Homophily Among Students and Academics

Homophily and Academic Isolation

In addition to the sense of isolation felt by all researchers who will spend much of their time working alone, some people may also be subject to additional feelings of isolation.

Research suggests that international and part-time doctoral researchers, and those from underrepresented minority groups, are more likely to feel isolated.  

Studies have also shown that unless a programme is specifically designed to support interdisciplinary researchers, they will often feel excluded from the wider traditional research culture of the university. ‘The increased diversity of the doctoral researcher population can lead to challenges and mismatches in expectations between student and supervisor ’. Duke and Denicolo (2017).   Continue reading “Homophily Among Students and Academics”

Power Differentials Between Students and Supervisors

Any social network potentially brings together groups with different perspectives and circumstances. ‘MeetingofMinds’ must take into account possible power dynamics between students and academics.

Models of PhD Supervision

There have been a number of attempts to model PhD supervision. More recently these have focused on supportive approaches allowing students to move from a state of relative dependency to complete independence (through a shift in the balance of control).

However there are also a number of potential power inequalities built into the relationship between supervisor and student. This includes:

  1. The supervisor is in a position of legitimate authority.
  2. They have perceived abilities to mediate rewards (e.g supporting publications) or punishments (e.g being unavailable for important meetings).
  3. A student may be influenced by the perceived expertise of the supervisor.
  4. Some students may be in awe of their supervisor, seeing them an example that they wish to live up to.

Photograph from  Contributor(s): Queensland figaro – Copied and digitised from an image appearing in Queensland figaro, 28 July 1888, p. 140., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12662338

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Summary of Desktop User Research – With Implications for the Development of Features

The application should enable matching between student and supervisor. This includes:

  • Identification of expertise (e.g. qualifications and publications) and mutual academic interests through the building of a profile, bibliography, and membership of particular research interest groups. This would also need to be supported by search options, so that users could easily find one another.
  • Options for posting materials about, and in support of, the PhD proposal. This could be kept on a private setting that would then only become visible to those tutors that the student approached to be their supervisor.
  • Private messaging and chats between student and supervisor, and between students and PhD students under a particular supervisor.
  • An algorithm supporting the creation of stable supervisory relationships (the Gale-Shapley algorithm ).
  • Templates and guidance matched to different stages of the supervisory relationship/PhD journey, for both supervisors and students. 

Continue reading “Summary of Desktop User Research – With Implications for the Development of Features”

User Research: The Relationship Between Online and Offline Social Networks

When designing an online social network it is important to consider whether this is likely to result in the creation of a ‘new network’, or reflects existing real world contacts.

In the 1990s, Dunbar  proposed a neurocognitive limit on the number of people that a person can have in their social network of around 150 stable relationships.   Research on undergraduate use of Facebook found that although the median number of contacts in the sample was 300 Facebook friends, the actual number of people participants considered friends was around 75.   Recently Dunbar (2015)  found that the number of online friends in a Facebook network that are actual friends is  similar to that of friendships.  (Parsons 2017).

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Privacy and Age Online

The Need for Nuanced Research

Many existing studies (often focused on adolescent or student samples) try to make general assumptions about how humans regard privacy and what actions they take, or fail to take, to protect their own privacy.

But Blank, Bolsover, and Dubois (2014) found that only three peer-reviewed papers that addressed questions of privacy using a sample that could be generalized to a population. Continue reading “Privacy and Age Online”

The Social, Legal and Ethical Context of ‘MeetingofMinds’

We live in a time where online social networks and the higher educational systems are facing major challenges.  In both cases, they are facing major new political and regulatory pressures.

The global social media giants are being regularly criticised in the press for data breaches, fake news, and a number of other perceived social ‘ills’. Even advocates of the Web, such as Tim Berners-Lee is publicly stating that these corporate giants have too much power, and this is potentially distorting the Web.

Most recently, the publicity around Cambridge Analytics use of Facebook data, has further reduced public trust in social networks, and both companies are facing class actions.

9 November 2017; Alexander Nix, CEO, Cambridge Analytica, on Centre Stage during day three of Web Summit 2017 at Altice Arena in Lisbon. Photo by Sam Barnes/Web Summit via Sportsfile.  Taken from , https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63967197

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