A place to log ideas and thoughts

George Veletsianos, PhD

Category: networked scholars Page 1 of 4

Comment sentiment expressed in YouTube TED talk comments

The top definition of YouTube comments in the urban dictionary is the following: “the only place where a polite discussion about kittens can lead to a flame war about government conspiracies.”

Inquisitive readers might ask: Is that flame war the same for all videos? Or is it more likely for some videos than others?

Our latest paper (and when I write our, I am referring to Royce k=Kimmons, Tonia Dousay, Patrick Lowenthal, and Ross Larsen) explores whether the sentiment expressed toward scholars who go online varies according to variables of interest. Put differently, scholars are encouraged to be present online, to establish a digital identity, and expand their reach and impact. But, what is the public’s reaction? Does the public react more positively/negatively to some people? There’s many ways to go about exploring this question. We sought to answer this question by examining YouTube comments, but one could investigate tweets, blog comments, self-reported data, and so on. Below is our abstract, summarizing our findings, and link to our paper. Note the impact of gender, animations, and moderation on expressed sentiment:

 

Veletsianos, G., Kimmons, R., Larsen, R., Dousay, T., & Lowenthal, P. (2018). Public Comment Sentiment on Educational Videos: Understanding the Effects of Presenter Gender, Video Format, Threading, and Moderation on YouTube TED Talk Comments. PLOS ONE 13(6): e0197331. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0197331

 

Scholars, educators, and students are increasingly encouraged to participate in online spaces. While the current literature highlights the potential positive outcomes of such participation, little research exists on the sentiment that these individuals may face online and on the factors that may lead some people to face different types of sentiment than others. To investigate these issues, we examined the strength of positive and negative sentiment expressed in response to TEDx and TED-Ed talks posted on YouTube (n = 655), the effect of several variables on comment and reply sentiment (n = 774,939), and the projected effects that sentiment-based moderation would have had on posted content. We found that most comments and replies were neutral in nature and some topics were more likely than others to elicit positive or negative sentiment. Videos of male presenters showed greater neutrality, while videos of female presenters saw significantly greater positive and negative polarity in replies. Animations neutralized both the negativity and positivity of replies at a very high rate. Gender and video format influenced the sentiment of replies and not just the initial comments that were directed toward the video. Finally, we found that using sentiment as a way to moderate offensive content would have a significant effect on non-offensive content. These findings have far-reaching implications for social media platforms and for those who encourage or prepare students and scholars to participate online.

What audiences do academics imagine finding online?

When online, people draw on the limited cues they have available to create for themselves an imagined audience. This audiences shapes our social media practices and the expression of our identity. While institutions encourage scholars to go online, and many scholars perceive value in online networks themselves, limited research has explored the ways that scholars conceptualize online audiences.

Audiences by NordForsk/Stefan Tell

 

In a recent paper, we were interested to understand how scholars conceptualize their audiences when participating on social media, and does that conceptualization impacts their self-expression online. Below is a short summary of the results. The full study is here: Veletsianos, G., & Shaw, A. (2018). Scholars in an Increasingly Open and Digital World: Imagined Audiences and their Impact on Scholars’ Online Participation. Learning, Media, & Technology, 43(1), 17-30.

We used a qualitative approach to this study, interviewing 16 individuals who represented a range of academic disciplines and roles. Data were generated from two sources: semi-structured interviews with each participant, and examination of the social media spaces they used (e.g. blogs, Facebook, Twitter).

Participants identified four specific groups as composing their social media audiences: (1) academics, (2) family and friends, (3) groups related to one’s profession, and (4) individuals who shared commonalities with them. Interviewees felt fairly confident that they had a good understanding of the people and groups that made up their audiences on social media, but distinguished their audiences as known and unknown. The known audience included those groups and individuals known to interviewees personally. The unknown audience consisted of members whom participants felt they understood much about but did not know personally. Interviewees reported using their understanding of their audience to guide their decisions around what, how or where to share information on social media. All participants reported filtering their social media posts. This action was primarily motivated by participants’ concerns about how postings would reflect on themselves or others.

The audiences imagined by the scholars we interviewed appear to be well defined rather than the nebulous constructions often described in previous studies. While scholars indicated that some audiences were unknown, none noted that their audience was unfamiliar. This study also shows that a misalignment exists between the audiences that scholars imagine encountering online and the audiences that higher education institutions imagine their faculty encountering online. The former appear to imagine finding community and peers and the latter imagine scholars finding research consumers (e.g., journalists).

Web browser extension that filters offensive content

“Nikola Draca, a third-year statistics student, and his colleague, Angus McLean, 23, an engineering student at McGill University, put their heads together to develop an extension called Soothe for the Google Chrome web browser that blurs out homophobic, racist, sexist, transphobic and other hateful language while browsing the web.” Source

I thought this was interesting, because:

  • It’s yet another example of how student work can contribute meaningfully to society
  • It attempts to take back (some) control from platforms, and enable individuals to refine the experiences they have online

Related initiatives include the following:

 

Recent SSHRC awards

SSHRC recently announced the awards of the latest round of the Insight and Insight Development grants, and we can now announce that we were awarded two grants for our research. Both grants are collaborations. The first with Dr. Royce Kimmons and the second with Dr. Jaigris Hodson. I’m a true believer in people’s ability to collaborate to go farther together. More than 93% of the funding will go to student research assistants. Here’s the work that these two awards will support:

 

SSHRC Insight grant #435-2017-160. PI: Veletsianos; Collaborator: Kimmons, R. Faculty members’ online participation and expression of self over time.

Summary: Researchers’ understanding of longitudinal aspects of digital technology use in education is limited. While many researchers, policymakers, and businesspeople are hopeful about the potential positive impacts that academics’ use of digital technology may generate, the empirical evidence describing the nature of academics’ online participation over time is scant and is largely predicated on small-scale studies. We will address this problem by studying whether, how, and why academics’ online participation and presentation of the self change over time. We will use a mixed methods approach combining descriptive/inferential analyses with basic qualitative studies using data collected from interviews and data mining of social media sites.

 

SSHRC Insight Development grant #430-2017-00104. PI: Veletsianos; Co-PI: Hodson, J. Female academics’ experiences of harassment on social media.

Summary: Prior research shows that some female academics, especially those who are in the public eye and use technology to promote their work, are at great risk of harassment. To gain a greater understanding of this issue, this mixed methods investigation seeks to investigate women scholars’ experiences of online harassment.  The proposed research will use data arising from interviews, social media posts, and surveys to gain a deep and multidimensional understanding of harassment aimed at academics.

Lola Olufemi and student/faculty social media harassment

Below is a short interview with Lola Olufemi. The description from the BBC reads “Lola Olufemi is 21 years old and Cambridge University Students’ Union Women’s Officer. She found herself on the front page of a national newspaper, the face of a campaign to “decolonise” the English curriculum at Cambridge University. She discusses with Jenni Murray how she feels she’s been scapegoated by the media and her fears for the impact this could have on other young, black women wanting to speak out.”

I was watching this unfold yesterday, and witnessed the racist and misogynistic tweets fly by. One of which came from a professor at a well-known unversity, and as I responded at the time, what sort of academic responds in such a vile way to a person, let alone a student. As was shared on Twitter the institution has policies processes to deal with the harassing faculty member, but the questions that have been preoccupying my thinking over the last few months is the following: In what ways should our universities respond to the harassment that their students and faculty receive online, and on social media in particular? What are the institutional and individual responsibilities when we encourage students and faculty to be present on social media?

MA and PhD student research assistantships available

We have two part-time research assistantships open for individuals to work with us (one for an MA and one for a PhD student).

PhD student: https://humanresources.royalroads.ca/job-posting/research-assistant-3-0

MA student: https://humanresources.royalroads.ca/job-posting/research-assistant-2-0

Successful applicants need to be legally able to work in Canada at the time of application, enrolled in a MA/PhD program. They do not need to be enrolled at a Canadian University.

Successful individuals will support an international team of researchers with research and knowledge mobilization activities pertaining to online harassment and faculty use of social media.

Education Scholars’ Evolving Uses of Twitter as a Conference Backchannel and Social Commentary Platform

The scholarly community faces a lack of large-scale research examining how students and professors use social media in authentic contexts and how such use changes over time. Continuing our investigation into how professors and students use social media, Royce Kimmons and I just published a paper in which we used data mining methods to better understand academic Twitter use during, around, and between the 2014 and 2015 American Educational Research Association annual conferences both as a conference backchannel and as a general means of participating online. The first paper we published using similar methods, data, and comparing students and professors’ social media use is here. All of our research on networked scholarship and students’ and faculty members’ use of social media is gathered here.

Descriptive and inferential analysis is used to explore Twitter use for 1,421 academics and the more than 360,000 tweets they posted. Results demonstrate the complicated participation patterns of how Twitter is used “on the ground.” In particular, we show that:

  • tweets during conferences differed significantly from tweets outside conferences
  • students and professors used the conference backchannel somewhat equally, but students used some hashtags more frequently, while professors used other hashtags more frequently
  • academics comprised the minority of participants in these backchannels, but participated at a much higher rate than their non-academic counterparts
  • the number of participants in the backchannel increased between 2014 and 2015, but only a small number of authors were present during both years, and the number of tweets declined from year to year.
  • various hashtags were used throughout the time period during which this study occurred, and some were ongoing (ie, those which tended to be stable across weeks) while others were event-based (ie, those which spiked in a particular week)
  • professors used event-based hashtags more often than students and students used ongoing hashtags more often than professors
  • ongoing hashtags tended to exhibit positive sentiment, while event-based hashtags tended to exhibit more ambiguous or conflicting sentiments

These findings suggest that professors and students exhibit similarities and differences in how they use Twitter and backchannels and indicate the need for further research to better understand the ways that social technologies and online networks are integrated in scholars’ lives.

Here’s the full citation and paper:

Kimmons, R. & Veletsianos, G. (2016). Education Scholars’ Evolving Uses of Twitter as a Conference Backchannel and Social Commentary Platform. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(3), 445—464.

The tensions and conundrums of public scholarship

Scholars are often encouraged to be public intellectuals – to ‘go online’ and engage with diverse audiences. Yet, scholars’ online activities appear to be rife with tensions, dilemmas, and conundrums. In a presentation that I gave last week at AERA, I discuss some tensions and challenges scholars face when engaging networked publics and highlight some uncomfortable realities of being a public scholar. Evangelizing public and networked scholarship without acknowledging the existence of tensions is detrimental to the field and misleading to the scholars who may be considering greater public engagement- becoming more networked, more public, and more “digital.” Individual scholars and institutions need to evaluate the purposes and functions of scholarship and take part in devising systems that reflect and safeguard the values of scholarly inquiry.

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