Methods/Conversation with Dr. Archer

Last week, I spoke with Dr. Archer about serving as a potential thesis advisor. We had a great conversation, and it was exciting to hear about some of the ideas that she had. My conversation with Dr. Archer, coupled with that with Dr. Bezio, has made me more confident in my desire to explore social media. That being said, however, I am less certain than ever about what my specific plan will be. As of now, I plan to take a theoretical approach and conduct my research from the humanities perspective. Dr. Archer, however, mentioned the possibility of conducting an experiment that measures how people’s perspectives on certain issues change as a result of being influenced by social media vs traditional news media (newspapers). This could be interesting, but is something I want to think a little bit more about. In addition, Dr. Archer gave me some great links to read regarding social media’s role in politics. I plan to look at these this week.

As of now, one of my methods will be to look for milestones in democracy. I will start with the Framer’s definition of democracy (pre-internet politics) and take the reader through the evolution of our political process. I will then look at internet politics, and end with a view toward social media politics. I will focus on how we have entered the age of social media politics, and address what it means for the future of democracy. I want to discuss the role of social influence, and I also want to include what we talked about with Dr. Goethals regarding complexity and length of message (what demographic does social media appeal to? Why? How did Trump use this to his advantage?).

If I conduct an experiment, I would like to do one that would involve having people read certain opinion pieces on some issue, and then read social media pieces about this same issue. I will see how individuals’ viewpoints are influenced differently in response to the news vs social media. What factors are more important in this influence? What do the results imply with regard to social media and democracy? This is just one idea that I have discussed with Dr. Archer, but I definitely need to think more about this, considering I have never conducted an experiment before. On the other hand, I have been planning to analyze tweets from the 2016 election cycle. If I take this route, I will look not only at Trump’s tweets, but also at other tweets from politicians, celebrities, and common people during the presidential election. How do these people view democracy and how do the commonalities in their rhetoric explain/refute the theories that I address? I hope to discover how social media has the power to influence more so than anything else.

I will take a theoretical approach to my research, and look at recent statistics that involve social media in politics, such as the amount of Tweet’s that Trump issued during the presidential election or the amount of retweets, etc., to say something about these theories. The theories that I plan to investigate will surround democracy and populism, aiming to answer the questions of “how are we behaving and how is this reflected on twitter? What does this mean?”. As you can see, I have a lot of ideas that I need to organize. This week, I plan to sit down and compile my notes in one place and organize my thoughts in a more coherent manner.


Additionally, I completed IRB training:

-If I plan to look only at Tweets/online postings, do I need to receive IRB approval of those whose tweets/posts I look at?