I might tell you.
A much delayed blog post about a workshop I went to. Parts of this will appear as another blog on an EMoTICON website I hope at some point.
I recently attended a Postgraduate workshop as part of the EMoTICON Network, at Hinsley Hall in Leeds. EMoTICON stands for Empathy and Trust in Communicating Online (you see what they did there?) and so is very relevant to my research interests. It took place as part of the first day of a larger meeting for the group, so we got to meet all the project leaders and co-investigators. The RCUK’s Digital Economy programme, which is where the funding for my PhD comes from, are a partner in EMoTICON, which I didn’t actually know until the event. The head of the programme, John Baird, was at the meeting, although I unfortunately didn’t get to hear him speak as that was on the second day.
The evening before the workshop, many of us were able to meet for dinner and introduce ourselves, along with John Vine and Karen Salt who were running the workshop. This was brilliant as it made the next day a lot easier for a shy person like me. Familiar faces are always a help. The morning began with an overview of the EMoTICON Network and a brain storming session in which we categorised various issues and themes to do with trust and empathy online. A few weeks before the event we had all been asked to suggest issues, which had then been grouped into themes. The people from the Network had done the same and this was what we worked with first. I was very excited to hear that one of the projects revolved around crowdfunding.
A highlight of Hinsley Hall!
We then separated to have our workshop. We first introduced ourselves in groups of three, and as is normal with me, I found myself quite jealous of some of the PhDs being carried out. Then we were split into five teams, one for each of the groupings that had been found from our previous work. We discussed what linked the concepts into a theme, how that theme could be described, and three main research questions that emerged from it. I found this part really interesting, and between the three of us we decided our problems were to do with Gatekeepers, social media, and commercialisation. ‘Whose data is it anyway?’ seemed to link them all together, and we came up with problems around how data is collected online, how it is used, and who gets to use it. I am used to working in an interdisciplinary environment, but often my research is not at all linked to those around me; this time we found a lot of common ground, despite our disciplines being so different. I really love finding ways that my research is similar to others, especially when our topics seem so disparate at first. Later in the day we had some breakout groups based on the topics people were most interested in. Three of us again tackled the issue of trust in data sources, which is very tricky indeed!
After lunch, we heard summaries of the work being done on the main projects within EMoTICON. I found them all very interesting, but obviously most of my enthusiasm lay in the crowdfunding project. ‘A Taxonomy of UK Crowdfunding and Examination of the Potential of Trust and Empathy in Project Success’ was lead by Dr Jo Briggs at Northumbria University, with Dr Patrick McCole from Belfast. They looked at the state of the art of UK crowdfunding, through a literature review, speaking to platform owners, and questionnaires. They focussed on social enterprise (i.e. the voluntary sector) and the cultural industries, so I could easily reflect and link it to my own work. They had completed a questionnaire with both funders and founders (I really like these terms, I use creators and backers), looking at how trust plays out in crowdfunding, using the conditions of trust inventory. I was impressed that they managed to get data from so many people, particularly as they were selective about circulating the study. I would be extremely interested in the results and seeing how they may connect with my own work on reciprocity and altruism. They also spoke of the non-monetary benefits of crowdfunding, which again links into my own theories; improved communication, building a brand, engaging directly with an audience, and fostering a participatory ethos are all things I have also heard in my community.
I was particularly excited to hear throughout the day of a future call for some seed money to run pilot or small projects which help to address the main aims of the EMoTICON Network. Although the crowdfunding study is complete I am hoping I can work with them to run a further study which benefits us both.
My poster on display
The day ended with a postgraduate poster session. My poster has a lot of words on it because it was originally supposed to be printed twice that size, in A0. I was able to discuss crowdfunding with Jo Briggs, which was brilliant. This occurred in the bar, followed by dinner, which meant that the wine and conversation were both flowing. But you know what they say: what happens at the workshop social stays at the workshop social.
A terrible photo of some very interesting and lovely fellow postgrads.