Blog Post

EAGER to begin

EAGER to begin

I recently joined HASTAC as a Postdoctoral Fellow, as part of an effort to study the social network that comprises HASTAC.org. Having been trained as a Political Scientist, it has been revelatory to join the world of Digital Humanities, Digital Media & Learning, and the interdisciplinary, decentralized community of HASTAC.

Further, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to study HASTAC, by all accounts and appearances a thriving networked organism. The HASTAC community is such a success that it is hoped that by studying it, similar learning communities can be fostered and strengthened. I am excited at the prospect of becoming a “scholar of HASTAC studies,” and uncovering the institutions, mechanisms, and motivations that propel HASTAC and its members.

I would like to share a very rough outline of my intended course of investigation, with the intent of engaging HASTAC members and soliciting your ideas, recommendations, and questions. As members and users of the site, I expect you will have the best insight as to what makes HASTAC work, and I hope that you will share that insight with me. To begin, however, my general plan is as follows:

  1. Evaluate and describe HASTAC from a social network analysis perspective: investigate ties between users through “friendship” ties, group co-membership, topic co-interest; show connections within the bipartite topic:group and topic:blog networks, etc.

    1. Draw these graphs (some possible approaches); characterize their structure

    2. Use bipartite networks to study topical structure of HASTAC’s collective interests. Peruse the Stanford Digital Humanities blog for a sense of the possibilities here. Perhaps also do some more sophisticated topic modeling (such as that seen here).

    3. Depending on the availability of data, attempt to build a geographic representation of HASTAC, either of the network, or of some “third dimension” over latitude-longitude space.

  2. Understand the motivations that lead to HASTAC members joining and participating. This is one area where your suggestions and ideas will be most useful. I am interested in hearing any and all explanations for your own participation in the network, or theories about why HASTAC members in general choose to participate (forming new friendships, promoting one’s own work, job-market signalling, etc.). This can be thought of as an attempt to explain the “cause” of HASTAC’s success.

  3. The other side of the coin, of course, is to explain the “effect” of HASTAC. Here, I am interested in understanding how membership/participation in HASTAC influences individuals’ personal outcomes (be those traditional academic success, better relationships, greater expertise, etc.), as well as how HASTAC influences the structure of collaboration (does co-authorship increase? does interdisciplinary work become more common? does work become “network-centered” as opposed to “group-centered”?) Here, as with (2) above, we may deploy a survey, which I will now (as then) heartily entreat you to participate in. Again, your input, ideas, questions, and suggestions will be invaluable to this process.

Keep in mind that the project is still quite nebulous in form, and will evolve in response to your thoughts and suggestions. Consider the comments section below a place to describe all of your hopes and dreams about the “right” way to undertake this large task. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you, over the days and weeks to come, hopefully with an increasing understanding of this community, and more impressive visuals.

 

Image of "Mr Meardon and men in Bonmahon Mines" courtesy of the National Library of Ireland, on Flickr.

 

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1243622. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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