Experience

I have been a teaching assistant for four different professors. Skills I have gained include

  • Grading
  • Utilizing Blackboard
  • Communication with students
  • Ability to guest lecture

Through several research methods classes I have learned

  • Data Analysis on SPSS
  • Proper construction of a research topic
  • Web Scraping in Python

Ethics

  1. What does ethical digital research mean to you?

doing ethical digital research to me is doing research that does not harm participants, and is done by good actors. I do not think that corporations have the ability to preform digital research in good faith because of the desire to profit off their subjects. Social media can be a very private part of a persons life, and using this data to entice people to buy things is not something I consider to be ethical.

  1. Given your knowledge of the IRB, do you think that they ensure ethical digital research as defined by you? Why or why not?

The IRB states that consent is not needed for research done on publicly available information on online platforms. This is probably due to the idea that there is an “informed consent” when people use public platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. In my opinion, informed consent does not exist in many of today’s online spaces, if any. People are put in a situation where they must use social media to stay up to date on news, relatives, and other happenings. When something becomes a requirement for social life, there becomes a power imbalance between owners of the social requirement, in this case online platforms, and its users. People know that their data may be used, however they do not know by who, for what, and are never given an option to reclaim their data. There are parts of social media analytics that people don’t realize exist either. Somebody may be aware that their posts may be seen by future employers, but unaware that their likes and dislikes are also public knowledge. Users have no choice but to consent to the rules that platforms place upon them, and for this reason I do not believe that people are giving fully informed consent to be analyzed.

What I will say, is that for academic research I do think using publicly available information is less unethical as opposed to how corporations conduct research. The problem with corporate research besides being designed to make profit is that it is often manipulative as well. Users are not just analyzed by corporations, but influenced and swayed by these analyzations. I believe that if the research is done in good faith, and is an attempt at better understanding society than this research can be ethical. When research has a direct, immediate, and ill-intentioned effect on users, this is when I see this research as inherently problematic and wrong.

  1. Is it even possible to protect human subjects in digital research? Is there a point in digital research, particularly when examining ‘big data’, where we can truly say that human subjects aren’t affected? If so, what is that threshold?

Human subjects can be unaffected by research if it is done by academics in the pursuit of better understanding society. People may be effected later on by policy changes that come as a result of these studies, but I think that this process is not a problem if it is done correctly. I think all research done outside of academia is designed to effect users, and therefore cannot be considered ethical.

  1. What are something that you can do as a digital sociologist to protect the human subjects in your own research projects?

1: Reducing bias as much as possible when attempting to study subjects.

2: Taking time in analysis to understand how this information can be used to make a difference in society

3: Not attempting what comes off as “gotcha” journalism where large groups of people are dismissed or made to look bad without enough research being done about a subject. This can lead to moral panic, especially with the scale in which digital data can be obtained

Learning Path

Career Goals = Academia 

Skills sets

  • Writing skills
  • Oral Communication Skills
  • Presentation Skills
  • Research skills
  • Critical Thinking skills
  • Specific Methodological skills (i.e. big data, focus groups, ethnography, etc)
  • Teaching / Course design skills
  • Facilitations skills
  • Inclusivity Skills
  • Leadership Skills

Opportunities for skill development (Obvious)

  • Theory, Gender, Families, Digital Sociology
  • Economic Inequality, Digital Sociology, Social Problems
  • Victor Chen, Gina Longo

Opportunities for Skill Development (Less Obvious)

  • A cappella group President and section leader
  • Gymnastics coach

Why Sociology

Through studying sociology, I am convinced that in order to further the discipline properly in this digital age, a crucial examination of the methods of discourse and rhetoric used online must be implemented into the field. I see furthering my education in a digital context as the epitome of that examination. The internet is a place where we are seeing structural forces replicated and perpetuated. Never before has there been such an opportunity to learn so much about the thoughts and feelings of the people. It is my long-term goal to earn a Doctorate in sociology, specializing in digital sociology. I want to dedicate my time to understanding the digital age, and I believe that committing myself to academia is the correct approach for this.

To understand the climate of the internet is to get a better understanding of the norms and values of our current and future society. One must be technologically savvy, as well as sociologically savvy, in order to understand how the internet is both a replication of the offline world, and an influencer to the offline world. I believe that I have the skills necessary to analyze this replication and influence and hope that through continuing my education I can hone my skills and gain a more thorough understanding of this relationship.

I have a desire to find out what people are saying online about a multitude of topics including race, gender, politics, and numerous other subjects. I not only want to know what people are saying, but I want to know who those people are, and why they are saying what they are saying. I hope to find patterns in my search, and I believe that working on my research skills will better equip me to understand and identify the new and old patterns that are being carried out online. Two important questions I have are: How are the old patterns being perpetuated online? How are emerging patterns online transforming our culture offline?

I have been an avid Redditor for seven years now. Most of my time online has been spent scrolling through comments sections. Whatever the platform, I have always been fascinated not just by what is being posted and shared online, but by the comments underneath the content. The internet, social media platforms most notably, has given anybody with a WiFi connection the power to share their thoughts with the masses. This is why I live in the comments section on most platforms. Where else is one going to find the true reactions beyond the number of shares and likes?

It is because of my long history obsessing over the internet that I believe I should be a digital sociologist. I have always wanted to know how it is that people came to act certain ways, and I see research as the way to do find out.