Hi Datascapers - I'll refrain from saying "I hope everyone is doing well!" as I feel it's a bit of cold comfort right now. It's perfectly valid to not be doing well right now, and to be feeling a host of emotions. Did you know that Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPs) at CMU has some special resources for navigating emotions around COVID-19? Click here to learn more about the ways you can find support. And, while I'd like to think that many of my Tartan Datascapes posts have a healthy dose of humour, today's installment is extra quirky and fun - we can all use the distraction! As such, before we begin, here's an adorable picture of a Highlander calf doing a blep:
Image description: a furry brown baby cow looks into the camera with their tongue sticking out. Photo credit to Pinterest.
Great - now that we've had that dose of cuteness, let's dive in. In today's installment of Tartan Datascapes, we're going to explore science fiction, geopolitics, Doctor Who, and messy data management, all in one fun, digestible, easy-to-read package! In an effort to highlight all the great work of researchers across campus, I've intentionally avoided talking about my own research as much as possible, but having just had this research published, I thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss the work. For those readers who don't know my background, I have a PhD in Cultural Geography, and my research focuses on themes of empathy and compassion in science fiction television and film. I primarily focus on Doctor Who, Star Trek, Torchwood, and Firefly as a method for exploring empathy and compassion, and I even wrote an entire dissertation on cultural geographies of Doctor Who!
I was thrilled to learn last week that my paper titled "Fan geographies and engagement between geopolitics of Brexit, Donald Trump, and Doctor Who on social media" was published open access by the online journal Transformative Works and Cultures (which can be found here: https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2020.1675). It is part of a special issue on "Fandom and Politics," where papers explore the many ways in which fandom culture intersects with our political world. In my paper, I was interested in how Doctor Who fandom impacted how fans navigated their own emotions surrounding Donald Trump's presidency and Brexit, the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. What does Doctor Who even have to do with Trump and Brexit? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot! I collected publically-available posts on Facebook which referenced Trump and/or Brexit alongside references from Doctor Who, including the TARDIS, Cybermen, Daleks, and the Weeping Angels. Not familiar with Doctor Who? Here's some YouTube videos describing Doctor Who, and the Cybermen, the Daleks, and the Weeping Angels, three races within the Doctor Who universe who were referenced in my study:
So, what did I find? I ended up collecting almost 500 posts which in some way connected Doctor Who to Trump and/or Brexit. These posts included people wishing they could use the TARDIS to stop Brexit from happening, to comparing Trump to the Daleks. See some examples below:
Image description: Facebook post with the words "What we need is a political Tardis that can take us back to 22 June last year" alongside an article with the title "Ministers leave UK Brexit department in sign of tension with May."
Image description: Facebook post with the text "THIS JUST IN! Donald Trump has fired his entire cabinet and replaced them with Daleks. In a press conference, the President described the Daleks as "a bunch of really great guys." This text is accompanied by a picture of Trump in front of two Daleks.
Fans of the show used their own fandom to grapple with their own emotions surrounding these geopolitical events and figures, effectively seeing reality through a lens of the show. This is the beautiful thing about studying popular culture - we can learn so much about the world around us, and how people's own interests often guide how they experience the world around them. Using social media data, I was able to learn more about how Doctor Who fandom influences fan's perceptions of the geopolitical world around them. Since these posts were publically available and I did not include names nor images of the individuals making the posts in the final analysis and visualizations, I did not need approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of my institution to collect the data. The IRB ensures that researchers are collecting data in an ethical manner that does not harm their participants, and provides researchers with educational opportunities to learn how to conduct ethical research. Before collecting this social media data, I made sure to check with my IRB office to make sure I did not, indeed, need approval.
This is normally the portion of a researcher highlight where I discuss how the researcher managed the data in their project(s). So, how did I manage my own data for this project? I'm going to be honest: I didn't manage it very well! As a PhD student, I was juggling research, teaching, service to my department, as well as involvement in several campus organizations and community volunteering. Further, I had never learned about data management in any of my classes! It wasn't until I began a postdoctoral research associate position in data management in 2019 that I realized how little I truly knew about data management. Now, I am able to look back at this research and see how I could have used consistent filenames, backups of my data, and better documentation methods. However, I am also compassionate with my former self - I was doing the best that I could, given the knowledge that I had about working with data! I bring this same compassion to my own consultations with researchers at CMU. There's no shaming or belittling to be had - I completely understand how busy it is to be a researcher, and how data management can feel like an extra burden. I can help you create good strategies for making data management a natural part of your workflow to reduce this burden!
What are three takeaways from this researcher highlight?
1. Don't let anyone ever tell you that popular culture is not a valid or rigorous area of study! Engaging in research on popular culture is a fascinating way to learn more about the world around us, using unique data sources to understand our cultural, political, and economic landscapes. I have built a career on studying science fiction and how it can speak more about our real world than reality shows can!
2. Social media posts can be a rich source of data. Before collecting and analyzing social media data, be sure to check with your local IRB office to make sure you are ethically collecting and engaging with this data!
3. Have compassion with yourself when managing data. It's not always an easy process, especially if you are new to data management. Current Hannah looks back on Past Hannah and disapproves of her (lack of) data management for this project, but it's now an experience that helps me have compassion with researchers as a RDM Consultant. Researchers are busy, and data management can be a difficult undertaking when trying to balance everything else. That is why I am here - I can help take on some of this burden (through educational support, setting up data management protocols, etc.) and we'll face it together!
Follow this link for information on our response to COVID-19: https://www.library.cmu.edu/node/2106. While the remainder of our Spring 2020 workshops are either cancelled or will take place online (follow this link for more information on our events: https://cmu.libcal.com/calendar/events/?cid=-1&t=m&d=0000-00-00&cal=-1), there's still a lot of great ways to engage with CMU Libraries virtually. You can check out our LibGuides, specialized research guides created by our subject experts, by clicking here, including the Data 101 guide found here. We also have a variety of online databases and resources at your disposal, found here. Looking for some more specialized support? dSHARP and the Data Collaborations Office Hours are now virtual until further notice! Click here for more information on joining us Wednesdays from 1-4pm.
And of course, please email me at email@example.com if you'd like some help on your journey as a researcher/scholar/awesome human being here at CMU. Remember, we all use data, regardless of our discipline. If you think something might be data, you are likely correct and I can help you develop good habits for managing it! If you'd like to have your research data featured on Tartan Datascapes, please fill out the Google Form at this link to get in touch: https://forms.gle/iwEDbwmaNYmpMa7aA!