(Photo by me)
Last week I went to a great conference – the General Online Research Conference (GOR) in Cologne. This has already been my 3rd GOR (in 2012 I won the thesis competition for the best master’s thesis, of which I’m still quite proud), and it has always been great – this GOR was no exception. Well-organised, and a lot of panels I wanted (and did) attend. For everyone who has never heard of this conference; the GOR is a yearly event which brings together theory and practice, mostly via companies presenting how they use the internet for their products. However, science does not play second fiddle to all these marketing and survey companies, and nicely frames all the practical applications. Four streams made up the programme, namely “Online Research Methodology and Internet Surveys”, “Internet and Society”, “Social Media Research”, and “Applied Online Research”.
I mainly attended the panels in the stream “Internet and Society”, in which mostly social scientists presented their research. I heard about World of Warcraft and addiction to the internet, internet skills of the elderly (thank you, Eszter Hargittai!), citizen science in which citizens add to science with their own data collections, and eye-tracking systems for assessing online preferences – and this is only a fraction of everything. As implied in the name of the conference, all kinds of internet research are welcome, and the programme showed how diverse this field is. Internet research is not just social science, or information science, but finds entry in many disciplines. Not only the presentations showed interesting approaches and results, but there was also a poster session, which is always a nice opportunity to talk about research in depth. I learned something about conference tweets (thanks, Isabella Peters!) and using YouGov panels for getting to know opinions on new topics like the perception of Ebola.
Moreover, there were two excellent keynotes. First, Jon Puleston from Lightspeed GMI talked about how a ‘good’ survey should look like, meaning a survey which is completed by a high percentage of people and yields valuable results. He suggested inserting playful elements, and a kind of ‘gamification’ of the whole process – by using pictures instead of mere text, sliders instead of 1-to-5 scales for measuring preferences like “I fully agree”, and telling a story instead of just asking questions. I think that this advice is mostly interesting for marketing efforts, however, social scientists can learn a lot from this. The second keynote was given by Suzy Moat from the University of Warwick, and she was telling the audience about the possibilities of using “big data” for predicting the stock market, and how FlickR metadata from the photographs uploaded can tell things about a region or country.
Of course, I also gave a presentation. I told my audience about my research, and how parliamentarians use information and transparency measures on their personal websites. I was not only happy about how well the presentation went (phew!), but also about the great questions (especially thanks to Dominic Nyhuis, who also gave a very interesting presentation on using vote advice applications for assessing political preferences)– it’s always good to hear what can be done next, and there is definitely a lot to do in my post-doc phase… well, all in all, I attended as many sessions as possible, met great people, and already wait for the call for GOR16!
(Photo by me)