technology. Singapore while being regarded by the Chinese Communist State and possibly the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) “as a laboratory for one possible future for the twenty-first century”, (Castells 1998) is regarded as a semi-democratic regime (Brooker 2000). A regime which allows elections but has limits on political and civil liberties and restricts competition between political parties (Brooker 2000). An ethnography of the Singapore blogosphere might help in analysing how the internet is constructed and shaped by social actors in order to overcome the technological focus and the domination of research that focuses on the United States of America. This paper argues that a sustained participant observation within the Singapore blogosphere could illustrate the position that the internet both creates public space to facilitate political participation and also helps to legitimise the semi-democratic nature of the Singapore regime.
The complete paper is available here in pdf format.