Travel Scholarship Recipient #AoIR2018 – Jane Harris

Each year, through the generous donations of AoIR conference attendees, we are able to fund several travel scholarships for junior scholars to attend the conference. We want to recognize our scholarship recipients and share with you a little bit about them and their interests.

Who are you?
Jane Harris @phi_janeharris

Where are you from?
I am a third year PhD student from the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom.

What is your current area of study?
My research background is in public health with a particular interest in the health needs of young people and seldom heard groups, digital health and qualitative and mixed methods research. I am currently researching the role that social media can play in health promotion particularly for young people. In particular, my PhD explores the role that professional YouTubers play in young people’s health behaviours and identities in the UK.

Describe the research you will present at #AoIR2018.
My presentation at AoIR 2018 is entitled “Like, Comment and Subscribe”: Exploring the Role Professional YouTubers play in young people’s health behaviours and identities in the UK.

In the United Kingdom, there are over 150 individual YouTubers with >1 million subscribers. A significant proportion of their audience are aged between 13-18 years. The content they produce is often: commercially sponsored, unregulated and both purposefully and accidentally touches on a whole range of health topics including: mental health, alcohol, sexual health, body image, healthy eating and physical activity. YouTubers successfully create illusions of intimacy for their audience; through both YouTube and other social media platforms they appear increasingly interactive and accessible to their audience. For young people, YouTubers represent a magnified version of their own searchable and replicable online socially networked lives with the same difficulties that come from feelings of surveillance and misinterpretation online. YouTubers could therefore be a particularly relatable source of health information for young people. More so than those of other adults offering them advice on their health and wellbeing.

However, there remain concerns about young people’s ability to critically analyse the quality and reliability of health information they encounter online. Inequalities in health information seeking exist across all age groups and are influenced by a number of factors including: experience, motivation, self-efficacy and autonomy of use. Research suggests that young people have complex and often thorough methods for evaluating online health information and that popularity and peer appraisal plays an important role with likes, comments and views all influencing how likely young people are to engage with a particular information source. This is reflected in an increased focus on digital media literacy on both UK national and international policy agendas.

My PhD research was a four stage mixed methods sequential design. The first stage, a school based questionnaire (n=931, 13-18 years) quantified young people’s engagement with professional YouTubers and provided a sampling frame for the later qualitative stages. An online analysis of 7 UK YouTubers examined the health content they produced. Focus groups (n=7, 85 participants) with 13-18 year olds explored the impact this content had on young people’s health behaviours and interviews with professional YouTubers ( <1 million subscribers, ongoing) explored their perceived role in health promotion.

YouTubers appeared to be a significant source of health information for the participating young people with 80% watching at least one UK YouTuber, 70% recalling YouTubers talking about at least one health topic and 47% having used YouTube to seek health advice. The survey also measured participants’ confidence in performing a number of social media literacy tasks, those who could recall YouTuber health content and had sought health advice on YouTube were at significantly increased odds of a high confidence score suggesting perceived confidence increases with exposure to YouTuber health content.

The way in which YouTubers communicate health information reveals three broad themes: 1) YouTubers share their health experiences with their audience 2) they give health advice and encourage their audience to do the same through the comments section and 3) they share certain social norms about health and wellbeing. This appears to align well with the theory of reasoned action/planned behaviour (Azjen, 1991). However, interviews with professional YouTubers suggest that numerous factors impact upon their decision to make health related content; both commercial and ethical. YouTubers are treading a fine line between health promotion and self-promotion. Interestingly, the young people participating in the focus groups were also aware of this tension and yet, despite demonstrating competence to critically analyse this content, they still stated a preference for YouTuber produced content when it was what they perceived to be “real and honest” experiences.

YouTuber produced health content appeared to be a recognized source of health information for young people in this study. Young people felt able to critique the accuracy and commercial influences on YouTuber content. However, this content still appears to be a relatable way of sharing health experiences, giving advice and communicating social norms. My research aims to use these insights to produce recommendations which will inform the design of YouTube based health promotion campaigns and interventions for young people.

Have you presented at AoIR in the past? If yes, what has been your experience? If #AoIR2018 Montréal is your first AoIR conference, what made you choose this conference? What do you expect from it?
This is my first time presenting at AoIR. This will also be the first time I have presented my research to an international conference audience. The conference will therefore be a vital opportunity for me to gain critical feedback on my research from an audience of well-established and respected internet scholars. I am also looking forward to learning from the range of academic expertise and disciplines represented at the conference. Coming from the field of public health research, I will be able to learn from the latest research in disciplines such as media, communication and internet studies. By taking these insights back into my own field of public health, I hope I can use this knowledge to make recommendations which will ultimately lead to improvements in young people’s health and wellbeing.

This is also my first visit to Montreal and Canada, so I am looking forward to exploring everything the city has to offer!

Travel Scholarship Recipient #AoIR2018 – Skina Ehdeed

Each year, through the generous donations of AoIR conference attendees, we are able to fund several travel scholarships for junior scholars to attend the conference. We want to recognize our scholarship recipients and share with you a little bit about them and their interests.


Who are you?

My name is Skina Ehdeed. Call me Sukaina :). I am PhD. Student in the Information School at the University of Sheffield, UK, working under the supervision of Jo Bates and Andrew Cox. I am a member of the Digital Societies Research Group. I am also a member of AOIR.

My twitter name is: @sukainana


Where are you from?
I am from Libya

What is your current area of study?
My study explores the role of social media and networked publics in the contemporary uprisings that swept the Arab countries in late 2010 early 2011, with a special focus on the Libyan uprising.

Describe the research you will present at #AoIR2018.
Title: The Emergence of a Libyan Networked Publics: Social Media Use During and After the Libyan Uprising

Key findings:

This study aims to develop a better understanding of the role of social media during the Libyan uprising and the post-uprising period (2011-2016), seeking to explore its potential contribution to Libya’s emergent digital public sphere. The study draws on different conceptualizations and critiques of the public sphere and networked publics. The research shows that during the Libyan uprising although only small groups of people inside the country were engaged in online activities, such networks helped them to make a difference and keep everyone up to date at this crucial moment in a highly repressive environment. Social media complemented by traditional media was mainly used to publicise the rebels’ actions and activities, thus increasing their visibility, which fundamentally challenged Libya’s existing closed public sphere by bringing in new voices.

In the post-uprising period, social media played an important role as a new source of information; even for those who were not very active in the post-2011 political debates and activities. Social media have been instrumental in educating people and raising their awareness about diverse political issues regarding Libya’s political transition, after decades of political apathy and oppression under the previous regime.

More recently, use of social media reflects that Libyan society has become more ideologically fragmented as the struggle for power escalated, producing a more complex dynamic that is more inclusive of competing and overlapping publics. However, the analysis shows increasing fear of expressing views in public, and a growing lack of political interest among participants for many reasons, mainly due to the growing uncertainty of Libya’s situation and its troubled transition.

Contribution to the discipline:
This study aims to contribute to knowledge in two ways: first, to add to a growing body of empirical research about social media’s democratic potential and its limitations. Secondly, it deepens academic understanding of young Libyans’ uses of social media, including their experiences and attitudes in the realm of contemporary social movements, especially in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) where the role of social media seems to be developing constantly.

Have you presented at AoIR in the past? If yes, what has been your experience? If #AoIR2018 Montréal is your first AoIR conference, what made you choose this conference? What do you expect from it?

#AoIR2018 Montréal will be my first AoIR conference. I am very keen to attend the #AoIR2018 conference this year because of many reasons:

First, as The Association of Internet Researchers is committed to supporting diversity and inclusivity both within internet research and beyond regardless of race, age, culture, ability, ethnicity or nationality, it is impossible to walk away from a conference like this without both broadening and deepening one’s knowledge.

Second, I have a desire to discuss my ongoing research with mentors and other Ph.D. students in a constructively critical atmosphere. In addition, as I am engaging within traumatic and sensitive research themes, I am interested to meet people who have engaged in similar upsetting or traumatic study and would like to discuss, share experiences and resources to self-manage this.

2018-2019 Executive Committee – New

Kat Tiidenberg
2018-2019 AoIR Executive Committee – Secretary

Who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I always want to say: “I don’t know,” in answer to this question, and then I always worry it’s a bad sign I don’t know. I suppose that might be telling in and of itself.
But facts, I can do some facts – I am Estonian. I don’t really know how telling that is, given that it’s a tiny tiny country, but it’s a decent shorthand for “people, who really really like being alone in wild nature” and “people, who have a very potent resting bitchface,” and “people, who will probably always appreciate your extra dry sarcastic jokes.”
I’m a mom to a really cool 9 year old. I don’t think I can claim credit for much of the coolness, but I feel very lucky.
I’ve been living in Denmark for the past two years, and I love licorice, but it’s still been quite surprising in unexpected ways.
I love feeding people.
I tell stories. Sometimes they are long. And I love stories told by other people, or the ones I meet in the wild.
I write non-academic books. Or I used to, I hope I will again.

What is your AoIR Executive Committee position?

What motivated you to serve on the Executive Committee for AoIR?
In all honesty – I had never contemplated running for the exec. And I can’t really claim the honor of thinking of it this time either. Rather, my mentor, my colleague, my friend, prof Annette Markham nominated me, and it wasn’t until I had to answer the questions that were to go up on the election site that I really started thinking about it. But I agree with the common assumption that it’s a good idea for academics to serve for the benefit their organizations, and for me it was just a very obvious choice, if to serve at all, then obviously in some shape or form for AoIR. I really do think AoIR is an exceptional organization that brings together such magnificent humans and such admirable scholars.

How long have you been involved with AoIR? How many conferences have you attended?
I’ve been going to AoIR since 2012, and that is also when it became my favorite conference, my favorite academic organization, and a loosely assembled constellation of “my people.” So I’ve been to 7 so far.

What is/are your current research interests?
I’ve been studying visual culture and visual self presentation on social media as well as identity and relationships in the context of social media for years, and those continue to interest me. My side projects have to do with body and embodiment, sexuality and sexiness, norms and normativity, research methods and ethics. And I’m hoping to launch into a new project on persuasion.

What is your favorite meme or YouTube video? 
I am currently 6 days into what is probably one of the more badly needed vacations of my life. And it’s just kicked in. One of the side effects of it finally kicking in is that I am drawing a blank on memes and YT videos. Imagine the sound of crickets and the smell of lavender fields, though.