Archive for October, 2010

Ethical and technical issues in collecting data on the web for social sciences research.   no comments

Posted at 11:52 pm in Law,Psychology,Sociology

My idea is that every sciences are, at least, define by their object but also by their methodology. For now, sociology and psychology used the same methods on the web than for other subject. But the web offers the possibility to collect and analyses other kind of data than is allowed, for example, by experimentation in lab or by collecting information in traditional ethnography methodology. I think it will be very interesting to see how the among of data, their availability and their representativeness could modified the methods to collect and analyse them.

I want to emphazis on two aspecst, ethical and technical.

About the ethical issues to collect data which are still unclear if it is public or private (or any other conceptions). This point  will be more linked with law and understand which is allowed or not in collecting information about users.

The technical aspect will try to see and understand which kind of tools are already available to collect datas, but also which are their limits and what is possible to analyse the information.

Written by Olivier Philippe on October 31st, 2010

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‘Crowds’ and the dynamics of mass participation   no comments

Posted at 10:52 pm in Psychology,Sociology

I’m intrigued by the concept of ‘taking part’, or rather what makes people do so and what makes the participation grow into a mass participation, movement. I am however, not really concerned in this instance with political factors, as such.

For certain this is a well trodden path, but drawing on Sociology and Psychology as it must, it is certainly new to me. I have never having formally studied Sociology and last touched Psychology at A’level.

Therefore, I feel that these subjects are both sufficiently new and distant to warrant investigation.

Particularly of interest are the necessary factors that a movement must possess, in order to move from the underground to the overground.

Multiple studies of mass movements, will have investigated peer pressure, elements of conformity, the necessary perceived benefits and advantages, as well as other influences that must combine, for crowd behaviour to succeed. Conversely, I would like to look into that which might be absent when such ‘crowds’ fail.

I think there’s something here that is of interest. However,  there’s an element of it that doesn’t quite ring right, as far as the idea is concerned. Plainly, I’m wondering if it appears ‘weak’ as an attempted combination.

I’m definitely out of date with my reading:  Many searches against this topic (Crowds/Popular movements) throw up politics and revolution. In order to filter these for Sociological and Psychological factors, whilst avoiding purely classical Marxist interpretation, further investigations will have to take place (by w/e Nov 7th).

1) The tipping point : how little things can make a big difference
Author :Gladwell, Malcolm, 1963-

2) The wisdom of crowds [electronic resource] : why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies, and nations 1st ed.
Author: Surowiecki, James, 1967

Written by pr1e10 on October 31st, 2010

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Collaboration   no comments

Posted at 1:56 pm in Sociology

I’ve chosen “Collaboration” as my topic, and I’ll be examining it from the point of view of Biology and Sociology.

For the sake of this assignment, I’m using collaboration to mean co-operation to achieve some aim – Whether that is the production or something or simply survival.  On the web, such collaboration is the basis of Wikipedia, open source software, films (via the blender foundation) and even the technical standards that we use to engineer the web (via the W3C, RFCs, IEEE etc.)


Collaboration is exhibited, in various ways, by numerous organisms.  From swarming organisms like ants or termites, to complex colonies of specialised organisms that appear to form a single unit, like the Portuguese Man o’ War.  The majority of my research will focus on Ecology, as this is the branch of biology that deals with interactions between organisms and their environment, but I’m not averse to stepping into other areas of Biology (to explore, for instance, the theory that some cell organelles such as Mitochondria started off as distinct micro-organisms).


Collaboration is governed by social interactions.  In the case of ants these interactions are explained (or at least studied) by Biology, but in the case of humans these interactions are more thoroughly explained by the study of society, sociology.  In fact, the mere existence of something that we term “society” is the result of the collaboration of individuals.

Reading List

I’ve put together an initial reading list, that will hopefully give me a better idea of where to go next.  I’ve included the library shelf numbers, for my own benefit.

Approaching sociology : a critical introduction – Coulson, Margaret Anne. (HM 51 COU)

Sociology – Giddens, Anthony. (HM 51 GID)

An introduction to evolutionary ecology – Cockburn, Andrew

Ecology : from individuals to ecosystems – Begon, Michael. (QH 541 BEG)

Ecology – Krebs, Charles J. (QH 541 KRE)

Written by Richard Gomer on October 29th, 2010

Reputation   no comments

Posted at 4:07 pm in Economics,Psychology

I knew I wanted to look at Economics and Psychology (as I’ve always been interested in them but never really had to opportunity to ‘formally’ study them’) and have decided that I’m going to pin my research on the issue of online reputation. Although my thoughts are still rather immature at this stage, I’m really interested in how individuals in web communities can actively develop and project their reputations in order to  influence others, be in a position to set agendas or simply ‘stand out’ from the crowd. An example would be the underground extremist forum. In the absence of  a formal ‘feedback mechanism’, such as that employed by eBay, how do users become ‘leaders’? Is it simply the amount of time they spend in the forum (and their related post count), or are other, more subtle factors at play? And, if there is, is there any kind of ‘blueprint for success’ that can be developed? Alongside this i’d also like to explore how companies, who are operating in an altogether more ‘legitimate’ environment, tackle the same issue. What are their strategies for establishing online reputation with consumers, and positioning themselves as pre-eminent in their field? Are there any parallels between the forum user and the fortune 500?

While i think the  tie in with psychology is reasonably clear, the economics link is possibly somewhat more tenuous. I think exploring  the concept of social capital and its relative worth could prove fruitful in the company example, but whether or not it will have any relevance to the forum user I’m not at this stage clear. It could be the case that i have to abandon economics in favour of sociology once i get a bit further in with my reading, but for now I’m going to keep my fingers crossed i can find enough linkages to make the exploration worthwhile.

My current reading list is as such focused on economics:

Economics, Parkin, Powell & Matthews (Seventh Edition, 2008)

The Winner’s Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life, Thaler, 1994

Liquid Love, Bauman, 2003

Written by jac606 on October 28th, 2010

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Cooperation   no comments

Posted at 3:55 pm in Uncategorized

I’m going to have a go at looking at this from the viewpoint of psychology and modeling complex systems. From studying Economics I understand that the basic problem with cooperation is a lack of trust (prisoners dilemma etc) and the way round it is to build trust but trust is a pretty vague concept. This becomes more of an issue when you consider cooperation between people who have little face to face contact.

What I intend to do is research how people who model complexity atempt to define structures in which cooperation is considered stable (i.e. it is the most likely outcome based on the conditions of the model) and compare this to what psychologists would think of as the conditions in which people would cooperate with each other or trust each other.

Thus far I have read this from the reading list of the complexity science DTC:

Geard, N. (2001). An exploration of NK landscapes with neutrality. MSc thesis, University of Queensland.

NK landscapes were origionally developed as models for looking at evolution. It’s basically a way of calculating how the interelatedness of genes effects the ability of a gene pool in finding the best genome (gene = 1 bit of DNA coding for 1 characteristic, geneome = all the genes together in one individual, gene pool = all the genes of the species). For example, if the expression of one gene causes all the others to change to a different value is this better than if they all went about their business as individuals.

The basic conclusion of the model is that when there is no interelatedness you can evolve slowly to a peak fitness for the gene pool which isnt amazing but is still pretty good. If you add a little bit of relatedness fitness increases but more than a little bit and you get what is termed a catastrophy of complexity where fitness decreases as compliexity increases.

Looking at cooperation this is interesting because you would intuitively expect that a system with massively high levels of interconnectedness would be more stabe and cooperative than one without. The task now is to try and find work that deals with a more specific ‘real world’ scenario than one as abstracted from my topic as this.

Still, an interesting method for researching these issues I think.

Written by Paul on October 27th, 2010

IP and copyright theft   no comments

Posted at 3:32 pm in Uncategorized

IP and copyright theft are of course rather topical topics. Given as I’ve got a background in Law and Comp Sci the two most obvious avenues for studying this were closed. I decided instead to go for mathematics and economics to attack it. The little I can remember from IP law from my degree is that copyright law is old and rubbish. It’s designed to encourage innovation, but it does this by introducing something inherrently uncompetitive into a market which is based upon the idea of competition. Maybe looking at it from the economics side of things will help me understand it a bit better. As for the maths, I’ve decided to go for the Cryptography route in terms of being able to protect content from naughty people who want to steal it. It’s very hard, which is I suppose the point.

Reading wise, I’ve been told that it would help to look at number theory in order to better understand cryptography. I’ve had a little look at “A friendly introduction to number theory”, and also have got “Handbook of Applied Cryptography” which is on the recommended reading list for Stanford’s cryptography course. So it must be good. For the economics bit, I picked up “The Economics of IP law” which seems to be quite suitable given the subject choice. There are 4 volumes but I imagine that I’ll probably limit the scope to copyright (volume 1).

Written by hf1g10 on October 27th, 2010

Cybercrime from a criminologist and psychological perspective   no comments

Posted at 3:00 pm in Criminology,Psychology

The growth of the Internet presents a series of new challenges to both individuals and society as a whole.  Cybercrime refers to an array of diverse, illegal, illicit activities that all share one thing in common – the environment in which they take place – ‘cyberspace.’

After much consideration the two disciplines that I have decided to examine are Criminology and Psychology.  After exploring the underlying principles of both these disciplines, I hope to conclude whether they support each other or conflict with regards to the issue of cybercrime.  Similarly, I will also take into account the challenges that cybercrime presents to each discipline, and conclude whether these perspectives offer any solutions to the problem.

As these are both disciplines I have never studied before I am going to look at reading undergraduate text books and basic introductory books as recommended by my peers. I have decided to start my research on criminology by reading the following books:

The Oxford Handbook of Criminology by Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan, and Robert Reiner

An Introduction to Criminological Theory by Roger Hopkins Burke.

For the physiology part of my review I am going to be using the books listed below:

Basic Psychology by Henry Gleitman et al.

The Psychology of the Internet by Patricia Wallace

Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behaviour by Dennis Coon and John Mitterer

I have also come across the following book which I will use to do some background reading on the issue of cybercrime :

Cybercrime and Society by Majid Yar

Written by kd2v07 on October 27th, 2010

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Organisation   no comments

Posted at 8:18 pm in Discipline,Linguistics,Sociology

As this module encourages a basic and comprehensive approach to a topic, I’ve tried to go as far back to basics as possible. My topic of interest regarding the research is simply ‘Organisation’. Organisation, in my opinion, is the backbone of everything (life and the universe included!), so it makes sense to me to try and understand some basic, but I suspect difficult, questions regarding organisation, such as how it occurs and why it seems neccessary for development. Of course I am limiting my research to the role of organisation in human society, as I don’t possess the required physics or philosophy degrees to tackle the broader implications of organisation!

I think this topic is important given the context of this MSc, and also given the buzzwords of our generation:  “Network” “Interconnected” and “Global” all have their roots in the term ‘organisation’. It’s important, therefore, to look at organisation in its basic form, and I’ll be looking at organisation through the lenses of two disciplines; Linguistics and Sociology.

Linguistics was chosen because it seems likely that the roots of human social organisation lie in the construction of language and communication. I know very little about linguistics, so it will be interesting to develop this hunch through an understanding of the core principles of the topic. The development of language and speech has surely played a key role in our development to the highly connected society we see today, and perhaps this approach will let me go far back in time and evolution to find the roots of organisation.

Sociology was chosen because a brief look at sociology shows it to be full of interesting ideas and theories regarding the dynamics, structures and meanings behind organisation. Humans have organised for various reasons over the centuries, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes deliberately, sometimes against their will. It will be interesting to see what sociology has to say about the motivations behind these cultural, political and economic forces that lead to organisation. Again, this is all uncharted territory for me, but the foundation texts seem promising. In sociology I may also find some philosophy, which again I have little experience with, but which may evolve into a sub category of my research. It seems you can never get away from the connections!

I know that there will be a fair amount of crossover between these two disciplines, but I hope that they will remain distinct enough to allow for a conclusion that shows what each discipline has to say about the topic ‘Organisation’.

My current reading list:

Wardhaugh, R (2006): An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: 5th Edition. Oxford: Blackwell

Giddens, A (2006): Sociology: 5th Edition.Cambridge: Polity.

Thomas, L & Wareing, S (1999): Language, Society and Power; An Introduction. London: Routledge

Aitchison, J (1972): Lingusitics, An Introduction. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Trudgill, P (1983): Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society. London: Penguin.

Written by Phil Waddell on October 26th, 2010

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Initial Reading List – Gender from Sociological and Biological perspectives   no comments

Posted at 8:00 pm in Sociology

So I have been thinking alot about how to tackle the reading for this topic, and have identified some key texts for biology and sociology.  These are, as suggested, first year recommended reading ‘essential primers’.  They are heavy, and thick, and nice easy reads.  So I am going to work my way through them initially to get some ideas on what the main approaches to gender are from biologists’ and sociologists’ perspectives.  This is a massive oversimplification I know, but I think it is the best way to begin.  So this week and next week I am going to be reading:


Longenbaker, Susannah Nelson. (2008) Mader’s understanding human anatomy & physiology. 6th Edition. McGraw-Hill: London

Mader, Silvia S. (2009) Human Biology. 10th edition. McGraw Hill: London

Smith, Stephen W. and Ronan Deazley (eds.) (2009) The legal, medical and cultural regulation of the body : transformation and transgression. Ashgate Publishing: Farnham


Abbott, Pamela, Claire Wallace and Melissa Tyler (2005) An introduction to Sociology. Feminist Perspectives. Third edition. Routledge: London

Haralambos, Michael and Martin Holborn (2008) Sociology. Themes and Perspectives. Seventh edition. Collins: London

Marsh, Ian, Mike Keating, Samantha Punch and Jeni Harden (2009) Sociology: making Sense of Society. Fourth edition. Pearson Education: London

Not the whole books of course; just the most relevant bits.  Then I am going to pull out of those books, some ideas for key approaches, and therefore key texts, around gender from those disciplines’ perspectives.  I have a list in my head already of books that I think look relevant (from Google searches and a couple of visits to the university library), but this may change as I work through the introductory texts.  In fact one would hope that it will, as that is in a way the whole point of this task, to develop our understandings of these disciplines.

So at the moment, I think that I am going to be reading something like this when I start to look at the disciplines when applied broadly to the topic of Gender:


Baron-Cohen, Simon (2004) The Essential Difference. Penguin: London

Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2001) Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. Basic Books: London

Keller, Evelyn Fox (2000) The Century of the Gene. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA

Schiebinger, Londa (1995) Nature’s Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science. Beacon Press: Boston and London


Archer, John and Barbara Lloyd (2002) Sex and Gender, Second Edition. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

Backett-Milburn and Linda McKie (2001) Constructing Gendered Bodies. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

Butler, Judith (1993) Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’.Routledge: London

Mills, Sara (ed.) (1994) Gendering the Reader. Harvester: London

But who knows.  This is an exciting experiment in learning something completely new and anything could happen…

Written by Nicole on October 26th, 2010

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Collective Problem Solving   no comments

Posted at 12:25 pm in Uncategorized

I’m interested in how the web could offer more effective ways for people to come together to solve tricky problems.

This is a pretty broad concept, but as such it should offer a lot of contact points to explore the basics of the two nominated subjects.

My first subject will be complexity science (CS). A fair bit of CS is about how systems composed of independent agents (e.g. real ants, or simulated people) adapt to challenges presented by their environment.

My primary source of info on this are the “Introduction to CS” lectures I am attending.

The identity of my second subject hangs on a final chat with our “ambassadors” from each: sociology, psychology, economics or innovation studies.

On the topic itself, I’m starting here:

Written by Jack on October 26th, 2010

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