Monday, 16 September 2013

Reflections on University of Westminster's Social Media Conference

Natalie Jago is a researcher at NatCen Social Research and primarily conducts mixed method research in the area of crime and justice. You can contact her at

Previously you may have read about NatCen’s research trainees hard at work on qualitative research exploring the public’s views of social media research. We are now venturing into the report writing stage and are keen to promote and support good practice in social media research within the research community. What better way to do this than by presenting our work at the University of Westminster’s recent Social Media conference.

This international event brought together researchers from all over the world to present an assortment of stimulating and thought-provoking talks. Fellow NatCen-er Laura Nass and I presented the results of further analysis then attended other presentations related to social media.

Here’s what you may have missed from the day.

Exploring Facebook with university students was one of the memorable presentations I attended. Researchers from Regent’s University  explored how Facebook can be used for learning; how students view political discussions on the platform, and how they might use Facebook to consume, share and create news. On using Facebook for political discussions; emerging findings showed that anonymity played a big role, with young people being cautious about sharing political views on the platform. Young people were aware of the possible consequences, indicating that engagement with sharing news was dependent on their trust of sources and fear of information being viewed by future employers. A finding that corroborates my team’s research is the threat of potential consequences influencing people’s behaviours on Facebook. Our research found that some participants managed their behaviour on social network sites by using privacy settings to help protect their reputation. This was also apparent from the findings described by Elif Toker-Turnalar & Leslie Viney from Regent’s University.

Andrew Jackson from Ofcom  gave a thoughtful presentation based on the UK Communications Market Report (2013) discussing UK consumers and their use of the internet and consumption of web-based content. No one can deny the growing popularity of social network sites and people’s increasing familiarity with them- why else would over 100 researchers from around the world flock to London for a conference on social media? But Andrew brought impact to his point about the growing popularity of social network sites with his stat of 71% of internet users visiting Facebook at least once a month (OfCom, 2013) .

The world of online interaction is gaining momentum every day, at a rate faster than researchers can explore and understand it. Fellow researchers, let’s get to work!

Viney, L. (2013, September 3rd). ‘Facebook, information management and patterns of news consumption’. [PowerPoint slides]. Presented at Social Media The Fourth International Transforming Audiences Conference at University of Westminster.

Toker-Turnalar, E. (2013, September 3rd). ‘Facebook publics, politics and political discussion?’. [PowerPoint slides]. Presented at Social Media The Fourth International Transforming Audiences Conference at University of Westminster.

Sujon, Z. (2013, September 3rd). ‘Facebook and the classroom: Exploring social media, learning and literacy’. [PowerPoint slides]. Presented at Social Media The Fourth International Transforming Audiences Conference at University of Westminster.

Jackson, A. (2013, September 3rd). ‘Understanding UK consumers’ use of the internet and consumption of web-based content’. [PowerPoint slides]. Presented at Social Media The Fourth International Transforming Audiences Conference at University of Westminster.

Ofcom (2013). Communications Market Report: Service Specifications. Available at:Ofcom. <> (accessed 13th September 2013).


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