And Now For My Dissertation….

Thesis, dissertation….. I’m never sure what to call it, but now the time has come for me to start doing it, whatever it is.

I had my first meeting with my lead supervisor today, and I thought I would use my blog as a way of recording what was discussed, and a kind of rough draft for the final piece.  Please, readers, and I know there are one or two of you out there, feel free to comment or make any suggestions.

The subject of my dissertation is going to by misogyny in a social networking space, namely twitter.  There have been lots of stories in the media about high-profile women being subjected to abuse online simply because they dared to ‘speak’, the latest being Sue Perkins.  ‘Gamergate’ – and there’s a whole page on Wikipedia about it if you’re interested – happened last year, and I’m currently reading ‘Hate Crimes in Cyberspace’ by Danielle Keats Citron, which discusses a range of recent cases in all their shocking detail.  As well as this hateful stuff, I’m also interested in how language is used to encode and ‘normalise’ prejudice, and a good example of this is how young people use the word ‘gay’.  When a kid says ‘That’s really gay!’ they don’t mean gay as in homosexual, they mean gay as in annoying/stupid/uncool, and yet by using the word they have associated an entire section of the population with something that’s ‘not normal’, ‘wrong’, ‘annoying’, ‘stupid’, and helped to perpetuate homophobia, however unintended.  In the media, women are WAGS, mothers, mistresses, twenty-year-olds, wife-of’s, ex-girlfriend-of’s, long before we start to read their names or – rarely – their accomplishments.  Rap lyrics do it with mention of ‘ho’s’ or ‘baby-mammas’.  The world of business does it with the male-gendered language of the boardroom…. ‘hostile take-over’ anyone?  And so it goes on.

What I want to look at – I think – is the use of this casual language on twitter, and perhaps who is using it.  A bit like this but using key words liked with misogyny.  Finding high-profile women that have been subjected to abuse is easy – I want to see how entrenched ‘casual’ misogyny is in wider society.  And yes, I realise twitter isn’t necessarily the same as the ‘real’ world, but it’s a decent comparison and, more importantly, easily accessible.

Things I need to do:

  1. Define ‘misogyny’, and consider different definitions dependent upon context.
  2. Locate research papers on the subject, and identify key researchers in the field.  Read, critique, summarise the papers.  Are there any gaps?
  3. Write a general overview, as broad as it needs to be, before starting to narrow down what MY study will be about.
  4. Think about key words.
  5. Remember that the twitter API doesn’t provide all the data.
  6. Research a range of ways of extracting data: Python, NodeXL, R, as well as the University’s GUI.
  7. Research sentiment analysis – might it be useful?
  8. Research web science / network analysis papers for some background methodologies.  Look for interpretations as well as descriptions of techniques used.
  9. Use the information on the INSNA site.
  10. Some background knowledge on psychology and human behaviour on-and off-line, especially group behaviour, would also be useful.

There we go.  Lots to be getting on with, and if that lot doesn’t generate 15000 words then…. well…. it just better had, ok?



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