Search Results for: discourse analysis

PhD Abstract: Twitter chat events & the making of a professional domain

Here is the latest draft of a one page abstract of my PhD:

Distributed online discussion events in social media are increasingly used as sites for open, informal professional development, knowledge sharing and community formation. Synchronous chat events hosted on Twitter have become particularly prominent in a number of professional domains. Yet theoretical and critical analysis of these Twitter chat events has, to date, been limited: this thesis contributes to the development of such analysis through a socio-material, network assemblage lens employing trans-disciplinary and multi-method research approaches. This research positions the Twitter chat events as the relational effects of network-assemblages of human and non-human actants.A picture of various draft word processed documents

This thesis explores Twitter chat events with a particular focus on human resource development (HRD) as a professional domain that is widely seen as inherently changeable, fluid, contested and continually emergent. This study examines how practitioner-generated reportage of professional practice and the specific functions of Twitter intra-act to generate a particular definition of HRD as a professional field of practice.

A combination of descriptive statistics, Social Network Analysis and analysis of the content and structure of the Chat events has been employed in researching 32 separate chat events with 12,061 tweets. The research methods generated multiple readings of the research data and surfaced different and fluid potential lines of enquiry in to the Twitter chat events. A number of these potential lines of enquiry were then selected as points of entry to ‘zoom in’ to the data using a critical discourse analysis for a smaller sample of the Chat events.

A key finding of the research is that the Twitter chat events seek to generate an idealised archetype of HRD bounded by a stable set of dominant practices. This idealised archetype is positioned in contrast to a repertoire of common HRD practices presented as illegitimate in this professional grouping. A second key finding relates to the chat event assemblages as collective achievements involving human and non-human actants. The collective effects surfaced in the research problematise (a) the notion of online communities as the product of network ties and (b) the individualist orientations of much of the literature on professional learning.

It is further argued here that the entanglement of the particular technologies and functions of Twitter and the discursive structures and strategies mobilised in the Chat events creates tensions between discursive territorialisation and stabilisation of particular discourses of professional identity and meaning-making and the deterritorialisation, fragmentation and fluidity unscripted in to Twitter itself.

weeknotes [20102014]

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been

further working through my research involving discourse analysis along with network and other sociomaterial methods for my PhD. I think I’m developing a stronger understanding of of the method “in action” and Technology Enhanced Learning.

I’m also continuing to enjoy the teaching on two courses: Digital Environments for Learning; and Course Design for Digital Environments.

I’m also continuing to contribute to the development of two initiatives which I’ll hopefully write about sometime soon.

weeknotes [21092014]

OK, what have I been up to over the last few weeks:

Well the supervision of dissertation students has given way to the marking of dissertations. I can’t say I enjoy marking the dissertations I supervised (and am very glad they’re double marked) but do find interesting reading the dissertations that I haven’t supervised for the first time. … and just in case I thought there would be a pause, I’ve already started the first supervision meetings for a new set of dissertations.

piloting discourse analysis for my PhD studies continues to develop as issues are surfaced and I develop a better understanding of the method “in action”.

The writing of a couple of papers for publications continues. One is near completion and just requires final copy-proofing and permissions on images etc before submission. The other required extensive rewriting (and re-reading it, I did find it a shockingly poor piece of work – writing a short paper seems to be much harder…) and I’m waiting for feedback on that new version.

attended and excellent seminar on Unbundling the University. I hope to return to this topic in the near(ish) future. Interestingly, the imperatives for unbundling appear to be coming to the state schools system in the UK (or at least England) with this example of outsourcing school services involving the Academy Enterprise Trust.

Also, we’re now well and truly into the teaching term with the two courses I’m contributing to this semester: Digital Environments for Learning; and Course Design for Digital Environments


weeknotes [25082014]

Over the last couple of weeks, my time has been spent on:

A picture of various draft word processed documentssupervising Masters students on the dissertations with most submitting last week

working with three part-time students as they start their dissertations

developing a couple of ideas on a new course involving what is, I think, an innovative structure. More to follow on both of these

piloting discourse analysis for my PhD studies which is both interesting and slightly overwhelming – I mean, how much data can I really use?

writing a couple of papers for (hopeful) publication

preparing for teaching starting in a couple of weeks on two online courses: Digital Environments for Learning; and Course Design for Digital Environments

planning a Course for a different programme on Managing Organisational Learning & Knowledge (MOLK) that will be a blended Course starting in January 2015.

attended an interesting workshop on employability for postgraduate students as part of the Making Most of Masters project. The emphasis on employability is being partly driven by changes in the PGT market as student recruitment is counter-cyclical to the economy. Hence the market for PGT students is expected to become more competitive and requiring HEIs to develop key added-value offers to students which often revolve around issues of employability, employment outcomes and employer engagement.
The Making Most of Masters project started with mapping what work-based learning was already taking place, then defining a model for work-based dissertations and delivering and refining the model to finally generate a self-sustaining model. This is essentially a toolkit for running work-based dissertation projects.

The focus for the next couple of weeks will be on finalising the draft papers and preparing for the teaching…. and, of course, marking dissertations….

weeknotes [03082014]

I’m back from holiday and getting back in to work mode (which will be easier when the kids go back to school next week – bah humbug). Over the last week, I’ve mainly been:

Reading and reviewing dissertation draft chapters from students and meeting those students.

Some further work on developing ideas on new course structures.

Starting discourse analysis work for my PhD.

Next week will see more focus on preparing for the next academic year and, in particular, teaching on  Digital Environments for Learning; Course Design for Digital Environments and Managing Organisational Learning & Knowledge (MOLK).


weeknotes [11072014]

I’m just getting ready for for two weeks holiday starting today. Over the last couple of weeks, my time has been spent on:

supervising Masters students on the dissertations with most aiming to complete by the end of this summer
working with three part-time students as they’re just about to start their dissertations
developing ideas on a new course involving what is, I think, an innovative structure. More to follow on this after the summer
reading up on discourse analysis for my PhD studies.

Once I’m back from my holiday, in addition to these activities, I’ll also be concentrating on preparations for teaching on courses on two online courses: Digital Environments for Learning; and Course Design for Digital Environments. I’ll also be redesigning a course for a different programme on Managing Organisational Learning & Knowledge (MOLK).


So, back in two weeks feeling fresh and energetic (I hope)

Open online spaces of professional learning: searching for understanding  the ‘material’ of Twitter discussion events

Here are the slides from my presentation to the Social Informatics cluster group meeting of 13 June 2014.


Recent years have seen a growth in micro-blogging discussion events intended to support professional learning (McCulloch, et al, 2011; Bingham and Conner, 2010) communities. These events often take place on Twitter and are open to anyone using that service. The synchronous events are organised through the convention of hashtags (#) in combination with a shortened name as an explicit mechanism to aggregate contributions and enable open interactions (Bruns 2011).
This presentation will explore an initial investigation of two of these Twitter discussion event communities that both target corporate learning and development professionals. The overall study is concerned with how social discourses within a specific context emerge as sense-making and legitimation strategies around particular practices (Phillips and Hardy 2002: 25) and so will employ a multi-modal discourse analysis approach (Levine and Scullion 2004). However, the data from these Twitter discussion events does not have a transparently coherent structure as discussion sequences run coterminously and interrupt one another (Honeycutt and Herring 2009). So, with the purpose of “making sense of the data”, this presentation outlines the approaches used in identifying and analysing the key patterns of participation and structures of the Twitter discussion events. The descriptive statistical approaches suggested by Bruns (2014) are used to analyse the Twitter events and to discuss the limits of such analysis with reference to recent debates on the nature and status of ‘data’ in digital research (boyd and Crawford 2012; Baym 2013). The extent to which this kind of analysis can reveal the power and participation strategies of Twitter users in these events will be discussed.

Network Learning Conference: doctoral symposium

The Network Learning Conference is starting with a doctoral symposium on Monday 7 April. The conference hashtag is #nlc2014

The symposium is in two blocks, the first is presentations and the second block is a discussion session.

Bonnie Stewart on Exploring networked scholarly identities and influences. [@bonstewart]. Majority of the audience use Twitter and or blog. Bonnie’s work considers who we are as academics online and what that means for higher education. She also thinks ‘outloud’ with networks of colleagues within and beyond the individual institution and that what intrigues her in terms of network learning.
Adoption of SoMe often broadcast focused and loosing the interactional nature of these technologies. Networked and scholarly practices intersect especially around reputation and influence of academics. The traditional markers of influence and reputation are institutional-led but this is subverted in working in networks.
Network reputations often measured by metrics of eg, followers/ following but these are inadequate as measures of influence.
Networks of individual academics are fluid and dynamic and overlapping with different audiences and are transparent and traceable. Can often see context collapse in understanding the geographical and organisational, gendered and cultural contexts which have to be navigated as an individual node in the networks.
Research conducted as an ethnography involving 13 participants observed and interviewed ten. Interested in the networked literacies in online networks and are these different from institutional markers of influence and reputation. Main uses of SoMe were in terms of dissemination and community including connecting ‘around the mundane’. Once perceived as having online reputation, this changes how the individual is identified, eg, no longer ‘just’ a grad student. There are also liabilities and positioning fatigue from constant navigation of these networks.

Mary Bolger on How Servant-Leadership enhanced intrinsic motivation in MOOCs?. Servant leadership is a philosophy/ way of life involving listening, empathy, building community and seeking growth of others so focuses on others rather than self. Also draws on self-directed learning and self-determination theory. Cites Knowles continuum of pedagogy to andragogy along with heutagogy.
Self-determination theory links competency, relatedness and autonomy building confidence and motivation in learning. Also used Trompenaars and Voerman’s Dilemma Reconciliation Theory that draws on a cyclical logic seeking to combine the best of two alternative positions (the win-win).
The tech-touch dilemma is another continuum between low tech but high touch and high tech (networked learning) but low touch. Her research seeks to identify how to develop high-tech high-touch learning via the servant-leadership style of engagement. Servant-leadership become goal in itself and self-perpetuating.

The philosophical positioning of the study is of subjective study with an epistemology of value-centred knowledge. Also draws on humanist and determinist views in understanding agency and the limits to agency.

Kyung Mee Lee on A Foucauldian Critical Discourse Analysis of Distance Education at Open University . Decided to focus on distance rather then networked learning to look at the history of distance learning. Discourses embedded in the labels of open education, from Open Education Resources to MOOCs generating a dominant discourse of openess. Foucauld position finds that the dominant discourse regulates how we think about distance education and so is an exertion of power rather than a ‘true’ position and so the focus of research shifts to issues of impact and how discourses may become dominant. This research looks at emergence of dominant discourses at particular institutions at particular moments in time and multiple discourses in competition with oneanother. As a result, alternative discourses are marginalised and so are problematised where the dominant discourse is normalised. This research looking at two open universities on the discourses on distance education. Identified distance education discourses as open, learners as self-regulated and technological innovation leads to pedagogical innovation. Combined interviews and document analysis. Chose a time period of 2002 as the time when the HEIs decided to put many/ all courses online. Since 2002 the discourses evolved to increasingly emphasise technological innovation alongside the more established discourses of openess, flexibility and excellence. A key site of tension is between an emphasis on openness vs technological innovation.

Cormac O’Keefe on online ethnography adult skills e-assessment. e-assessment involves the use of online or computer-based assessment so is a wide range of activities. The research uses trace ethnography which is similar to virtual ethnography and emphases the mundane that also involved the hidden traces from the technology itself, eg, code traces in computer/ network logs. The research is looking at local and transnational networks in complex networks of test setter, software routines, databases, test taker, learner objects etc…. Transnationality is an outcome of using the online and how the technology is distributed. Policy networks are also being mapped.
Conceptual narrowing a key process in the research of the test in terms of socio-technical practices to seek ways of measuring human capital that can be turned in to calculable objects that turn back through policy and local networks. Thus to inform local and policy decision-makings. So this shows how e-assessment is a material process and practices.

Steve Wright the standardisation of taste: challenges around a written accounts of sensory, sequential and multi-modal data. Three stages of research around becoming a beer judge informed by ethnomethodology including Conversation Analysis amd Membership Categorisation Analysis, Foucauldian methods of tracing histories of taste and so draws on Actor-Networked Theory. Conceives of technology in a wide definition involving apparatus, technique, organisation and network (Winner 1977) so Steve’s research is focused on technology as categorisation and classifications and how these are represented and performed. There is a beer XML standard for describing beer recipes and beer standards that has been turned to an iPad app. How to present aspects of taste in a written thesis? So is experimenting with the use of different fonts, using comic strips, images and scanned documents with hand written notes and retaining his own commentary in the final document/ thesis.

Now moving onto a coffee break and then groups discussions so i won’t be taking live notes for the rest of the symposium.

Twitter and micro-blogging notes on day 2

These are notes from the Twitter and Micro-blogging conference at Lancaster University for day 2.  The full programme can be found on Lanyard.The Twitter hastag is #LUTwit

Conceptualising Twitter as a discourse system by @mdanganh

Looked at the Function of the # – lead to theory of contextualisation based on John J Gumperz conversational inference and contextualisation cues as surface feature that are verbal and non-verbal. So can be used to understand and analyse #

Cues reconfigure conversational contexts that presuppose and create context as social ordering (Bruns & Burgess 2011).

Key part of Twitter as a discourse system. Identifies four functional operators in Twitter: the RT; the @; the # and the link That have technical and communicative function as well as positioning Twitter as intertextual and interdiscursive

For data drawn from Federal State elections 2010 – 2013 over a four week period each year from parties, media, politicians, public interactions, #. Analysis uses

– profile analysis (quant)

– speech act analysis (qual and quant) (Searle), eg, inform, state, assert, announce, request etc……. Found predominately speech acts concerned with exchanging information, especially from the institutional accounts

– discourse analysis (quant informed qualitative analysis

Use case of Conservative candidate #Rottgen. But lost NRW State election and subsequntly also dismissed as Federal minister by Angela Merkel (as a ‘mother’ figure). Discourse developed as mother metaphor

# frames Tweets in to a story narrative frame that is emergent and the co-construction of meaning.


Now on to the plenary session with @GregMyers on Working and Playing on Science Twitter

First Tweet on an April Fools as example of different types of Twitter streams – such as different communities  or genres. @GregMyers on writing on blogging realised that there is not one ‘thing’ of a blog – share a media but are very different. Are we talking about one genre or not? Looking at the different papers at the conference it is clear that there is not a single genre or function.

How do different Twitter communities use Twitter? Are there genre differences. Focus here on science Twitter of research scientists.

Networking is a part of any science project from the 16 century onwards. But as a community, depend for reward on the production of a very different text object, the published paper which is very unlike Twitter. So science community is a network of texts but also involving equipment, people, methods, money (ANT).

Identified two themes of sociology of science:

1. heterogeneirty of scientific networks: ANT. You become powerful in science by maintaining a network

2. rhetorical tension between empiricist repertoire as timeless claims in the formal literature and a contingent repertoire and time bound and contingent activities.

Cites letter from C19 that is very Twitter like albeit as provate letter rather than a public Tweet.

More information on Greg’s blog:

Corpus analysis based on keywords eg, paper, scientist, research, etc… but more interesting keywords such as: over use of “i” (compared to other Tweets) as a sign of formality; use of “of” as signifier of more complex; “but” as academic signifier and a negative keyword of “love” as evaluation.

Gives ground to identify scientists as a distinct community on Twitter.

Gives an example of phatic communication – communication for the sake of contact (“who is still working” at 3 am). Problematises the use of the term “here” as “a lab” rather than a geographic co-location. Solidarity building?

Particular interest in references to time: current time – what I’m doing now; temporal cycles of, eg, work , publications, terms; future time (what will be happening); and chunking time eg, pleistocene.

Gives example of scientific criticism and never-ending use of citations and references but also criticism of socio-thermodynamics using LOLcats

Scientific criticism involves personal stance; impersonal references to shared norms and hierarchies of authority for presentational purposes. Found many Tweets involve boundary work, sealing off science and non-science while at the same time concerned with outreach and public engagement with science.

Good set of question of a Twitter community:

  • present self as a community?
  • make a distinct genre – eg, use of RT, links etc…?
  • use the same genre / register?
  • how Twitter practices relate to other practices?
  • what specific kinds of performance are valued?
  • how permeable are the boundaries of the community? How many Tweets get RT from outside the community?

Permeability of the science community enhanced as scientist may be member of other communities that may cross-overs of their specific Tweets (hip hop, feminism/ women in science). But not seeing non-scientists coming back and commenting on scientific discussions.


The afternoon session is about to kick-off with Noreen Dunnett on The Tweeting Zone with Twitter providing a mechanism for renegotiating boundaries between Activity Systems. Looking also at how Twitter allows renegotiation of identities and roles of learners and teachers in formal learning spaces.

Referes to liminal spaces as a rite of passage in which a person moves from one state of being to another. Could Twitter affordances at act bridge between Activity Systemas a a boundary zone between different systems and spaces? Does Twitter provide scaffolding between learning and working definitions.

Affordances (actionable properties …. user perceives some action is possible. Gibson 1977, 1979 and Norman 2004). The paper uses Connectivism and Activity Theory examining a teacher training course and the student use of Twitter ordered around a given #

Frames Twitter in terms of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) as allowing learners to coordinate arrangements between people, materials and technology so the PLE is not a platform but is rather a process that requires agency from the learner [as actor].

Uses ethnographic action research including participant observation, interview and survey. Observation of a Twitter chat over a seven month period with researcher moderating initial discussion. Spaces of learning in, eg, Twitter, enacted in to being – emerge rather that design/ predetermined (Al Mahmood 2008).

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 13.54.07

Cited example of student who left the course asking for permission to continue to use the hashtag.

Trainee teachers participate in a range of discourse communities simultaneously, spanning formal and informal learning environment. The course tutor conflicted about Twitter and the degree of control and policing role.

Useful Tweet here:

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 13.45.30

Twitter bridge Activity Systems as discourse communities.

Role of tutor not clear: has emergent and non-emergent elements as the Twitter space was formally set up to support students in placement but tutor also wanted to use it for learning tasks by setting up a series of tasks Tutor was concerned that the students controlled by eg, GTC notions of professional conversation.

References from the presentation can be found here


Now out of power and seeking a plug point ……


Now at An analysis of professional exchange and community dynamics of Twitter from Nicola Osborne and Clare Llewellyn from Edinburgh

Used Martin Hawksey’s TAGs for grabbing #feeds into Google Docs.

Social media collaboration group came into being to analyse Tweets on London riots using manual analysis and wanted to use more automation in the analysis. Clare developed a prototype as the JISC Twitter Workbench initially for analysis of Olympics on Twitter  but extended in to more general academic use. Currently working on developing the Workbench to work with smaller, discreet data including elimination of direct (unchanged) RTs. Testing Workbench for use at a conference (done aferwards but could be done in real time).

Used algorithm  for LDA clustering but found it no more accurate than incremental clustering 

At the conference, was a lot of interest in, for example, PechaKucha and specific talks that gained a lot of interest.

Found different algorithms appropriate for different size of event/ Twitter hashtags. Clusters confirmed some hunches about the conference.

Noted that clustering does not analyse influence of a Tweet. Confirmed participant feedback on conference sessions. Did identify what was popular (not influential?) and ‘hot topics’ etc which could have been very useful for real time use eg, in back channel. Could imply unpopular sessions not Tweeted but this is not clear.

Very clear decline in volume of Tweets after conference – often sharing links.

Analysis was about the content of Tweets and not about connections between Tweets…

Balance to be developed between clustering duplication versus clustering granularity.

Q of why JISC funded this given the existence of NodeXL

Now time for a break….

Fell behind on the blogging – lack of power, fat fingers etc….

Now at the plenary Professional Twitter Panel which can be followed at #lutwitrc

Discussing finding the time for Twitter and intensity, @johnnyunger very variable in intensity of Tweeting. Mentions that avoiding marking leads to increase in Twitter use.

A number of comments in Tweeting in between times

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 16.25.01

Tweet when we’re doing other things or when can’t do other things

But also comments about the rhythms of the day – energy, roles etc…

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 16.28.00

… and in relation to activities in “real life” (sitting on the bus) as well as on other SoMe.

Discussion on whether Twitter is distracting or takes time [but avoids issues of cognitive-shifting]

Moving to ethics, eg, is it OK to be anonymous on Twitter and issue of institutional constraints. Also scales of anonymity, eg, less easy to identify the individual rather than anonymous per se.

Comment on analysis of HE SoMe policies that are very constraining requiring various disclaimers for staff. HE senior management prickliness on potential reputation harm from ‘rogue staff’.

Comment that first rule of the internet that there is no such thing as anonymity – don’t say something online you wouldn’t say elsewhere (from @pennyb).

Moved on to impact – beyond simply number of followers but also who follows.

Discussion on ethics and the nature of public domain with good understanding of the nuances around anonymising Tweets. Also refering to Twitter TOS in tension with research ethics, eg, on anonymity.

Is a profession also a discursive community?

Discourse analysis (DA) is about the study of “language in use” (Nunan 1993, p7) operating at a number of levels (Fairclough 2003; Alvesson & Skoldberg 2009). Heracleous (2006) identifies two over-lapping levels of discourse: communicative action based on interactions between individuals to, for example, share experiences or build relations, and deeper discursive structures that ‘guide’ and regulate communicative actions. Mäkitalo (2012) argues that professional discursive practices are indivisible from professional practices themselves. Furthermore, Fenwick et al (2012) suggest that discursive practices seek to stablise as, what are termed, discursive resources that constitute the legitimised discourses of professional practice. Professional learning and development is concerned with the re-production of those deeper discursive structures.

Bragd et al (2008) argue a discursive community is constituted through common meanings through discursive interaction. So each utterance can be treated as being created through interactions within an identifiable group of actors and texts rather than as the isolated acts of individuals (Dennen 2008). Thus, discourse is a mechanism that generates a ‘feeling’ of being part of a community through contributing to a particular discourse with particular uses and particular terms that are commonly understood as discursive repertoires (Eriksson & Kovalainen 2008) or resources (Rigg 2005). So a community is generated around some level of discursive structure that decentres the individual person to focus on networks of activity and influence (Fenwick et al 2012). Furthermore, discursive communities not only reinforce common understandings among members but also identify perspectives that differentiate members from ‘others’ outside the community (Bragd et al 2008). Hence discursive communities emerge through both collective meaning-making and processes of marginalisation and exclusion that ‘delegitimise’ ‘other’ discursive practices.

Discursive communities can then be seen as central to Mäkitalo’s (2012) processes of identifying what constitutes legitimate professional knowledge resources including vocabularies and dominant metaphors (Francis 2007). Rigg (2005) discusses collective meanings within discourses becoming institutionalised as a common language and meaning-making enterprise within an organisation. Such processes of institutionalisation could also occur through networks of interaction permeating organisational boundaries (Jorgensen & Henriksen 2011) including, for example, professional communities identified through their common discursive practices (Wenger 1998). Hence, a professional ‘field’, in Bourdieu’s sense of the term, can be negotiated, refined and revised through ongoing social interaction made identifiable by its’ repertoires and genres (Czarniawska 1997, 180).

So in conclusion, a professional domain is constituted by discourse and so a ‘profession’ is a discursive community [?]