Monthly Archives: May 2017

Research Methods for Digital Work: The Storify

Many thanks to all the great participants who joined us for a great two days at Surrey University for our “Research Methods for Digital Work” event last week.  Particular thanks to our keynotes: Diane E. BaileyMonika Büscher and Richard Rogers.

Throughout the two days we were all tweeting away under #RMDigital so if you weren’t able to make it or you just want to re-live the experience you can look through our storify below.


NCVO 2017 Almanac: the state of the voluntary sector

As always the NCVO Almanac provides an invaluable resource to all those working in the Voluntary and Community sector.  Offered in bite size chunks but enabling access to more detailed data and analysis this is an essential source of information.  At coming as it does in the run up to a general election, the 2017 version could not be more timely.  However as some commentators point out the facts and figures are generated from the year 14/15.  Kirsty Weakley, writing in for Civil Society, is among those to point out that this pre-dates some major fundraising scandals and of course the Brexit referendum.

As well as warning regarding the financial state of the sector overall (particularly the lack of prospects for growth), the huge concentration of assets in a very small number of organisations.  As summarised on the website Third Sector : “90 per cent of the sector’s £112.7bn of total assets – such as property, cash and investments – are held by just 3 per cent of charities, with the top 100 asset owners accounting for half of the sector’s total.” and in contrast: “Approximately 48 per cent of all charities are described as “micro”, defined as those with annual incomes of less than £10,000, the almanac says. Another 34 per cent it categorises as “small”, with annual incomes of between £10,000 and £100,000.”

While it will take a while to digest the full reports a few other interesting facts caught my eye:

  • volunteering rates remain largely unchanged although rates of regular formal volunteering among young people have dropped slightly for the first time since 2010/11
  • overall there is little gender difference in participation but type of activities are somewhat gendered (with women performing more care related roles)
  • 35% of unemployed people reported regular formal volunteering, compared with 27% of people who were employed and 27% who were economically inactive.
  • When presented with a list of charitable services, more than nine in ten people report having accessed at least one service, with children and young people once again the most common beneficiary group

Importantly the NCVO highlight the need to “guard against complacency” highlighting that there are likely to be very challenging times ahead.

Please see the NCVO for full details of the almanac.  Congratulations to all involved in once again producing this excellent report.


Register Now! Research Methods for Digital Work 25-26 May

Fantastic opportunity to explore issues at the leading edge of research practice and hear our great keynote speakers (see abstracts below and full programme).

Register before 15 May!

Diane E. Bailey Associate Professor in School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin

Wrestling with Digital Objects and Technologies in Observations of Work

Observing people who use computers at work can be difficult. A person working with physical objects and physical technologies behaves in ways that an observer can readily track. For example, in early motion and time studies, the Gilbreths devised a system of 18 elemental movements (e.g., select, grasp, move, inspect) to analyze what workers did. A person working with digital objects and digital technologies poses a greater challenge for the observer because small, nearly indiscernible actions (such as typing a single letter) may initiate a series of work actions on the computer. Worse still, a person may be hard at work when away from the computer while software programs run “in the background.” In this talk, I discuss the methods that I developed with my colleagues to combat these issues in our multi-year field study of engineering work and technology. Our methods blend the industrial engineer’s eye for detail with the ethnographic tradition of observation and interpretation. I discuss in particular methods for collecting and analyzing digital objects and for understanding the array of digital technologies in a workplace.

Monika Büscher Professor of Sociology, Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research and Associate Director for the Institute for Social Futures at Lancaster University

Is IT Ethical? Mobile Work, Mobile Data, Mobile Methods in Crises

Disaster response can involve extreme physical and digital mobilities. In the aftermath of the 2015 Germanwings crash, for example, hundreds of emergency personnel from local and international agencies converged to scour two square miles of steep, rocky terrain for debris and DNA. Surrounding such physical mobilities are often myriad efforts to mobilise information and coordinate actions through digital technologies. New capabilities for mobile work that emerge in this context can be very positive, but they can also raise complex ethical, legal and social challenges. In collaborative research with practitioners, information technology developers and interdisciplinary teams of researchers, I explore what it means to do work on the move in crisis management to gain insight into the relationship between embodied practices of mobile work and the im|material im|mobilities of data. This takes the form of engaged ‘speculative’ sociology and involves a mixture of mobile methods, including participant observation and participant intervention, ways of ‘following the information’, affirmative critique, disclosive ethics, utopia as method, ethical and privacy impact assessment, and speculative design. These methods are a means for ‘staying with the trouble’ of often ambiguous emergent ‘intra-actions’ and effects. In this talk I provide examples from this collaborative research to explore how we can combine methods or devise new methods to capitalise on diverse forms of data to build rich and practically as well as theoretically fruitful understandings of digitally-suffused working life.

Richard Rogers Professor in New Media and Digital Culture, University of Amsterdam

Social Media Engagement: Beyond Vanity Metrics

In the age of social media one dominant mode of engagement is distraction. Whilst appearing oxymoronic, distracted modes of engagement have invited the coining of such terms as ‘flickering man’, ‘continuous partial attention’ and ‘ambient awareness.’ One’s engagement with social media (however much in a distracted state) is also routinely measured. Klout scores and similar are often called ‘vanity metrics’ because they measure performance in (what is referred to as) the ‘success theater’ of social media. The notion of vanity metrics implies at least three projects: a critique of metrics concerning both the object of measurement as well as their capacity to measure unobtrusively or only to encourage performance. The second is a corrective interface project, for users are continually distracted by number badges calling to be clicked; there is a recently revived movement afoot for so-called ‘encalming technology’. A third project could consider how one may rework the metrics. In the project I call critical analytics, I propose to repurpose altmetrics scores and other engagement measures for social research, and seek to measure the ‘otherwise engaged,’ or other modes of engagement (than vanity).

Keep in touch with event news on this blog and via twitter #RMDigital

The meeting is being organized by Christine Hine (University of Surrey), Katrina Pritchard (Swansea University) and Gillian Symon (Royal Holloway, University of London) in association with the Digital World Research Centre at the University of Surrey. The meeting has received funding from the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Surrey and the RCUK-funded NEMODE Network Plus.