Writing a book is so much hard work but so worth it!

My new text 'Understanding Digital Research' is available now.

My new text ‘Understanding Digital Research’ is finally out and available from Amazon here published by Sage and co-written by my colleague and friend Prof Nina Reynolds from Wollongong University Australia (the campus is a wildlife reserve and possums climb through office windows!).

Writing ‘Understanding Digital Research’ has been as unruly as a possum, as the dynamics of the digital world continues to evolve at such a pace that structuring a text to be complete but flexible proved quite a challenge.

If you are interested in research in the Social Sciences and are thinking about either researching digital behaviours as your core focus or using digital technologies as data collection tools – then this book will help you in your research and also help you to justify your work to others.

I am delighted that the book has received an amazing write up from none other than the ‘father’ of netnography Prof Rob Kozinets who will be adopting it in his teaching alongside his own seminal texts.

Older people in a digital society: can sharing photographs help people to stay connected with others?

So my new funded research project has started and it’s one I am really excited about. This research project has been funded by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust and is a joint project between my colleague Prof Shailey Minocha at The Open University and myself at Oxford Brookes University, with support from AgeUK, Milton Keynes and Oxford.

My new research project will explore the perceived benefits of sharing photos online and via social media for people over 60 years old.We are investigating whether sharing photographs online and through social media helps people over 60 years old to feel less socially isolated and whether sharing photos may enhance wellbeing. There is some existing research evidence to suggest that communicating with others through digital technologies and social media lessens feelings of loneliness and that photographs act as vehicles for sharing life experiences and interests between older people. The project will address the issues of ageing, loneliness, physical wellbeing, mental health, cognitive skills and memory through the use of photographs shared on the internet (e.g. via email) and also social media platforms (e.g. Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp).

We hope that the results from this study will provide actionable recommendations for organisations that support older people in later life (e.g. AgeUK, Mind, Alzheimer’s Society) and that we will manage to secure funding to expand the project in the next eighteen months. Our data collection will take place between November 2017 and May 2018 with the results being available from Summer 2018.

If you happen to be reading this blog and are aged over 60, and share photos online do please complete the online survey which forms one part of the study. This should take you no more than 10 minutes.

Broken Marketing and Said’s new Professor

Marketing is broken stated Said Business School’s new Professor of Marketing, Philip Andrew during his inaugural lecture last week in Oxford, but there is some hope.


Whilst the overtone of his address was fairly positive there were cautionary notes.

1.Artificial intelligence is currently limiting choice for consumers and citizens, and so at present, may not deliver value for  stakeholders, which Prof Andrew proposed as being the core purpose of Marketing.

2. As marketers we need to reflect on the relevancy of the human touch in consumer interactions versus the outsourcing to robots and AI. Where and how technology fits and where it does not belong is currently not being addressed.

3.  Technology in marketing is being used as a ‘shiny new toy’  without consideration of the societal impact. Adblocking software as used by consumers is an indicator that marketing is not heeding societal dissatisfaction with advertising.

4. The industry, practitioners and academics need to  understand the positive impacts of digital technology in marketing. What are the economic benefits, the psychological benefits and the physiological benefits that improve societal wellbeing that marketing can and does contribute to?

Prof Andrew’s comments in essence were not new but he drew together a set of ideas and presented them as his ‘Marketing with Purpose’ concept  in which marketing approaches, digital technology and data work together to create value for people, business and society. His lecture was well received by the largely under 30 year old audience but whether and how they take his words forward  to ‘mend’ marketing  remains to be seen.


Getting down and dirty with social media data and NodeXL

Over the last few weeks I have been getting down and dirty with social media data and trialing new software – NodeXL.  Here are a few of my reflections as a digital researcher.

It is hard to estimate the time needed, not only because  the project I am working on is exploratory but also because I do not have the necessary new software skills.  As a result and unsurprisingly (you’d have thought I’d know better as an experienced academic) the work is now behind my over optimistic schedule.

Exploratory research and analytical software make strange bedfellows,  not knowing what the data will comprise of, how much of it there will be or what you will be able to demonstrate. NodeXL is  an open source template, offered by the Social Media Research Foundation through which you can create semantic  network visualisations. There is both a free version and a pro, paid for version – the latter allows you to investigate more social media platforms by pulling the API stream of social media data into the software and then performing various manipulations on the data which can end up looking  like this. image below.

The Social Media Research foundation is a US based response to the need for accessible, rigorous  tools for academics to research social media but who do not have large enough budgets to pay for the proprietary  commercial tools now available. node-xl-image-vague

Second, the quantity of social media data scrapped from Twitter and Instagram on just one specific hashtag  is copious and the data need significant cleaning – filtering out non English posts and commercial posts requires reading of the raw material as there are not automatic filters which can do this.


Third, ordering the social media data into manageable sized files in date order per platform is important and from then creating  one giant file per platform scrape is also important.  My learning from this aspect  – take data piece by piece and ensure you can trace it back.

Fourth, the ability to capture social media images is potentially highly valuable BUT out of   context and without the words and posters who give the images their grounding, the images remain  meaningless.

Fifth, admitting that help is required and finding an expert who can help or offer advice in how to maximise the value from your data and analytical tools is worthwhile, even if it means acknowledging that you need help. Luckily in my case I have both Marc Smith one of the writers of NodeXL based in the USA, and Wasim Ahmed  @was321, a Sheffield University doctoral student who is an expert at handling NodeXL data and answered some of my queries, even though his subject area is not Marketing.

Getting close and dirty with these social media hashtag data has provided me with more questions, but also  insight which will be developed into a paper for 2017 submission. Yes it would be easier to pay someone to ‘do it’ for me but then I would find justifying the method and explaining the rigour impossible.

European SMEs digitalisation study results

Our research team have been busy finalising results from our European SME digitalisation study over the last couple of months and finally here they are. We have been interested in gaining insight into how SMEs adopt and embed digital technologies through their firms and their perceptions of any value derived from doing so.  A short overview report of the main findings which we sent to the participants from the four countries involved (Britain, Spain, Italy and Ireland) can be found on Researchgate.net  or here.


Whilst we have a lot more in depth analysis to conduct on both the 43 interviews and 357 completed surveys key themes have already emerged. We were expecting to find large between country differences but there were few, mostly around the preference for certain digital tools for communication.

  1. Smaller firms share many similarities despite operating in differing industry sectors and different countries.
  2. Smaller firms see the potential for digitalisation across their whole firm not just within the Marketing function.
  3. Smaller firms as yet  have not realised the potential of digitalisation.
  4. Smaller firms believe strongly in the attitudes of individuals within the firm driving the adoption of digital technologies.

As we delve further into the data we will be creating both academic frameworks to develop scholarship on the subject and  also actionable insight for smaller firms to assist them in making the most of adopting digital technologies.


Quandaries over real time in digital research

Recently I have been having a few quandaries over real time in digital research, and thinking about temporality generally, not least because I have a research colleague in Australia and thus our interactions are always proceeded by sorting out time differences across continents.


Whilst we as digital  researchers, marketers and digital enthusiasts talk about real time as in immediate, synchronous interactions, how many of our interactions are really in real time? Technology and how it interacts may be synchronous but  how it is actually used may not be. Someone can send me a WhatsApp message  but I may look at it five minutes later. An email can be sent, received but not read or responded to until after a cup of coffee is finished or a meeting held. On the other hand a Skype interview is synchronous and real time. Does it matter whether behaviour or responses  are synchronous, near  synchronous or asynchronous? Does  synchronous versus asynchronous data impact on the quantity or content of that collected data? The ability to track real time online shopping behaviour is highly valuable for online retailers and their brands and the real time manipulation of promotional campaigns is a triumph of technology. However, as researchers do we require such acceleration and ‘nowness’?


Authors who have discussed technology’s impact on time and ‘nowness’ include Manuel Castell’s The Rise of the Networked Society in which Castell outlines the concept of flows  rather than time where global interactions occur simultaneously and society becomes compressed by the speed of technologies transforming patterns of consumption, economic markets and societies.This technological determinism is argued against by  Judy Wajcman, amongst others, who in her recent text Pressed for Time which emphasises how technologies are supposed to be freeing us and that citizens should revisit their relationship with time.


As a digital researcher what is my relationship with time, what is my temporality?  Different research projects  require  data which may be real time or distant time. One of my doctoral students is considering complaint behaviour on social media concerning disappointing luxury experiences and grappling with whether she needs synchronous or asynchronous data.  Do you tweet at the point of disappointment or do you  email the brand  a few moments later or do you write a  poor review and post it on Tripadvisor days later? And furthermore what is impact of ‘nowness’ versus near now versus later on the research data generated?

Summer tasting of Decanter Award winners

The summer season has finally arrived in England, and so here are a few reflections on recently tasted  Decanter award winners. Christelle Guibert from Decanter gave  the Oxford Wine Club an overview of a selection of this year’s award winners as well as insight into her own entry into  the world of wine making.

vin santo

My current favourite chilled drink has to be  the Greek, Argyros Vin Santo 20 year barrel aged wine from  Santorini.  The  grapes which grow in rounded bushy  baskets on the ground owing to the high winds are hand  picked early in the morning and have  no irrigation to help them develop. They are then dried in the  sun for a couple of weeks. After 17 years in  French oak casks and 3 in bottle, it is nectar in a bottle. Some spice, delicious figginess and a touch of coffee on the nose. At  approx £54 a bottle it is not a cheap Vin Santo, but it is utterly delicious.

At the opposite end of the scale as an interesting but not successful experiment  is the Gusbourne 2014 Pinot Noir, from Boot Hill Vineyard here in England. Gusbourne is quite well known for its Blanc de Blanc  but this foray into Pinot needs some further work I think.  Despite the  South facing slope, the stainless steel and  then 10 months in old oak, this was rather insipid and lacked sufficient interest on the palate. Even by Pinot standards it was very pale in colour, barely darker than the label shown below.

guisbourne pinot

The club was also delighted to try  the  2014 Muscadet Guibert made by  Christelle, from a tiny 1 hectare parcel of land with 65yr old vines from which she has produced 2000 bottles of old style excellent muscadet. This new venture is hand produced, biodynamic, using natural yeast and a large concrete egg. The wine has a floral character, is at the fuller end of muscadet  and has a lovely clean finish.  I do hope that at some point it will become commercially available. Although this was not entered into the Decanter awards, for obvious reasons, in yearsr to come it should be!


Progress on collaborative writing for digital research methods text

I promised to report back on how my collaborative  writing for the digital research methods text  for Sage was progressing, so here are  three observations thus far.

  1. Working with someone who thinks differently from you is great but challenging. The great part is that collectively you have more to contribute because you look at things from different perspectives. The challenging aspect is because this  different world view offered by your writing colleague results in you questioning and revisiting your own knowledge and beliefs, in research methods terms I have had to re-appraise my ontological positions. So as I am writing with someone from a quantitative predisposition, I have been asking myself where my underpinning beliefs about  research stem from, do I still hold the same beliefs now as previously etc – all of which is fairly important when writing a text  about digital research methods.book pile

2. Words as numbers.  We set ourselves a target of 5000 words per day between us during our face to face writing time, generally we achieved this with a couple of lower days and a couple of higher days. These were 5000 new words rather than  the editing or rewriting of existing text and I have become the word count enforcer in order to help us feel a sense of accomplishment  on a day  by day basis. Seeing the overall word count grow is satisfying, yes it is a draft but it is new material which as this stage is important.

3. Words and meaning. Some of our most lively and heated  discussions have been around words and their interpretation – I resolutely refuse to have the word ‘object’ used in relation to research, instead we have settled for research ‘phenomenon’. Similarly people involved in research can not (in my view) be termed ‘objects’ or ‘subjects’ – as it de-humanizes research participants, something which actually my co-author agrees with me on. Until we started writing and using words we did not have these discussions about how value laden or how open to interpretation key research vocabulary is. We are also now back in discussion about the title of our text as neither of us are very keen on Sage’s proposed title (currently under wraps) as we feel is does not do the subject and content justice.

In the next  progress reflection, structure and writing styles will  be centre stage, as well as our caffeine intake.

A new digital story… thoughts on writing a text book

This post is the first in a series that will chart the progress of a new digital story…a new text book I am writing with  Prof Nina Reynolds for Sage on Understanding Digital Research. We have set ourselves the month of June to write most of the 80,000 word text, whilst my co-author is in the UK.

post its and laptop

Reflections based on the first day.

  • Lots of planning with highlighters and clear responsibilities have  now  been allocated – this has helped us to feel more comfortable with the major task ahead and the minor staging posts identified.
  • Agreement not to get hung up on detail at this stage, editing to be done later but to keep to chapter outlines previously agreed.
  • Quite a bit of discussion over words and terms  – we now feel a little more at  ease with each others’ terms of references and how we, as different types of researchers, use certain words.
  • Using one single master template document and dating  the file whenever worked on  is working – so far…
  • Actually getting writing  in the same room was productive, we feel as though we have started something finally after months of Skype chats.
  • Having pre-read and annotated relevant competitor and complementary texts with sticky notes is helping to make better use of our time.
  • Having a neutral office space is helpful, neither mine nor hers  so no one owns the space.
  • We will need to self limit our caffeine intake and  offer  regular words of encouragement to each other.

No doubt there will be issues and disagreements but for now  we are in the honeymoon phase of co-authorship.

Social media enhances business performance in B2B

Having been asked by many different businesses if social media can enhance business performance, last year  a colleague and I  decided  to see if this was true. So we chose an industry that we are both interested in  – the wine industry and a platform that we felt was under researched – LinkedIn and had a look. Here’s what we found.wine shelves

LinkedIn activity does create value for wine industry professionals through their participation. This participation can be  through posing and answering specific questions, sharing industry trends and news, interacting with others on a regular basis and building both personal and firm brand reputation. We saw multiple examples of both reciprocity and also altruism within the professional wine  groups we investigated. Value was created through  both transactional relationships – short exchanges that resulted in  new information or a new contacts or an answer to a specific question over viticulture issues or distributor requests after which the parties disengaged and also developing longer term relationships in which  trust was incrementally developed. This finding contradicts much of the established thinking that only longer term relationships will provide real value between businesses. Our evidence demonstrated new contracts and bottom line impact occurring in transactional relationships as well as the longer relationship types. Business performance enhancement was also achieved through collaborative problem solving  between LinkedIn group members.

The practical takeaways from this for businesses deciding whether to invest time and energy in LinkedIn groups are:

  • Be prepared to participate regularly in groups to make contacts
  • Sharing information will increase trust
  • Groups can enhance both an individual’s brand, e.g. their own credibility in an industry as well as that of the brand they are employed by
  • Short term ‘in and out’ relationships can be beneficial  but be honest about it

Here is our model, recently published in Industrial Marketing Management.

social media business perfromance IMM article 2015

If you’d like a copy of the full paper either search on Google scholar for, Quinton, S. and Wilson D. (2016). Tensions and ties in social media networks: Towards a model of understanding business relationship development and performance enhancement through the use of LinkedIn, Industrial Marketing Management, 54, pp.15-24. or email me at sequinton@brookes.ac.uk