Tag Archives: place

Perth, online.

blog out links

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!

f19 network structure

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.

Cyber- digital- virtual- … space?

Following on from my post earlier, I’ve been thinking about another issue that I discuss in my thesis. It’s related to the notion that there’s really no use for digital dualisms (real/virtual, offline/online, etc) that are often deployed when talking about the Internet.

Something I didn’t get around to mentioning but intended to was the fact that I still find the concept of cyberspace useful, but I am struggling with the terminology.

Due to the fact that my research investigates geography and place identity (i.e. our relationship and identification with the environments we inhabit – taking ‘place’ as different to ‘space’ in that place is “location (space) made meaningful” [see Tuan, Cresswell]) and social networks, I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about what cyberspace means in the early twenty first century.

cyberspace

cyberspace: not quite this hectic, as far as i know. is that a body? do we even need bodies in cyberspace?? (hint: yes) //source//

I’m sure it has different meaning today than it did in the early 1990s, when cyberspace was posited as a futuristic, disembodied, dislocated Other world. It was firmly situated within the realm of the online/virtual, and in cyberculture studies the tension between our physical reality (perceived as flawed, restrictive; at a time when the (western) world was experiencing the first true dissolution of geographical boundaries, the body was an encumbrance to freedom) and the desire to exist purely as data inside the network.

Have you seen The Matrix? That, really. Jacking in, logging on, and dropping out: it was all about information, where to find it, and how to absorb as much as possible.

The only real problem with this was that it wasn’t entirely feasible. As far as I know, in 2013 science has still not found a way to separate mind and body, allowing the psyche to be uploaded to the network in order that one may live as a series of ones and zeroes, free from the constraints of ill-health, age, race, gender, death, and the need to pee. And that’s not to mention the ethical issues. I receive emails from my department reminding me to review ethics clearance for my research, which involves trawling blogs and social media and waxing lyrical about them. I can’t even imagine trying to get ethics clearance for a project that would essentially kill the physical body whilst preserving the human mind inside a machine.

Tres complique!

So it’s fair to say that cyberspace, as the ultimate pre-dot-com-bubble-burst buzzword, is probably no longer useful in the 1990s sense. However – and this is where it might get a bit mind-blowy (or maybe not) – I firmly believe that we now live in cyberspace.

This is where I come back to Nathan Jurgenson’s post that I commented on previously. He argues that there’s no need for digital dualisms, and I agree. When was the last time you used Google Maps your mobile phone to find your way to a friends’ house? Have you ever used Urbanspoon to find a restaurant recommendation when you’ve been out in town and want something good that’s within walking distance? Have you checked in on Foursquare or Facebook Places, or uploaded a photo to Instagram (they’re geotagged, you know), or tweeted from a festival? Have you asked for recommendations, or visited your national news website and automatically been directed toward the local news?

This is cyberspace, friends.

In many ways, ‘cyberspace’ forms a useful portmanteau – cyber referring to information (rather than virtual or fake), and ‘space’ to, well, geographical space – for labeling the relationship between data and materiality. When we participate and contribute content (status updates, photographs, videos, music downloads, check ins, reviews, ratings), we’re telling the network something about us, and about the places we inhabit. Our interaction with our physical surroundings is richer and more complex because “it” (the Internet – or more accurately, the algorithms and programming that allow information to be fed back to us as users) knows so much about us, our world, and what we want. Isn’t that a grand thing?

Like I said at the beginning though, I do struggle with the term ‘cyberspace’, probably because it is difficult to shake off the 90s connotations. The second you say ‘cyberspace’, it conjures up images of ones and zeroes and terrible (but awesome) movies like Hackers.

It’s also a term that I can’t help but want to use ironically, because it’s just really naff. But what should we say? Is there a good way to describe this network of information that coexists with our physical world?

This is why I keep going.

The sensory-inscribed mode of embodiment places the subject in a vital role in the writing and practice of history as that which is defined as a present recognizing itself as a formulation of the past. Here, the process of ‘re-membering’ (i.e., the constructing of community history and the battle that ensues over who is able to construct history) is very much an embodied experience. Re-membering is a construction of various pieces that, while not the Grand Narrative of history, is instead an experience of ongoing creation. This type of creation is not simply a retelling of what was, but is an embodied experience of the phenomenology of temporality. The body plays a role in at least two ways here. First, it serves as the metaphor for the self’s constructive relationship to history… Secondly, the body is integral to the construction of history because culture and bodies are indelibly linked to representation and history.

Farman, Jason (2012). Mobile Interface Theory. Routledge: New York; Abingdon, p.125

The past few days have brought more pleasant discoveries and excited moments of learning than the months leading up to this point. Perhaps it’s the fact that I know I’m so close to finishing my thesis, but all I want to do is keep reading and writing and absorbing all this information.

I have been reading about embodiment and place and locative media and mobile phones and networks and storytelling and so much more. I’m so happy that I finally want this.

If you’ve ended up here via Twitter…

Hi everyone!

If you’ve ended up here via Twitter, there’s a fair chance you responded to my tweet for Perth bloggers, so I thought I’d write up a little bit about what I’m doing.

I’m in the final stages of my PhD, and writing up the thesis is… an adventure, to say the least.

Basically, I’ve been observing a whole heap of Perth blogs for the past four years with varying degrees of commitment (often not much), but as I’m nearing the final stages of writing up I really need some hard data to back up my ramblings.

That’s where you come in.

In the initial stages I’m going to compile a list of bloggers (which I will make available here if anyone is interested). Then, I’ll be looking at which other platforms they’re using: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and so on.

I’m going to use a pretty snazzy open-source software called Gephi to plot the connections that exist between the people whose blogs I’ve been following. So I’ll track links between blogs, links between Twitter feeds, links between Facebook pages, etc. until eventually I should have some pretty awesome visualisations of what Perth’s online community looks like.

I will update here over the coming weeks with what is going on, but if you would like to know anything more please feel free to email me or leave a comment here.

A note about how I am using this information

I won’t be doing anything unethical with your information. Nothing will be made public that is not already public online. If you do not use your real name online, your name won’t appear online or in my thesis. I certainly will not be publishing anything like personal contact details.

If you would prefer not to be involved, just contact me and I will take you off the public list (and remove you from my research data altogether).

Researching networked, place-based identities

(or: four years of work in a couple hundred words)

My PhD research is a complex thing. And by “complex”, I mean “super geeky”.

It started out as an exploration of place identity – that is, our sense of self that ties us to the places that we inhabit, and the places that we are from – in the context of blogging.

Over the past four years it’s changed a thousand times, but I’m now nearing the end and need the hard data to back up what I’ve been observing for the past few years.

I’m looking at the idea of re-placing the self online.

Once upon a time, in the 1990s, there was no room for place or bodies online: you sat behind your computer (no mobile Internet back then!), left your physical self behind*, and adopted a new identity. Slow connection speeds and clunky interfaces made it difficult to represent the real online, and as such the virtual world looked very, very different.

Now though, thanks to a number of factors (including mobile technology, social media platforms, and the general ubiquity of the Internet) place has begun to matter once again. When we’re online, we tend to replicate our offline selves, rather than adopting a persona. Indeed, this line between online and offline doesn’t really exist anymore. Our profiles tell other users what our name is, where we’re from, and show them what we look like.

My research looks at the way that physical place influences our online sense of self. Online, we re-place our “real world” place networks, through blogs and social media.

Through gathering information about Perth bloggers, the platforms they use, and the networks they share, I am trying to paint a picture of what Perth looks like online. I’m also interested to know how far these networks extend offline, and will be getting in touch with bloggers over the next month to see if anyone would like to participate in providing me with this information that isn’t so easily seen online.

If you have any questions, please just leave a comment or email me.

*to some degree. We never have quite reached that cyberpunk fantasy of being able to detach ourselves from our physical being and live online forever!