Statistics can be a great way to persuade bureaucrats to favor a cause. In fact, I think that the reason many libraries tend to have funding shortages and misunderstandings with those who dole out money is due to the lack of “hard evidence” as they like to call statistical numbers. These statistics can be very important when persuading people to a cause, especially when the figures show that a large portion of individuals support it.
There are many figures which have been compiled about fan fiction users. FanFiction.net is considered to be one of the key “fanfic” communities online, boasting over 6.6 million titles as of March 2011. To help the multitude of fan fiction researchers that are currently springing up, the site decided to conduct its own statistical analysis. Many users were actually pushing for this type of research as it could be helpful to know the size of the fan fiction community within this specific site.
The research drew 95,000 public profiles that were created in 2010 for analysis out of the 443,400 new accounts which were created in 2010. Nearly 60% of the accounts with a listed country of residence were from the United States. The sex of users was harder to determine though with only 10% in the sample giving their sex. Yet, out of that 10%, 78% defined themselves as female. This fact fits with anecdotal evidence of fan fiction being more common among women than men. The ages of users was the most difficult of all though. 6,410 people out of the 95,000 that compose the sample included precise ages. 80% of these self-identified users were between the ages of 13 an 17 though, giving credence to my research project of using fan fiction to reach teen patrons an provide popular teen services revolving around the hobby.
Fan Fiction Statistics – FanFiction.net Research Analysis. (2011). Retrieved from http://ffnresearch.blogspot.ca/
I’m not sure about my answer to this week’s question, because I wasn’t able to find the statistic that I am referencing. I decided to write about it none the less because at the time it had a tremendous impact on me.
When I was in my last year of high school, age 18, I took a “world issues” class. We had a computer in our classroom we were allowed to use for research. This computer was connected to a database that had all kinds of world health statistics- maybe aggregated by the World Health Organization (WHO)? Probably not though, since I checked the WHO website and couldn’t find statistics similar to this one I read back in high school.
I was probably messing around with the computer one day reading health statistics when I found a function that would tell you how many people born in a particular year were currently alive. Naturally, I typed in “1983” (the year I was born) only to find out that 10% of people born the same year as me had already died. If you narrowed the search to North America the number was 4%.
To add some context to this, it was September and a friend of mine died the previous June. I was still pretty distraught. When I read that statistic I felt a jolt and realized my mortality, really, for the first time… all of a sudden my friend’s death wasn’t just a terrible coincidence, it was something that could happen to anyone, and had in fact happened to one of every ten people who had been born the same year as me. The way this information was presented, as a cold hard fact, was quite sobering.
Of course, this was twelve years ago and maybe I’m remembering wrong. My inability to find similar statistics supports this theory. In my attempt to find this statistic I found some interesting resources: The WHO Mortality Database, information from StatsCan, the Wikipedia article about Millennials and an article about “30 Things Turning 30 This Year” (turns out it’s not just me).
I’m interested to know if anyone else has ever heard of statistics similar to the one I discuss.
To be honest, most of my research and work has been done in a more qualitative than quantitative fashion. The few statistics that I have seen are not really that detailed or nuanced. However, I was one of the many who followed Nate Silver’s blog during the American presidential election, and was blown away with the accuracy and specificity of his claims. Elections are tricky, as anyone who followed the recent Alberta provincial elections would know, and so the pure confidence of Nate Silver’s claims, with the perfect results he got, were astounding. Not only were the predictions correct, but they were done in a very attractive format, that encouraged interaction and probing with layers and layers of information.
I think it may have partly been from the hype of Nate Silver’s visualizations that we in the Association of Information Systems student chapter invited Breakeven Inc to do a workshop on visualizations. They showed us how they design their custom dashboards for clients, and talked about how many clients are looking for a visual way to demonstrate metrics to their employees. I couldn’t find anything on my laptop but I’ll dig around for more (that being said, we have wrangled some internships with them if anyone is interested in user experience and design).
However, visualizations do not enjoy full support. XKCD had a few negative words about popular methods of visualizing in this comic ( http://www.xkcd.com/1273/ ) although it also shows some great examples of visualizations as well (http://xkcd.com/980/huge/#x=-6400&y=-6272&z=3)
What do you all think? Are visualizations gimmicky or do they sometimes very useful at explaining something that numbers don’t quite put across?
In last weeks lecture, Glen talked to us about different statistical methods for graduate research, some of the implications these methods have, and their positives. It is evident that statistics can be extremely beneficial when conducting certain types of research. A recent story that was told through the use of numbers is Burlington’s Vital Signs Report. You can find the report here: http://www.burlingtonfoundation.org/vital-signs.
This report used statistics from Statistics Canada 2011 Census, in addition to the 2011 National Household Survey. This report demonstrates trends in a plurality of issues in Burlington, such as mental health, income levels, housing affordability according to those income levels, number of seniors, etc.
Without the use of formal statistics, a report like this would not have been effective in educating the public. Sure, someone can guess that Burlington has a high seniors population, but it’s much more educational when this is backed up by concrete evidence (particularly government statistics).
Another interesting fact from this report is that in Canada, there has been a 45% increase in library usage over the past decade. So for all your future librarians out there (like myself) who have been worried about this ‘fading profession’, listen to the concrete facts, they’re more reassuring :)!!
While I was in undergrad, I steered clear of statistics courses. Math was not my favourite subject in high school and anything that had to do with numbers in a learning (i.e., grading) environment made me anxious.
However, I have come to appreciate that statistics can be a helpful, convenient way of describing important aspects of the world. Without fully realizing it at the time, I’ve used statistics to help me make some major decisions. Perhaps the best example was my decision to stop pursuing a career in acting. Past the age of fourteen, every drama teacher, agent, and professional in the industry I spoke to described how difficult it was to achieve success. I vividly recall my first day at a drama school in New York. My On-Camera acting teacher listed the sobering percentage of actors living under the poverty line. It affected me – and my fellow drama school peers – much more than the usual “acting is really hard to get into” speech. Statistics made us comprehend fully, quickly, the challenges we were up against. A couple of years later, I decided to change career paths!
People say a picture is worth a thousand words. I think statistical data can also help us make sense of this imperfect world. From my statistics classes, I was fascinated by the concept of false positive and false negative. Particularly, I was surprised to find out that the steroid test for athletes has a false negative rate of 24% and a false positive rate of 13%. Such high error rate makes me wonder how many Olympic medalists used performance enhancing drugs and did not get caught.
I really like the Minard flow map of Napoleon’s march on Moscow that was presented in class. It really bring the data to life. It is even more amazing when it was produced in the 18th century by hand without any help of computer technology. Fortunately, we can use various statistical and data analysis tools, such as Stata, SAS, SPSS, and R, to generate graphs, tables and charts, which would help the audience to understand and visualize the meaning of the data.
I attach this beautiful map of the Internet as an example of data visualization. This partial map of the Internet was based on the January 15, 2005 data found on opte.org. Lines are colour coded as follow:
- Dark blue: net, ca, us
- Green: com, org
- Red: mil, gov, edu
- Yellow: jp, cn, tw, au, de
- Magenta: uk, it, pl, fr
- Gold: br, kr, nl
- White: unknown
Wikipedia. (2013). Internet map. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Internet_map_1024.jpg
My research has the potential to contain both virtual and physical fieldwork. Primarily, my fieldwork would take place in the digital realm, on the websites and in the online communities created by those who engage with municipal open data to organize it and create something with it. As pointed out by my fellow bloggers, this will require participation on my part. As always, an effort must be made to maintain an ethical relationship with those communities to make sure that my research does not cross over into unethical territory. Of course I would identify myself as a researcher whenever engaging with members of the community. In such cases it is clear that the community should know who I am, what I am researching, how I am doing it and that they can choose not to be involved in my research.
Again, there are more issues at play here than there initially seem to be. These posts are all public since none of these online communities require a signing up process to create or view posts. Since everything is easily accessible to anyone online, ethics come into play again. Is it okay to look at and analyze these public posts if the posters has made them freely available to all? There are multiple online communities of open-data users who I would be engaging with and observing.
Another type of digital fieldwork that I would perform involves the items created from the open data. These items generally come in the form of applications created from open data to fill a perceived community need. Since these items are something that I will be working with the items first hand and need to engage with to understand why and how the open data users engage with the data, clearly they enter into the realm of fieldwork. Playing around with these applications cerates another digital realm of fieldwork.
My research could also contain a traditional form of fieldwork since these online communities often move into the physical realm to create their products made using open data. For example, hackathons are commonly held by members of these communities. Hackathons are events where people get together to create objects from open data. Sometimes a specific goal is in mind, though often what gets created is decided by those who attend. These events are excellent places to engage in ethnographic research. Luckily, these online communities are generally very accepting of researchers and willing to participate in studies.