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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

CDT Students attend an International Workshop at the University of Naples Frederico II

Published: 29 November 2018
Naples Trip

CDT students and staff participated in an international workshop on Digital Research Designs with staff and students from the Social Sciences department at the University of Naples Federico II.

The starting point for the workshop was the premise that the digital era makes new demands on our understanding of society and social change. It has therefore become critical to take into account the way data, devices and computational processes, for example, become entwined with emergent social formations and practices. The event began with an opening talk on the topic of Redesigning Higher education.  This was followed by series of lectures setting the context for the workshop, including social epistemology of the digital, structuring a mixed digital research design, and machine autonomy and ethics.

Over the following days students worked on designing and developing group projects and appropriate methodologies for researching the technological dimension of their chosen social enquiry. At the end of the workshop they presented their work to a panel of UK and Italian academics and took part in a lively discussion on epistemology, methods and ethics.

Following the workshop, students and staff are continuing their collaboration and hope to organise further exchanges in future.

Lectures from the academics were highlights of the first two days and provided extensive references to useful sources. As a result I have since edited my methodology to include some of the aspects we discussed. The references have also been useful sources for further reading, again with some of it now included in my methodology. Taking part in the group work has made me aware of different approaches to research design, which is useful to consider in any PhD research. Working under pressure and giving a presentation on a topic we had worked on for a short amount of time has also given me a new-found confidence in my capabilities as a researcher and presenter.

Clarissa Brough - 4th year iPhD Web Science student (Music / Computer Science)

I improved my knowledge and skills of research design: in particular how the challenges and drawbacks for a given research method can be mitigated including via additions of other methods. I also developed understanding of mixed methods research, and discovered scholars and literature of relevance to my work. The workshop also gave me experience working with other early stage researchers who have different backgrounds and research interests

Mariam Cook - 2nd year iPhD Web Science student. (Computer Science / Politics)

Getting a group of strangers to discuss and come to agreements in a short period of time is always going to be challenging, particularly if they come from different disciplinary backgrounds, but the added challenge was to understand and acknowledge the cultural differences afforded by the international element of the workshop. This made progress slow yet deliciously interesting. Everyone in my group approached the exercise positively and in a spirit of seeking to contribute, listen respectfully and then argue points appreciating that an agreement needed to be made quickly, whilst upholding some core values and broad agreements. This was a hugely stimulating process.

Ian Coombs - 2nd year iPhD Web Science student (Education / Computer Science)

From the groupwork discussions about the limitations of our research design, I realised that this section is underdeveloped in my thesis. I learnt about different communication strategies, and also how my topic could be studied by looking at the presentation of different groups on political participation. The comments from the panellists made me also think about things that I have never considered before in relation to my thesis and which are very important.
This trip gave me a lot of motivation towards my own PhD project. It was my first trip and I was surprised by the fact that talking freely about your research with others can be so beneficial for example clearing your head and gaining new perspectives.

Justyna Jonak - Year 3 iPhD Web Science student (Politics / Computer Science)

Networking with the other students from Southampton and Federico II was certainly successful. Turning around a presentation is a short time frame was a skill I haven’t used in years so it was good to see that even in a team I’ve never worked with before we were able to achieve this. Using interviews as one of our research methods meant that we were discussing the pros and cons of such an approach and helped me tweak my own research because of it. It was great to hear from people with recommendations that we had for each other’s research or generally the PhD journey. Problem solving I think was the greatest skill I’ve benefited from on this trip. Coming up with our own brief, how to access our sample, which methods to choose and why… constantly having to play devil’s advocate with ourselves to find the flaws in our own research plans and overcome them.

Chira Tochia - 4th year iPhD Web Science student (Sociology / Computer Science)
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Social Science Building Courtyard, University of Naples Frederico II
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Professor Susan Halfod (centre) with iPhD Web Science Students
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