Whenever I try to understand something, I first look to what kind of philosophical stance I want to take while researching it. I feel that without this, sometimes my search is less rigorous.
Most often I choose to use a method of logical argumentation (like a literature review) to try and understand what has been done and when opportunities may present themselves. Often I try to then couple this with some kind of immersive experience to see how I react to the material myself, falling under a more phenomenological stance. From this combination of techniques, I will research social media in the context of my interests for the GPP trip learn and understand it.
Before I begin researching social media, there first needs to be some sort of concentration, in this instance it comes from the research questions posed last time, posted with greater context here.
Like with any report, the beginning questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how can give us some guidance in answering a question as completely as possible.
In this case, “who” is not a single person, but a group of individuals, as a university. Therefore the first question lies in: Who is using these services and how are they used (consumption or dissemination)? So is social media mainly used by the students of the university, or the university itself. Most likely it is the students, but to what extent and for what purpose?
This secondary “what” question brings us to the main “what” question. People and universities use technology often to gain an advantage, or to connect with others. Humanity is inherently a social existence (though the level of social involvement is variable and personal). So, What are the perceived benefits of these types of social media, or any actual recorded benefits? These benefits are probably in connectivity of students and for planning events and discussing popular culture or other events, but what else does social media provide for us as a communication medium?
Now is “when”. This is not only for the present, but also for the future. For example, is there a perceived potential for such technology in higher education in the future? and Are there signs of dependence on social media; for example it using during work hours? One searches for the potential to be found in the technology, the other is then look for the volume this technology is currently being used. If I can see when something is used, then it might point to their qualities that may be useful, or when to avoid types of social media at certain times.
Where is also incredibly important in understanding the context to a particular set of inquiry. Since the trip is to Switzerland and Italy, the hope is to find out: How is social media engaged in various universities in Switzerland and Italy? This will be done mainly through asking questions of the professors and students while on the trip and then compared to usage in the United States. This set of questions also dives into How something is used, in reference to a place.
The last on from the preliminary list is: why? This is a somewhat leading question, but it can reveal other “whys”: With the design or use of social media is there an increased perception of efficacy for the university? In other words: does social media help to promote a positive image for the university?
Now that I have set of questions for engaging my line of inquiry, I can begin to generate a basis for understanding and then later analyzing my future knowledge and thoughts on social media.