Just a snapshot from my work this week.
With thesis submission day rapidly approaching (next Thursday – finally!), I’m just putting the finishing touches on my network visualisations. Obviously the real thing is higher quality – this is just a screenshot – but what you’re looking at are two things: a) the way in which 135 Perth-based food bloggers network their identities online, and b) the way that Perth food bloggers link to each other via blog rolls. (Tracking the comments on blogs would have been more useful, but I have run out of time to do it.)
I’ve also got overlays that show the links between their Twitter & Facebook pages, as well as how they all fit together.
The text is very small, but basically I use a coded system to designate each individual (for example, if my blog was in there it would be ‘bw’ – beyond words – and then my linked Facebook page would be ‘bw.fb’, and my Twitter profile ‘bw.tw’, and my Urbanspoon profile ‘bw.us’ and so on). I’ve done this for a number of reasons; partly, it was to keep the labels for each node short, so that they didn’t take over the graph, but also to add a degree of anonymity to my results (rather than saying Blogger X links to pages w, y, z), which allowed me a degree more freedom with my study (i.e. not having to get signed permission forms from everyone on the list).
None of my research in any way discusses content on any particular blog; everyone whose work is directly featured in my thesis (such as quotes from blog posts) has granted permission for me to use that information. Everyone else is just a dot, and a link.
Blogs are represented by black dots; aqua represents Facebook; blue is Twitter, etc. I found that bloggers link to sixteen different social platforms (including social networking sites, social bookmarking sites, social recommendation sites, and social curation sites) from their blogs (in order from most popular to least): Urbanspoon, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Google+, YouTube, Foodgawker, LinkedIn, Posse, Yelp, Last.fm, Tastespotting, Tumblr (blogs that were hosted at Tumblr didn’t count towards this; if they did, Tumblr would come just after Google+, but I counted them as blogs for the sake of consistency), and Vimeo.
I haven’t included platforms like BlogLovin’ on here. I was going to, but in the end was having such problems with it at the time of data collection that I left it out. I’ve also undoubtedly missed some platforms. I used a site called IssueCrawler to get the initial links from blogs. Basically, I uploaded a list of URLs (i.e. all the blog URLs), and the returned results consisted of a spreadsheet with every URL linked from the blog’s main page. I checked everything manually a few times, as the IssueCrawler results weren’t perfect (some blogs appeared to have no links outwards, which proved to be incorrect based upon my double-checking).
I also checked everything a few times to make sure that I had the most accurate sample possible. A major challenge came in the form of collecting the sample group. Not all blogs h
One thing that I am hoping to do in the future if I have time is to create a dynamic visualisation of posts, which will plot the occurrence of blog posts across a period of time (back to about 2004, as I think that’s when the earliest post from this group was made) corresponding to the restaurant/cafe/location they blogged about, placed over a map of Perth. I’m not sure how I will treat home-cooking/recipe posts, but these could possibly be plotted as well, although not to a location (maybe by theme or primary ingredient).
Blogs are somewhat of a passe subject these days, but I’m quite fascinated by how the medium has persisted. We have all these other ways to communicate, as the social platform links attest (for instance, 51% of the group has a linked Urbanspoon profile, 49.5% a Twitter accounts, and 47.5% a Facebook page dedicated to their blog). However, blogs offer the opportunity for longer-form expression that few other platforms allow at this stage. (Newer platforms like Medium are changing that as they straddle the boundary between blog space, collaborative environment, and SNS.)
Because I’m specifically looking at Perth, these links just serve to demonstrate how closely knit the Perth food blogging community is (and, by extension, how close other online communities are). My research focuses on the ways that place identity can be encountered and expressed via locative and location data, so the crown in the jewel of my research is a much bigger map that looks at how Perth bloggers and social media users have talked about Eat, Drink, Perth over the past four years.
The decision to research that particular festival wasn’t entirely arbitrary; there are important, undeniable links between food, geography, identity, and community that are vital to my research, so EDP has been a useful vehicle for exploring local networks in more detail. I’m still working on finalising that visualisation. However, it’s taking a loonnnng time. I’ve collected the geographic coordinates for every EDP event from 2010-2013, as well as (I think?) every online news article, tweet, and blog post about EDP. (Probably not all; there are limitations. For instance, I have no access to private data, such as protected tweets, nor did I want access to them for this project as I am only looking at information that is publicly available. In addition, EDP/Show Me Perth remove content from their website and Facebook page every year before launching the new event. The Wayback Machine was somewhat helpful, but there’s no doubt I’ve missed stuff.)
All that information is being plotted on an incredibly complicated network visualisation that I will share here once it’s done. The graph corresponds to the geodata I’ve collected; for instance, all posts about the Butcher’s Picnic link to the node for that event, which is located (on the map and IRL) in Northbridge Piazza. There are also different levels of links for comments, trackbacks, and different colours utilised to represent different years of the festival. Fun!
a basic example of how the main network visualisation is structured — bright green: event location (geolocated on a map). teal: events held at that location during one edp year (in this case, three; this is just a dummy example, there may be more/less in a given year). purple — blog posts about specific events. red: bloggers (the actual blogs). if you look closely here, this network depicts ‘blogger a’ as having written both of the blog posts (purple nodes); ‘blogger b’ was linked to in the mad hatter’s tea party post (there’s a tiny arrow pointing out from that node to the ‘blogger b’ node). imagine this, hundreds of posts over, for four years…
It actually is very fun. It’s just super frustrating and time consuming getting the data to appear in a way that is logical and informative, rather than just being a splash of colour on the screen that isn’t really any good for telling a story.
I’m thinking once I’m done with everything and have a spare moment, I’ll publish a list of Perth food blogs/Facebook pages/Twitter profiles on here, in case anyone is interested. I’ll also have high-resolution versions of my visualisations available too.
I don’t really have any time to blog today, as it’s my first day of clear-headed-ness following surgery earlier in the week to fix my ruptured eardrum. (It went swimmingly, thanks for asking. The insane tinnitus that I’m now experiencing is hopefully just a by-product of having a surgical plug shoved so far down my ear canal that it’s not funny, and will hopefully go away when the plug is removed next week… or so Google tells me.)
I’m desperately trying to catch up on writing tasks for uni and teaching tasks for class and other associated work-thingies that I’ve been unable to work on this week, while I walked around in (or, more accurately, snoozed my way through) a post-anaesthesia-fuzz. However, this article at The Conversation caught my eye this morning, and I couldn’t not share it.
When I tell people what I do, I get a variety of responses:
- What could you possibly study about the Internet?
- Oh, so you’re writing a thesis about Facebook? (No, but my colleague Kate did, and it’s great!)
- Why don’t you study something that matters?
- Oh… so you’re not going to be a real doctor then. (Interesting tidbit: One of the places that I work casually is a medical practice, and if a patient is a doctor, but not a medical doctor, it says in big letters on their patient profile, NOT A MEDICAL DOCTOR! Because we aren’t real.)
- *glazed-over eye roll*
People don’t think that philosophy matters because it doesn’t make money. They think they we — philosophy-doers — are simply rehashing old material, or wasting valuable taxpayer dollars investigating issues that will never see the eyes of another human being, let alone the light of day. They think that philosophy students – or anyone in the humanities and arts, really – are bong-smoking, time-wasting, eternal-student plebs, desperate to avoid the Real World of Adult Responsibility and Buying Things.
Sigh. No. Just no.
From the article:
“Philosophy has a particular vulnerability here because it’s not directly linked to any obvious economic output, it’s hard, and if you aren’t curious about ideas you’ll struggle to see the point of it. If you don’t view knowledge as having intrinsic rather than merely economic value, philosophy will be your go-to example of academic wankery.”
I so completely get this. Do you have any idea how much of my time I spend wanking on about things that seem insignificant or simply boring to the world at large? A lot. Sometimes I shake my head, baffled that I can devote so much of my brainpower to one topic. Then, though, I remember that I have an intense passion for learning and knowledge. Just because my passion doesn’t manifest in scientific discovery or life-saving research doesn’t make it any less valid.
All four of the projects Briggs cited have already run the gamut of the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) expert assessors and secured funding in a very difficult, competitive environment. In other words, people who know what they’re talking about looked at them and decided that they were world-class research.
Research — even philosophical research — does not exist in a vacuum of self-indulgence. Sure, at some point when you’ve written enough books and held tenure for long enough, you’re free to get a little indulgent, but for the rest of us – the Masters and PhD students, the early career researchers, the would-be research fellows who are constantly seeking funding and especially those who’ve received it – are having their research proposals approved by others who know their shit. It’s not just others in their field, either; even my PhD candidacy had to be approved by a panel of committee members, not all of whom have a background in my specialist niche of Internet-related theory.
There is so much more to research, knowledge, and the formation of thriving societies than simply the ability to pull things out of the ground and sell them on the international market, or to advance through science and technology. These things are important, but philosophy is important, too. Philosophy forms the framework of human nature; it helps us to understand just what it might mean to be human, so seemingly insignificant in the vastness of what ever has been and what will be:
Their work touches on questions that human beings cannot avoid asking: the nature of what we are, what exists, and of our place in the universe.
Perth, we need to talk about this bonkers weather situation.
Like many people who live here, I’ve grown to accept the fact that my city isn’t exactly the most exciting place on earth, because it has other things going for it. Like, for instance, the fact that the weather is pretty gosh darn perfect 90% of the time. Our summers are hot and long, our winters relatively mild.
So what, in the name of all things good and decent is this 1.4-degrees-at-7.30-am bullshit?
It is beyond freezing here this morning. Obviously I don’t mean that literally, because there are places, I’m sure, where 1.4 degrees is relatively pleasant, but in a city where the temperature rarely dips below zero, this is pretty much hell. If hell was refrigerated, of course.
We are not prepared for cold weather here. I haven’t lived in most houses in Perth, but I think I can safely say that central heating is exceedingly uncommon (and even if we did have it, electricity prices are too high to justify using it). Clothing isn’t really made for the cold. Take, for instance, right now: I am wearing a pair of tights under a pair of flanellette pyjama pants on the bottom half, and a tank top, tshirt, long sleeved tshirt, and hoody on the top. Plus bed socks and uggboots. And a beanie. And fingerless gloves. And I’m cold.
Talking about the weather is a pretty boring thing to do, but the moment the temperature deviates from anything reasonable, the citizens of Perth become amateur meteorologists. We can’t help it. We love talking about how cold/wet/hot/humid this place is.
Add to the shitty cold weather the fact that I am exceptionally cranky today, and you’ve got one pissed off little soldier right here.
I slept for less than two hours last night. I was up until 5am, fuelled by coffee and desperation, working through the finer points of narrative identity and the concept of writing the self into being. I woke up in tears after what was essentially a brief nap, exhausted and in pain (because, who knew? Apparently if a person sits at a computer for 18 hours a day, their back and shoulders start to really frigging hurt).
I checked Twitter and realised it had only been 110 minutes since I last checked it before going to bed. I checked my email and got shitty at the lack of effort that goes into spam comments (I mean, come on, at least try to make your spam comment somehow relate to my post topic) and then got shitty at the fact that of the 33,000 or so spam comments that haven’t made it through WordPress’s filter in the past year, 3 or 4 have made it through in the past week.
Then I made an instant coffee (blech) and promptly spilled it down my arm and all over my phone as I walked back into my room.
Then I sat at my computer to write this post and debated not posting this, or indulging myself and being a sooky sook-face. Which is what I appear to have done. The funny thing is, last night I drafted a rather long-winded post about how I’m currently feeling like the final few weeks of this thesis has made me feel like I’ve gained so much and grown so much as a person. It’s quite strange how the issues I’m writing about in my research are reflected in my own life, completely by accident, and how nutting out the final points and connecting the dots has actually made me feel quite peaceful and content.
That’s a post for another time, though. Today I’m shitty.
I’ve decided it’s time to put this academia nonsense aside and pursue my one true love: fashion blogging.
- men’s school leavers hoodie, complete with stain from where i dropped custard on myself last night
- peter alexander owl pyjamas; worn all day
- fingerless mitten gloves from arequipa, peru
- scarf from rishikesh, india
- glasses marks on the bridge of my nose for authenticity
- smudged mascara from when i put eyedrops in; this is the 8th time this year i’ve worn any make up and i think i’m doing pretty well
- old faded black long-sleeved shirt because it’s flipping cold here tonight/this week/this winter
- aztec print tank top that has never looked good on and is only ever worn under things; has an annoying zip in the back that my hair gets stuck in constantly
- metallicus tights under pj pants; see previous explanation
- black knee-high ugg boots (not Ugg brand; most people don’t wear them here)
- the same crappy-but-comfortable sports bra that i’ve been wearing for the past four days (and, if i’m honest, that i wear almost every day bar washing days)
- black bonds undies with a hole in the side that i’m too bloody broke to replace (not just this pair – every pair)
Taken in my housemate’s bathroom that hasn’t been cleaned in weeks (if I’m being optimistic).
This PhD thing. It’s a glamourous life, y’all, but someone’s gotta do it.
Tonight I went to see my best friend receive her doctorate.
It’s been a rather strange experience having a best friend who is also pursuing a PhD. Coming from completely different fields – she’s in molecular biotechnology, and I’m in… oh, I don’t even know, a bastard mix of internet studies, geography, and sociology – it was difficult, however unproductive it was of me, to not compare myself to her.
In short, she’s bloody brilliant at what she does, and found her niche really early on. It’s taken me much longer to find mine, and at times I felt like I was just not a very good researcher. In my completely messed up over-anxious way, I interpreted Carla’s successes as a researcher as failures on my part to be dedicated enough, or intelligent enough, or whatever.
Fairly egocentric of me, I know.
However, it was an honour to see her accept her degree this evening. It was difficult to pull myself away from my work, because it’s in that stage where I need to keep going, especially if I’m on to a good thing, and I may have even grumbled somewhat about having to do so, but I’m really glad I went. It was an honour to be invited to attend, and it was very inspiring to see the culmination of many years of dedication.
We’ve been friends since we sat together in 11th grade Political & Legal Studies, and have been through the entire undergrad and postgrad experience together. When we were both doing Honours, we’d spend many a night awake until the very early hours of the morning, drinking cans of Red Bull and working in almost complete silence until one of us needed to bounce an idea off the other. Even though we come from such disparate fields, we’ve always been able to talk about our work with the knowledge that the other has a fair idea what’s going on.
Together we write the currently-very-quiet hiphop blog The Urban Renegade Experiment, and over the years we’ve had various plans about projects that we’d like to pursue, when there is time. We used to theorise that being more than 5km apart made us both a bit useless – she, the scientist, being the left brain and I, the sociologist, being the right. She now lives 2,706km (1,682 miles) away, two-thirds of the way across the country from where I am (and, incidentally, in the nearest capital city to Perth. Can you say isolated as all hell?). The brains are working okay, but it’s still a pretty shitty situation. Well, not for her – she’s got a sweet postdoc position.
It was really great to go tonight, because sometimes the distance makes it feel like we’re losing touch. I’ve been to visit her in Adelaide a few times (and once in Sweden when she studied there for six months!) but with my study load ramping up over the past six months, and Carla finding her feet in Adelaide and with a new relationship, our Skype chats have become less frequent and the tyranny of distance has been kicking my arse. We didn’t get to chat much tonight, but that connection is still there.
And above all, really, I’m just so proud.
beers years ago in stockholm. i was sunburnt from london. sunburnt from london!
in the back of a
flying death machine single engine cessna after screaming my way through a flight over the nasca lines in peru. actually the single most terrifying thing i have ever done in my life.
one. chapter structure changed, yet again. sigh. no titles for chapters yet. (you’ll notice at the bottom there’s one called instaflickrbook. don’t think i can really use that, sadly.)
two. one of the few moments in the day that i’m not touching it. (gross.)
three. desk and head from above. this is the level my boredom has reached.
no time to think serious-like. this week my thesis has given birth to a new (but necessary) chapter, so there is some major restructuring going on, and i can’t stop daydreaming about life post-thesis – a pretty common reaction when i start getting stressed. focus!
Doing a PhD will break you. It’s pretty much designed to break you. Yes, even you, you who are brilliant (that almost goes without saying; it’s because you’re brilliant that you’re contemplating doing a PhD in the first place). You who are resilient and have survived several kinds of shit that life has thrown at you just to get to the point where you’re about to graduate with a brilliant degree. You who have the unconditional support of your family and friends and partners. If you have every admirable personal quality you can think of, if you have every advantage in life, still, getting through a PhD will grind you down, will come terrifyingly close to killing your soul and might well succeed. It will do horrible things to your mental and physical health and test to breaking point every significant relationship in your life.
via Livre d’Or.
Thoughts in the morning. Editing a chapter on mobile Internet, geography, embodiment, and posthumanism. Sexy.
This is why progress takes forever.
There’s actually nothing wrong with what I’ve written, other than a shonky order and a few unanswered questions, but you know. Perfectionism at its finest. I’m getting there, though.
Today, for the first time ever, my thesis has a structure that will not alter.
For the first time ever, I have eight chapter folders all containing substantial amounts of writing (around 75,000 words in total, with three chapters unfinished).
After a week or so of feeling like I had an insurmountable task ahead of me, my head is back in the game, and by this time next week I will be able to hold in my hands eight fully written chapters, printed and ready for editing.
Then I will need to write the introduction and conclusion.
Then, after supervisor review and final edits, it will be done. One day.
There is still so much work to do, but there’s no denying that soon, my world will be vastly different.
Sometimes I feel like all I ever do is bang on about my thesis, but it’s just consumed so much of my time over the past six months. In that short amount of time, it’s been completely turned around form a project that was dead in the water to a project that I am going to see through to conclusion. It feels pretty good to be this close to the end.