Thursday, 29 March 2012

So what next...?

People keep asking me this, so I thought it was about time I began trying to answer it.

After Easter I'll be stepping up the search for the next challenge post-PhD.

I've already applied for a Soros foundation fellowship from September for a new project in the area of military use of social media. And I'm hoping to drum up some more freelance social media consultancy work to pay a few bills in the meantime.

But I'm looking for other options and exciting possibilities in the fields of media, journalism, social media, international politics, warfare, conflict, research and academia.

I have a preference for either being based in London or opportunities in any other interesting places outside the UK.

And it would help if research and publishing information was a major part of the job whether tweeting, blogging, podcasting, writing articles, papers or books etc.

I'm also open to exploring more informal partnerships, freelance projects/work.  
But I'm not going to take anything off the table, so if something jumps out at me and says: "This is the next exciting thing to be doing", then I'd go for it.

So if you hear of anything, I'd be interested in hearing from you.

You can email me at

And you can find out more about my experience at Linked In.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Insight 2.0: The Future of Social Media Analysis

Just a note to say I'm looking forward to taking part in this event on 27 April looking at the future of social media analysis. 

There are some great speakers including Kevin Anderson, Pippa Norris, Alberto Nardelli, Simon Collister etc's well worth checking out the programme

I'll be moderating the first panel in my role as "independent social media expert" - a title I wouldn't give to myself but I suppose "done a bit of research about blogging and social media" isn't the way to sell yourself. 

If you're interested in coming along, there are still tickets available and they are very affordable (for those of you who are worried about budgeting for that 20% increase in the price of pasties.)

If you're affiliated to a university there is a special rate of £37 which you can snap up by emailing for a discount code.   

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A note of thanks at the end of the PhD

I'm not sure if a PhD ever really ends.

There seems to be a lot of bits and pieces I'd like to revise and update. Research that I started as part of the project and I'd like to try to finish up for possible future papers.

I'm also hoping to be able to publish the thesis in book form as well which means I might have to revisit some of it for the 654th time.  

But in many other respects the PhD is finished.

I have a piece of paper saying I've passed and the library at King's College, London has a final copy (for a shelf somewhere which will increase the area available in the library for dust-gathering.)

This blog has always been much more of an online research diary and scrapbook than an outlet for my personal story, but I'd like to temporarily hijack it.

I'd be lying if I said the PhD was all a breeze, because with any PhD there are inevitably lows as well as highs. But I'm not somebody who is wondering what the point of it all was.

I've really enjoyed it and I believe it was worthwhile work. I've learnt masses and developed a variety of transferable skills along the way. I believe other people have benefited from the project and others will do so in the future. I've had some great opportunities to do all sorts of exciting things and meet lots of interesting people.

And I'm very grateful for all of that. Rather unfairly, the PhD has my name on the side of the cover, but I am just a small part of the story - the person who brought lots of different things and themes and thinking and hard work together in one place.

And I'd like to say thanks to all the people who made it possible.

In particular, I owe a great debt of gratitude to my family, my friends, my supervisor at the War Studies Department, the Frontline Club, everybody at the BBC who contributed to the project and the Arts and Humanities Research Council for funding me.

I've also benefited immensely from interactions with people online who have taken an interest in the project whether through comments on blog posts either here or at the Frontline Club or on Twitter.

In fact, I can't imagine doing a PhD without access to a 'virtual office' of ideas, information and support. (Although it's not quite as frightening as the prospect of writing one on a typewriter...but anyway).

Finally, I want to say that I dedicated the PhD to my grandparents, Donald and Iris Mead. They gave so much to me in so many ways, but sadly both passed away before I finished the project.

I also want to mention my friend Lineu Vargas - a man who not only took a keen intellectual interest in my work but who was also concerned with my welfare more generally. He was tragically killed in a car accident last year.

It's a comfort to me that the last time I saw him, I was able to celebrate submitting the first version of the PhD with him.

And I'm sure he'll be raising a glass of good red wine somewhere to join in future celebrations...

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

For further thought: The aggregator is king...?

In an era of information overload, the aggregator who points you to the most relevant, most useful, most interesting, most entertaining and most timely content and engages with you in the conversation around that content is king.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Russian Internet: "Open and free"

I've just been reading this encouraging report about the state of the Russian Internet.

It suggests that "bottom-up" agenda setting and collective online civic action are all possible in Russian cyberspace. Government control and influence also remains limited.

The report is based on three years of research by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

I've picked out a few key points:

Openness and civic action

"Overall, we find that the Russian Internet remains generally open and free despite the various ongoing efforts to shape cyberspace into an environment that is friendlier towards the government."

"The watchdog function of the Russian Internet appears especially strong. There are a large and growing number of examples of Russians identifying problems of common concern and coming together online to push back against abuses of the state or powerful corporate interests."

"The evidence is compelling that Russians are producing and sharing information online that is collectively determined to be of public importance, and in doing so, circumventing the tighter restrictions on traditional media. The ability of Russians to organize and act on that information appears to be equally, if not more important, than the simple access to information and collective filtration of topics and identification of salient agendas."

Pro-government bloggers

"Critically, we do not find evidence that efforts by the government to push its message online through supporters, paid or otherwise, are very successful. The mere presence of pro-Kremlin bloggers does not necessarily translate into influence as the broader online community is not compelled to link to such blogs or to adopt pro-government messages."

"Pro-government blogs are rarely found on our map of prominent blogs as measured by in-links from other bloggers."

Pro-government Twitter users

"However, we do find that pro-government users are more successfully entrenched in Twitter. Specifically, pro-Putin youth groups like the Young Guards and Nashi, and elected officials allied with them, have a distinct Twitter footprint. Still, we find many of the same oppositional groups as we do in the blogosphere on Twitter (with the exception of the nationalists) so more pro-government users have not crowded out oppositional communities."

"We also found evidence that one cluster of Twitter users—those centered on the Medvedev policy of modernization—is popular primarily because it is promoted by bots and instrumental Twitter users."

Methods of control

"There are two methods for controlling online speech that appear to have a greater impact than pro-government information campaigns and are likely to be perpetuated by the government or their sympathizers to limit speech on the Internet."
  • "The first is offline attacks and threats against journalists and others critical of the federal and local officials and powerful business interests..."
  • "The second persistent threat to online speech in Russia is DDoS attacks. The disabling of nearly twenty independent news and election monitoring sites on Election Day is the most extreme and most wide-reaching example of coordinated DDoS attacks in Russia to date."

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