Research experiments used to be conducted in laboratories – men in white overcoats carrying test tubes with neon specimens inside, or gigantic computers sparking like lightning (maybe I’ve watched Frankenstein too many times). But today, some of the most interesting research isn’t being conducted in a lab, but on the internet.
The internet has not only provided a landscape of information, it’s also shaped the way we, as a global society communicate with one another.
Marshal McLuhan argues that in order to understand a society, you need to understand how that society communicates. How do we speak to one another, and how are our messages received? In our information age, most of our communication is done online, through Facebook, Twitter, email and other forms of social media, so what does that say about us?
In an effort to understand what this digital discourse means, Kostas Marvpalias of the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design & Technology in Ireland is conducting a research project examining “cyberphyshology.” He’s interested in studying online personalities and behaviors in a social media setting in order to understand how we can improve online education.
Marvpalias is calling for internet users to contact him if they’re interested in participating. What’s most interesting is that participants need not travel overseas to take part; Instead, Marvpalias is interested in meeting people online. The study won’t take place in a lab, and white overcoats are optional.
Marvpalias is interested in intelligent e-learning systems, user modeling, and the social web. Specifically, he’s investigating people’s personalities and learning styles in relation to their use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Last.FM and Flickr.
His goal is to identify what aspects of people’s personalities and identities are encoded in their daily activities on the social web, and whether an intelligent system can provide instant personalization to a user just by scanning his or her online social activities.
In other words, what do your social media imprints say about you? Each time you log onto Facebook or Twitter, you’re generating code, and Marvpalias hopes to read and interoperate that code to see whether or not conclusions can be drawn. The study hopes to answer whether or not human behavioral patterns can be tracked and measured by the information they generate online, and whether or not this information can be used to improve online education.
His project research page, which can be read about here, stipulates that participants must be 18 years of age or older, must be fluent in English, and must have at least one social media account on one of the following websites: Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Foursquare/Last.fm/Flickr.
If you qualify, you can easily participate by clicking the “I wish to participate” button on their homepage. After clicking, you’ll be asked to allow this application to access your profile data. Since the study is anonymous, names, addresses and emails will not be stored, and other personal information is kept private. You’ll then be prompted to complete a short personality test followed by a short learning style test. The whole process should take a maximum of 20 minutes.
Participants will be helping leading researchers gather information about human behavior and the impact of social media technologies on our everyday lives. To learn more about the study, or to take part, visit Marvpalias’ research webpage here.