Tag Archives: Jesse Baker

Research Evolution

Here we are at the end, and what a journey it has been. At the beginning of this course I was a nervous wreck about having to create a viable research project. I wouldn’t say that I’m now fully confident in my abilities to craft research, but I am certainly more experienced. It will only get better with more practice! Now I have a much better foundation for research that is more based in the social sciences.

Looking back on my first post, I was all over the place and no where near certain of what I wanted to focus my research on. Slowly, my research question began to develop. Eventually, my research question settled on examining how open data is being used by the publicin Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa to create applications and other resources for the use of other Canadian citizens. It took quite some time to decide which methods to use and to decide on what sort of sample to use. I chose to use snowball sampling to select my participants, with inital contact being made at open data creation events. I also chose to send emails to the key players on websites that are dedicated to using municipal open data to request them to participate in my research. This seems to be the best sampling option to me, though I can’t help but wonder if there is a more applicable sampling technique that would have fit my research better. Any suggestions? It would be good if eventually the sample to could expand to include citizens using the open data from municipal open data programs all across Canada, but that simply wasn’t feasible in this size of a study.

Originally I was quite intimidated by the idea of interviewing, though I ended up using it as a data collection method in my research proposal. I had very little confidence in my ability to craft a well put together interview guide. Though I don’t think that any interview guide I could create now would be a master piece, I do feel that I would be able to create a servicable one thanks to my examination of some of the literature written about interviewing.  

To analyze my collected data, I ended up settling on using grounded theory, beginning with open coding and progressing to selected coding to organize my information. Memoes were then used to develop theories based off of the themes that were uncovered during the coding process.

Whoa. It was a heck of a ride. And even though the course is over, my adventures with research methodology sure aren’t!



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Peer Review

Though I generally support double-blind peer review as a more or less viable way of ensuring the quality of research for publication in scholarly journals, I do find myself wondering whether such reviews really are blind in most situations. In fields such as Information Science it is very often the case that researchers know what other scholars are working on and the type of research they generally do. They may likely be familiar with the writing style of their peers. With all that knowledge about what others in the field are working on, what they normally research and how they write, is it really reasonable to assume that the scholars asked to review research will be completely unaware of who created the material to be reviewed? I think not, and in the cases where reviewers do recognize the authorship of the piece they have been asked to review, I suppose the best we can hope for is that they attempt to remain as objective as possible. Are there any ways to ensure that a reviewer be unaware of the authorship of what they have been asked to review?

On a different note, I do applaud the attempts to find alternative methods of ensuring academic quality for publishing in journals since there are so many issues with the traditional methods. It seems that open peer review has significant potential as displayed by the success of Shakespeare Quarterly in 2010, which we discussed in class. It will be interesting to see what further developments will happen in open peer review. I would certainly consider submitting future research to an open peer review process if the results were binding for the editor. I find it very interesting how open peer review allows for so many different perspectives on a piece of research to be received by the author. It seems to me that this would increase the these different perspectives, possibly from different disciplines, could result in excellent critiques that could improve the research and would otherwise have gone undone.

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Like others, I have been preserving my own research notes and materials for quite some time. I have kept them for my own purposes and I have never really considered making those preserved items available for others. Even with my completed Master’s research I was not overly concerned about digital preservation since I knew that my advisor, reader and university had all retained a print copy of my work for preservation purposes. In retrospect, that is pretty inadequate since it is likely that my work will remain preserved but is largely inaccessible to most people unless the university chooses to digitize it (which they have permission to do).

I currently have the habit of saving all of my important digital documents on an external hard drive, on usb sticks and by emailing them to myself. I am not particularly tech savvy, though I am trying to expand my knowledge in that area since it is VITAL. Because of my relative inexperience with technology, I need to really think about how best to preserve my research. For certain projects, I create digital copies of my handwritten notes since I like to use pen and paper to record certain information. That being said, for this research, it is likely that most of my notes will be digital since I am working with online communities in a variety of locations. My research will likely create notes, audio and transcripts of interviews, data from a survey, the survey itself, chat logs and the digital items themselves (applications made from open data).

Some of these digital items (such as the interview audio and transcriptions) would likely have to be destroyed after the research is finished, though perhaps it could be kept with the permission of all parties involved since the interviewees are not vulnerable members of society and the questions would likely not contain any sensitive information. That said, I would have to ensure that all of my research files are encrypted, and that all information that needed to be destroyed after the research is finished is completely cleared from my hard drive by wiping it. To try my best to ensure that my research is preserved for the future, I will store it in ways listed above and will continue to copy the data into newer formats and programs as they develop. So I will re-encode my information in new formats before the old formats become obsolete. I will also attempt to have the research exist in multiple formats, including (when possible) a print format.

As for professional associations that offer suggestions or guidelines for digital preservation, the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (connected to the Library of Congress) offers their standards and best practices on the subject. Furthermore, the NDSA provides a Personal Digital Archiving Day Kit.  There is also a program called Muse (Memories Using Email) that is run by Stanford University that offers, amongst other things, long term email archives. And hey, why not one more? The Digital Preservation Coalition has a Digital Preservation Handbook.


by | November 22, 2013 · 5:59 pm

Servicemen, Be Suspicious

If I had to find another object to study and resources were unlimited, I would like to examine the pamphlets and posters about venereal diseases that were distributed to Canadian servicemen and women in the Second World War. I came across some of these little gems when I was studying women on the home front. They often contain illustrations or cartoons of “loose women” accompanied by two female companions labeled as syphilis and Gonorrhea. The choices that were made in how these diseases would be portrayed to servicemen reveals a variety of viewpoints about them from the time period.

This subject is interesting to me for a tons of reasons. First of all, ensuring the health of the troops was of vital importance for obvious reasons, and the way that the Canadian Government dealt with sexually transmitted diseases is very interesting. Some interesting differences in treatment can be seen by examining and comparing the pamphlets directed to both sexes. The information that the government chose to disseminate and how that information changed over time could show what the government was concerned with, thought was working to prevent disease, and what wasn’t. It is also interesting to see what forms of information the government thought was most effective at informing the service people.

The posters often have really intense imagery, or where sometimes obviously intended to be humorous. These different approaches taken can be analyzed to understand different strategies taken by the government to combat venereal diseases and how those approaches varied depending on the sex of the service people.

Here’s a nice example of a poster!

 He "Picked Up" More Than a Girl : sensitive campaign against venereal disease.

He “Picked Up” More Than a Girl : sensitive campaign against venereal disease.

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Week 9: Research Thoughts

I found coming up with a topic for this week’s blogging question really difficult. In the end, I decided to explore some issues and concerns about my research topic. Luckily, I do not have much of a problem worrying about whether the human subjects of my research will want to participate in my study. There will of course be some people who do not want to be involved; however, the majority will likely be willing to fill out surveys and/or take part in an interview.

In general, the people who work with governmental open data to create applications for the broader populations tend to be politically active, especially when it comes to ideas of open access to information and accountability. These people tend to openly discuss what they are doing with the media and would likely be willing to be involved in my study. Additionally, groups that participate in hackathons and other events that involve engaging and creating with open data tend to be open to media and scholarly attention. These are active citizens who really like to discuss what they are doing, which can easily be seen just by looking at the forums in their online communities. If I explain the research that I am doing and they find it interesting or valuable, then I should have no issues finding willing participants. In addition, these groups of people are highly tech savvy and therefore very easy to contact through their various interactions online, either through email or other social media.

That being said, there is the distinct possibility that my perception of these groups could be flawed, or that they do not find my research worth spending their time on. In this case, I would still have access to their rich archives of forum discussions and posts regarding their actions at hackathons, and events.

So, while I have remained relatively relaxed when considering participants, I am concerned about writing a survey. It seems to me that one of the keys to ensuring the quality of a survey might be to have another researcher, or just an intelligent individual, to look over what you have created to avoid those oh-so embarrassing issues that we saw in Glen’s lecture about stats and surveys. Even then, creating a good survey seems to be a very time and energy consuming activity. Obviously the results are worth all the work if the outcome is a well crafted survey that makes it easy for your participants to contribute and provides you with all the answers you need. Still, I find the process intimidating. Do any of you have similar concerns when it comes to the creation of surveys or interview questions?


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Statistics Showed Me How Much Halifax Hated Servicemen from the West

Ok, so, here’s the deal. I have had some experience with statistics. I would not say that I am skilled in them. I’m not sure if I’d even say that I am fully qualified to use them. I have some anxiety when it comes to using statistics. I always feel like I am going to misrepresent the information or ruin the results. With all that said, I still worked with them in some of my past research.

The statistics I worked with were pretty small scale, so it was much less intimidating. I was examining the sentences that were given to the servicemen and civilians found guilty of various crimes to do with rioting after the V.E. Day riots in Halifax. There were a couple of interesting things that became clear through the stats. Number one: even though there were far more civilians who participated in the rioting, there were more servicemen who were convicted. Number two: even when civilians were found guilty of the same crime as a serviceman, the serviceman always got the stricter penalty. Number three: servicemen almost always got the harshest penalty that could be given to them for the crime. Number four: the further West a Serviceman was from, the stricter the penalty.  Three men from the West of Canada were each sentenced to four years imprisonment in a penitentiary for each breaking a window. So, Halifax takes their windows really seriously.

But of course it’s not just the window that made the Haligonians upset enough to look like jerks to the rest of Canada. There were a lot of contributing factors and growing tensions that resulted in these men’s harsh sentences. But don’t worry! Those three got their sentences repealed by Christmas.

And now for something completely different…

…Or is it? There is this data visualization that I find really interesting. Rentfrow, Gosling, Jokela, Stillwell, Kosinski and Potter did an examination of personality clusters across the good old US of A and found that three main personality clusters which can be seen in the visualization. They got responses from approximately 1.6 million people and used five surveys different surveys to collect their data. I guess the reason that I really find this study interesting is because I would have liked to have been a part of it. Well, that and it’s really interesting to look at how the personality clusters shift slowly and flow into one another. Without further ado, a visualization!

(Rentfrow, P.J. et al., 2013, 11)

(Rentfrow, P.J. et al., 2013, 11)


Rentfrow, P. J., Gosling, S. D., Jokela, M., Stillwell, D. J., Kosinski, M., & Potter, J. (2013). Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social, and Health Correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  doi: 10.1037/a0034434

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I’ve Got My Adventure Jacket On and Am Ready to Take Off in My Side-Car Motorcycle.

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.

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