Life in the digital fishbowl: managing your reputation online

Frances Ryan

Frances Ryan takes the stage

Hot on the heels of fellow Edinburgh Fringe performer Clare Taylor, last night it was the turn of Edinburgh Napier University research student Frances Ryan to step up to the microphone. Frances delivered an invited presentation at The Banshee Labyrinth (fringe venue 156) under the banner of the Edinburgh Skeptics.

Entitled Life in the digital fishbowl: managing your reputation online, Frances used her hour under the spotlight to discuss with the audience the role that online information plays in determining an individual’s reputation. The content of the presentation drew on work that Frances has undertaken in the first few months of her doctoral research. She raised questions about how people determine the information that they share with (or obscure from) others, both intentionally and unintentionally, and related how the information sharing choices of others can have an impact on one’s own reputation, whether this is welcomed or not. In short, your reputation is created by you, and others’ comments and pictures related to you, expressed and/or published online and elsewhere.

After taking questions (on big data, the Internet as a tool for democracy, information literacy, and the ethics of conducting research in this area) Frances drew attention to some homework sheets distributed around the room. These listed tips, tricks, and reminders for the audience members to follow up in their own time:

  1. Google yourself (use other search engines too)
    • Remember to do an image search
    • Use different search terms, e.g locations, schools, workplaces
    • Search for usernames and email addresses
  2. Check for old or forgotten accounts
    • Delete or update details as necessary
    • Contact administrators about lost log-in details
  3. Review your privacy settings – and terms and conditions
    • Don’t forget that your privacy is determined by your friends
  4. Think before you share
    • And think before you comment on others’ posts too
  5. Ask your friends to update their privacy settings
    • And ask the not to check you in or share images of you without permission
  6. Think about your identities
    • Do you need more than one?
    • Do you need to block some people from certain accounts?
    • Do you need separate accounts for your private and work lives?

Soon Frances will move on to empirical work for her study. She is keen to discuss the future stages of research, share information about her research interests, and to meet anyone who would like to take part in surveys and/or interviews on the themes of her research.

Frances’ Edinburgh Napier contact details can be found on her web page on the site of the Institute for Informatics and Digital Innovation. There is also further information about her research on her PhD blog (where you will see that she has also blogged about last night’s performance). The slides from the presentation can be found below. There is another blogged review of Frances’ talk on the Edinburgh Skeptics web site.

Hyperlocal government-citizen engagement: a new project for the Centre for Social Informatics

CCN+ logo The Centre for Social Informatics has been awarded a new research grant by the Communities and Culture Network+.

My colleagues Peter Cruickshank and Dr Bruce Ryan have won funding for a study into hyperlocal government-citizen engagement. They will investigate the efforts of three neighbouring Scottish community councils in improving engagement with their citizens in both online and offline conversations. This work follows on from recent and ongoing investigations into the use of online communication by community councils: (1) a project to visualise community council locations; (2) a study of public online presences of community councils.

The new project is inspired by the legal duty of community councils to obtain and share local opinions, and to be involved with planning processes. As these councils find their “online voices” (for example in developing their Twitter personae) the project team will observe how this changes their relationships with citizens. Digital Economy logo

The Communities and Culture Network+ is part of Research Councils UK’s Digital Economy programme.

iDocQ Information Science doctoral colloquium 2014 #idocq2014: a review

Information Science Pathway logoiDocQ, the annual doctoral colloquium for students studying for PhDs in information science and other related disciplines, took place this year on 27th June at the University of Glasgow. It attracted participants at all stages of doctoral study, with students travelling to Glasgow from as far away as Aberystwyth to join in the activities on the day.

The formal proceedings kicked off with a keynote presentation delivered by Professor John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland, chaired by PhD student Calum Liddle of Strathclyde University. John’s discussion of his research into media reporting of the Scottish independence debate demonstrated how elites respond to information that they want to ignore. John explained how he analysed media coverage of the forthcoming Scottish referendum (e.g. broadcast interviews, cartoons), and the difficulties he experienced when attempting to disseminate his findings. His presentation raised a number of interesting points related to the power and influence of long-established social networks, and how to handle stakeholders when your research may not be welcomed by them.

The rest of the morning at iDocQ was scheduled to give an opportunity for the student delegates to present their work in 20×20 format. This session was chaired by Frances Ryan, a first year PhD student in the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University. The speakers and the themes of their presentations were:

The presentations are currently being archived at the iDocQ SlideShare account (along with the iDocQ 2013 20×20 presentations from last year).

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After lunch I hosted a session on social media for impact. This was delivered along the lines of the workshop that I ran at the ESRC final year conference on April 25th 2014. Following discussions of the “social media bingo card”, each group of participants devised a set of “social media for impact” headlines (see the shots of the flipcharts in the slide show above). The headlines relayed ideas and advice, as well as questions for further discussion over the afternoon tea break:

  • How do you distinguish social media platforms that are useful to help increase your research impact from those that are a waste of time?
  • How do you find your social media community/audience?
  • How do you move from being a consumer of the social media content of others to a producer of content for consumption by others?
  • How do you manage the time commitment required for engaging with social media so that it is time well spent?

After tea there was a “research clinic” panel. Here questions submitted anonymously by students were answered by expert panel members from the four university departments that comprise Information Science Scotland: Dr Ian Anderson of Glasgow University; David McMenemy of Strathclyde University, Dr Lizzy Tait of Robert Gordon University, and Professor Hazel Hall of Edinburgh Napier University. The academics shared advice on the basis of their own PhD experience, research activities, and experience gained from supervising doctoral candidates. The questions covered both procedural issues (e.g. “Who will be at my viva?”), and requests for advice for specific stages of the PhD such as the literature review (e.g. “How do you stop your literature review getting too broad?”), data collection (e.g. “What steps can you take to generate a reasonable response to a survey?”), and writing up (e.g. “How can a student make a case study about a particular organisation relevant to a diverse sector?”). Some time was also spent on the question of how students should “manage” their supervisors. Another question on whether there is still “space” to work in the academy post-PhD led to an interesting discussion and the sharing of lots of advice on how to be prepared for making academic job applications in the future.

The formal proceedings of the day came to a close in the plenary session when Dr Ian Anderson, Convenor of Information Science Scotland, awarded the prize for the best student presentation from the morning session to Erin Ferguson of Strathclyde University for her 20×20 on research into Freedom of Information legislation.

All in all it was a great day, largely thanks to the clever programme devised by the hard working iDocQ 2014 student committee members: Frances Ryan of Edinburgh Napier University; Calum Liddle of Strathclyde University, Chikezie Emele of Robert Gordon University; and Wachi Klungthanaboon of Glasgow University. Delegates left with a better appreciation of the variety of doctoral research in information science, new connections, and plenty to think about regarding their current work, its value and impact, and their future career paths. The student feedback recorded on the event evaluation forms completed at the end of the day was very positive and included comments such as:

  • “The presentations really made me think about my own research in light of the issues that other PhDs are tackling. A welcome eye-opener.”
  • “20×20 was a great opportunity to learn a new presentation style. I was so hesitant to do it at first but, after, I’m thankful for the opportunity and would encourage others to give this a go. I also found the research panel very interesting, useful and candid.”
  • “This was, quite simply, a wonderful day. Thank you so much to everyone. I leave here confident, upbeat and I feel like I am in-the-know – it’s been a while! I’ve had my nerves hit quite a few times during my PhD. It was most welcome, among other things, to hear a research panel speak so frankly about their first-hand experiences and advise doctoral students. I’ll come again next year.”

To see how others enjoyed their participation, you can also check the blog posts by Edinburgh Napier doctoral students Frances Ryan on and Christine Irving on The right information.

iDocQ is likely to return to Aberdeen in June 2015 (where it was held last year). If you’d like to be updated on the plans for the 2015 event, please follow @iDocQ on Twitter


Congratulations Dr Nicole van Deursen!

Dr Nicole van Deursen

Dr Nicole van Deursen

Many congratulations to Dr Nicole van Deursen of the Centre for Social Informatics, who graduates with her PhD from Edinburgh Napier University at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh today.

Nicole’s thesis is entitled HI-risk: a socio-technical method to identify and monitor healthcare information security risks in the information society. The doctoral work was supervised by Professor Alistair Duff and Professor Bill Buchanan.

In her thesis Nicole argues that information security risk analysis should include include consideration of human and societal factors, and that collaboration amongst organisations and experts is essential to improve knowledge about potential risks. A key outcome of the work is a information security risk identification method entitled “HI-risk”.

HI-risk takes security incident data from several organisations and translates these into overviews of potential risks, which are continuously moderated by an expert panel. Although Nicole’s empirical work focused on security risks in healthcare environments, the method could be developed as a knowledge-based or expert system for use in a number of other contexts, for example: as a tool for managers to benchmark their organisations against others; to make security investment decisions; to learn from past incidents; and to provide input for policy makers.

There is further information about the thesis, and Nicole’s wider interests in information security, on her blog Information security and society. The full pdf of Nicole’s thesis is available from the web site of the Institute for Informatics and Digital Innovation. You can also follow Nicole’s updates on pervasive information security from her Twitter stream @nicoletwits.